Here is the text of the speech that Jenkins gave before he introduced Obama at Notre Dame on Sunday. My comments are interspersed:
“President Obama, Fr. Hesburgh, Judge Noonan, Members of the Board of Trustees, Members of the faculty, staff, alumni, friends, parents, and most of all – the Notre Dame Class of 2009:
Several autumns ago, you came to Notre Dame from home….now Notre Dame has become home. And it always will be. For home is not where you live. Home is where you belong. You will always belong – and I pray you will always feel you belong – here at Notre Dame. Fairly odd sentiment. I never confused my college with home. I believe that the students at Notre Dame also pay 50k a year to be part of this “home”.
In my four years as President of your University – I have found that even among those who did not go to Notre Dame, even among those who do not share the Catholic faith, there is a special expectation, a special hope, for what Notre Dame can accomplish in the world. True Jenkins, and how you have dashed these hopes. They hope that Notre Dame will be one of the great universities in the nation, but they also hope that it will send forth graduates who — grounded in deep moral values — can help solve the world’s toughest problems. I am afraid we saw these “deep moral values” on full display when students chanted the Obama campaign slogan “Yes We Can!” to drown out pro-life demonstrators.
Their hope is in you, the graduates of 2009. God help us all. No disrespect to the Notre Dame grads, but that is what I mentally thought whenever I heard any such comment made about my class in any commencement I participated in!
That is a good place for hope to be. I have great confidence in what your talent and energy can accomplish in the world. But I have a special optimism for what you can do inspired by faith. The Faith?
It is your faith that will focus your talents and help you build the world you long to live in and leave to your children.
The world you enter today is torn by division – and is fixed on its differences. Not at the Obama campaign rally on Sunday disguised as the Notre Dame commencement.
Differences must be acknowledged, and in some cases cherished. Right and Wrong isn’t a mere “difference”. But too often differences lead to pride in self and contempt for others, until two sides – taking opposing views of the same difference — demonize each other. Note the tactic. Jenkins is above the conflict between those who support legal protection for unborn children and those who wish to ensure a “right” to abortion until the cord is cut. Whether the difference is political, religious, racial, or national — trust falls, anger rises, and cooperation ends … even for the sake of causes all sides care about. Pardon Jenkins, but I see no evidence that pro-aborts care one whit for unborn children marked for abortion.
More than any problem in the arts or sciences – engineering or medicine – easing the hateful divisions between human beings is the supreme challenge of this age. The problem isn’t that some people engage in evil conduct like abortion, rather the problem is the division between those who find such such conduct to be evil and those who believe such conduct to be right. If we can solve this problem, we have a chance to come together and solve all the others. Lulling people into a moral stupor has never solved any problem confronting humanity.
A Catholic university – and its graduates – are specially called, and I believe specially equipped, to help meet this challenge. Actually Catholics are often called to be a sign of division in upholding the Faith of Christ.
As a Catholic university, we are part of the Church – members of the “mystical body of Christ” animated by our faith in the Gospel. Yet we are also – most of us – citizens of the United States – this extraordinary evolving expression of human freedom. We are called to serve each community of which we’re a part, and this call is captured in the motto over the door of the east nave of the Basilica: “God, Country, Notre Dame.” Remember the order Jenkins. I have also always found this motto odd in that it leaves out family.
As we serve the Church, we can persuade believers by appeals to both faith and reason. As we serve our country, we will be motivated by faith, but we cannot appeal only to faith. We must also engage in a dialogue that appeals to reason that all can accept. With non-believers reason is helpful, but faith is also helpful. People respect those who obviously have strong faith, and often have little but contempt for those who obviously do not really believe what they profess to believe. An example that comes to mind is a Catholic university honoring a pro-abort politician.
When we face differences with fellow citizens, we will be tested: do we keep trying, with love and a generous spirit, to appeal to ethical principles that might be persuasive to others – or do we condemn those who differ with us for not seeing the truth that we see? Actually in a democracy you try to convert enough of those opposed to you to your side so that you can win elections and enshrine your views into law.
The first approach can lead to healing, the second to hostility. We know which approach we are called to as disciples of Christ. Christ had some fairly harsh words for those who opposed Him. But perhaps we are not talking here about the historical Christ but rather some academic construct. Likewise the Catholic Church, as opposed to the church Jenkins is talking about, has never been shy about boldly putting forward doctrines that she expects the faithful to observe in public as well as private life. An example from the Catechism:
2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:
“The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.”80
“The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights.”81
Pope Benedict said last year from the South Lawn of the White House: “I am confident that the American people will find in their religious beliefs a precious source of insight and an inspiration to pursue reasoned, responsible and respectful dialogue in the effort to build a more humane and free society.”
Genuine faith does not inhibit the use of reason; it purifies it of pride and distorting self-interest. As it does so, Pope Benedict has said, “human reason is emboldened to pursue its noble purpose of serving mankind, giving expression to our deepest common aspirations and extending … public debate.”
Tapping the full potential of human reason to seek God and serve humanity is a central mission of the Catholic Church. The natural place for the Church to pursue this mission is at a Catholic university. The University of Notre Dame belongs to an academic tradition of nearly a thousand years – born of the Church’s teaching that human reason, tempered by faith, is a gift of God, a path to religious truth, and a means for seeking the common good in secular life.
It is out of this duty to serve the common good that we seek to foster dialogue with all people of good will, regardless of faith, background or perspective. Dialogue has never been a key feature of the Catholic Faith especially regarding questions of basic morality. We will listen to all views, and always bear witness for what we believe. No, judging from the display at Obama Day what you will actually do is pledge allegiance to whoever is in favor with the secular academic Left, Church teaching be hanged. Insofar as we play this role, we can be what Pope John Paul II said a Catholic university is meant to be – “a primary and privileged place for a fruitful dialogue between the Gospel and culture” . Considering all that John Paul II wrote and preached regarding abortion, I am rather surprised Jenkins was able to choke out his name.
Of course, dialogue is never instantaneous; it doesn’t begin and end in an afternoon. Just what is this dialogue on abortion? The unborn child will only be half aborted? It is an ongoing process made possible by many acts of courtesy and gestures of respect, by listening carefully and speaking honestly. Honest speaking was in short supply at Notre Dame, with certain honorable exceptions, on Obama Day. Paradoxically, support for these actions often falls as the need for them rises – so they are most controversial precisely when they can be most helpful. This is all so spurious. Catholic universities in this country have been havens for dissenters directly opposed to Church teaching for decades. Obama Day was merely a culmination of a very long turning away from Catholic Truth. This had nothing to do with dialogue.
As we all know, a great deal of attention has surrounded President Obama’s visit to Notre Dame. We honor all people of good will who have come to this discussion respectfully and out of deeply held conviction. Except those students opposed to the Obama invite who Jenkins refused to meet with. No dialogue for them!
Most of the debate has centered on Notre Dame’s decision to invite and honor the President. Less attention has been focused on the President’s decision to accept.
President Obama has come to Notre Dame, though he knows well that we are fully supportive of Church teaching on the sanctity of human life, and we oppose his policies on abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Which Notre Dame demonstrated by disregarding 79 bishops and giving Obama an honorary degree. If they really oppose him later I guess they will make him an honorary member of the faculty, or maybe President of Notre Dame after he is no longer President of the country.
Others might have avoided this venue for that reason. But President Obama is not someone who stops talking to those who differ with him. Oh Obama is always willing to talk and then do precisely what he wishes to do. Academics, like politicians, always overvalue hot air.
Mr. President: This is a principle we share. Unless the people who disagree are students opposed to you being here.
As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wrote in their pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes: “Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.” Here Jenkins is showing the same deep understanding of Church documents that was on display when he argued that the prohibition of the bishops in regard to honoring pro-abort politicians only applied to Catholic pro-abort politicians. Understanding the pro-abort position does not necessitate granting an honorary degree to its chief proponent.
If we want to extend courtesy, respect and love – and enter into dialogue – then surely we can start by acknowledging what is honorable in others.
We welcome President Obama to Notre Dame, and we honor him for the qualities and accomplishments the American people admired in him when they elected him. His ability to make glib, contentless speeches? The fact that he wasn’t Bush? That he didn’t have an “R” after his name in a Democrat year? He is a man who grew up without a father, whose family was fed for a time with the help of food stamps — yet who mastered the most rigorous academic challenges, who turned his back on wealth to serve the poor, who sought the Presidency at a young age against long odds, and who – on the threshold of his goal — left the campaign to go to the bedside of his dying grandmother who helped raise him. Oh please! Obama had an upper middle class upbringing. His grandmother was a Vice President of a bank, and his mother’s second husband was a government relations consultant for Mobil Oil. Trying to turn Harvard educated Obama into log cabin Abe is a pretty big stretch.
He is a leader who has great respect for the role of faith and religious institutions in public life. He has said: “Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square.” And he spent 20 years in crazy Reverend Wright’s Trinity Church which preached an amalgam of racial animosity and Leftist politics. One saving grace is that during the campaign Obama denied hearing some of Wright’s more “colorful” sermons, so perhaps he slept through them.
He is the first African American to be elected President, yet his appeal powerfully transcends race. In a country that has been deeply wounded by racial hatred – he has been a healer. Never declare a politician an “uniter not a divider” until his term of office is completed.
He has set ambitious goals across a sweeping agenda — extending health care coverage to millions who don’t have it, improving education especially for those who most need it, promoting renewable energy for the sake of our economy, our security, and our climate. This is the most honest passage in the speech. Obama is a Leftist, so am I, and I like what he says he will do.
He has declared the goal of a world without nuclear weapons and has begun arms reduction talks with the Russians. The Russians are not the problem when it comes to nuclear weapons. The relevant country is Iran and Obama doesn’t have a clue what to do about that.
He has pledged to accelerate America’s fight against poverty, to reform immigration to make it more humane, and to advance America’s merciful work in fighting disease in the poorest places on earth. And lo, he will heal the lame and the blind, and Jenkins more than half buys into this Snakeoil Messiah.
As commander-in-chief and as chief executive, he embraces with confidence both the burdens of leadership and the hopes of his country. Now this is simply a completely meaningless suck-up passage. Note that his speech lists nothing of substance that Obama has actually done other than to get elected.
Ladies and Gentlemen: The President of the United States.” I bet by this time even Obama was beginning to wonder if Jenkins was laying it on a bit thick.