Skip to comments.Archbishop Chaput Responds to Cardinal Cottier on the Notre Dame Controversy
Posted on 10/06/2009 6:17:53 AM PDT by marshmallow
Vatican City, Oct 6, 2009 / 03:16 am (CNA).- The Italian daily Il Foglio published today an article entitled "L'ascia del vescovo pellerossa - Charles j. Chaput contro Notre Dame e l'illustre cardinale sedotto dall'abortista Obama" ("The ax of the Red Skin Bishop - Charles J. Chaput against Notre Dame and the illustrious cardinal seduced by the pro abortion Obama") in which the Archbishop of Denver contests some of the strongly pro-Obama assertions made by Cardinal Georges Cottier last July in the International Catholic Magazine 30 Days.
Il Foglio is one of the most influential intellectual dailies in Italy, dedicated more at analyzing than covering the news. Its director is one of the most famous Italian contemporary thinkers, Giuliano Ferrara.
Despite being an agnostic, Ferrara is a long time admirer of the though of Joseph Ratzinger.
On its Tuesday edition, Il Foglio publishes a front page interview to Cardinal Francis George, and devotes the full third page to Archbishop Chaputs comments to the original Cottiers essay.
The Archbishop article, originally submitted under the more modest title of Politics, Morality and a President: an American View, focuses on what it meant to the Church in the US Presidents Obama speech at the University of Notre Dame, which Cardinal Cottier, Theologian Emeritus of the Pontifical Household, described in 30 Days in a very positive light.
Here is the full text in English of Archbishop Chaputs article published today in Il Foglio, exclusive from Catholic News Agency.
Politics, Morality and a President: an American View
One of the strengths of the Church is her global perspective. In that light, Cardinal Georges Cottiers recent essay on President Barack Obama (Politics, morality and original sin, 30 Days, No. 5), made a valuable contribution to Catholic discussion of the new American president. Our faith connects us across borders. What happens in one nation may have an impact on many others. World opinion about Americas leaders is not only appropriate; it should be welcomed.
And yet, the world does not live and vote in the United States. Americans do. The pastoral realities of any country are best known by the local bishops who shepherd their people. Thus, on the subject of Americas leaders, the thoughts of an American bishop may have some value. They may augment the Cardinals good views by offering a different perspective.
Note that I speak here only for myself. I do not speak for the bishops of the United States as a body, nor for any other individual bishop. Nor will I address President Obamas speech to the Islamic world, which Cardinal Cottier mentions in his own essay. That would require a separate discussion.
I will focus instead on the Presidents graduation appearance at the University of Notre Dame, and Cardinal Cottiers comments on the Presidents thinking. I have two motives in doing so.
First, men and women from my own diocese belong to the national Notre Dame community as students, graduates and parents. Every bishop has a stake in the faith of the people in his care, and Notre Dame has never merely been a local Catholic university. It is an icon of the American Catholic experience. Second, when Notre Dames local bishop vigorously disagrees with the appearance of any speaker, and some 80 other bishops and 300,000 laypeople around the country publicly support the local bishop, then reasonable people must infer that a real problem exists with the speaker or at least with his appearance at the disputed event. Reasonable people might further choose to defer to the judgment of those Catholic pastors closest to the controversy.
Regrettably and unintentionally, Cardinal Cottiers articulate essay undervalues the gravity of what happened at Notre Dame. It also overvalues the consonance of President Obamas thinking with Catholic teaching.
There are several key points to remember here.
First, resistance to President Obamas appearance at Notre Dame had nothing to do with whether he is a good or bad man. He is obviously a gifted man. He has many good moral and political instincts, and an admirable devotion to his family. These things matter. But unfortunately, so does this: The Presidents views on vital bioethical issues, including but not limited to abortion, differ sharply from Catholic teaching. This is why he has enjoyed the strong support of major abortion rights groups for many years. Much is made, in some religious circles, of the Presidents sympathy for Catholic social teaching. But defense of the unborn child is a demand of social justice. There is no social justice if the youngest and weakest among us can be legally killed. Good programs for the poor are vital, but they can never excuse this fundamental violation of human rights.
Second, at a different moment and under different circumstances, the conflict at Notre Dame might have faded away if the university had simply asked the President to give a lecture or public address. But at a time when the American bishops as a body had already voiced strong concern about the new administrations abortion policies, Notre Dame not only made the President the centerpiece of its graduation events, but also granted him an honorary doctorate of laws this, despite his deeply troubling views on abortion law and related social issues.
The real source of Catholic frustration with President Obamas appearance at Notre Dame was his overt, negative public voting and speaking record on abortion and other problematic issues. By its actions, Notre Dame ignored and violated the guidance of Americas bishops in their 2004 document, Catholics in Political Life. In that text, the bishops urged Catholic institutions to refrain from honoring public officials who disagreed with Church teaching on grave matters.
Thus, the fierce debate in American Catholic circles this spring over the Notre Dame honor for Mr. Obama was not finally about partisan politics. It was about serious issues of Catholic belief, identity and witness triggered by Mr. Obamas views -- which Cardinal Cottier, writing from outside the American context, may have misunderstood.
Third, the Cardinal wisely notes points of contact between President Obamas frequently stated search for political common ground and the Catholic emphasis on pursing the common good. These goals seeking common ground and pursuing the common good can often coincide. But they are not the same thing. They can sharply diverge in practice. So-called common ground abortion policies may actually attack the common good because they imply a false unity; they create a ledge of shared public agreement too narrow and too weak to sustain the weight of a real moral consensus. The common good is never served by tolerance for killing the weak beginning with the unborn.
Fourth, Cardinal Cottier rightly reminds his readers of the mutual respect and cooperative spirit required by citizenship in a pluralist democracy. But pluralism is never an end in itself. It is never an excuse for inaction. As President Obama himself acknowledged at Notre Dame, democracy depends for its health on people of conviction fighting hard in the public square for what they believe peacefully, legally but vigorously and without apologies.
Unfortunately, the President also added the curious remark that . . . the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt . . . This doubt should not push us away from our faith. But it should humble us. In a sense, of course, this is true: On this side of eternity, doubt is part of the human predicament. But doubt is the absence of something; it is not a positive value. Insofar as it inoculates believers from acting on the demands of faith, doubt is a fatal weakness.
The habit of doubt fits much too comfortably with a kind of baptized unbelief; a Christianity that is little more than a vague tribal loyalty and a convenient spiritual vocabulary. Too often in recent American experience, pluralism and doubt have become alibis for Catholic moral and political lethargy. Perhaps Europe is different. But I would suggest that our current historical moment -- which both European and American Catholics share -- is very far from the social circumstances facing the early Christian legislators mentioned by the Cardinal. They had faith, and they also had the zeal tempered by patience and intelligence to incarnate the moral content of their faith explicitly in culture. In other words, they were building a civilization shaped by Christian belief. Something very different is happening now.
Cardinal Cottiers essay gives witness to his own generous spirit. I was struck in particular by his praise for President Obamas humble realism. I hope hes right. American Catholics want him to be right. Humility and realism are the soil where a commonsense, modest, human-scaled and moral politics can grow. Whether President Obama can provide this kind of leadership remains to be seen. We have a duty to pray for him -- so that he can, and does.
Keep fighting the good fight Archbishop Chaput!
Archbishop Charles is well known for his political positions and his attempts to justify his own brand of secular politics with what he presents as Latin Church theology. Sadly for the American Latin Church, this very high profile prelate, whose opinions are surprisingly parochial for a hierarch of a universal particular church, is considered a true theological lightwieght.
Archbishop Charles is well known for his political positions and his attempts to justify his own brand of secular politics with what he presents as Latin Church theology. Sadly for the American Latin Church, this very high profile prelate, whose opinions are surprisingly parochial for a hierarch of a universal particular church, is considered a true theological lightweight.
Needs to be repeated, daily if not more often.
‘considered a lightweight’?? by whom? may I ask. I think he is one of the Great Thinkers in the (American) Catholic church today.
Chaput:"Regrettably and unintentionally, Cardinal Cottiers articulate essay undervalues the gravity of what happened at Notre Dame. Thus, the fierce debate in American Catholic circles this spring over the Notre Dame honor for Mr. Obama was not finally about partisan politics. It was about serious issues of Catholic belief, identity and witness triggered by Mr. Obamas views -- which Cardinal Cottier, writing from outside the American context, may have misunderstood."
Nice. European modernists sometimes miss the nuances of American politics and culture. Perhaps not being a native English speaker and not being familiar with South Chicago and Harvard affirmative action con artists who follow Sual Alinsky's Rules for Radicals, the cardinal may not have picked up on when Obama was smirking and being insincere in his Notre Dame address. But surely he should have noticed the banality of using a Notre Dame commencement to promote abortion and embryonic stem cell research on consecrated ground. They might want to give Cardinal Cottier an MRI just to check and be sure everything is working OK between the ears.
LOL........let's play charades!!
Two words......first word......rhymes with "meek"..........sqeak........no.......beak.....no........Greek.....yes, yes!!!..........Greek, Greek.........second word.........begins with "O"........Obama......Greek Obama.........no, no............Greek Orthodox!!
Yes, that's it! Greek Orthodox!
Chaput is a theological lightweight to the Greek Orthodox!
“considered a lightweight?? by whom? may I ask.”
Real theologians, both Latin and Eastern.
“I think he is one of the Great Thinkers in the (American) Catholic church today.”
Your comment speaks volumes about the level of thought in the American Catholic Church. What do you think about Archbishop Burke and that former Martino fellow?
“Chaput is a theological lightweight to the Greek Orthodox!”
Indeed he is. Such a lightweight in fact that some of the EP’s theologians actually snicker when his name is mentioned, which in theological discussions with the likes of Cardinal Kaspar or the Pope is virtually never, I assure you.
Chaput’s problems are greater with the Vaticanistas, though, who allegedly feel that his sort needs slapping down, like they did with Martino.
“Two words......first word......rhymes with “meek”..........sqeak........no.......beak.....no........Greek.....yes, yes!!!..........Greek, Greek.........second word.........begins with “O”........Obama......Greek Obama.........no, no............Greek Orthodox!!”
One of the great concerns of Orthodox Christians from all over the world regarding a reunion with Rome is the extent to which politics has infected the (at least to our eyes) very powerful American Church. Your comment reinforces the notion that the American Church really is more about secular politics, whether of the left or the right, than about Christian theosis.
Well thanks for that insight into Vatican politics, Kolo. Please keep us in the loop.
Only one thing I don't get. If he's such a lightweight and nobody takes him seriously, there's no need for any of us to get bent out of shape at anything he says for it's unlikely to influence church policy, be it Orthodox or Catholic, in any way, right?
So why does he need "slapping down"?
Surely a waste of time and energy for somebody whom the heavy hitters completely ignore?
LOL.............the American Church which cut Teddy Kennedy and his fellow travelers so much slack and let them get away with ....*cough, gasp*.....murder for so long without so much as a murmur?
Is.......*splutter*.........too involved in secular politics??
That American Church???
What an absolute knee-slapping, side-splitting statement!!
If only it were true!
“...there’s no need for any of us to get bent out of shape at anything he says for it’s unlikely to influence church policy, be it Orthodox or Catholic, in any way, right?”
Wrong, the embrace of political Catholicism in America hurts the entire Church. It speaks volumes, as do the comments on this thread and, to be fair, the same sort of comments on left wing sites, that so may of you Latins measure the “orthodoxy” of the teachings of your hierarchs by their political pronouncements. We have to assume that what really motivates the movers and shakers in the American Latin Church are either right wing loudmouths like Chaput and formerly Martino, or nuns in pantsuits demonstrating for abortion rights or doing a pathetic imitation of vestal virgins in LA. People like Chaput won’t influence Latin Church policy on the transnational level, like I said, he’s considered a joke, but his actions do make trouble for the Vatican at a number of levels, among them in relation to the Orthodox precisely because he, like the nuns in pantsuits, gives voice to a mindset which is foreign, indeed antithetical to what we see as a Christian phronema. We won’t have anything to do with that.
” Is.......*splutter*.........too involved in secular politics??
That American Church???
What an absolute knee-slapping, side-splitting statement!!
If only it were true!”
1. He's a lightweight and nobody listens to him.
2. He's making trouble for the entire Church.
Help me out here.
Should the Church not be involved with the abortion issue at all, in your view?
“Should the Church not be involved with the abortion issue at all, in your view?”
Politically? No. Should The Church properly catechize its people on what The Faith says about abortion? Yes.
So no Catholic involvement in the March for Life?
Based on the status of Catholicism in most European countries, one would think that their prelates would be the *last* ones anyone would listen to on such issues. When it comes to moral gravitas, they are almost completely exhausted. Rome will have to bring in the SSPX eventually because no one else will even claim to be Catholic by the time the liberal European bishops are done.
“I’m picking up mixed messages here, Kolo.
1. He’s a lightweight and nobody listens to him.
2. He’s making trouble for the entire Church.
Help me out here.”
1. He is a theological lightweight, a joke frankly, among theologians. That’s simply a fact, though he may be an effective shill for American rightist politics.
2. He is listened to by American Catholics, mostly lay people but also a handful of equally politicized hierarchs, who measure the orthodoxy of theology by a secular, American political standard. That causes trouble for the whole Church.
“So no Catholic involvement in the March for Life?”
Of your hierarchs, or ours for that matter? No, despite what the Metropolitan of the OCA might think, but I say that only because the pro life movement has been highjacked by the political right.
“Thus says the Dukakis voter... Sigh.”
Exactly...and my vote for Dukakis was motivated by ethnic interests, not religious. Had I measured Dukakis by an Orthodox standard, I wouldn’t have voted for him. Similarly, I didn’t measure the “orthodoxy” of my Orthodoxy by what a person like Dukakis stood for.
“Sorry, brother. But I’m afraid your opinions have lost almost all of their authority with me. And they used to have a lot.”
I’m sure we will both survive. The next time you hear someone trumpeting a reunion with the Orthodox Church, remember this discussion and what it says about an Orthodox mindset.
Considered by whom?
“I pray that the insanity of that position is someday made manifest to you.”
There were family reasons too, having to do with his mother mostly, but I doubt that will make any difference to you.
“No doubt Our Lord weeps as well. National pride. Ethnic pride. Cultural pride. Over Christian love, forgiveness, and unity. Pathetic.”
Please do us all a favor and tell every Latin you know, hierarch, clergy or laity, what truly awful people we are. That, if you can influence enough people, might actually make a difference and Rome will stop lusting after the Orthodox Church. We’ll make it alone, we always have. Let’s face it, A, Rome needs us a lot more than we need Rome.
You know this, of course, because _________________ (fill in the blank). The real theologians, Latin and Eastern, who have made this comment are: ______________, ___________, _______________, (feel free to add more lines).
Thank you!!! My thought exactly.
Rome doesn't "need" you at all.
What both Rome and Constantinople "need" is to obey the Lord's clear command in John 17:20-23. No amount of pride can justify doing otherwise.
Rather than “hijacked”, I’d say the pro life movement was a political orphan till it was adopted by the right. I am not about to kid myself that the segment of the political establishment self-identifying as right wing gives a flip about abortion as a matter of natural law or civil rights: for them it’s boob bait for the bubbas.
The GOP has historically had a very substantial pro-abortion membership (let’s not forget who appointed Justice Blackmun to the SCOTUS, and whose National Security Advisor produced a National Security Memorandum declaring abortion to be “vital” to US interests).
There is no political home for right-wingers in this country, perhaps because there’s almost no true right wing. Catholics are natural right-wingers, but in America their political perception is clouded by centuries of cohabitation with protestants.
It is perfectly fine for politically active lay Catholics to proclaim themselves as such; indeed, it’s an evangelical duty. We lay people are the ones who have to live in the world and promote its sanctification. The clergy serve in a different sphere. Yes, there’s no lack of Catholic clergy in the March for Life (probably plenty of Orthodox as well). Is this hypocritical or un-american? I don’t think so. Taking it to the streets is an extraordinary expedient, to meet an extraordinary need. It’s not at all the same as having priests running for office or accepting secular positions in business.
I’ve no idea of Archbishop Chaput’s credentials as a theologian. Given the unserious formation and environment now prevailing, not to mention the process by which non-clubbable men are culled from the lists of priest marked for early promotion, I don’t expect anyone in the American hierarchy to resemble an Old Testament prophet, much as I’d enjoy the prospect. As for Chaputs’s politics, he’s a citizen and entitled to his views. I’ve never heard him accused of partisanship, and I hope he’s shrewd enough to avoid being co-opted by those interested in the Church only as a flag of convenience.
Before I sign off here, it's worth noting that there is no area of human endeavor or activity which does not fall within the Church's purview. That includes political and civic affairs. It especially includes political affairs. It applies in spades to the defense of human life. In so far as there is a moral aspect to all human activity, the Church is perfectly within its rights to measure these against the Christian Gospel and provide moral guidance just as John the Baptist told the secular leader of his own time that it was not right for him to sleep with his brother's wife.
You have it half right. Politics should not infect the Church. The Church should infect politics. There is no area of human life where there is no room for the Gospel. To say otherwise is to lay the foundations for the terrible secularism, otherwise known as the "separation" of Church and state which has wrought such havoc to this country.
“Someone who has voted for Duckass because of family and ethic reasons, thinks defending infants from infanticide is not worth doing because others are involved, and feels a reunified Church would mean giving up control of their little part of a fractured Body of Christ is not an opinion that matters.”
Well, you see, your hierarchs and indeed your Pope care very much what the Orthodox attitude is, even mine, but you of course are free to work to create your own version of The Church, no matter what your non American politician hierarchs think. Better yet, like I said, tell everyone what awful people we are and then perhaps the reunion nonsense will stop. Why not go chasing after your own disobedient kids, the Protestants?
“Rome doesn’t “need” you at all.”
Of course it does. Rome is quite frank about that.
“What both Rome and Constantinople “need” is to obey the Lord’s clear command in John 17:20-23.”
Surely you are not suggesting that Orthodoxy succumb to the World and jump on the political bandwagon of the likes of Burke or Chaput or Martino? Is God now endorsing American politics so long as it is spouted from a Latin rite bishop?
“No. The sad fact is that we love you, despite your flaws.”
No you don’t; you are infatuated, not in love. If you want to be one with us, let Rome put aside its innovations, reject the World and become Orthodox.
“It is perfectly fine for politically active lay Catholics to proclaim themselves as such; indeed, its an evangelical duty.”
“We lay people are the ones who have to live in the world and promote its sanctification.”
Agreed; and I will add that the political activity of the laity should be informed by The Faith.
“As for Chaputss politics, hes a citizen and entitled to his views.”
Fine; but his political views are not a measure of Christian orthodoxy and through his simplistic theology they should not be presented as such. The laity, as we see here, is all too ready to measure theology and The Faith exactly that way!
“I hope hes shrewd enough to avoid being co-opted by those interested in the Church only as a flag of convenience.”
We’ll see. Neither Burke nor Martino were and now we see Chaput going after a highly respected Vatican theologian and Cardinal. Sometimes I wonder if some of your bishops aren’t preparing to “go it alone”.
Thanks, but I don't really need you to interpret "Rome" for me.
Surely you are not suggesting
I meant exactly what I said. Christian unity is commanded by Christ himself; schism is the result of sin.
Orthodoxy has "succumbed to the world" over and over again. Usually it was the Pope of Rome who pulled your chestnuts out of the fire. cf Iconoclasm, Monophysitism, Arianism, etc.
I never saw Burke or Martino as having been co-opted. They were being bishops: teaching and laying down the law. The fact that their doing so was politically inconvenient to one side doesn't make them tools or partisans. Are you suggesting their enforcement of discipline was selective? I'd need to see some evidence of that.
“Usually it was the Pope of Rome who pulled your chestnuts out of the fire.”
Up to the 8th century you are absolutely right...and you have seen me say exactly that on multiple occasions. Since the 8th century, and especially since the 11th century, having broken with the Patriarchates of the East, Rome has lived another life altogether.