“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of the American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel and the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine providence. It is a trial which the whole Church… must take up.” Karol Cardinal Wotyla (Sept. 1976)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Notre Dame: Fr. John Jenkins Rationale?

When acknowledging the over-riding hypocrisy in inviting and honoring Barack Obama to Notre Dame, there is a significant, ancillary problem that should also be brought up.

Why did the President of Notre Dame, Fr. John Jenkins, not foresee the explosive outrage that would ensue within his own Catholic community based on his invitation? The cause and effect of his action did not require Nostradamus to determine it would be hostile. To this point, more than 50 Catholic prelates spoke out months earlier to their flocks against the election of this man due to his complete juxtaposition on the social teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The predicament that Fr. Jenkins found himself in even had a blueprint to help him navigate through this situation in the U.S. Bishops Conference 2004 document Catholics in Political Life, which makes his blunder even harder to understand.

I pose there are only three reasons for Fr. Jenkins actions:

One, he did not have the foresight, nor prudence, to determine what the reaction would be. Was he completely oblivious enough to think this would not be a problem? If this is the case, does this esteemed university really want someone running it whose intelligence can’t put this simple calculation together? Think of the many students and parents who made great sacrifices to get to this year’s graduation day only to have a media-circus environment marking their day of accomplishment courtesy of Fr. Jenkins' decision.

The second reason is that he did not care. If this is the case, he is not in line with the Magisterium of our Church.

Our Holy Father last year issued a letter to all Catholic Universities in America reminding them of their responsibilities:

"...In regard to faculty members at Catholic colleges universities, I wish to reaffirm the great value of academic freedom. In virtue of this freedom you are called to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you. Yet it is also the case that any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university's identity and mission; a mission at the heart of the Church’s munus docendi [duty to teach Christ’s message] and not somehow autonomous or independent of it.

Teachers and administrators, whether in universities or schools, have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the Church's Magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institution’s life, both inside and outside the classroom. Divergence from this vision weakens Catholic identity and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual or spiritual..."

So although Benedict XVI did not write this to any one person, it lends one to think he is instructing that Fr. Jenkins is betraying Notre Dame’s Catholic identity.

The third possible reason for Jenkins’ actions is that he would rather deal with an internal mutiny than to possibly offend the President. This could speak of his courage and the core of his character. No backbone.

Alumni groups have already started banging the drum to replace Fr. Jenkins. They are going after the jugular, Alumni donations.

All three of these reasons converge on the realization that Fr. Jenkins is not the man to lead the jewel of Notre Dame.

I believe there will be two possible outcomes to this mess. This year’s commencement will mark the last time that Barack Obama will speak at a Notre Dame event. It could also mark the last time Fr. Jenkins speaks at a Notre Dame commencement. Maybe both.


Anonymous said...

Your three options -- lacking prudence and/or judgement; not caring; lack of courage -- strike me as being the only three possible reasons.

For the last, lack of courage, Fr. Jenkins might profitably consult with Ambassador Glendon.

~ Nona

A Voice in the Crowd said...

Agreed Nona, thanks for posting.