Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bishop D’arcy on Notre Dame

Source: America Magazine - The Church and the University

Several months after the debacle event at Notre Dame, Bishop D’arcy has written an article in America magazine bringing forth the actual issues as concerns the Catholic Church.  He starts by demolishing the claim that it was an anti-Obama in nature, saying:

It is not about President Obama. He will do some good things as president and other things with which, as Catholics, we will strongly disagree. It is ever so among presidents, and most political leaders.

It is not about Democrats versus Republicans, nor was it a replay of the recent general election.

It is not about whether it is appropriate for the president of the United States to speak at Notre Dame or any great Catholic university on the pressing issues of the day. This is what universities do. No bishop should try to prevent that.

The response, so intense and widespread, is not about what this journal called “sectarian Catholicism.” Rather, the response of the faithful derives directly from the Gospel. In Matthew’s words, “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good works, and glorify your heavenly Father” (5:13).

In short, the opposition to the visit of Obama was not about being opposed to Obama, the person and president, but opposition to the message Notre Dame was sending to the world.  Bishop D’arcy recognized that Obama as president has set forth a view which stands in opposition to the Catholic teaching, and asks what sort of witness do we show in this invitation?

Bishop D’arcy reminds us what witness a university attached to the Church is supposed to bear witness to:

Pope Benedict XVI, himself a former university professor, made his position clear when he spoke to Catholic educators in Washington, D.C., on April 17, 2008:

“Teachers and administrators, whether in universities or schools, have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the Church’s magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institution’s life, both inside and outside the classroom.”

In its decision to give its highest honor to a president who has repeatedly opposed even the smallest legal protection of the child in the womb, did Notre Dame surrender the responsibility that Pope Benedict believes Catholic universities have to give public witness to the truths revealed by God and taught by the church?

This was the key portion of the opposition to Obama at Notre Dame, and was certainly the center of my own opposition to the invitation.  Obama was invited as an honor, not as an opportunity to discuss issues.  This honor either ignored or accepted as tolerable the fact that Obama actively supports things in contradiction to the Catholic Church.  With this in mind, it follows that Notre Dame failed to live up to its obligation to Christian witness.

The bishop also brings up another point: the failure of Notre Dame to acknowledge the role of the episcopacy… the successors of the apostles:

The failure to dialogue with the bishop brings a second series of questions. What is the relationship of the Catholic university to the local bishop? No relationship? Someone who occasionally offers Mass on campus? Someone who sits on the platform at graduation? Or is the bishop the teacher in the diocese, responsible for souls, including the souls of students—in this case, the students at Notre Dame? Does the responsibility of the bishop to teach, to govern and to sanctify end at the gate of the university? In the spirit of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, which places the primary responsibility on the institution, I am proposing these questions for the university.

Notre Dame, being within his diocese, is subject to Bishop D’arcy — who is a successor to the apostles.  Yet Fr. Jenkins did not consult with the bishop on an issue involving the Christian witness of a Catholic institution.  This too is a witness to the lack of respect Notre Dame holds for the Church it professes to be a part of.

He then goes on to talk about the Board of Trustees and how they failed in their role.  They did not discuss what this meant in terms of Catholic identity.  They did not discuss it at all.

In the midst of the crisis at Notre Dame, the board of trustees came to campus in April for their long-scheduled spring meeting. They said nothing. When the meeting was completed, they made no statement and gave no advice. In an age when transparency is urged as a way of life on and off campus, they chose not to enter the conversation going on all around them and shaking the university to its roots. We learned nothing about their discussions.

I firmly believe that the board of trustees must take up its responsibility afresh, with appropriate study and prayer. They also must understand the seriousness of the present moment. This requires spiritual and intellectual formation on the part of the men and women of industry, business and technology who make up the majority of the board. Financial generosity is no longer sufficient for membership on the boards of great universities, if indeed it ever was. The responsibility of university boards is great, and decisions must not be made by a few. Like bishops, they are asked to leave politics and ambition at the door, and make serious decisions before God. In the case of Notre Dame, they owe it to the Congregation of Holy Cross, which has turned this magnificent place over to a predominately lay board; they owe it to the students who have not yet come; they owe it to the intrepid missionary priest, Edward Sorin, C.S.C., and the Holy Cross religious who built this magnificent place out of the wilderness. They owe it to Mary, the Mother of God, who has always been honored here. Let us pray that they will take this responsibility with greater seriousness and in a truly Catholic spirit.

If an institution is to consider itself Catholic, those who are trustees should act with the faith in mind, not prestige.  It should be worthy of what it considers itself to be affiliated to.

The bishop ends his article with a challenge, saying:

As bishops, we must be teachers and pastors. In that spirit, I would respectfully put these questions to the Catholic universities in the diocese I serve and to other Catholic universities.

Do you consider it a responsibility in your public statements, in your life as a university and in your actions, including your public awards, to give witness to the Catholic faith in all its fullness?

What is your relationship to the church and, specifically, to the local bishop and his pastoral authority as defined by the Second Vatican Council?

Finally, a more fundamental question: Where will the great Catholic universities search for a guiding light in the years ahead? Will it be the Land O’Lakes Statement or Ex Corde Ecclesiae? The first comes from a frantic time, with finances as the driving force. Its understanding of freedom is defensive, absolutist and narrow. It never mentions Christ and barely mentions the truth. The second text, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, speaks constantly of truth and the pursuit of truth. It speaks of freedom in the broader, Catholic philosophical and theological tradition, as linked to the common good, to the rights of others and always subject to truth. Unlike Land O’Lakes, it is communal, reflective of the developments since Vatican II, and it speaks with a language enlightened by the Holy Spirit.

On these three questions, I respectfully submit, rests the future of Catholic higher education in this country and so much else.

The truly Catholic institution will put forth truth in Christ as its mission.  It will not consider the faith to be apart from the truth as if truth was something which nothing possesses in full.  Nor will it consider truth and error to be equally valid.  If the Catholic school is to provide a Christ-centered education, it must bear witness with its actions.  The Church has been emphatically pro-life.  Notre Dame has invited one of the proponents of the culture of death.  What sort of witness have they brought witness to here?

No comments:

Post a Comment