The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Letter to Obama: “Give your conscience a fresh opportunity to be formed anew” — UPDATED

The head of the order which founded Notre Dame has penned a letter to President Obama, and CNS has details from Rome:

U.S. Father Hugh W. Cleary, Holy Cross superior general in Rome, said that when Obama receives an honorary degree from the Indiana university and delivers the commencement address in May, he should take to heart the objections of Catholics who have been scandalized by the invitation.


Father Cleary asked the president to use the occasion to “give your conscience a fresh opportunity to be formed anew in a holy awe and reverence before human life in every form at every stage — from conception to natural death.”

The 13-page letter, dated March 22, was made available to Catholic News Service in Rome. Father Cleary also prepared an abridged version of the text as an “open letter” to the president, which was expected to be published on the Web site of America magazine.

Father Cleary’s letter began by congratulating Obama on being awarded an honorary doctorate from Notre Dame, and said the university was honored to have him deliver the commencement address.

The visit should be a “teachable moment” for all involved, Father Cleary said.


He asked the president to take advantage of the occasion to “rethink, through prayerful wrestling with your own conscience, your stated positions on the vital ‘life issues’ of our day, particularly in regard to abortion, embryonic forms of stem-cell research and your position on the Freedom of Choice Act.”

Visit CNS link for more. If a full text becomes available, I’ll link.

UPDATE: America has now posted the Cleary letter, and commentary from Archbishop John Quinn. You can read it all right here.

Comments read comments(12)
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posted March 31, 2009 at 11:19 am

God Bless the Holy Cross Fathers, can’t wait for the whole text !

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Thomas Welbers

posted March 31, 2009 at 11:43 am

This, not the rantings of right and left, is the kind of response, consistently and insistently made by all who are sincerely pro-life, that will ultimately prove effective.

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posted March 31, 2009 at 1:12 pm

I don’t think Obama is wrestling at all with his conscience. If the whole letter is as ambiguous as this excerpt, then it will have the exact same effect on Obama as the bad, dissident advice confessors gave contracepting couples shortly after Humanae Vitae was released. When a wayward soul is merely told to “follow their conscience”, it doesn’t move them to repentance because they are still following their erroneous conscience. You can be clearly against something without being a jerk. It is sad when these ambiguous messages are seen as compassionate. Christ himself said that the Truth is what sets us free.

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posted March 31, 2009 at 1:46 pm

If Fr. Cleary is Fr. Jenkins superior, I wonder why doesn’t he simply order Fr. Jenkins to disinvite Mr. Obama? Mr. Obama is clearly pro-abortion, and anti-Catholic, and the fact that Nottre Dame would honor him is scandalous to faithful Catholics. I would think that Fr. Jenkins took a vow of obedience at some time in his past. Maybe he would honor his vow, as he seeks to honor Obama.

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Chris Sullivan

posted March 31, 2009 at 2:19 pm

It looks like Notre Dame will present many useful ways of engaging Obama on the sacredness of human life.Perhaps its worth bearing in mind that there ware many different ways to engage politicians with mistaken views and there is often a place for all of them, the more confrontational and the more diplomatic.God Bless

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posted March 31, 2009 at 2:42 pm

Concerned, If we use the term “anti-Catholic” for all people who do not believe what we believe, then we are fostering a paranoia and an ad hominem culture that guarantees that people will not listen to the Catholic view. Bill Donahue sees anti catholicism everywhere…but he is drawing a salary of $343,000 per year (google it…public knowledge) from the Catholic Defense League and he needs for there to be a fear of anti Catholics so that he can maintain that lifestyle. Heck he could be furious at anti Catholics on FOX network at 10 AM and be having lunch at Chanterelle or Per Se by noon at that salary. I will assume that you are not getting paid like that… so why bother with a stress on your emotional system that need not be carried by you. Obama is simply wrong. That does not mean he is planning anything against Catholics because they are Catholics.

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posted March 31, 2009 at 3:49 pm

The problem with the Obama invite is not finding a good way to engage the President in discussion of the life issues. The problem is the message that the general public–and the Catholic public in particular–are sure to get from the news that ND has honored him: Despite what you may hear from a few marginalized figures (the pope, for instance), the Catholic Church really does not take its position on the life issues very seriously.What are the consequences of sending such a message? The Gallup poll told us: By and large, American Catholics do not take those positions very seriously either.

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posted March 31, 2009 at 7:39 pm

Forcing Catholic medical providers to provide certain “medical care” which is immoral and against their consciences is anti-Catholic. If you do not want to use that term, bilbannon, then you are welcome not to. I stand with the ArchBishop of Minneaopolis\St. Paul on this issue.

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posted March 31, 2009 at 10:59 pm

“During our more than two hundred years history, the American Bishops have until very recently steadfastly held to the position of making judgments about policy but never judgments about persons in the political arena. One reason for this position was that the episcopate recognized that the greater good of the mission of the church would be served in this way.” Most Rev. John R. Quinn couldn’t be more clear

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Ron King

posted April 1, 2009 at 8:18 am

I wonder which of the above comments represent Faith and which represent fear.Ron King

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posted April 2, 2009 at 12:49 am

billbannon. If someone walks up and spits on you, he is wrong. If someone is the leader of those who murder babies and a Catholic University is honoring them, then either the Church agrees with the butchering of babies or it is doing something very evil and sending the message out that it is OK to butcher babies which is what this guy believes. Ron King, the argument is not about faith or fear, it is about being part of a church that says that this issue, the killing of babies, it non negotiable. Going to war in Iraq is not even close. You can believe in the war or not. The death penalty is the same thing as it is removing from society that who has forfieted their right to be in that society. I happen to also oppose the death penalty, but that is not a non negotiable issue. When a Catholic woman chooses to get an abortion, she has excommunicated herself as has the baby killer. The bishops united around the letter telling Catholic institutions now to invite those who support abortions because it sends the wrong message about a non negotiable issue of faith. That is not fear, but speaking boldly defending life. Were those who wanted to end slavery and the lynching of blacks representing fear in your mind? It is simply ignorance of the Teaching of the Catholic Church which is still in our midst but dying out in the bishops as the new replaces the liberal worst of the bishops. Yes, you know the ones. They brought us child abuse that also hurt young people and confused liturgy with the clown masses.

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Ron King

posted April 2, 2009 at 11:27 am

Greta,If all who are offended and scandalized would stop listening to these illusions then you would see this as an opportunity for conversion rather than calling for punishment and outrage.Creative intelligence requires a movement away from the human response you exhibit. It is the human response of fear and anger that is the source of abortion. People outside the faith have the same response as you when they feel offended.You want an example of a different response. The student leaders at Notre Dame and the faculty and administration can sit down together and draft an open letter to the president thanking him for accepting the invitation and the award that represents his dedication to helping those who are less fortunate.Then adding that since he proclaims to be a man of faith then he is also being invited to a meeting with those students and faculty who also have faith and the devotion to helping the less fortunate. Since it is God Who has given him the most important and powerful position, it seems that the president would also honor God and the presidency by kneeling and praying for a deeper understanding of the sanctity of every life no matter seen or unseen. He would also honor his office and faith by attending a meeting to discuss the sanctity of life and give the respect to those who are willing to talk to him about their love for the unborn children.

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