The Tablet weighs in on Obama-Notre Dame controversy

The Tablet — a Catholic weekly in London — offered an editorial about the controversy surrounding the University of Notre Dame’s invitation to President Barack Obama to deliver the commencement address at the 2009 graduation.

The editorial suggests a difference in attitude between American and European Catholics.

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33 Responses to The Tablet weighs in on Obama-Notre Dame controversy

  1. Pam says:

    Well, this depends on which Catholics are polled in America. Statistics show that more Catholics voted for Obama than did not. The “traditional” Catholics are the more vocal, but not the majority. As an active, daily Mass attender, I supported and voted for Obama. Like European Catholics, I do not just pick one issue from the cafeteria. I look at the whole of Christ’s teachings. Social justice, death penalty, war, poverty as a large continuum of “life.” If you are pro-life you must not just deliver babies and abandon them. You must assure that they receive adequate health care, education and other forms of nurture. Obama is not pro abortion. He believes that if you offer mothers health care, food, child care they will be much less inclined to have an abortion whether it is legal or not. If Roe were overturned tomorrow, abortions would not cease any more than murder, rape, or child sexual abuse has. Abortions would just go underground and be in the hands of criminals. The daughters of nice traditonal Catholic parents would seek abortions in the back alleys of dirty abortionists rather than a clean hospital. Both lives would be lost. The problem of abortion is far more complex than just passing laws against it.
    Passing laws against prostitution, pornography, rape and murder won’t stop these crimes. Only individual salvation through the love of Christ will stop abortion.

  2. Ellen Chmiel says:

    Monroe Townsship, NJ

    Our country is full of racists & white supremacists. Bishops are rallying them to assassinate our president!!! In contrast to our photo-op president,
    Obama is doing more to support peace, dialogue, & depoliticization of government, This isn’t China; no one is forced to have an abortion. I won’t force a woman to bear a child she does not want or resort to a back alley abortion.

  3. Dan says:

    As far as Catholic doctrine is concerned the murder of innocents trumps other concerns–it doesn’t make other issues unimportant just less so. ‘The Church’ is not meddling here, it is just 32 Bishops and 250,000 individuals so far who have exercised their free speech and voiced their opposition to a Catholic University giving an honorary degree and a public platform to a President who is in opposition to a sacred tenant of The Catholic Church. Its too bad the Tablet could not stick to the facts—if they did they would have posed different questions and come to different conclusions.

  4. Dan says:

    So Jesus did a horrible death on this, Good Friday, so we (society) can murder our unwanted children? God have mercy.

  5. Jim says:

    Pam sounds like a lot of “pretend” Catholic Obama supporters who are willing to look past the brutality of abortion and actually presents a “pro-choice” philosophy. I happen to be a nurse who has talked to quite a number of women still grieving thier “legal choice” abortions coerced by parents, boyfreinds etc. The Obama team has moved to remove conscience protections for health care workers who have moral objections to participating in abortions. Does Pam have any idea why there are so few Nurses and Doctors who are willing to participate in this brutal, often cruel, procedure? Now the Obama adminestration is trying to increase the number by coerced cooperation with abortion through removing conscienctious objector status for Nurses, Pharmacists, Doctors and other health care workers. This is the ultimate hypocrisy of “Choice for me but not for thee” And Notre Dame is willing to honor such a person?? What a shame!!

  6. Kristin says:

    Perhaps no one is forcing women to have an abortion, but I think of all of the vulnerable young women and poor women who are being tricked into believing that they are in no position to support a child. They in a sense are being told by “modern culture” to have an abortion or their lives will be ruined. By making abortion legal it is tricking these women into thinking it is ok and that it will somehow solve their “problem” when what they experience deep down is that it does not. Abortion preys upon poor women and tells them, ” You are poor so you should not have a child.” It preys upon young and vulnerable women by telling them, ” You are young and have so much going for you, you should not have a child.” This may not constitute forcing a woman to have an abortion, but it certainly is coercing her to. Every child is wanted by someone somewhere.

  7. Gail says:

    I applaud the Tablet for stating what many Catholics know and understand: rules may be black and white but most people live in the greys. No one is pro abortion but criminalizing abortion would be an injustice. There are grey places in this issue that pro criminalization groups just ignore – there are times when there is more than one life at stake – sometimes the developing child threatens the life of the mother and while many women would give their lives for their child there are times when these same mothers must also consider the lives of children who are already born. A mother can not choose to die to save the life of a fetus and leave other children who need her motherless. When people use harsh words to condemn these women, they are not showing the compassion and love we are called to show to each other. Catholics must start to approach the issue of abortion in a pastoral way. The time for fire and brimstone is over. The sense of the faithful has moved beyond that rhetoric. God Bless the editorial board of the Tablet and God Bless all those women who are in anguish right now and alone in their decision making. May God be with them now and always.

  8. Pete says:

    Great commentary by the Tablet and much needed.

    American Bishops have to deal with one reality about our political structure which they–so far–seem to have failed to understand.

    The most radical statement in our founding document–the Declaration of Independence–is the one that has to do with…” consent of the governed…” If the people do not consent to a governing authority they either ignore it or change it.

    It is obvious that many Bishops do not have the consent to be a governor of the behavior of many Roman Catholics in the USA.

  9. G.K. Thursday says:

    The main problem with Catholics in the United States today is catechesis. Most Catholics have never studied their faith and thus have never been formed by it. Although they are Catholic by baptism, their lives are less in touch with the faith than with the popular culture around them. They don’t understand why Catholicism doesn’t and can’t equate to the common life of a U.S. citizenship. Thus Pete quotes the U.S. Constitution to “correct” the ancient and Christ-instituted office of the Bishop! Thus Gail and Pam still see abortion as a private, if sinful, choice — akin to smoking or gambling — which the Church should just stay out of. A deeper knowledge of it as a social justice issue is avoided and ignored. These and many other comments on this Notre Dame issue stem precisely either from a lack of knowledge of the teachings or the Church or in certain cases an obstinate refusal to accept such teaching.

    Such refusal does exist even among priests and religious, especially those older than 60. One can only pray about such obtuse spirits in the Church. The Tablet’s editorial deals not with the well-thought out statement of the USCCB and whether Notre Dame’s invitation to an award ceremony for Obama contravenes it, but whether (1) abortion is important enough to protest about and (2) whether any protest about anything is a good idea for Catholics since they might thereby become unpopular. About the first, what would be any more important than the slaughter of the innocent as a societal practice? And secondly has naked popularity has never been one of the goals of Christian faith? Social justice has certainly always been so. Incidentally the Tablet’s record of protesting against social injustice has almost always been in hindsight, rarely with foresight. Here the Tablet gets it wrong again. For the Tablet refuses to see that precisely these sorts of events, Obama receiving an award from Notre Dame, are political events and affect the political process. If Catholics are to meliorate the radical abortion laws in the U.S. they will need to not award politicians who support such laws honorary degrees.

  10. JLinn says:

    It is obvious that Pete does not understand that the Catholic Church’s constitution was given to her by Jesus, not the Founding Fathers of the U.S. The authority of the successors of the apostles does not derive from the consent of the governed, but from the consent of the Governor, Jesus. There’s a crucial distinction between the Church and the State that Pete has failed to make.

    As for Gail’s claim that “no one is pro abortion,” I wonder how she knows that. Has she read anything by Camille Paglia or Peter Singer on abortion? They’re unabashedly in favor of abortion, and do not try to obscure their support for abortion with the “pro choice” mask. Again, Gail said “criminalizing abortion would be an injustice,” but that makes me wonder what other instances of killing innocent people she thinks should be legal.

    Backing up to Pam’s argument, logically it would lead us to conclude that nothing should ever be against the law. It also suggests that she does not understand that some things are crimes whether or not a society agrees with what the natural law tells us about right human behavior and the just ordering of a society. There can simply be no justice in a society where it is legal to slaughter unborn babies, and it is impossible to reconcile a belief that abortion shouldn’t be illegal with Catholic social doctrine. I pray that Pam, Ellen, Gail, and Pete do a lot of soul searching this Paschal-tide and reform their consciences and convictions in accordance with the divinely-revealed truths that Jesus gave to His Bride.

  11. Dan says:

    Pete–very true except this has to do with a Catholic University and for the limited issue of giving an honorary degree and speaking platform for this President. You seem like the pro-abortion folks who won’t allow any exception to their idea of absolutely no limitation to abortion. The Bishops, again, are exercising free speech–something I’m sure you heard of before you moved to stifle any opposing view. If the Bishop were doing as you say they would enforce their own policy and not allow ND to go ahead. But even then, it has zero to do with your canard. Practicing faithful Catholics I believe care not about your view as to their being ‘governed’.

  12. Dan says:

    Gail save your rhetoric. We are not looking to criminalize the women. Love the sinner Hate the sin. The Catholic Church feels compassion for these women but cannot condone the murder of an innocent child. That ‘s the grey area as you call it. You have to be intellectually honest to keep those two concepts in your mind. That comes by Grace. You clearly miss that point by giving us the extreme rare case when the mothers life is in danger. Again if you were honest you would not use a rare exception as your premise for condoning 50 million deaths in America alone. I do sometime want to give the pro-abortion folks some slack, but then I read a hard line ,irresponsible post like yours, and then realize the pro-abortion folks will stop at nothing to get their way—and in fact you have almost won in the US, so enjoy your ‘victory’ here on Holy Saturday.

  13. Pete says:

    To G. K.:
    The intent is NOT to “correct” the office of Bishop. It is to show that–irrespective of tightly reasoned and correct understanding of Roman Catholic teachings–the reality of consent of the governed exists and it affects the work of the Bishops in the USA (and in Europe too). The idea of a laity unanimously united and responding in the same way to issues has yet to occur in the history of Roman Catholicism. Also–the phrase “…consent of the governed” is found in the
    Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution.

    You are closer to the mark in your note about the seeming ineffectiveness of catechesis. That being the case fault must be attributed to the Bishops who have three main tasks: TEACH, GOVERN AND SANCTIFY! It appears that (in your view) they have failed to TEACH; and, in my view they are unable to GOVERN. SANCTIFY via the sacraments they appear to do well.

    From Matthew
    18 And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.

  14. David Raber says:

    Dan, why would you not want to “criminalize” a woman for “murdering” a “baby”? The mother would be at least as culpable as the abortionist.

    There is rhetoric (fired by emotion), and then there is reality, and the two are usually very far apart on this issue, whether one is arguing pro-life or pro-choice.

    There is also often a difference between theory and reality. While theory may regard a fertilized egg as a human being like any other human being, almost no one without a political agenda would regard the loss of that fertilized egg as anything like the loss of a baby.

  15. Gail says:

    Pregnancies that endanger the life of the mother are not as rare as you think. In this day of sonograms and pre-natal testing, many women are given this information and anguish over their decisions. Rather than condemn them you need to become compassionate towards these mothers and fathers who truly suffer. With all due respect, you are looking to criminalize these women. If you make abortion illegal, what do expect will happen? Women will go to jail.
    You can’t just punish the doctors – that would be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. I do not think my call for compassion and love is irresponsible rhetoric and I don’t see this as a “win.” I see it as a recognition that sometimes people find theselves in very difficult situations with all the information and knowledge available during a pregnancy and they need God’s help to come to the right decision. I also see it as a recognition of my human condition – I will not and cannot judge another person. I won’t throw the first stone or any stone. My Lord calls on me to love others as He loves me – unconditionally. That is all I can do.

  16. Dan says:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness….”

    If all you are saying is that many ‘Catholics’ in America do not follow the Bishops–well yeah no one would argue with that—not sure I would lay all the blame at the Bishops feet however.

  17. G.K. Thursday says:

    J Linn has made the critical point to Pete on consent of the governed. One of the great clarifications that was made at the Second Vatican Council was the Declaration on Religious Liberty. If a Catholic cannot in good conscience accept the teachings of the Church (as Pete, Gail, Pam and David Raber seem not to be able to do) the simple remedy is to exercise their religious liberty and leave the Catholic faith. Anything else is what Heidegger labeled “inauthenticity” — a self-duplicity practiced in one’s own being. Other, more traditional theologians would have different terms for it, but I won’t ladle those on here. If you don’t believe in what the Church teaches, and has taught for millenia, then why belong? Unless, of course you are employed by the Church and are afraid if you follow your conscience you’ll lose your job. But that’s called simony ….

  18. DJP says:

    I find it interesting that CNS, an arm of the American Catholic bishops, downplays the numerous letters written by American Bishops who opposed Notre Dame’s decision but they chose to highlight the Tablet, an arm of the Catholic left in England.

    Will when CNS start representing the American Catholic Church instead of one that supports Roe v Wade?

  19. Paul says:

    Why is Catholic News Service giving publicity to the Tablet’s dissenting opinion on the Obama-Notre Dame controversy, when the USCCB’s president, Cardinal George, publicly condemned Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama?

    When will the American bishops replace the entire staff of CNS and replace it with Catholics who think with the Church rather than against it?

  20. Dan says:

    Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our Life, our Sweetness, and our hope. To thee we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then most gracious advocate, Thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us, the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary. Pray for us O Holy Mother of God, That we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.

  21. Dan says:

    attached is the Report of The South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortion from 2005—for those truly interested in legal issues concerning abortion.

  22. Greg Boyle says:

    The Tablot has it right. “not within Catholic European circles” Yikes, certainly Catholics in Europe have so much to give…what’s the percent that goes to Church? 2% Certainly that gives them the right to give their opinions on abortion. Looking for a grey area in abortion? Yikes! Seems like Europe has grey-areaed itself to death, including the faith.

  23. G.K. Thursday says:

    Yes, Greg Boyle, that’s the one thing the Tablet editorial did get right. European attitutdes toward faith are for the most part Laodicean. But things are changing in Europe as well. See the following links for for more info on changes:

    Catholics set to pass Anglicans as leading UK church
    From the Times (UK)

    Review of Ian Linden’s GLOBAL CATHOLICISM
    from the TImes Literary Supplement

    These are just two of many, many indications that the Tablet speaks for a small, perhaps tiny, part of global Catholicism. It has its influence, however, I was a subscriber for several years (@ $120 per year). I still like many of the articles and especially the book reviews. I was contemplating renewing my subscription, but this editorial put a stop to that!

  24. Pete says:

    Note to G. K.

    You need to read and understand the American Bishops statement on voting and formation of conscience. Your faith has locked you into mental blinders.

  25. Steve W says:

    When a branch becomes dead, it is time to prune it. When one professes that abortion is tenable, and openly rebels against the teachings of the church. It is clear that his (her) Faith is dead. Confession restores life, but how are the dead to go?

  26. JLinn says:

    Pete, leaving aside G.K.’s misapplication of the term “simony,” where is the contradiction between what G.K. has said and what the U.S. bishops said in Faithful Citizenship?

  27. Dan says:

    Gail your heart is in the right place, however this note from The American Life League refutes your point that ‘Pregnancies that endanger the life of the mother are not as rare as you think” They are not only rare they are quite possibly non-existant today.

    Abortion is necessary to save the mother’s life?

    Many doctors will quickly tell you this is not true; that there is never a case in which it is necessary to kill the baby to save the mother. There are ways of saving both patients. Proper treatment of an ectopic pregnancy is not considered a “procured abortion.” Although the baby is unlikely to survive the treatment, there is no intent to take the child’s life.

    Abortion is necessary to protect the mother’s health?

    This exception is written into legislation, and is at the center of the Supreme Court’s lesser-known Doe v. Bolton ruling of January 22.1973. It offers an almost unlimited excuse for abortion, yet it was formulated by lawyers, not doctors. Again, there is no problem so severe that it would justify killing the child.

    Gail please separate the legal from the moral—Jesus said we humans are not to judge others however he did not excuse sin especially grave sin, and The Catholic Church never approved abortion. As others state Confession is the remedy for the soul. Eventhough the law says the act is ‘legal’ does not make it morally right. The issue of abortion is in fact a human rights issue—the life of the child cannot be snuffed out because it appears to be the best option at the time, and good Catholics who support abortion as a necessary evil are mistaken.

  28. Mike says:

    Progressive Catholics who choose the road most travelled with respect to their pro-choice views parrot the the most theologically and logically tenuous justifications for allowing the practice. Certainly, in the US, it is no courageous thing to stand up for “the First Right”, that is, the right to be. Catholics who wrap themselves up in social justice should instead wrap themselves up in the theology of the dignity of the human person. Philosophers have defined God as ‘pure Being’. For those who stand for life, especially Christians and especially Catholics, this insight lifts up personal relationship to God, that we are created in His image, and that each human person, from conception through natural death, shares in that aspect of the Divine, through our very ‘being.’ The denial of that primordial opportunity to experience God’s many gifts, that is, abortion, is so enormously huge a violation of human dignity, that the usual justifications for the practice fail to meet any standard of import.

  29. Kristin says: me tell you a little story: Four years ago a friend of mine was pregnant with her 6th child. She had a great pregnancy and was doing well. Towards the end of the pregnancy she was tired and had some aches and pains just like most women do at that stage. The night before she was scheduled for a C-section she died in her sleep. The baby died too. There was NO forewarning. She had just been to the doctor two days prior. She died, I believe, of some type of embolism. Her heart just stopped. I believe the embolism was related to the fact that she was pregnant, but it came completely out of nowhere. She was a beautiful and gentle mother. I went to her wake and saw her in the casket with her perfect baby girl in her arm wrapped in a baby blanket. It was the most heartwrenching thing I have ever experienced, yet it was so beautiful. Her devotion to her family and this new baby was so obvious. The point is, pregnancy is almost always risky for either the mother or the baby or both. And this mother had no idea that her life was at risk.

  30. Gail says:


    I am so sorry for your loss. I will pray for you and for your friend’s family. I hope they are healing in Christ’s love and peace.
    Sometimes there is forewarning of embolism or placenta degradation or some other condition that can cause significant risk to the mother’s life. My conscience will not allow me to support criminalizing or judging women who have to make a decision for themselves, their unborn child and children already born at a time when they are under enormous stress and shock and when there just do not appear to be any good options. Perhaps I need God’s forgiveness and believe me I ask Him for Mercy every day, but I cannot support sending these women to jail. With all due respect, the “treatment” for ectopic pregnancy is termination – the intent is to save the mother’s life but the only way to do that is to abort the fetus because it implanted in the wrong place. I don’t see the difference when prenatal testing shows that the pregnancy is endangering the mother’s life.

  31. JLinn says:

    Gail, Catholic moral theology teaches that intentionally killing a human fetus is never permissible, not even in the case of ectopic pregnancy. In such tragic cases, the treatment is not termination of the unborn child’s life (killing people is never a medical therapy), but removal of the fallopian tube or uterus or surrounding tissue to which the embryo had attached, which is justifiable under the principle of double effect. That has a secondary, unintended effect of causing the child’s death (like the classic case of unintentionally causing one’s own death by jumping in front of a train to push a child to safety). Removal of the fetus while leaving the surrounding tissues or organ would be direct abortion, intentionally killing the child. If the intent is to abort the fetus, then it is an immoral act.

  32. Pete says:

    J Linn:

    The Bishop’s Statement states that as long as a Roman Catholic does NOT vote for a candidate because he/she is not aligned with the church’s position and considers that position along with other concerns, the voter may vote for such a candidate.

    The Bishops will have to unanimously support a statement to the effect that a Roman Catholic must/shall vote for a candidate the is opposed to the five non-negotiables: abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human clonining and homosexula marriage. Effectively this would be (by implication) a directive that we must vote for the Republican candidate for the most part. This is repugnant to the American view of separation of church and state.

  33. JLinn says:

    The bishops’ statement says a LOT more than that. You omit so much that what you said amounts to a falsification of what they said.

    The bishops have already said that if at all possible we should only support and vote for candidates who are opposed to the evils of abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and homosexual pseudomarriage. They could take a harder line, along the lines you suggest, but that probably wouldn’t be very prudent. I also note that separation of church and state is not a Catholic view, so it shouldn’t particularly concern us if the manner that Catholics participate in American political life is contrary to, or is thought to be contrary to, the principle of separation of church and state. Anyway I stll don’t see how G.K.’s prior statement contradicts what the U.S. bishops teach in Faithful Citizenship.

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