Saturday, April 4, 2009

Catholic Church needs to make up mind

I was baptized in a Catholic church and my relatives who are devoutly religious are Catholic. When combined with an awareness of being Latino and the strong ties the Catholic Church has on the culture, it means that when asked for my religion, I mark whatever box indicates “Catholic.”

But there are times I wonder about the church’s leadership and its efforts to provide guidance to its members on the political issues of the day.

IT MAKES ME wish at times we could go back to the old days, when church officials pushed the notion that electoral politics were somehow an Earthly issue, and one that people shouldn’t get too wrapped up in.

What has me ticked off these days?

It is the fact that Catholic officials, including our city’s very own Cardinal, Francis George, are getting all worked up over the fact that University of Notre Dame officials invited President Barack Obama to speak at commencement ceremonies to be held May 17.

Obama’s stance on abortion is in accordance with the Democratic Party platform, which is the reason some politically involved Catholics insist on dealing with the Republican Party’s candidates.

SO SOME CATHOLICS are insisting that one of the premier Catholic universities in the nation cannot have any association with Obama, or any other Democrat, or any official who won’t toe the line on abortion.

George’s public comments on the issue came just a couple of weeks after he took a very public stance on the issue of immigration reform. He cited a Catholic church position that is intended to show compassion to the people who are in this country – regardless of whether or not they have a valid visa (and I don’t mean the charge card).

In my mind, the church went from common sense to absurdity in the time span of a couple of weeks (although I’m sure there are people of an ideological bent who would think the church went from absurdity to sense).

It strikes me as ridiculous that George earlier this week said that Notre Dame, of all places, does “not understand what it means to be Catholic.”

IF ANYTHING, THIS split is what it has come to mean to be Catholic these days in our society. I don’t know many people who agree with the church 100 percent on all the issues it attempts to take a stance on.

And while I know some of the hard-core denounce people like myself as “cafeteria Catholics” (we pick and choose what we want to believe) or spew rhetoric about concepts such as “excommunication” (because, in their minds, we shouldn’t call ourselves Catholic).

How absurd has this “controversy” about Notre Dame and Obama’s scheduled visit become?

This is an issue where Richard M. Daley, a master of the political malaprop, comes off as the Voice of Reason.

DALEY ON FRIDAY said he thought it ridiculous that any university ought to have a problem with getting the sitting president to speak at their commencement.

“There’s always controversy any time the president speaks, whether President Clinton, President Bush, President Bush, President Reagan, there’s always controversy,” Hizzoner said in his unique Daley-speak way. “But you live through the controversy.”

In fact, Notre Dame (if they give in to the desires of church officials and try to rescind the presidential invitation) could wind up looking even more ridiculous than Northwestern University.

Remember how bumbling they came off when some graduating students last year insisted that Daley was not a commencement speaker worthy of their school?

AT LEAST NORTHWESTERN stood by their decision and had Daley speak. If I recall correctly, the bulk of students there found his talk to be conventional (if not the most inspiring rhetoric they had ever heard).

For those few Catholics who are going to complain (and inevitably send me anonymous e-mails and other messages condemning me to eternal damnation), I can’t help but think the majority of us are embarrassed to have the Catholic religion tied into some cause this ridiculous.

What I can’t help but wonder is if church officials are afraid that the Obama speaking style is going to somehow sway someone on the issue. If that is their concern, I think they’re being ridiculous.

Abortion has become one of those issues upon which many of us have rigid perspectives (mine is that the decision whether or not to obtain one ultimately ought to lie with the pregnant woman) that are not going to be altered by exposure to another side.

IF OBAMA TRULY had that much ability to sway, then perhaps he literally would be “the messiah” that his political detractors mockingly refer to him as.

By taking such a stance with regards to Notre Dame, the Catholic church winds up exposing itself to equal ridicule.


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