Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My thoughts on Obama at Notre Dame

I want to start by saying that the flap, as I see it, isn't about President Obama at all. He was invited as a sitting President to give a commencement speech at a major university. He accepted. He was offered an honorary degree. He accepted. He gave a speech. Period. Did he use that opportunity for political advantage? Sure, he's a politician. Every President or other politician who gives a major speech to young people who are about to embark on the world and become long term voters use these situations, in part, for political gain. Some do it better than others, but all of them do it. Dogs bark. It's a non-story.

So what is the big issue? Why was I so disturbed by this? Why were so many Catholics up in arms and holding prayer vigils? Because the University of Notre Dame is supposed to be a Roman Catholic school that is headed by two Roman Catholic priests and they are required not to make that invitation, and more importantly, to give any honoraria to any figure in leadership who routinely works against their core principles. I have not been a Roman Catholic for a very long time but I was raised one. While I am not a scholar on it I do know the catechism and the core doctrine of the sect. If I am not a Catholic you might ask why I care? I am an orthodox Christian and I am disturbed any time a major sect gives in to populism at the expense of core principle or doctrine. I am especially disturbed when that act is committed as publicly as it was in this case. Our goal of bringing others to God is not made any easier when things this obviously out of line with His teachings is displayed by any Christian leader.

Let me offer a simple explanation/definition to all you non-Catholics. You either are a Catholic or you aren't. There is no such thing as a pro-abortion (or pro-choice for you squishy PC types) Roman Catholic. It is a fraud. If you support or work to further the availability or practice of abortion you have ex-communicated yourself from the body of the church. It is black letter Roman Catholic doctrine. It isn't optional or up for interpretation or discussion. You are required not to take communion until you have resolved your sin and committed not to do it in the future. That was what all the flap about John Kerry publicly getting communion was about in 2004. By doctrine he is not supposed to request communion and if he does priests are advised (if they know who he is and what he stands for) to refuse.

But I thought ex-communication was something that was done TO you? No, it isn't. By your actions you ex-communicate yourself. In daily life most people use ex-communication where they really mean public ex-communication. Public ex-communication is the act of the church hierarchy making a public statement that you are in that state and informing priests not to give you communion and various other rites of the church. Father Jenkins, and others, are in a state of ex-communication today because of what they did. It isn't disputable. They are. The church body is harmed by his action but even more importantly the church body is harmed because it's hierarchy has not made that simple statement. Father Jenkins is in ex-communication. It isn't hard for me because it doesn't cost me anything. Nobody cares if I say it, probably including Father Jenkins. The hierarchy haven't done it and they aren't going to and the body of that very large group of Christians is harmed more every day that does not happen.

Why won't they? In my opinion, and I have held this opinion for decades, the Roman Catholic hierarchy will always choose the almighty dollar over the furtherance of the Almighty. They are by no means alone in that, btw, it is far too common in Christian churches across the board. That said, it is unfortunately just that simple in my mind, and that is sad.

Don't like who your married to anymore? The hot young secretary in the office seems a good choice for wifey number two? Want to marry her in the Roman Catholic Church? No problem, write us a nice big check and we don't really care what happened, your first marriage is annulled and for a few more bucks we'll do your second marriage. If you are not a Roman Catholic and you don't believe that, ask one that you know. It happens every day.

If you think I am being overly simplistic or harsh I give you the case of Cardinal Bernard Law. This man was one of the key offenders in the "hide the pedophile priest" game played for decades in the US. He was indicted by a duly appointed grand jury because it was very clear that he knowingly put thousands of young children in unacceptable danger. Many of them are scarred for life. Do you remember what happened to him?

The Roman Catholic Church defrocked him and turned him over to the authorities, right? WRONG! They hauled him to Vatican City. They did not do so in order to punish him there mind you, which I might have been OK with if they were sufficiently harsh (like public beheading or boiling in oil). No, they hauled him to Vatican City to PROMOTE him. He now oversees one of the five Basilicas in and around Rome. That is one of the most cherished positions in the Roman Catholic Church. It is, for that reason, the only one I have not visited. They refuse to try him, defrock him or allow him to be extradited to the US for trial and the almost certain punishment that would follow said trial. Why? In a word, MONEY. The pedophile scandal cost the church a lot of it both in payouts to victims and in income in the donation basket. The spectacle of a sitting Cardinal on trial for harming children would have cost them a lot more for a lot longer. The Pope and his advisers were and are well aware that Americans have very short memories. Hauling the creep back to Rome was a story for a few days and then the average Catholic went back to church (and donating) and forgot about it.

By its own doctrine the church is required to publicly ex-communicate Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, etc. etc. Do you know how much money the Kennedys have given to that hierarchy over the years? It's a mind numbing figure I'm sure. It is rumored that the check for Joe Kennedy to get his annulment against the vehement protestations of his wife alone was seven figures. And that was back when even the government considered a million dollars real money. But what's a million bucks to a Kennedy compared to being allowed to continue the charade that you are a nice New England Catholic family worthy of the votes and support of the peasants over which you rule?

Maybe I misread the gospels but I got the distinct impression God doesn't really care as much about money as he does about children. I also get the distinct impression that he cares a lot more about upholding His Law and ideals a LOT more than he cares about money. Any time an institution that claims that its purpose is to uphold Christian doctrine and principle ignores those principles because it's uncomfortable or hard or unpopular or costly - the body of Christ is diminished.

I assert to you that the Roman Catholic hierarchy is ignoring it's own doctrine in this case because around half of all self identified Roman Catholics in the US consider themselves pro-choice. If the bishops did what their doctrine requires a lot of those people would leave the church. That would undoubtedly add up to a lot of money. If they cared about your immortal soul more than money Cardinal Law would be Bernard Law (former Cardinal, current inmate) and Father Jenkins would be former priest and ex-communicated Catholic Jenkins. Clearly, they don't. That is what this is about my friends. It isn't about the President or his policies, it is about the lack of leadership from the leaders of the largest Christian sect in our nation.

I admit this might be overly cynical but I don't see it changing until rank and file believing Roman Catholics stand up and say "not one nickel until it's fixed". It appears to me to be the only message those in charge of your church understand. At the end of the day I suspect your donations dwarf those of the mythical "pro-choice Catholics". At the end of the day that is not my call. I am no longer one of you and have not given a nickel to your church in a very very long time. Good luck to you either way, may God bless.