By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Singling out Obama for his religion

I haven’t done any research on this, so I’m running the risk of being wrong. But it seems to me that Catholic leaders used to reserve their venom for pro-choice elected officials who were also fellow Catholics. I could point to any number of examples, but you may recall there was some buzz during the 2004 presidential campaign that John Kerry would be denied communion because of his pro-choice stance.

So it strikes me as an unfortunate escalation for Catholics who oppose abortion rights to protest Notre Dame’s decision to invite President Obama to speak at the university’s commencement and to award him an honorary degree. As the Boston Globe’s Michael Paulson reports, Harvard Law School professor Mary Ann Glendon, a well-known conservative Catholic, is the latest to take part in the protest, as she has refused to accept an award on the same platform as Obama.

Trouble is, Obama is not a Catholic, or even a conservative Protestant. Rather, he is a member of the United Church of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination that supports abortion rights (notwithstanding the fact that he quit his UCC church over statements made by his former minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright). Indeed, the UCC is part of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, which issued a statement shortly after Obama’s inauguration praising him for overturning Bush administration policy on global reproductive-health assistance.

Are Notre Dame’s critics — including Mary Ann Glendon — suggesting that a Catholic university can’t honor a non-Catholic if his religious beliefs differ from Catholic doctrine? It certainly sounds that way, doesn’t it? How far do they intend to go with this?

Previous

Herald, GateHouse circulation down, too

Next

Patrick is right on taxes

55 Comments

  1. io saturnalia!

    The protest is less about Obama per se and more about a Catholic university awarding an honorary degree to someone who espouses the opposite of one of the major tenets of the faith.Your last graf makes it sound that the protest would still be coming if Obama were to disagree on eating meat on Fridays during Lent.I don’t share their view, but many Catholics, and certainly the church itself, are serious about considering abortion murder.One’s convictions shouldn’t be so easily dismissed.

  2. Mike F

    I don’t think this kind of thinking necessarily precludes Notre Dame or any other Catholic school from honoring someone of a different religion. The issue here isn’t that President Obama is of a different religion, but that he holds acceptable what the Catholic Church deems an egregious sin.Though it begs the question, how far down the list of sins do you have to get before you deem someone to be an acceptable candidate for an honorary degree?I also wonder if these protestations are coming largely from opportunistic right-wingers or if these objections are coming from across-the-board Catholics, regardless of political ideology.

  3. Ani

    There’s also the question of why Glendon felt it was appropriate for her to insert herself in Notre Dame’s decision-making process — Glendon could merely have said, No thank you,” and left it at that. I’m trying to figure out why she felt a need to second-guess the university publicly — comes across as kind of officious — unless I’m missing something about her official connection to Notre Dame.

  4. lkcape

    Dan, look at it in this light:If Northeastern would wish to award Rush or Glenn an award, would you be in favor of it?Somehow, I think you would be sorely offended.Do you not grant that same right to others? Or is the cause of Liberalism so inherently ‘divine” as preclude the opinion of others?

  5. Ani

    But isn’t it Notre Dame’s decision to make whether they want to honor Obama nonetheless, and not the public’s or the Catholic public’s? Criticism from the Church coming from within its hierarchical framework I could understand better — it would be at least self-consistent.

  6. Brian Flaherty

    Would a Jewish University have honored Adolf Hitler? He was Catholic so by your logic, there would be no problem giving him an honor.Also, abortion is more than a “religious belief.”

  7. Peter Porcupine

    DK – I brought down coals of fire on my head on RMG by suggesting that these protests were the equivalent of liberal protesters ‘disinviting’ Condoleeza Rice. (You DID criticize that as well, right?)I am not Catholic. But I did say that Catholic educational institutions strove to teach students to be ‘In, but not OF, the World’, and that alternative points of view should always be welcome. AND more importantly, that they were losing the right to criticize liberal schools for excluding and harassing conservative speakers, which IMHO happens far more frequently.This point of view was not appreciated, and these attitudes are symptomatic of the overall Balkanization of intellectual discourse.

  8. Dan Kennedy

    PP: I don’t remember Rice getting disinvited anywhere, but, personally, I would not protest any choice of a speaker anywhere. What is intriguing, and disturbing, about the Obama protests is the whiff of religious bigotry.Brian: Godwin’s law! You lose!

  9. Peter Porcupine

    DK – here ya go.http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2006/05/04/battle_lines_form_over_bc_selection_of_rice_as_speaker/One BC professor quit as well. To me, the situations are analagous…BTW, IIRC, the effort to oust Rice wasn’t successful – but the effort to oust Obama hasn’t been either. Merely protested in a similar way.

  10. meamoeba

    Peep, I think too often you toss out charges about lib vs neocon without regard to fact. Your gut feeling does not translate into empirical evidence. I recalled this editorial from the left-of-center Patriot Ledger from a few years ago:http://ledger.southofboston.com/articles/2007/05/05/opinion/opin01.txtTamp down the vitriol and victim role-playing and we can all have a healthy debate.

  11. Peter Porcupine

    Amoeba – I would not call an editorial ’empirical eveidence’. DK and I were speaking of the actions of the protestors, not the media coverage of it.And the behaviour of the BC protestors and the Notre Dame ones are identical, down to the language and techniques used.And both sets are wrong.

  12. An Astute Observer

    **AND more importantly, that they were losing the right to criticize liberal schools for excluding and harassing conservative speakers, which IMHO happens far more frequently.**He is far more than simply a “speaker” they are honoring him in this instance.**What is intriguing, and disturbing, about the Obama protests is the whiff of religious bigotry.**You ARE kidding, right? Maybe you should get your olfactory function checked?

  13. mike_b1

    It’s absurd. A majority of Catholics believe abortion should be legal. (http://tinyurl.com/killthatfetus)Ergo, it stands to reason more Catholic families than not have at least one member who is pro-abortion. Instead of going after the oh-so-scary black man who happens to be president, the Catholic Church — and its reactionary members — should get its own house in order first.

  14. Brigid

    Here is what I think: Politicians, including sitting presidents, should not be commencement speakers.This comes from sad experience: Ronald Reagan was my commencement speaker when I graduated from Notre Dame in 1981. You could (and I did) make an argument that much of Reagan’s agenda was at odds with Catholic teaching, except for the lip service he paid to the pro-life movement.But beyond that, politicians are always divisive, and having the president as your commencement speaker takes the focus off the graduates. I participated in a quiet protest by wearing a white armband. My parents were furious. My graduation, which should have been a joyous occasion, became painful and contentious, and I have no good memories of it.Our commencement was further marred by the intrusive presence of Secret Service agents and a series of strictures that basically banned any celebrations, loud noises, or sudden movements.A Catholic university should welcome all speakers, in the name of scholarly inquiry. They should keep politicians off the podium on commencement day, however, because it will always backfire for someone. Sometimes big time. You know who else got an honorary degree that day? Kurt Waldheim.I rest my case.

  15. Dan Kennedy

    Kurt Waldheim? Good grief! We don’t even need Godwin’s law.

  16. Brigid

    Well, to be fair, they didn’t know about the Nazi thing at the time… Rounding out the group were Senator Ed Muskie, historian Barbara Tuchman, and Pat O’Brien (a.k.a. Knute Rockne to Reagan’s Gipper).Barbara Tuchman would have been an awesome commencement speaker. That’s the sort of person I would like to see on graduation day. Let the presidents come on their own time.

  17. An Astute Observer

    **It’s absurd. A majority of Catholics believe abortion should be legal.**The Catholic Church is not a democracy. It’s a monarchy. The “majority” don’t change whats right and wrong. When the supreme court eliminated the restrictions on interracial marriage, public agreement with this decision was around 27%. The majority of people in school disagree that their should be homework. Yet, they don’t make policy, do they?

  18. mike_b1

    Astute, insofar as homework is concerned, apparently you didn’t do yours. It’s “there,” not “their.”

  19. BrianCUA

    The issue is not so much about whether Obama is Catholic or not. The issue is whether or not Notre Dame is. The bishops have decreed that no politician who opposes a fundamental moral teaching of the church should be given a platform that would imply endorsement of their views. PC recently rejected a former congressman for speaking on campus because his views on immigration were too far out of line with the bishop’s.You may also be interested in Glennon’s statement, which I read on the Globe’s religion blog and now has nearly 500 comments:http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles_of_faith/2009/04/glendon_decline.html

  20. BrianCUA

    I thought I should also add that PC’s president was a favorite and philosophy professor of mine at another university. We had wide ranging discussions in his class where nothing, with one exception, was off the table.About halfway through class one day, the day after the Yankees wont the world series, Fr. Shanley saw a pinstripped hat on the head of a friend of mine in the back of the room. That friend was promptly ejected from the class, and told not to come back until he had better sense in either fashion or teams. To be fair, this warning was given on the first day of class, and my friend chose to ignore it.

  21. An Astute Observer

    **Astute, insofar as homework is concerned, apparently you didn’t do yours. It’s “there,” not “their.”**Well, you GOT me there Mike_b1. That nullifies my whole argument. 😉

  22. mike_b1

    Brian, why would ND stop at a “politician.” What’s obvious to everyone besides not-so-astute is that anyone who believes in abortion should be outlawed from using the school platforms.Except, they aren’t. Which is just more hypocrisy by the Catholic church, and another reason why the US government should lift the non-taxable status of what is nothing more than a thinly veiled political action committee.

  23. An Astute Observer

    *Brian, why would ND stop at a “politician.”**They can stop at wherever they want. They are a private organization.**What’s obvious to everyone besides not-so-astute is that anyone who believes in abortion should be outlawed from using the school platforms.**Outlawed? By who? The only people that make laws are the government.**Which is just more hypocrisy by the Catholic church…*Is it hypocrisy when you strive aspire to something….but don’t always reach perfection?**why the US government should lift the non-taxable status**Ummm…then we should change the consitution? SHould we lift the tax exeempt status of the Red Cross? THe Salvation Army? The SToneham Zoo?You are going to tax non-profit organizations?I am guessing you’ve never been part of a church, and don’t understand the role they play in history and society.

  24. Dan Kennedy

    Not So Astute: Where in the Constitution does it say that religious organizations can’t be taxed?

  25. An Astute Observer

    In-The-Tank Dan:It is my understanding that the courts have found that by excising a tax on a church, you are making a law that puts a restriction on the free excercise of ones religion. (You are free to agree or disagree, but I believe thats it what the courts have found.)If nothing else, you are restricting their budgets. If you are the Salvation Army and you exercise your religion by feeding the poor…or you are a UU church and you exercise your religion by housing the homeless….a tax would/could restrict that. Even if the tax stops a poor little inner-city church from fixing a leaky roof where they exercise their religion. Also, this would put a government agency (tax collector) in a position of authority over a Church/religion.I will guess that you don’t agree with this. But it is my understanding of why things stand they way they do.Not to mention the fact that ‘the faithful’ wouldn’t put up with money they donate to their Church being used to …pay for Billy Bulger’s pension, and wars, abortion services, etc. It’s a sliperly slope that politicians and the courts have sought to avoid a showdown over.

  26. Dan Kennedy

    Not So Astute: Oh, thank you for telling me I’m free to agree or disagree, but this isn’t a matter of opinion. Here is what the First Amendment says, in full:Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.Guess what? If it’s unconstitutional to tax religious organizations, then it’s unconstitutional to tax newspapers. Of course it is not unconstitutional to tax newspapers.As for your “understanding,” in 1954 Lyndon Johnson pushed through a law making it illegal for non-profit organizations, including churches, to engage in certain forms of political speech lest they lose their tax exemption. That is direct government interference in the free exercise of religion. To my mind, that is unconstitutional, though no court has ever ruled that way.The Constitution does not protect religious organizations from being taxed. And no, you are not free to disagree.

  27. An Astute Observer

    In the tank Dan:**If it’s unconstitutional to tax religious organizations, then it’s unconstitutional to tax newspapers.**But in most cases we are taxing their profits…Churchs are typically non-profits. Second, they probably pay property taxes, because 4 years the Winships, Taylors, or the Purcells owned the paper and the land that the newspaper sits on.And taxing the newspapers wouldn’t be diverting peoples (charitable) donations to the government…as they don’t operate on donations.It’s quite a different beast.*in 1954 Lyndon Johnson pushed through a law making it illegal for non-profit organizations, including churches, to engage in certain forms of political speech lest they lose their tax exemption.**This was seen as a reasonable way to distinguish between Churches and groups that were in effect political action groups using the label of a church. Most major church’s did not resist this. Although there are many that don’t even like this restriction. The courts have apparently seen this to be reasonable.**The Constitution does not protect religious organizations from being taxed. And no, you are not free to disagree.**I didn’t know you were a doctor of constitutional law.You speak this as if it’s not coming from your liberal lefty view of the world. And, like a liberal, you speak as though there is no other perspective besides your own…oh clear thinker. Did you know that most Church’s are exempt from Zoning laws as well? For the same reasoning…Does the state tax the Red Cross? Rosie’s place? Or other charitable non-profits?

  28. mike_b1

    The Catholic church doesn’t even try to defend its hypocrisy when it comes to abortion and other “sins.” It is clearly comfortable looking the other way when its own students engage in such behavior, but not when non Catholic politicians refuse to go along with its tyranny. Furthermore, the Red Cross isn’t a political organization. The Catholic church is. Clearly.Tax away!

  29. An Astute Observer

    **It is clearly comfortable looking the other way when its own students engage in such behavior…*Have they given a platform and honor to a student who has spoken publicly in favor of allowing abortions? I dont think so.**Furthermore, the Red Cross isn’t a political organization. The Catholic church is. Clearly.**Clearly? Again, like your perspective is the only crystal clear view ? And, like Dan, you speak as though there is no other perspective besides your own…oh clear thinker. If it was “clearly” you wouldn’t be having this discussion, because the voters, courts and the politicans would agree with you.The Church is a religious organization.

  30. mike_b1

    There are petitions every year on the Notre Dame campus asking for signatures in support of abortion. Thousands sign. The petitions are then published in the Observer. Name one non-politician the Catholic church has kicked out for saying abortions should be legal.We’re waiting … It’s a PAC. (And considering its track record, not a very good one, either.)

  31. An Astute Observer

    **There are petitions every year on the Notre Dame campus asking for signatures in support of abortion. **Not with ND approval. And not with their blessing. Unlike the Obama thing…which is an official ND action.**The petitions are then published in the Observer.**I don’t know if the Observer is the Student run newspaper. **Name one non-politician the Catholic church has kicked out for saying abortions should be legal.**None, whats your point? However, they won’t put people into authority leadership, positions of honor if they publicly deny that abortion is a sin.**We’re waiting … **For what?**It’s a PAC. Says who? You? Are they listed as such? Do they identify as such? Have they found to be so by the courts?No, it isn’t. It’s a religious organization made up with individuals who are free to be active in politics. Individuals in the Church do not check their rights and liberties at the door when they enter a church.

  32. mike_b1

    The Observer is the ND student paper. Have you never even been there? Jeez; get your facts right.And the reason the Catholic church doesn’t go after students for abortions — which would be easy enough: just camp outside the clinic and take some pictures — is that it doesn’t care about the constituents. Just like a PAC. Name one Republican candidate it has campaigned against due to his/her views on abortion. You think George Bush cared about abortion? Of course he didn’t. Neither did Reagan or Bush 1 or Dick Cheney. The Catholic church looked the other way. But Obama — who is not even a Catholic — gets the wrath. It’s a bigoted, racist PAC.Btw, individuals in the Catholic church absolutely check their rights and liberties at the door. Or didn’t you hear about the widespread molestation cases that took place for oh, about the past 40 years? You know, the ones the Vatican tried to blame on the wayward ways of America, only to have it later revealed that it was/is a systemic problem in all regions.

  33. An Astute Observer

    **The Observer is the ND student paper. Have you never even been there? Jeez; get your facts right.**Did I say it wasn’t? What fact didn’t I get right?**And the reason the Catholic church doesn’t go after students for abortions — which would be easy enough: just camp outside the clinic and take some pictures — is that it doesn’t care about the constituents.**More stupidity.**You think George Bush cared about abortion? Of course he didn’t.**More pontificating with nothing to back it up.**Btw, individuals in the Catholic church absolutely check their rights and liberties at the door. **If you hadn’t heard, the victims went to court and used their rights and most recieved very large lump sum settlements.You are an outsider looking in…and have no idea what churches are all about. If you choose to express an opinion, you should at least know what you are talking about.

  34. mike_b1

    The sex abuse victims had no rights within the catholic church. The church alienated/vilified the abused and protected the abusers. Victims had to go outside the church to get justice. It went so far as to promote those like Cardinal Law on whose watch many of the serial abusers enjoyed complete, unfettered access to victims. Many are still waiting for their abusers inside the church to apologize.The catholic church doesn’t even want Caroline Kennedy as ambassador. Why would it care? Because it’s a political organization posing as a religion.I spent 8 years in parochial school. And it didn’t take that long to recognize the catholic church for what it is.

  35. An Astute Observer

    **The sex abuse victims had no rights within the catholic church.**The sex abuse victims had all the rights that everyone else had. You do not lose your civil rights when you enter a church.**The catholic church doesn’t even want Caroline Kennedy as ambassador. Why would it care?**Because things like abortion are more that simply a political issue. It’s a moral one. The Vatican would not want to have an ambassador who shows disrespect when she should be showing diplomacy.**I spent 8 years in parochial school**And apparently you still have an 8th grade understanding of the Church.

  36. mike_b1

    Uh, you may want to go back and read the Boston Globe series on how the local diocese handled scores of molestation accusations. If this happened in any other context, the local jails would be packed with guys wearing amices.What you also fail to understand is that the Vatican has an actual government. Government = politics.Understanding the catholic church doesn’t take more than a three-year-old’s understanding of right and wrong. Within the catholic church, an 8th grade understanding is the equivalent of a doctoral degree. Keep in mind, we’re talking about a sect that is so incredible short-sighted, it puts the blame of the so-called original sin on “Eve” for listening to Lucifer’s sweet-nothings and eating the apple, forgetting that its own handbook cites Lucifer as a mutinous angel. If inciting treason in the ranks isn’t sinful, what in the hell (get it?) is?But let’s not let timelines, corruption or inconsistencies get in the way of a perfectly good fable (not to mention, the all-time greatest pyramid scheme).

  37. An Astute Observer

    **Uh, you may want to go back and read the Boston Globe series on how the local diocese handled scores of molestation accusations.**I have probably read every word of every article in the Globe series. No matter what they did, the Catholic Church cannot remove someone’s civil rights. **What you also fail to understand is that the Vatican has an actual government.**I understand it fully. The city/state of the Vatican has no legal jurisdiction here. Again, they cannot take away your civil rights…**Within the catholic church, an 8th grade understanding is the equivalent of a doctoral degree.**Yes, let’s celebrate ignorance.There’s nothing wrong with having a 3rd grade understanding of the Church…..as long as you’re in the 3rd grade. **Keep in mind, we’re talking about a sect that is so incredible short-sighted,**And now with your celebrated 8th grade understanding, you’re going to teach us all? Nice try. **But let’s not let timelines, corruption or inconsistencies get in the way of a perfectly good fable (not to mention, the all-time greatest pyramid scheme)**And let’s not let education, enlightenment and understanding get in the way of your dream world.

  38. mike_b1

    Once again, you do not or cannot come up with a single valid reason why the President of the United States should be barred from speaking at a college commencement.

  39. An Astute Observer

    Once again, you couldn’t stay with a single line of coherant thought and drove this thread all over the map.You wanted to discuss PACS, Vatican city/state, priest abuse, Church democracy, your parochial school education….and my spelling.Are you so ADD that you cannot stay with a single line of reasoning?

  40. mike_b1

    You still haven’t answered the question.

  41. An Astute Observer

    -I did…you just couldn’t follow the logic and wanted to discuss pedophile priests and the Vatican city/state….or some other thing.

  42. mike_b1

    Still waiting…Btw, I see you post under at least two names on this blog. What gives? Schizophrenia acting up again?

  43. An Astute Observer

    Read, think, repeat.

  44. mike_b1

    Practicing your toilet training, I see.

  45. An Astute Observer

    Read, think, repeat. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

  46. mike_b1

    You go, Astute! Keep reaching for that rainbow!

  47. An Astute Observer

    You go b1…keep reaching for the gutter with toilet talk.

  48. mike_b1

    You’re about one comment behind. (Of course, we all know how you like being behind.) That closet is getting a little dark for you, it sounds.

  49. An Astute Observer

    Cute. How many unrelated things can you get into one thread?

  50. mike_b1

    Sorry, I’m not your type. I’m a straight man.Enjoy that pot of gold, though!

  51. An Astute Observer

    You have a problem with gay men now? I thought you were a good tolerant liberal. Or is this just another diversion that keeps you from discussing a topic intelligently? Are you under the impression you win an argument when people get fatigued by your convoluted line of thought?

  52. mike_b1

    You have a problem with gays. It’s probably projection. You’re gay, and you’re trying to hide it. It’s your problem, not mine, Fishy.

  53. An Astute Observer

    Who’s hiding it? It’s seems to be your problem because you seem to be fixated on it.But what does this have to do with Obama and ND?

  54. mike_b1

    You’re worried. We get it.But we’ll let you in on a little secret. There is no god. You are wasting your time.WHOOPS!

  55. An Astute Observer

    Not worried at all….

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén