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Pontifications

Obama at Notre Dame.jpgThe Vatican newspaper (hearts) Obama at Notre Dame:

The newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said the president also confirmed that pushing for a more liberal abortion law would not be a priority of his administration. The comments came in a L’Osservatore report May 18, the day after Obama spoke at the university in Indiana.

“The search for a common ground: This seems to be the path chosen by the president of the United States, Barack Obama, in facing the delicate question of abortion,” the newspaper said.

It said Obama had set aside the “strident tone” of the 2008 political campaign on the abortion issue.

“Yesterday Obama confirmed what he expressed at his 100-day press conference at the White House, when he said that enacting a new law on abortion was not a priority of his administration,” it said.

The newspaper, which was reporting on the Notre Dame commencement for the first time, acknowledged the controversy caused by the president’s appearance at what it called “the most prestigious Catholic university in the United States.”

“Yesterday, too, as could have been predicted, there were protests. But from the podium set up in the basketball arena, the president invited Americans of every faith and ideological conviction to ‘work in common effort’ to reduce the number of abortions,” it said.

I guess the pope’s newspaper has “forgotten what it means to be Catholic.”

Meanwhile at America‘s blog, the generally Obama-supporting Michael Sean Winters is upset that Obama didn’t let him write the speech, er, rather that Obama didn’t use the pope’s words against the bishops. He gives Obama a C-minus:

One wonders why the president’s speechwriters could not find a quote from the Pope appropriate to the occasion. Needless to say, the way to the heart and mind of Pope Benedict is not with a paean to relativism. Yet, the President did precisely that. “The soldier and the lawyer may both love this country with equal passion, and yet reach very different conclusions on the specific steps needed to protect us from harm. The gay activist and the evangelical pastor may both deplore the ravages of HIV/AIDS, but find themselves unable to bridge the cultural divide that might unite their efforts. Those who speak out against stem cell research may be rooted in admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son’s or daughter’s hardships can be relieved.” Alas, I am counting the minutes until some smart operative for the GOP makes sure a copy of this passage finds its way to the Vatican.

It’s an interesting take, though I admit I don’t see the connections MSW is trying to make. (And what has happened to Catholicism when America is criticizing the Democratic president and the Vatican paper is supporting him!?) I also seriously doubt the bishops would have appreciated Obama quoting B16, and I’m not sure Obama’s speech differed that much from the one MSW wrote for him a couple weeks ago in The Tablet.

Doug Kmiec at NCR is fulsome–no surprise–and has an interesting suggestion:

In a few days, President Obama will likely nominate a woman to the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s probably too much to contemplate, but seated directly behind the President was Notre Dame’s highly respected law dean, Patricia Ann O’Hara. If empathy is truly to be incorporated into the legal process, there are few socially progressive lawyers more capable of incorporating this much needed sensitivity into legal interpretation. A securities law specialist, no derivative-wielding purveyor of subprime nonsense would escape Dean O’Hara’s justice.

Is it presumptuous to make such suggestion? Not really. Why would one keep the best talent a secret from a friend, and fellow alumnus. And, of course, she is pro-life. Now, that would be a game changer.

At the WaPo’s “OnFaith” Father Tom Reese, SJ, titled his appreciation, “He Came, He Saw, He Conquered.”

President Obama’s reception at Notre Dame showed once again that a new generation of Americans, including Catholics, is looking for a different kind of leader, not one who speaks down to his audience, demands strict loyalty and demonizes opponents, but one who addresses complexity with honesty, acknowledges disagreements and tries to bring people together for the common good.

E.J. Dionne’s “Conciliatory Fighting Words” put it squarely:

By facing their arguments head-on and by demonstrating his attentiveness to Catholic concerns, Obama strengthened moderate and liberal forces inside the church itself. He also struck a forceful blow against those who would keep the nation mired in culture-war politics without end. Obama’s opponents on the Catholic right placed a large bet on his Notre Dame visit. And they lost.

Rick Garnett at MOJ is disappointed in Judge Noonan:

I admire Judge Noonan immensely, but wish — on this particular occasion — he had been a bit more direct.  For the careful listener, intimately familiar with Noonan’s work and American history, there were some powerful thoughts.  I worry that the commencement audience, though, did not hear the challenge to President Obama’s unfortunate embrace of injustice that, in my view, Judge Noonan’s remarks contained.  

He then seems to argue that common ground can’t occur without consideration that the unborn must be granted legal personhood–which seems to be a winner-take-all approach. But then he later seems to phrase the request that a legal approach to abortion be part of the package more modestly, and Obama has said he is open to that as well, esepcially on the state level, as is Justice Scalia et al.

Notre Dame’s own Ralph McInerny sees “A House Divided” but grants supporters of Obama and Notre Dame the absolution of invincible ignorance:

Anathemas have been called for. Some long to have Notre Dame declared non-Catholic. Perhaps it will come to that, but the awakening of the laity, simple priests, a large number of the bishops, suggests that this is a possible epiphany. The sad fact is that people act contrary to the faith without realizing that that is what they are doing. A heretic chooses the opposite of the faith, but when in the present confusion as to what is in and what is out, heresy is not the appropriate word. And so, on Sunday, surrounded by priests and all the panoply of Notre Dame, the smiling Caesar, thumb turned down on life, was engulfed in allegedly Catholic applause. Elsewhere on campus, faithful Catholics gathered and sent up prayers of reparation.

At Our Sunday Visitor, Russell Shaw was not impressed, but draws three lessons–that the church is divided (though he gets the poll numbers wrong on mass-going Catholics and ND), that now Catholic universities will have to decide if they’re Catholic (whch means agreeing with OSV?), and that the bishops will have to man up (see point two). But he starts with this anecdote:

Ten days before the May 17 Notre Dame University commencement at which President Barack Obama was to speak and receive an honorary degree, I told an archbishop who’s a friend that I thought this was a watershed. One reason for that, I explained, lay in the remarkably large number of individual bishops — approaching 80 as this is written — who took the initiative to speak up in protest against Notre Dame’s bestowal of honors upon our aggressively pro-abortion chief executive. The archbishop smiled sadly and shook his head. “Six months from now it will all be forgotten, and everything will be business as usual,” he said.

Amy Welborn is skeptical of Obama’s “theater,” and boils it down to one non-negotiable:

Do you recognize the preborn baby, even in the midst of the complexities of its young life, dwelling within the body of another, living with her own complexities in a complex, pluralistic society –  as “the least among us”  worthy of civic protection or do you not?

Not sure what “civic protection” means, though the legal aspect of “abortion reduction” should be on the table. It is already there in limits on abortion and protections for the fetus in some cases, but how far down the scale do you slide that? Or can you, without compromising entirely the principle at stake for one side (the fetus is a human person) or the other (it is a woman’s choice up to whenever).

But the reax from Obama foes and pro-lifers reinforce a sense that Obama left his opponents tongue-tied and flailing somewhat, which isn’t unusual. But how much is his savvy and talent and how much of it is their lack of those things?

Mark Silk makes predictions:

1. Obama gets props from the general public, including moderate pro-lifers, for common ground talk.
2. Even more, if backed up by common ground policies.
3. Pro-life activists look more like angry zealots, including the Catholic bishops amongst them.
4. More pro-choice politicians are in evidence on Catholic campuses.

And of course there were the readings from yesterday’s Mass, which couldn’t have been more on point. E.g.:

Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.

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