America magazine, as promised, has the official, redacted version of Fr. Cleary’s letter to President Obama here. It is much more successful, I think, largely thanks to editing.
Better still, from my point of view, FWIW, is a commentary on the whole Notre Dame-Obama controversy by the retired archbishop of San Francisco, John R. Quinn. It is titled “A Critical Moment: Barack Obama, Notre Dame and the future of the U.S. church.”
I have always greatly appreciated Archbishop Quinn’s intellect and approach, and they are on display here. Quinn says this is “a critical moment” for the church in the United States, and poses several key question as to how this uproar will affect the future of the faith and the pro-life movement.
We must weigh very seriously the consequences if the American bishops are seen as the agents of publicly embarrassing the newly elected president by forcing him to withdraw from an appearance at a distinguished Catholic University. The bishops and the president serve the same citizens of the same country. It is in the interests of both the church and the nation if both work together in civility, honesty and friendship for the common good even where there are grave divisions, as there are on abortion.
But it does not improve the likelihood of making progress on this and other issues of common concern if we adopt the clenched fist approach. The president has given ample evidence that he is a man of good will, of keen intelligence, desirous of listening and capable of weighing seriously other views. The Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, citing Augustine, points out that ” Certain situations cannot be resolved with asperity or hardness” and goes on to say “(B)ecause his daily pastoral concerns give the Bishop greater scope for personal decision-making, his scope for error is also greater, however good his intentions: this thought should encourage him to remain open to dialog with others, always ready to learn, to seek and accept the advice of others.”
Meanwhile, the president of the USCCB, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, has called the invite to Obama “an extreme embarassment” and adds: “Whatever else is clear, it is clear that Notre Dame didn’t understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation.”
And Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of Saint Paul and Minneapolis released his letter to Jenkins, calling the invitation a “travesty” and adding if Jenkins doesn’t withdraw the invitation “please do not expect me to support your University in the future.”
PS: (Always a postscript to this story) Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, FL reflects on the controversy on his blog, with a sane take, I thought:
“Early ‘markers’ [of Obama's record on the life issues] are not encouraging in this regard but hope needs to spring eternal and while Notre Dame may have acted way too early and too generously, I am more alarmed that the rhetoric being employed is so uncivil and venomous that it weakens the case we place before our fellow citizens, alienates young college-age students who believe the older generation is behaving like an angry child and they do not wish to be any part of that, and ill-serves the cause of life. Notre Dame has in the past and continues to give this local Church fine, professional and very Catholic women and men who both know and live out their faith. Most of them I know are ardently pro-life and like myself are probably disappointed with their alma mater. They and I will choose to convey our sadness to the Board of Trustees and Administration in a calm and dignified manner.”
Hat tip to CWNews.