Bishop Olmsted Accuses President Jenkins of Disobedience

Here is the text of Bishop Olmsted’s letter to President Jenkins (h/t American Papist):

olmsted

While I am disappointed by President Jenkin’s decision to invite President Obama to speak at commencement, particularly the decision to confer an honorary law degree, I have several questions about this letter:

1) Is Bishop Olmsted stepping on Bishop D’Arcy’s toes by commenting on events in the latter’s diocese after Bishop D’Arcy has already addressed the matter (quite well, I might add)?

2) If Bishop Olmsted did feel the need to share his opinion with Fr. Jenkins, was it prudent to make it public?

3) Is it fair for Bishop Olmsted to accuse Fr. Jenkins of committing ‘a public act of disobedience’? The 2004 USCCB* statement that Bishop Olmsted cites is somewhat ambiguous. Notice, the statement does not prohibit granting “awards, honors or platforms” altogether. It prohibits granting “awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” This may appear to be hair-splitting, but it’s actually quite significant. Bishops, particularly in committee, are very careful in drafting such documents. Events suggest President Jenkins was careful in how he interpreted it, as he has already stated that the invitation to President Obama does not constitute an endorsement of his positions on abortion or embryonic stem cell research. Given the ambiguity in the USCCB statement, is Bishop Olmsted’s statement just to Father Jenkins? And, even if just, is it prudent?

* USCCB or the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

43 Responses to Bishop Olmsted Accuses President Jenkins of Disobedience

  • A voice of reasoned consideration in these woods.

    Deo Gratias.

  • I would assume that one of the benefits of being a bishop is that you can usually assume that people are interested in knowing your opinion — and most of us are interested in making our opinions known.

  • I think if it wasn’t a public act of disobedience on the part of Jenkins it certainly was a public act of stupidity. Of course people will see Obama getting a commencement speech and an honorary degree as the Notre Dame administration supporting a pro-abort pol. I am glad that Olmsted took Jenkins to the ecclesiastical woodshed, and I only regret that his language was so restrained. Jenkins isn’t a stupid man. He knows precisely what he is doing and I find it reprehensible.

  • To read the document in any other way than the reading given by Bishops D’Arcy and Olmsted is to render the document completely meaningless. I mean, was there REALLY a problem with Catholic colleges giving “awards, honors or platforms” to pro-abort politicians as a way of honoring them SPECIFICALLY FOR those pro-abort activities? Of course not! Such a reading is ludicrous Jesuitical hair-splitting.

    The only way the Bishops’ document makes any sense at all is for it to be given the quite straightforward reading the Bishops themselves seem to be giving it.

  • Hopefully Bishop D’Arcy will see the letter as an act of support from a brother bishop. As someone in the AmP comment section pointed out, there are most likely Catholics from Phoenix attending Notre Dame, so Olmsted is, if nothing else, acting in their interests as a concerned pastor.

    And although Fr. Jenkins is trying to wriggle his way around the statement on “awards, honors, or platforms,” I find his argument rather worn and tenuous. If Notre Dame were only inviting President Obama as a speaker, he might have a leg to stand on. However he is also being awarded an honorary degree that is meant to recognize his leadership. Arguably, thus far Obama’s most major acts as our new leader have been anti-life ones. I’m sure you’re familiar with what he’s done so far, so I won’t labor to make a list.

  • I always love Jay Anderson’s responses!

    1. Bishop D’Arcy’s response was weak. He’s pals with Jenkins. Who cares about his toes.

    2. Prudent to go public? Are you serious? ND’s Pres. Obortion invite was a very public F-U to the bishops.

    3. Yes, a “hair-splitting”, Jesuit type argument (I agree with Jay).

    Cheers!

  • And I should add: I don’t really think it does to question whether a bishop is correctly parsing a USCCB document that he cites, unless his citation is just flagrantly out of line. Olmsted is, after all, a member of the USCCB. That doesn’t make his interpretation definitive, but it’s not as if he’s some lay person spouting off as to what a USCCB document means.

    If it was a bit outspoken of Bishop Olmsted, I think his crosier and miter give him the license to be so if he chooses.

  • ND’s Pres. Obortion invite was a very public F-U to the bishops.

    I think you’re exaggerating a bit.

  • Exaggerating on the “Obortion” part or the “very public F-U” part?

  • DC wrote:
    I would assume that one of the benefits of being a bishop is that you can usually assume that people are interested in knowing your opinion — and most of us are interested in making our opinions known.

    If a bishop is going to accuse a member of a religious order of public disobedience, a serious charge, it seems to me that this is more than simply offering an opinion. It seems odd to me that Bishop Olmsted felt compelled to address Fr. Jenkins so publicly, when Bishop D’Arcy had already addressed the situation quite well. If he had simply supported Bishop D’Arcy, all well and good. But instead he made a serious accusation, which is likely to damage Notre Dame’s relationship with the Church hierarchy.

    Jay wrote:
    To read the document in any other way than the reading given by Bishops D’Arcy and Olmsted is to render the document completely meaningless. I mean, was there REALLY a problem with Catholic colleges giving “awards, honors or platforms” to pro-abort politicians as a way of honoring them SPECIFICALLY FOR those pro-abort activities? Of course not! Such a reading is ludicrous Jesuitical hair-splitting.

    The charge of Jesuitical reasoning hurts on two levels Jay: 1) Our shared graduate educational background; 2) I’ve been educated (insert scare quotes as necessary) by Franciscans and Salesians, but never by the dreaded Jesuits.

    In response to your comment, I think there has been a serious problem with Catholic colleges inviting and honoring pro-abortion speakers, and that many colleges have not made it clear that they oppose the speakers views on abortion. So yes, I think the statement could plausibly be read in this manner. In this case, Fr. Jenkins has made it clear that the invitation is not an endorsement of Obama’s views on abortion and ESCR (although, of course, I wish he had not made the invitation at all).

    Regarding the Jesuitical point, the question here is whether it’s clear that Fr. Jenkins was disobedient. I don’t think it is. I think the USCCB statement is worded ambiguously, and that the ambiguity is not an accident. My recollection is that you are not shy of criticizing the USCCB, and it would hardly surprise me if the document was deliberately written this way . To cite another recent example of this phenomenon, one could drive a truck through the wiggle room in the recent Faithful Citizenship document.

    Bishop D’Arcy, as the local ordinary, has a responsibility to interpret the document, and I think his interpretation is probably the stronger one. But there is a difference between providing an interpretation as Bishop D’Arcy has done, and declaring that a priest in a religious order is publicly disobedient because he had a different interpretation than the Bishop of Phoenix when he invited the President of the United States to speak at Commencement.

    Finally, I think there is a prudential question here. Notre Dame is in a fairly precarious place as an ‘elite’ institution that is also trying to maintain its Catholic identity. In many ways these goals conflict. To the extent Fr. Jenkins and the University are not only constructively criticized (see Bishop D’Arcy’s statement), but condemned as publicly disobedient (Bishop Olmsted), this type of statement is likely to damage the University’s relationship with the hierarchy. It’s a delicate balance, and I think Bishop D’Arcy struck the perfect note; I think Bishop Olmsted, however, was somewhat unfair (because of the deficiencies in the USCCB document), as well as imprudent. And I’m not sure why the Bishop of Phoenix has special jurisdiction vis-a-vis priestly religious in Bishop D’Arcy’s diocese.

  • Btw, thanks to all commenters for the responses. I don’t have time to respond to every criticism right now, but I appreciated reading people’s thoughts.

  • “My recollection is that you are not shy of criticizing the USCCB …”

    Actually, I have tried to avoid criticizing the USCCB and I give particular leeway to the Bishops when interpreting their own documents. I give much less leeway to the dubious interpretations and justifications of University presidents with a history of coming down on the side of “engaging the culture” over faithfulness to Catholic identity.

  • Should a divorcee who has remarried (without any annulments), especially someone who is known by the public, be allowed to speak and get an award at a Catholic institution, since they are, after all, going against the morals of the Catholic Church?

    Again, the vagueness is on many levels.

  • Comparing divorce and abortion is comparing apples and rock salt. Nobody dies as a matter of course in a divorce. Pope Benedict when he was Cardinal Ratzinger recognized the special level of evil involved in abortion and euthanasia:

    “3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

    http://priestsforlife.org/magisterium/bishops/04-07ratzingerommunion.htm

    One would think this would be clear enough even for academics that someone who promotes abortion should not be honored at catholic unversities and colleges.

  • I agree with John Henry that the statement is somewhat ambiguous. At least, I think the situation might affect whether or not having a speaker with views contrary to Catholic fundamental moral principles consititutes support for those views. If, for example, Obama had been invited to speak prior to the election, where his speaking could help him win the election and thus put his views into action, then the argument that ND is endorsing his views would be stronger.

    There’s also the ambiguity of the word “defiance,” which can mean simply contrariness, but usually suggests resistance. A pro-choice Catholic politician who has been admonished by his bishop would seem to be more defiant than a non-Catholic politician who holds the same views.

  • Even conceding the ambiguity, President Jenkins has done next to nothing to separate the award and platform from President Obama’s defiance of our fundamental moral principles. Thus far, it’s been a rhetorical tongue bath and excuse-making to the larger Catholic world. Not to put to fine a point on it, but Jenkins’ behavior has not been above board and, frankly, has been rather shabby.

  • Kyle: there’s no credible argument that Obama is unaware of Catholic moral principles on abortion and ESCR. Even the obsequious fawner Doug Kmiec says he discussed the matters with him.

    The President is Rhett Butler. He frankly doesn’t give a damn, and when it comes to brass tacks has (an admittedly elegant) contempt for them.

  • On the other AC thread, Elaine pointed out if anyone has contacted the CSC superior? Meaning since Notre Dame was founded by the Congregration of the Holy Cross. Why doesn’t somebody contact them to see if they can pull some strings?

    I’m sure someone has, just covering all our bases here.

  • That’s an interesting question Tito. I haven’t heard anything about that, although I’d be surprised if anything changed at this point.

  • Dale,

    I didn’t mean to imply that Obama isn’t aware of Catholic teaching on the life issues. My point is that he’s not Catholic, and so his holding opposing views on the life issues isn’t defiant in the way that a Catholic’s holding his views would be. Of course, one need not be Catholic in order to oppose abortion and ESCR.

  • Rush Limbaugh has been discussing Notre Dame and Obama on his show now. He is stunned that a Catholic University of Notre Dame’s stature is providing a forum to the “most anti-life President in our nation’s history”.

  • Since when is Rush Limbaugh competent in matters Catholic.

    And I am not surprised by the emotionalist rhetoric of “the most anti-life President in our nation’s history”. His is a lucrative industry of demagoguery.

  • Mark,

    While I would be more surprised if Limbaugh did not profess to be stunned because being stunned has entertainment value, I think there is a strong case for that description of President Obama, given his record on life issues (we need not recite all the details here).

  • Thank you Mr. DeFrancisis, I was waiting for someone to attack the messenger. Rush Limbaugh, thrice divorced, a former oxycotin addict, add on anything detrimental against him you wish, is here standing for Catholic truth, while Jenkins and his administration are falling all over themselves to pay homage to a man who has fought for abortion up to the time the cord is cut, and against medical assistance to those infants who survive the abortion. This is a deeply shameful moment for the Catholic Church in this country when a non-Catholic like Limbaugh stands up for Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life while Jenkins and his acolytes are doing their very best to ignore that teaching. Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to respond to your comment.

  • Donald,

    I honestly was not referencing his personal life. I do not know of all the sordid details, other than his past, temporary (but understandable) prolem with addictions to pain medication.

    His show and its modus operandi, however, virtually precludes a constructive discussion which actually fosters the culture of life and an evenhanded assessment of all parties/positions involved.

    To me, he is a high stakes entertainer.

    I avoid him like I avoid Olbermann these days.

    Aditionally, you and I have differing interpretations on what the commencement address and honorary degree expresses. Let us as gentlemen respect each other’s differing interpretation of both that matter in itself and the USCCB document that is intimately related.

    Let me just end by communicating to you my utmost respect for your life long and lifewide commitment to the unborn, our society’s most vulnerable.

  • Mark, I ask this in all sincerity, as you are on the other side of this issue from me:

    How has the administration of ND taken care to ensure that the award and platform offered to the President do not suggest support for his actions which are contrary to fundamental moral principles?

  • JH,

    Who is The most “antilife president in our nation’ is a very tough thing to gauge.

    For one, Eisenhower ordered and was ultimately responsible for the unjust nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which directly resulted in deaths in the millions and millions.

    While Obama’s stance on the legality of abortion and his recent ESCR moves are heinous, I do not know if he will rack up such numbers of deaths in which is hand is so front and central in the matter.

  • Not to be a nitnoid, but the atomic bombing wasn’t ordered by Eisenhower, but rather by Harry Truman.

  • “Is Bishop Olmsted stepping on Bishop D’Arcy’s toes by commenting on events in the latter’s diocese after Bishop D’Arcy has already addressed the matter (quite well, I might add)?”

    The good bishop is merely supporting his fellow Bishop on the matter and, thus, consolidating their position should there be any doubt concerning the wrongfulness of such an action.

    It’s not unlike how several bishops from various dioceses during the elections kept advising Catholics on how pro-life issues should be a major point of consideration when selecting a candidate.

    “Since when is Rush Limbaugh competent in matters Catholic.”

    Was this even a serious matter for consideration?

    I mean, Rush was the very same who mocked Mother Teresa, accusing her of playing to the camera and both blatantly and maliciously characterizing media coverage of her as really her ulterior agenda of taking advantage of several photo opportunities just to cheaply advertise on behalf of the Catholic church then.

    The guy’s a prick.

  • For one, Eisenhower ordered and was ultimately responsible for the unjust nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which directly resulted in deaths in the millions and millions.

    Also, in addition to the fact it was Pres. Truman, not Pres Eisenhower, the number killed was in fact slightly under 250k — not millions.

  • Nobody dies as a matter of course in a divorce.

    Don:

    I don’t know about that. I’ve heard of family law attorneys who have gotten the other spouse so angry that they have undertaken murderous actions against their former spouse and children.

    Most successful family law attorneys I know love to fan the flames of contention and in an already emotionally charged situation it results in the parties not reaching a quick resolution and lines their pockets with additional fees. So what if it occasionally ends in disasterous results. . . blame it on the party who wasn’t your client?

    By the way, Pope John Paul did state that attorneys “should avoid being personnally involved in anything that might imply cooperation with a divorce.”

    http://www.lawandreligion.com/new_devs/RJLR_ND_54.pdf

  • By the way Reagan as Governor of California signed into effect one of the most liberal divorce and abortion laws in the nation at that time. Of course he later said he regretted it, but then what else is he going to say when he is running for the Republican nomination for President in the 70′s and 80′s.

  • On the other AC thread, Elaine pointed out if anyone has contacted the CSC superior? Meaning since Notre Dame was founded by the Congregration of the Holy Cross. Why doesn’t somebody contact them to see if they can pull some strings?

    I’m sure someone has, just covering all our bases here.

    You are assuming that the decision is that of Father Jenkins alone. He is appointed not by his CSC superior as president of the university but by Notre Dame’s lay board of directors (thank you Father Ted and the Land of Lake’s Conferenc). Of course dear Father Ted when he handed the University over to laymen (to give it greater academic credibility) did put in the requirement that the President always had to be a CSC priest. No one denies that Father Ted does have his priorities and looking out for No. 1 always comes first.

  • a-man,

    Just got word that the CSC provincial completely supports Fr. Jenkin’s decision:

    http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/mar/09032708.html

  • Most successful family law attorneys I know love to fan the flames of contention and in an already emotionally charged situation it results in the parties not reaching a quick resolution and lines their pockets with additional fees.

    That’s some company you keep. However, I find it hard to believe. Divorce is evil. It does great violence to the souls of everyone involved. From my experience though, lawyers recognize that more than most (even secular minded lawyers). Contrary to your characterization, lawyers generally want to get it over with as quickly and painlessly as possible. It’s usually the clients that keep the flames fueled while the lawyers are trying to bring some reason to the process even as they advocate for their client. Hmm, now I’m considering the adjective you used, “successful”. Maybe you can stand firm on your comment as I will stand on mine. We may just have a different idea of what it means to be successful.

  • “Don:

    I don’t know about that. I’ve heard of family law attorneys who have gotten the other spouse so angry that they have undertaken murderous actions against their former spouse and children.

    Most successful family law attorneys I know love to fan the flames of contention and in an already emotionally charged situation it results in the parties not reaching a quick resolution and lines their pockets with additional fees. So what if it occasionally ends in disasterous results. . . blame it on the party who wasn’t your client?”

    Some lawyers can be jerks, no doubt about that. Most lawyers in divorce cases, including those who specialize in them in my experience, do their best to get the parties to compromise or at least try to be civil. Lawyers tend to be fairly busy, and the last thing they want to do is field anguished phone calls from a client in a contentious divorce or be constantly running back to court on minor matters that should be easily resolved by negotiation. For every divorce I have seen where the personality of the attorney is a problem in the case, I have seen 10 where one or both of the parties simply want to go to war. Most divorces are not like that however. Usually after some preliminary skirmishing in court an agreement is worked out fairly quickly. The hotly contested divorce from start to finish does happen of course but it is far from the norm.

    “By the way, Pope John Paul did state that attorneys “should avoid being personnally involved in anything that might imply cooperation with a divorce.””

    He then later said that attorneys might be involved if they were attempting to resolve the case to the benefit of the children involved in a custody proceeding.

    He also said that attorneys should look for effective measures that favour marriage, above all mediation and conciliation. The first question I ask anyone seeking my counsel in a divorce case is if mediation could save the marriage. They almost always say no. If clients ask my opinion I always say counseling should be attempted prior to a divorce action if there is any hope at all of avoiding a marriage. I also tell them that I do not believe in divorce and they might do better with a counsel with views different from mine.

    Like most attorneys I find divorce actions depressing and I have deliberately kept them a very small portion of my practice. Often times I enter a case post-dissolution where there is an issue of enforcement of child support, visitation or an attempt to modify child custody.

    However even more depressing are paternity cases where the family tie is never formed to begin with. When I hung out my shingle in 82 paternity cases were rare, at least in central Illinois, now they are commonplace. Of course with a 40% illegitimacy rate one would expect that. Quite a few handbaskets on their way to Hell these days.

  • In regard to Reagan and the California abortion law, he always regarded it as his biggest mistake:

    “In May 1967, the Therapeutic Abortion Bill began to take shape. It was a measure to allow pregnant women to terminate embryos prejudicial to their “physical or mental health.” Reagan had to admit that he agreed with “the moral principle of self-defense.” If 100,000 California women were desperate enough to undergo illegal abortions every year, he could at least make it safer for some of them.
    He signed it into law. Only as abortion became an extension of welfare, would he wish he had paid more head to the bill’s manipulative language. The very word “Therapeutic” was a medical euphemism, sanitizing essentially bloody procedures. It defined “mental health” as at-risk if a pregnant teen went out and smashed windows. In common with the more liberal laws it was to spawn at state and federal levels, the Act ignored the feelings of fathers.

    Reagan was left with a sense of guilt. “If there is a question as to whether there is life or death, the doubt should be resolved in favor of life.”

    Source: Dutch, by Edmund Morris, p.351-352 May 1, 1967″

    Here is an article which Reagan wrote for the Human Life Review in 1983:

    https://www.nationalreview.com/document/reagan200406101030.asp

    “Abraham Lincoln recognized that we could not survive as a free land when some men could decide that others were not fit to be free and should therefore be slaves. Likewise, we cannot survive as a free nation when some men decide that others are not fit to live and should be abandoned to abortion or infanticide. My Administration is dedicated to the preservation of America as a free land, and there is no cause more important for preserving that freedom than affirming the transcendent right to life of all human beings, the right without which no other rights have any meaning.”

  • “I mean, Rush was the very same who mocked Mother Teresa, accusing her of playing to the camera and both blatantly and maliciously characterizing media coverage of her as really her ulterior agenda of taking advantage of several photo opportunities just to cheaply advertise on behalf of the Catholic church then.”

    Unless you have some quotes e. I believe you are probably confusing Rush with Christopher Hitchens. I can recall Rush speaking very highly of her on his radio show on several occasions.

  • “For one, Eisenhower ordered and was ultimately responsible for the unjust nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which directly resulted in deaths in the millions and millions.”

    As Dale and Darwin note, Mr. DeFrancisis, the President was Truman, not Eisenhower. Eisenhower was Supreme Commander of the Anglo-American forces in Europe. He had no role in the war in the Pacific. In his memoirs he contended that at the time he thought the bombs were unnecessary, but he also stated that all of his attention was focused on Europe and that he was unfamiliar with the war being waged against Japan other than as an observer from the sidelines.

    “Let me just end by communicating to you my utmost respect for your life long and lifewide commitment to the unborn, our society’s most vulnerable.”

    A handsome statement Mr. DeFrancisis which I very much appreciate. I pray that some day abortion will no longer be a political issue because we will look at it with the same abhorence engendered when we now recalll slavery. I do not know if I will live to see that day, but it will come.

  • I certainly do think it is an act of public disobedience to the Bishops to not only invite the President to speak but to give him an award on top of it – and it is a slap in the face to all Catholics who have built the College up through the years. As a Catholic I expect any institution purporting to be Catholic to be Catholic and uphold the Church’s teachings. That is basic to any group in society that has rules and regulations to be followed. Every Catholic knows the Church’s stand on abortion. Why do people belong to the Catholic Church if they dissent from her teachings? The door is open for them to walk out if don’t like anything the Church teaches. They are not bound to stay. Christ Himself said to take the narrow path. He kicked the money lenders out of the temple. He didn’t mince His words. It’s high time Catholics shook themselves up and realise how morally lax we have become.

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