Notre Dame: Catholism’s Crucible

May 12, 2009 - 6:31 PM
Crucible: a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development.
Crucible: a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development.
 
The unending editorials, the activism, the press releases and the jockeying for attention will only escalate as that fateful date, May 17, comes closer at the University of Notre Dame.
 
American Life League has been there for some weeks now, interviewing students, helping organize prayer vigils, and in a couple of days, present Bishop D'Arcy with petitions from Catholics who sincerely wish to see Notre Dame removed from The Official Catholic Directory. We will not, however, be there for the media circus on May 17. Our job will be over.
 
My fear is that in the midst of all the hullaballoo, the actual reason behind the outcries from so many bishops and others may be overlooked. Not only has the university's invitation to Obama sparked debate, ridicule and politicking among Catholics, it has crystallized the problem in the American Catholic Church today, which is at a crisis level.
 
That dilemma has nothing whatsoever to do with President Barack Obama, per se, though the situation at Notre Dame involving Obama has become the flash point that brings the enormity of the predicament into focus.
 
President Obama has played his cards publicly and with assertiveness when it comes to the Catholic Church. He has chosen pro-abortion Catholic politicians to hold a variety of responsible positions in his administration.
 
These actions could have provided Catholic bishops with an opportunity to speak out in a unified voice and make it clear that pro-abortion public figures who claim to be Catholic are not in fact Catholics in good standing. The bishops passed the Obama test.
 
Obama tried three times to send a pro-abortion Catholic to the Vatican as his ambassador, but thank God, the Holy Father rejected each candidate. The Vatican failed the Obama test.
 
Obama delivered a major speech on the economy at Catholic Georgetown University, which had to place a covering over any symbolic reference to Christ prior to the president's arrival. Once again, the bishops passed the Obama test.
 
The president has, in many ways, manipulated Catholics, Catholic institutions and, by extension, the Church and many of her American bishops. He has been obviously testing the Catholic waters to see just how far he can push his boat into their stream. Clearly, he must be pleased.
 
Obama is not new at this game, but he has created the perfect storm for sorting out the challenge and identifying the real, underlying cause for this catastrophe within the Catholic Church. After all, 52 percent of Catholic voters supported Obama. After that it's been downhill, or pretty much that way until Notre Dame happened. Now perhaps the tide will turn.
 
But let's be clear. The problem is not Obama. Rather it has to do with the identity of a Catholic institution or a Catholic person. The problem is literally a conflict of the most enormous proportions that the church hasn’t seen in decades. The problem is the classic struggle between Christ's Church and the devil himself.
 
The Notre Dame controversy is simply a microcosmic example of what one writer called the Catholic civil war. 
 
As commentator Peter Steinfels sees it, “Increasingly, conservative Catholics appear to be making a specific form of anti-abortion politics, condemning the administration root and branch, a test of Catholic identity — and the number of bishops leading the charge is growing. No wonder that Notre Dame, a venerable symbol of American Catholic identity, has become the battleground.”
 
The problem, at least to the editors of America magazine, is that "it is not adherence to the Church's doctrine on the evil of abortion that counts for orthodoxy, but adherence to a particular political program and fierce opposition to any proposal short of that program."
 
First, Steinfels has chosen, along with any number of commentators, to relegate this latest conflict as something akin to a political contest where so-called "conservatives" are jockeying for position with those damnable "liberals."
 
By being so clever in his diagnosis and intentionally ignoring the facts about who Catholics are as believers rather than partisans, Steinfels and many of his peers contribute to the misconception that this struggle is all about Republicans versus Democrats. That's the way they want it after all.
 
This sort of orchestrated brainwashing makes it difficult to see the cancerous growth that is creeping further and further into genuine Catholic identity among, in particular, American Catholics.
 
By choosing to focus on politics rather than the Catholic Church as an institution that knows no politics, but rather acknowledges and teaches truth regardless of partisanship, such commentators give sway to the quasi-Catholics who write for magazines like America.
 
But Steinfels is not alone in his misplaced comments. E.J. Dionne joined the fray with his imbecilic analysis just a few days ago, "We now know that the reaction of right wing Catholics to Notre Dame's invitation to President Obama falls into the category of 'more Catholic than the pope.'"
 
Of course, Dionne makes this silly comment based on an egregious editorial published by the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.
 
The LOR writer opined, “Even on ethical questions over which the Catholic episcopate has expressed strong concern from the time of his electoral campaign. Obama does not seem to have established the radical changes that he had aired. The new guidelines regarding embryonic stem cell research do not in fact follow the prospected change of route laid out months ago. …

“Thus, these measures do not eliminate the reasons for criticism in the face of unacceptable forms of bioengineering that work against the embryo's human identity, but the new regulations are less permissive than expected.”
 
This ill-informed writer's softly worded, backhanded endorsement of Obama is nothing more than a "lesser of two evils" sham. While we could wonder how such drivel got into that newspaper, another column would be needed to answer the question.
 
But sadly, while this writer's suggestion that the Obama policies are not as bad as they could have been is poppycock, such commentary warms the cockles of the hearts of the Dionnes and Steinfels of the world. And of course, they use it to beat up on the church. What else is new?
 
Such bloviating always results in condescending judgment that comes raining down on those of us who not only take pride in our Catholic identity, but are fiercely doing our best to defend Christ, to defend his preborn children and to defend truth in an age that finds its version of truth far more appealing!
 
As Josef Pieper, famed Catholic philosopher wrote, "The truth itself cannot in all honesty be the decisive concern of those who aim at verbal artistry."
 
Pieper is so insightful because at the core of all these problems within the church, truth is, after all, what this struggle is really all about. When Pilate asked Christ if he were really a king, Christ answered him: (John 18:37-38)
 
"You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."
 
Pilate asked Christ at that point the very same question that is now being asked, "What is truth?"
 
The kernel of truth in the Notre Dame scandal is that very same truth that Christ spoke about more than 1,900 years ago. It is God's truth, a truth that surpasses everything including commentaries, press conferences, political posturing and all else that has been occurring and will continue to occur around the Notre Dame fiasco. 
 
Those who attempt to mollify the evil forces in our age by bending this truth, softening it, misrepresenting it or ignoring it, while maintaining that they are Catholic, are doing such a grave disservice to the church that there are no words to describe it.
 
Such individuals are literally scourging Christ anew, crowning his head with the thorns of deceit and killing the essence of Catholic teaching for their own gains.
 
These individuals work to destroy the church from within. They have a legion of accomplices, both within and without. They are people who cannot bear to call abortion an act of murder. They are people who feel comfortable relegating abortion to the heading of "political issue" so as not to be troubled by the dead bodies that are piling up everywhere.
 
This is really what the Catholic civil war is all about. And if it takes a Notre Dame to finally define the truth and separate it from all the plastic, elastic and counterfeit statements being passed off as the truth, than all I can say is … bring it on.