Planned Parenthood and Joe Biden Come to Catholic™ Campuses
Bishops offer mixed responses to pro-choice speakers, forthrightly condemn Trump supporters.
Catholic political influence in America has not been so weak in many decades, as the Church’s public witness is refracted through mutually hostile factions, and voters who identify as Catholics make up their minds with little guidance from bishops, pastors, or even Catholic principles.
Catholic universities and colleges, many of which have since the mid-1960s run themselves quite apart from any Church authority, are contributing to the Catholic crack-up, insofar as prestigious, high-profile schools follow no strand of recognizably Catholic teaching, but instead the fashions of secular academia. That means that these schools’ governing creed, increasingly, is progressive multiculturalism — which is pro-choice, anti-marriage, and essentially anti-Christian.
Yet such schools continue to present themselves as “Catholic,” a branding term which helps them recruit Irish-American students and raise funds from poorly informed alumni. It’s a word that bishops could (under canon law) forbid them to use. No American bishop has been willing to employ that “nuclear option” against a college in his diocese, with the outcome that too many Catholic™ colleges whore after gods that are strange indeed.
Witness the recent decisions of two top-tier Catholic™ universities to invite pro-abortion extremists to their schools.
Georgetown University in Washington is the most academically impressive Catholic™ academy in America. Increasingly, it has followed the trend of other Jesuit-run institutions of replacing most references to “Catholic” identity with terms such as “in the Jesuit tradition.” Perhaps that’s just as well, given this news from watchdog group the Cardinal Newman Society:
The Lecture Fund at Georgetown University is planning to host Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) President Cecile Richards on campus this April, The Cardinal Newman Society has learned. “This is the latest in a long history of scandal at Georgetown University,” said Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly. “Disguised as an academic event, this is nothing more than a platform for abortion advocacy at a Catholic university and under the nose of the Catholic bishops, featuring a wicked woman who defends the sale of baby body parts and is responsible for the deaths of millions of aborted children.”
In an update, the Newman Society noted:
In addition to being known as the largest facilitator of abortions in the U.S., Planned Parenthood promotes the use of contraceptive drugs and devices to avoid pregnancy (including abortifacient “emergency contraception”), and encourages teenagers to masturbate and engage in sexual activity. Richards has also defended Planned Parenthood’s involvement in the selling of body parts procured from aborted babies, revealed last year in a series of undercover videos.
To its credit, the Archdiocese of Washington issued a statement on the grotesque scandal unfolding on its front doorstep:
What we lament and find sadly lacking in this choice by the student group is any reflection of what should be an environment of morality, ethics and human decency that one expects on a campus that asserts its Jesuit and Catholic history and identity. …
One would prefer to see some recognition by this student group of the lives and ministry, focus and values of people like Blessed Óscar Romero, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Pope Francis in place of that group’s seemingly constant preoccupation with sexual activity, contraception and abortion. The Archdiocese of Washington is always open and ready to dialogue with the students, faculty and administration of the University on issues of such significance. …
The apparent unawareness of those pushing the violence of abortion and the denigration of human dignity that there are other human values and issues being challenged in the world lends credence to the perception of the ‘ivory tower’ life of some on campus. This unfortunately does not speak well for the future. … One would hope to see this generation of Georgetown graduates have a far less self-absorbed attitude when facing neighbors and those in need, especially the most vulnerable among us.
As David Carlin has noted, Seattle University, like Georgetown an institution in “the Jesuit tradition,” will soon host a conference for nursing students on “the full range of reproductive services,” which includes sterilization and abortion.
In the middle of the country, another flagship Catholic™ university, Notre Dame, has chosen not just to invite nominally Catholic Vice President Joseph Biden to speak at its commencement, but to grant him its highest honor, the “Laetare Medal” for distinguished public service. Former House Speaker John Boehner, himself a practicing Catholic, was offered the same award, in a gesture of self-congratulatory bi-partisanship, which Religion News Service called “a pointed rebuke to the polarization and ugliness of American politics shown perhaps most vividly in the Republican nominating contest currently led by Donald Trump.” Then RNS cited the announcement by Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins: “We live in a toxic political environment where poisonous invective and partisan gamesmanship pass for political leadership.”
Notre Dame alumnus and author David Carlin wrote of this Notre Dame decision:
How odd — no, how downright weird — that America’s most famous Catholic university should honor a man who in effect shouts from the rooftops that the Catholic religion, his religion, has been in error for the past 2,000 years or so in its condemnation of abortion and homosexual conduct. …
It’s not just that Notre Dame has let down the Catholic religion. It has let down its numerous alumni, at least that section of its alumni who remain orthodox Catholics. It has also let down millions of American Catholics, living and dead — its “subway alumni” (as they used to be called), American Catholics who for well over a century have prayed for Notre Dame, have cheered on its athletic teams, have contributed money, and have encouraged their children and grandchildren to attend the university.
Notre Dame’s idea seems to be that a compromise can be worked out between Catholicism and the secular humanism that is culturally dominant in the United States today. And who better symbolizes that ideal compromise than VP Biden — a man who, disregarding the logical principle of non-contradiction, warmly embraces both the creed of Catholicism and the antithetical creed of secular humanism?
As the National Catholic Register reports, pro-life leaders are outraged at Notre Dame’s decision:
“Apparently, some at Notre Dame still don’t get it. And this time, matters are made worse, because the pro-abortion public official being honored claims to be Catholic,” said Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life. …
And at least two bishops, Bishop John Ricard of the Diocese of Tallahassee-Pensacola, Fla., in 2008 and Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs, Colo., in 2012, have indicated that they do not believe Biden should present himself to receive Communion in light of his support for policies that conflict with fundamental Church teachings.
So far no word from the local bishop of Ft. Wayne-South Bend, Indiana.
But Donald Trump … That’s Crossing a Line
Not all Indiana bishops are silent on political issues that arise at Catholic academies. As U.S. News reports, the Bishop of neighboring Gary, Indiana, has forthrightly
denounced students who waved a picture of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and shouted “build a wall” at opponents during a basketball game.
Diocese of Gary Bishop Donald J. Hying said in a statement that students from Andrean High School in Merrillville shouted at students from Bishop Noll Institute, a heavily Hispanic school in nearby Hammond, on Friday evening. Both are Catholic high schools. …
Andrean school administrators confiscated items students had during the game. Hying said the incident is under investigation.
“Any actions or words that can be perceived as racist or derogatory to others are antithetical to the Christian faith and will not be tolerated in any of our institutions,” Hying said.
Though no American bishop openly dissents from key Church teachings such as the sanctity of innocent life or heterosexual marriage, too many dilute the importance of such non-negotiable issues by treating them as equal (at best) to topics like economics, immigration, and health care policy — where the Church’s teachings are (rightly) very much vaguer and more tentative. Hence a Democrat who supports partial birth abortion (which is almost to say simply “a Democrat”) can be seen as “dissenting” from Church teaching in exactly the same sense as a Republican who disagrees with the U.S. bishops on the optimal number of annual U.S. immigrants, or the best way to manage health care for the poor.
This habit of lazily equating clear, binding Christian beliefs that date back to the Apostles on the central issues of life and death, with wistful public policy recommendations by experts in (say) pastoral theology or annulment law, has a perverse result: Given the way that issues divide between the parties, virtually no politician in America can pass the bishops’ test: The pro-lifers mostly favor much smaller government, and lower immigration totals, while those who support the bishops’ vision of a vast federal Leviathan with open borders are almost universally pro-abortion. So by implicitly condemning virtually every U.S. political office-holder, the bishops effectively treat them all as equal — and leave Catholic voters bewildered, and finally bored.