Get The State Out Of The Church
April 3, 2009
By Al Kresta
William M. Daley is Midwest chair of JP Morgan Chase and former co-chair of Barrack Obama’s presidential campaign, A member of the Daley Chicago political dynasty, he admits he has a personal stake in President Obama’s speech at Notre Dame: Daley is a Catholic and it’s widely rumored he’ll run for Illinois governor.
His April 3 Chicago Tribune opinion piece is laced with so many irrelevancies, non-sequitors and special pleadings that sane people may well doubt either his capacity to think or theirs to read. In fairness, he is writing outside his field of expertise so I only hope on matters financial he is more penetrating. If not, JPMorgan Chase may have yet undiscovered problems
The occasion for Daley’s column was a remark by Cardinal Francis George who said recently that the Notre Dame invitation to President Obama is an embarrassment to all Catholics. Daley retorts: “Cardinal George’s stand is an embarrassment to Chicago Catholics.” So take that.
He frets that George further divides Catholics. Really? The master slicer in all this baloney is Fr. John Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, who invited Obama without consulting with the local bishop or considering how this would compromise the consciences of thousands of Catholic pro-life students who believe that abortion is the morally defining issue of this generation. What would we think of a Howard University president (America’s most prestigious black college) inviting the late Strom Thurmond to deliver the commencement address. At least Thurmond eventually renounced his racist policies. Obama still champions segregating the unborn from the rest of humanity.
No, Cardinal George isn’t the divider. It was Fr. Jenkins who forced a moral dilemma upon Notre Dame’s graduating seniors. Think about it. They are expected to attend the commencement and docilely listen to a monologue from a leader who rejects their most fundamental convictions about the status of human life. Then they must stand by approvingly as the University confers an honorary doctorate upon him with one hand while using the other to tender them their diploma. In what I hope is a rare form of pedagogy, Fr. Jenkins has managed to both honor and offend his students in the same act.
Daley invokes the old canard that Catholics are so sheltered and indoctrinated that they need President Obama to expose them to life’s realities. “To follow [the Cardinal’s] rule,” he writes “students at Catholic universities would hear only from other Catholics- and even then, only from those who agree with church doctrine on every subject.” Can he be serious? Notre Dame permits performance of the Vagina Monologues, a series of personal disclosures about female sexual experience. [I understand that Notre Dame men, not to be outdone, have scripted a more dialogical approach to male sexuality called “My Dinner with Dickie.” But I only have that on rumor.]
Were this a discovery panel on the spectrum of American opinions on abortion, Daley might have a point. But a commencement address is a monologue, not an unearthing of America’s wide and deep opinions on abortion.
Something else must be considered here regarding the nature of the teaching Church. The fact that Catholics are divided doesn’t mean that the Catholic Church is divided. We know what the Catholic Church teaches. To be Catholic is to accept all that the Catholic Church teaches. Christ teaches through His Church in order to help human beings whose wills and intellects, weakened by sin, can recover the divine perspective needed to fulfill their destiny as men and women created in God’s image. Truth is not a matter of sociological opinion polls or as someone once said, “the blind leading the blind.”
The Midwest chair of JPMorgan Chase believes it is “important for them [Notre Dame students] to hear from Obama…” Has he forgotten that the president insures that we get a dose of his thinking almost daily through press conferences, weekly radio address, speeches at summits, visits to Jay Leno? Why we even know what dog will delight his daughters. Perhaps Mr. Daley is projecting the anxieties of his finance and banking institution on Notre Dame students. It’s not hard to believe that JPMorgan Chase needs to hear from President Obama everyday.
A column on Catholics and the presidency wouldn’t be quite complete without hauling out the vision of the Founding Fathers and preaching that Catholics maybe haven’t quite gotten that vision yet. Daley doesn’t disappoint. Apparently, we are still under suspicion about our allegiance to a foreign potentate. This is Catholic self-loathing. Daley writes: “[The Founding Fathers] had the wisdom to foresee a nation in which people of many religions would live together. So they embedded in our Constitution the separation of church and state.” Not to be prissy but what they embedded in the Constitution is not “separation of church and state.” The First Amendment doesn’t contain such language. Rather the First Amendment protects us against the establishment of a national church. It also protects the free exercise of religion without state interference. Churches are not expected to function as surrogates for the state. States are not expected to act as surrogates for the Church.
So remembering the First Amendment, we should realize that Daley’s suspicions are entirely misplaced. Catholics should not be suspect for excluding someone who defies Church teaching from teaching within the Church. It’s a simple matter of fidelity to our mission to teach the Catholic faith in its fullness with all clarity and without distortion. Actually it is people like Daley who should be suspect because they think the Church is obligated to let the State sends its chief spokesmen into a Church affiliated institution even when that spokesmen champions positions contrary to the Church.
Catholics are very good about tolerance and listening to other points of view. It’s almost a cliché to remind our friends and opponents that “Catholic” means “universal”. We love our Church’s embrace of Asian, African, Slavic, Latin, Chaldean, Nordic, Anglo-Saxon and Gallican peoples and perspectives. We love its diversity of music, languages, saints, spiritualities, missions of mercy and liturgical, educational and medical institutions. What we don’t believe, however, is that those who publicly defy Church teaching should be honored by Catholic institutions. It’s simply a matter of fidelity to our mission and clarity for our children.
“Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger, do not sin…Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore, do not be partners with them…Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (St. Paul to the Ephesians).
Al Kresta is President and CEO of Ave Maria Communications.
His afternoon radio program is heard on over 200 stations as well as Sirius satellite radio.