When I first saw the text of the 13-page letter from U.S. Father Hugh W. Cleary, Holy Cross superior general in Rome, to President Obama, regarding Obama’s scheduled commencement address at Notre Dame, I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. It seemed to circle around on itself so much I thought it was a hoax. But it’s real.

It strikes such odd chords, welcoming Obama and complimenting him with one hand–often the left one–then painting him with the broad brush of “intrinsic evil” and saying Catholics can’t get a hearing from the government. Even though, of course, Catholics make up nearly a third of Congress, just as an example, and five-ninths of the Supreme Court, and the Vice-Presidency, etc.

And he accuses Obama of using the same tactic of “shunning” that is being used against him, and laments it, but indicates it is the only recourse for Catholics? He says he can’t in good conscience vote for any major party candidate–but did he protest Bush’s 2001 speech at Notre Dame? And the comparison to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami? Wassup with that? All the stuff about pope-bashing, a persecuted church…

In any case, I don’t know Father Cleary, but this whole thing seems odd. Saying he has no control over the invitation, as well, though he also indicates he could make Father John Jenkins, the Holy Cross priest who is Notre Dame’s president, do something. 

Whether Clearly’s letter is convincing or effective, I guess we’ll see. He seems not to oppose Obama’s appearance, though it’s hard to tell. He wants dialogue–of a fashion. Other, more perceptive reactions/analyses welcome. John Thavis has the write-up from Rome here.  

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