Notre Dame Redux

Who knew that this would be the issue to bring me out of my hermitage?  After having threatened my satellite television provider with cancellation, they offered me a slimmed-down package that only has a couple of news outlets.  So, on Sunday I was ‘forced’ to watch CNN’s coverage of President Obama’s commencement address. Leading up to and afterward, the network had Fr. James Martin and Raymond Arroyo squared off against each other discussing the controversy.  Besides being a clear example of media bias (read the transcript and count how many times the host interrupted Arroyo vs Martin), it was disheartening considering how feted Fr. Martin has been on certain venues in St. Blogs.  He’s often described as a “friend of <insert blog name here>”.  After this performance? Nothing from these blogs that have lauded him and pushed his books.  Perhaps I’m on some sort of revengeful witch-hunt. I don’t know.  All I know is that I was deeply disappointed in Fr. Martin and with the silence of the blogs who have lauded him.

23 Responses to Notre Dame Redux

  1. Linda Lee says:

    Ugh! I read the transcript and Father Martin was disgraceful! Priests such as this one are why people get confused and lose their faith. Wishy washy reigns! If our shepherds won’t lead, the laity will have to get off their duffs and lead the way. Kudos to Raymond Arroyo!

  2. Many thanks for your frank comments, which certainly calls for a friendly response. And I hope you don’t mind if I take a few paragraphs to do this. I think it’s always healthy when, to paraphrase St. Paul, we can call another Christian to give an explanation for himself and his faith, so that’s what I’ll do.

    First of all, I am unabashedly pro-life. And in case people think I’m being artfully evasive I mean this: I believe in the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.

    However, as you could see from the CNN show, I also believe that some in the pro-life movement (defined broadly) sometimes downplays the non-abortion parts of the pro-life tradition: that is, the death penalty, war, feeding the hungry, euthanasia, and so on. These are also important “life” issues. Moreover, I believe that you can be firmly pro-life, as I am, and not agree with the precise strategies, noble as they are, of every quarter of the pro-life movement in reaching our common goals.

    That is, you don’t have to violently disagree with the Notre Dame decision in order to be pro-life. Nor do you have to speak the use the same language, pursue the same political goals or, in general, do the same things, in order to sincerely and ardently work for an end to abortion.

    Overall, what I was trying to call for–and perhaps I could have done this more articulately–was what we called for in our America magazine editorial, which was charity towards not simply those who are not in the pro-life camp, but perhaps more importantly, charity and fellowship with our fellow pro-lifers who disagree on how to reach our common goal. Only in this way will we all reach that goal, with God’s help.

    In any event, I hope you take this friendly comment as a sign of our common reverence for the sanctity of all life that God has created.

    Please do keep me in your prayers.

    Yours in Christ,

    Fr. James Martin, SJ

  3. Tito Edwards says:

    Fr. James Martin,

    We enjoy a charitable engagement of ideas here at American Catholic and you can be sure to experience this in the CommBox.

    I do not doubt your sincerity and your passion for protecting the most vulnerable among us, that is without a doubt.

    What I would like to raise is the fact that in your interview you mentioned a couple of times (or was it once) that President Obama is not pro-abortion. Don’t you think that someone that has opened spending on funding abortions overseas (reversal of the Mexico City Policy) and removed the conscious clause that protects doctors from being forced to abort innocent unborn children, not to mention that President Obama also voted against the Born Alive Protect Act that would render aid to babies that survived abortions doesn’t give you pause to think that he is emphatically “pro-abortion”?

    Pax vobiscum,

    Tito Edwards

  4. Dear Mr. Edwards,
    Yes, what I believe (and I’m trying to give him the benefit of the doubt) is that neither he (nor anyone) really can be in favor of women having abortions. That is, that no one can be in favor of wanting to kill a fetus. Everyone of right mind wants to prevent this, and so this is why, it seems to me, he want to work to “reduce” them, through the ways he outlined, I thought well, at Notre Dame: reducing unwanted pregnancies, providing for more adoptions, etc. And, actually, didn’t he say at Notre Dame that he would accept the conscience clause? I thought that was one of his suggestions. (But I may not be correct on that: I’ve not checked the speech.)

    While I’m not familiar with all of his legislative measures, when someone says, as he did at Notre Dame that he wants to “reduce abortions,” that sounds to me like someone who is not “pro-abortion.”
    To use a much less contentious example, it would be as if I said, “I want to reduce the number of car accidents by doing such and such.” No one could say that I was “pro-car accident.” So I’m trying here to give him the benefit of the doubt based on what he says. Also, I think it’s incumbent upon us to do so if we want to work with the administration on this issue.

    Thanks for letting me clarify things.


    James Martin, SJ

  5. It would be “charitable,”, Tito, if you or one of your fellow bloggers would remove the “Dissident Catholics” tag from this post.

  6. paul zummo says:

    While I’m not familiar with all of his legislative measures,

    You see, that’s kind of a problem. The man has an abysmal record that completely belies the mythical notion of him as some sort of moderate on the issue, or as someone really willing to dialogue. If you had bothered to take the time to research his legislative record (and you had ample time to do so), then you would find out that the man holds positions that are more radical than Planned Parenthood’s. It would also make your notion that no one is truly pro-abortion a much murkier one, and considering the sentiments of people like Peter Singer, I don’t know how you can possibly make such a claim.

  7. Mike Petrik says:

    Let’s be clear. Obama was the architect behind the defeat of Illinois’ born alive legislation, which would have required that infants born in the course of an abortion receive ordinary care regardless of viability. His efforts can only be understood as cruel and inhuman beyond measure.

    Father, with all due respect your reasoning is embarrasing. Let’s substitute slavery. After all, the reason for slavery in the US was economic. Are you suggesting that a Catholic (or any reasonable and moral person) could support the continuing legality of slavery as long as he supported economic reforms that would make slavery less “necessary”?

  8. Fr. Martin,

    Thank you for addressing the conversation here so irenicaly.

    While I’m not familiar with all of his legislative measures, when someone says, as he did at Notre Dame that he wants to “reduce abortions,” that sounds to me like someone who is not “pro-abortion.”
    To use a much less contentious example, it would be as if I said, “I want to reduce the number of car accidents by doing such and such.” No one could say that I was “pro-car accident.”

    I think the key question here is what someone means then they say, “I am against X and want to reduce X.”

    Imagine I were to say, “I am against having my teeth drilled and I want to avoid having my teeth drilled.”

    Clearly, I see having my teeth drilled as an unfortunate occurrence, but that doesn’t mean that I see it as morally wrong, or indeed something to be avoided when I need it (i.e. when I have a cavity.)

    From his past words and actions, it seems clear that Obama doesn’t think that getting an abortion is a great thing to go out and do for fun. However, he also thinks that it is often better than having one’s personal time or finances or education encroached on by an unwanted child.

    Now, I guess it would be far worse if he thought that abortion was an actively fun and good thing to do, but this indicates that he’s not actually going to be much use at “working together” to reduce abortion, given that he accepts a view in which abortion is often an acceptable lesser of evils.

  9. Studebaker says:

    That is, that no one can be in favor of wanting to kill a fetus. Everyone of right mind wants to prevent this

    That’s not very accurate.

    You’re right, of course, that almost everyone would answer “no” to the following question: “All else being equal, would you be happier if more women got pregnant only to have abortions?” No one, that is, wants the abortion rate to go up and up, in and of itself.

    But that’s rather a straw man anyway. The real “pro-abortion” sentiment comes into play when a woman or girl is already pregnant in some inconvenient situation (poverty, too many children already, doesn’t want to interrupt a semester at college, didn’t want a girl baby, etc.). In that situation, there most certainly exist people who — in Obama’s now infamous words — think of the baby’s continued existence as a punishment to be avoided at all costs, and who therefore think that it is a wise and preferable decision to choose abortion. That is, these people are not merely “pro-choice” in the sense that they want the woman to make a decision unaffected by the government; they are “pro-abortion” in the sense that they have a definite opinion that this or that particular woman ought to choose abortion in her circumstances.

    I suspect that an overwhelming majority of “pro-choice” people are actually in the latter category.

  10. Rusty Tisdale says:

    Fr. Martin,

    Thank you for responding to this post. If it appears I was on some sort of crusade against you personally, forgive me. I’d rather think better of someone, as well as give them the benefit of the doubt (as you say you’re doing to Obama). I was still upset, however, over the treatment that Mr. Arroyo received by the CNN host, and your apparent defense of President Obama.

    You said that if anyone deserved a honorary law degree, it would be someone who actually taught constitutional law. Yet, I would wager that President Obama believes that the Constitution itself gives protection to the rights of a woman to kill the person inside her womb. This seems to be directly opposed to Church’s understanding of what the law should do – which is to protect the rights of the least of us. What if, this were 50 years ago and instead of Obama, Notre Dame honored a person who taught constitutional law and also believed that the Constitution protected the rights of states to discriminate against African Americans? After all, he is a teacher of the law and deserved the honor.

  11. Tito Edwards says:

    Father James Martin,

    Thank you for your response.

    Although I disagree with your reasoning I understand why you would come to that conclusion.

    I have no further questions, but don’t hesitate to engage with Rusty, Darwin, or any other of the posters on this column.

    Pax vobiscum.

    And pray for me as well.

  12. Rusty Tisdale says:

    The obvious difference between a car accident an an abortion is that if someone were to intentionally get in a car accident in order to kill another occupant of the car, that would be *against the law* and considered murder.

  13. Jay Anderson says:

    mr. anarchist iafrate is worried that the term “dissident Catholic” is uncharitable (and it probably is as applied to Fr. Martin), but has no problem with America Magazine painting pro-lifers who believe Notre Dame was wrong to honor Pres. Obama (including the 70+ Bishops?) as guilty of the heresy of Donatism.

    That’s rich.

  14. Jay Anderson says:

    I encourage everyone to read Amy Welborn’s comments on this:

    It remains a tiresome slogan – for that is what it is.

    A movement is composed of human beings who are limited. They each have limited numbers of limbs, brains and energy and mental stores. A social movement tends to focus on one or a few closely-related issues. Participants in the social movement attach themselves to the movement for various reasons and have varied other commitments and views. A quick study, for example, of the woman’s suffrage movement in England and the United States shows this diversity: some were more or less focused on human rights, others (mostly in the US) believed women should have the vote so that the chances of enacting conservative social legislation like alcohol restrictions and prohibition would be greater, and still others believed it was very important for white, Anglo-Saxon women to have the vote in order to balance out the mostly Catholic and Jewish immigrant hordes.

    It is okay for a social movement, composed of participants from various backgrounds, to be focused on its own particular cause.

    Really. It’s okay.

  15. Jay Anderson says:

    And, rather than “clarifications”, I’d prefer to see an apology and a retraction from Fr. Martin for this particular calumny:

    “I think, unfortunately, for a lot of people in the pro-life movement, life begins at conception, but seems to end there.”

    I doubt Fr. Martin can name a single person about whom such a comment is accurate.

  16. “I think, unfortunately, for a lot of people in the pro-life movement, life begins at conception, but seems to end there.”

    Over reaction on Jay Anderson’s part, in light of the word “seems.”

    You would do better to argue the ways in which you and the bulk of the “pro-life” movement do, in fact, demonstrate a respect for life after birth on very specific issues like war, the death penalty, etc.

  17. Jay Anderson says:

    They don’t refer to it as “being jesuitical” for nothing.

  18. Jay Anderson says:

    Besides, using the word “seems” didn’t keep Tito from being raked over the coals the other day in reference to his comments about Fr. Jenkins.

    While using “seems” may keep one from being LEGALLY liable for slander, I would hope that we hold our priests to a higher standard.

    Maybe the problem with the tag on this post is that it should say “Seems to be a Dissident Catholic”.

  19. Christopher says:

    Fr. Martin,

    Thank you for visiting our blog and commenting. It’s not often we have the opportunity to interact with the subjects of our posts.

    I think that honoring Barack Obama with a law degree says a lot about what Notre Dame, as a Catholic Institution, thinks of the law itself.

    On one hand, Catholics understand Roe v. Wade to be profoundly “bad law” — as Cardinal Keeler put it on the USCCB’s own website:

    “Thirty-two years ago, seven members of the Supreme Court took the issue of abortion out of the hands of the American people and their duly elected lawmakers. In doing so, they declared that the tiniest human beings have no claim on life and that, therefore, their lives can be terminated. In doing so, those seven did more than write new laws; they invented a constitutional concept that had never been envisioned; in doing so, they contravened two of our nation’s most precious values: the recognition of a God-given, inalienable right to life, and the promise of equal protection under law. All this, increasing numbers of Americans are coming to understand, and there is hope in this.”

    Cardinal William H. Keeler, homily at the
    Basilica of the National Shrine of the
    Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C
    January 23, 2005

    On the other hand, a Catholic university has just honored a man who zealously defends Roe v. Wade as a proper and just decision.

  20. S.B. says:

    You would do better to argue the ways in which you and the bulk of the “pro-life” movement do, in fact, demonstrate a respect for life after birth on very specific issues like war, the death penalty, etc.

    After Fr. Martin made the mistake of admitting that anti-death penalty advocates might be justified in focusing just on that issue (because other life issues are amply covered elsewhere), Amy Welborn made the obvious response:

    You are willing to give those dedicated to the death penalty, war and poverty the benefit of the doubt on this score, why not those dedicated to individual life issues?

    If there are others whom you admire you are articulate on the pro-life cause, could you publicly give them props – and specifically by name and association – instead of only pointing out what you perceive as inadequacies?

    That is the point. And the statement you make at the end of your comment about the Body of Christ – well, that’s what I was saying. Exactly. If someone wants to throw their heart and soul into anti-death penalty work or working with refugees, as long as they are not working against other areas of Gospel values, why would I take the opportunities I have to publicly comment on them to simply criticize them and nothing else? Why would I not give them their props and thank them for their witness and sacrifice? Why would I not give them credit for saving lives and for keeping this important issue on the public conscience and not let us forget the weakest and the voiceless and their invaluable work in building up the Culture of LIfe?

    Powerful stuff. Unsurprisingly, Fr. Martin wasn’t able to answer.

    And it applies to Pope Iafrate and most of the Vox Nova crowd, which generally spends 1,000 times as much energy whining about how pro-lifers aren’t perfect as they do criticizing pro-choicers for anything whatsoever.

  21. […] is Lost on Some People An American Catholic blogger criticizes Fr. James Martin after watching him debate EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo on CNN. […]

  22. JTBF says:

    Gaudium Et Spes:
    “This love and good will, to be sure, must in no way render us indifferent to truth and goodness. Indeed
    love itself impels the disciples of Christ to speak the saving truth to all men. But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions. God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts, for that reason He forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone.”
    Would that the error be repudiated, always, clearly, without equivocation and obfuscation, don’t you think, Fr. Jenkins and Fr. Martin?

  23. […] Democrat.  Jesuit Father James Martin of America magazine, who recently claimed that Obama is not pro-abortion, has praised Mr. Diaz for being a Latino, in addition to being a “faithful” Catholic […]

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