The Chicago Way: Bernardin and Obama

Seamless Garment

I have long thought that the Church is quite able to deal with outside enemies.  The true difficulties for the Church are from forces within the Church who aid and abet outside enemies.  Nicholas G. Hahn III, editor at Real Clear Religion, gives us a prime example of this in a riveting article in The Wall Street Journal on the late Cardinal Bernardin and Barack Obama:


That might not be such a good idea. There is an irony in the Catholic Church’s current legal clashes with Washington over the Affordable Care Act’s restrictions on religious freedom: The Obama administration is very much a creature of the Chicago church under Bernardin. When Notre Dame University bestowed an honorary degree on President Barack Obama in May 2009, the veteran community organizer told graduates that the “saintly” Cardinal Bernardin inspired him to become an activist.

As Phyllis Schlafly and George Neumayr noted in “No Higher Power: Obama’s War on Religious Freedom” (2012), much of Mr. Obama’s education in public policy came in the rectories of Chicago’s South Side churches and, in part, on Cardinal Bernardin’s dime. The archdiocese in 1986 paid for Mr. Obama to attend a community-organizing training session with a    Saul Alinsky-founded group in Los Angeles.

Cardinal Bernardin, who led the archdiocese from 1982 until his death in 1996, espoused a liberal line that has helped give pro-abortion Catholic supporters of the Obama administration theological cover. Mr. Obama told reporters in July 2009 that “his encounters with the cardinal continue to influence him, particularly his ‘seamless garment’ approach to a multitude of social justice issues.”

The president was alluding to a widely noted 1983 speech wherein Bernardin applied the Biblical story of Jesus’ tunic “woven in one piece from the top down” to public-policy issues. He maintained that matters as varied as the death penalty, the minimum wage and how to wage war should be considered on the same moral plane as abortion. This pernicious idea has been rebuffed by many Catholic intellectuals, not the least of whom was the future Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger, who in a 2004 memo wrote that “not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia.

Go here to read the rest.  Barack Obama, the most anti-Catholic president in our nation’s history, would not be president today except that each time he ran he got slightly over half the votes cast by self-proclaimed Catholics.    That is the damning legacy of clerics like Cardinal Bernardin.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. Of course, no one in his sound and sober senses would claim that “all moral issues have the same moral weight.”

    However, in one of his University Sermons, Bl John Henry Newman noted a “peculiarity in developments in general, is the great remoteness of the separate results of a common idea, or rather at first sight the absence of any connexion. Thus it often happens that party spirit is imputed to persons, merely because they agree with one another in certain points of opinion and conduct, which are thought too minute, distant, and various, in the large field of religious doctrine and discipline, to proceed from any but an external influence and a positive rule; whereas an insight into the wonderfully expansive power and penetrating virtue of theological or philosophical ideas would have shown, that what is apparently arbitrary in rival or in kindred schools of thought, is after all rigidly determined by the original hypothesis.”

    In that sense, surely, we can reasonably speak of the demands of the Gospel as a seamless garment.

  2. The “seamless garment” worn by Christ is purity, virtue and innocence. Crime is a tear in the fabric of society. The tear must be mended by restitution and reconstruction and return to Justice. Putting an innocent person to death for the crimes of his parents, rape, incest, failing, is the forfeiture of Justice, the annihilation of the state constituted to promote the common good and general welfare and most of all “the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our (constitutional) posterity.”

  3. The criminal in the White House is not covered by the “seamless garment”. The “seamless garment” does not dry rot. The “seamless garment is woven of truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.

  4. Cardinal Bernardin’s name was released in the required published disclosure by the current Diocese of Chicago for his part in aiding and abetting sexual child abuse by transferring around abusive Priests and keeping their activities secret.

    CCC: ” 1868 Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:
    – by participating directly and voluntarily in them;
    – by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;
    – by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;
    – by protecting evil-doers.”

  5. I read it on the LIRR this AM. This op-ed article is one of the infrequent causes for me to nod my head and say, “This was worth the subscription price.”

    Sound advice from Glenn Beck, “If your priest pushes social justice, find another parish.” And from me, don’t give any money to your bishop.

    Money quote: “. . . [the polished liar/racial racketeer/community agitator] Obama’s education in public policy came in the rectories of Chicago’s South Side churches and, in part, on Cardinal Bernardin’s dime. The archdiocese in 1986 paid for Mr. Obama to attend a community-organizing training session with a Saul Alinsky-founded group in Los Angeles.”

    Only thing: New Yorkerslikley would challenge Chicago as the lead for Catholics in the section of this Vail of Tears known as the USA.

  6. Chicago is a very interesting city, even ecclesiastically. Chicago’s presbyterate (the priests as a whole) is extremely complex, and to give them a broad brush stroke would be unfair, but it is certainly well known that some priests of the Archdiocese of Chicago have been involved with a particular bent on what is commonly called ‘social justice’. It is safe to say that Catholic Social teaching and the principles of Saul Alinsky do not coincide. It is safer to say that they are opposed to each other. The radicalization of some of the priests [as the article puts it-on the South side of Chicago] took place within the civil rights movement of the 60’s and then moved into the anti-war movement and then other ’causes’. In many ways, like the ‘nuns for choice’ etc. they said they were basing this on the Church’s call for justice etc but had actually had gone off the rails themselves.

    Cardinal Bernadin did not come from Chicago. His journey is complex but he became a protage of Cardinal Deardon of Detroit who himself was a protage of Archbishop Hanlon of Atlanta. Cardinal Bernadin was not responsible for the radicalizaton of some of his priests, however he was responsible for the way he led his Archdiocese and led the American Bishops toward a more ‘progressive’ approach to various subjects during his long presence in the USCCB, especially in the “seamless garment’ metaphor.

    The situation in Chicago has not changed very much. Poor Cardinal George, a brilliant as well as orthodox Cardinal Archbishop could only effect certain things within Chicago. Now past retirement age and in very poor health, he awaits Pope Francis to accept his resignation and appoint a younger and hopefully very able successor. The more radicalized priests (again a minority in Chicago) are rapidly aging and will soon disappear from the scene. The well known Father Robert Barron is now the rector of the Chicago seminary so we can expect very good things coming from there.

    As for Cardinal Bernadin, we entrust his soul to God and His mercy. History is already beginning to judge his tenure as Archbishop, but it might be some time before we have a real good insight just how good or bad he was for Chicago and the Church in America.

  7. “. . . the “’seamless garment’ metaphor.”

    That is not an implied comparison but a twisting of Scripture to rationalize a humanistic agenda.

    The “seamless garment” is not a parable; not something that Jesus said or taught. It was St. John’s narrative of the Roman executioners divying up Jesus’ possessions and, thus, fulfilling the prophecy, “They divided my clothes among themselves and gambled for my robe.” And, exactly that is what bernadin and his ilk did with Christ’s Church.

  8. Certainly there are various degrees of gravity. I would agree that in some sense the seamless garment metaphor, properly understood, has some value. What I never understood is, if you are a seamless garment subscriber, that means you must agree abortion is at least as important as ony other issue – so how can you be justified in voting for a pro-abort? The seamlessness seems to be sewn in only one direction.

  9. He maintained that matters as varied as the death penalty, the minimum wage and how to wage war should be considered on the same moral plane as abortion.

    As our esteemed host might say, rubbish on stilts. Bernadin specifically said in two addresses on the topic of consistent ethic of life that abortion and euthanasia were not interchangeable with capital punishment, because the former involved the deliberate taking of innocent life. His view (and that of John Paul II and Benedict XVI) on capital punishment was that while the state retained the right to execute criminals to protect the common good, modern day techniques of incarceration made the majority the the executions carried out today unnecessary.

    One can argue that his consistent ethic of life argument was flawed, that it led to politicians treating all the life and justice issues as a kind of zero sum game (if I am extra-against poverty or capital punishment I can be as pro-abortion as I like). But if that was the effect, then that was not his intent.

  10. When it came to abortion, Cardinal Bernardin occasionally said the right thing but he almost always gave Catholic pro-abort politicians enough wiggle room to neuter the strong condemnation of them by the Church that might well have made a difference. A good example is this story from the New York Times in 1990:

    “Cardinal Bernardin seemed to be trying to chart a middle ground for Catholics, including a number of his fellow bishops who have been unhappy with these confrontations.

    He took issue both with public officials who say they are personally opposed to abortion but do not want to impose their views on others and with abortion opponents who reject the possibility of political compromise on the issue.

    Cardinal Bernardin, who is generally seen as a spokesman for the moderate to liberal wing of the Catholic hierarchy, said that ”moral consistency requires that personal conviction be translated into some public actions” to limit abortion. But he added, ”Many Catholics, politicians and ordinary citizens, will disagree on strategies of implementation to lessen and prevent abortions.”

    These matters, including the political stances taken by the bishops, he said, ”are open to debate.”

    Focus on ‘Protest and Power’

    Cardinal Bernardin said the public debate after the Supreme Court’s decision enlarging the powers of state legislatures to limit access to abortion had focused largely on ”protest and power” and the question ”who decides?” This emphasis, he said, ”reduces the compelling moral question -How do we recognize the human among us? – to a procedural problem.”

    Cardinal Bernardin said effective opposition to abortion had to address the ”60 percent of Americans who do not identify themselves completely with either of the major voices in the abortion debate.” He described this group as ”generally opposed to abortion on demand but ambiguous about how many restrictions to place on it.””

  11. The bottom line is Bernardin sold out the catholic church to the contraception and abortion culture. Articles like this one help us to understand what really happened to the church in the past five decades. Imagine, church money used to send Obama to a Saul Alinsky inspired conference in California. Maybe the answer is to continue educating ourselves as to why there are so few homilies on the culture of death, specifically contraception and abortion. At the same time, we can reduce contributions to the collection basket and use it instead to buy media resources that expose this “crime of our age.” I moved to the Chicago area in 1986 and can tell you the majority catholic church culture is in an embrace of the culture of death. If this sounds like an exaggeration, consider 90+% of females in the child-bearing age group are contracepting. This is intrinsic evil and paired with weekly reception of the Eucharist brings condemnation on many including the priests and bishops that promote it and “look the other way.”

  12. “His view (and that of John Paul II and Benedict XVI) on capital punishment was that while the state retained the right to execute criminals to protect the common good, modern day techniques of incarceration made the majority the the executions carried out today unnecessary.”
    i) Not I, nor the state, but only the victim can forgive his murderer. I can forgive my murderer. I cannot forgive your murderer without becoming an accessory after the fact in giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
    ii) Only God owns the human person and God has endowed the human person with free will and freedom. The state does not own the victim or the murderer.
    iii) It is the duty of the state to provide Justice.
    iv) ““It in no way depends upon the caprice of the Pope, or upon his good pleasure, to make such and such a doctrine, the object of a dogmatic definition. He is tied up and limited to the divine revelation, and to the truths which that revelation contains. He is tied up and limited by the Creeds, already in existence, and by the preceding definitions of the Church. He is tied up and limited by the divine law, and by the constitution of the Church. Lastly, he is tied up and limited by that doctrine, divinely revealed, which affirms that alongside religious society there is civil society, that alongside the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy there is the power of temporal Magistrates, invested in their own domain with a full sovereignty, and to whom we owe in conscience obedience and respect in all things morally permitted, and belonging to the domain of civil society.” – John Henry Cardinal Newman
    vi) Come forward all you who will exchange a prison cell for rigor mortis.

  13. v) Like many, Bernardin did not know that the newly fertilized human egg was endowed with a rational, immortal human soul and sovereign personhood, created in moral and legal innocence and virtue. St. Thomas Aquinas knew when he said that the body is the form of the soul. No soul, no life, no growth, no need for abortion.
    Bernardin ought to have known if he truly accepted and believed in the Immaculate Conception. God creates a pure soul. Only after the human soul is received into the human body must it deal with concupiscence. Our Lady said “YES” to God from the very first moment of her conception and said “YES” forever, and even now says “YES” to God for We, the people.
    Faults and failing, yes, but Bernardin inserted his ignorance into matters of the state where it infested itself. Looking to become the next and the first American Pope, Bernardin ought to have held his opinions to himself until he had the Magisterium to correct him. That is papal behavior.

  14. “…the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom – Lucifer.”

    Preface to Rules for Radicals

    Saul Alinsky

  15. Sickening!! Absolutely sickening!! It makes you wonder about his relationship with God as he obviously had a VERY warped understanding of moral absolutes & what was necessary for the forgiveness of sin to be offerred to us!

  16. That Lucifer gained his own kingdom by refusing God as Saul Alinsky said cannot be, since annihilation is not a kingdom. Annihilation is nowhere. Annihilation is annihilation, constant and forever.
    Saul Alinsky begged God, (not an atheist) to send him to hell when he died. Obama is following him.

  17. Say what you will about Cardinal Bernardin — he certainly had his faults and he was definitely not the greatest administrator the Archdiocese of Chicago ever had — I have never forgotten an incident reported in the Catholic press shortly after his death about an abortion provider in Northwest Indiana who was so moved by the wall-to-wall Chicago media coverage of the Cardinal’s death, that he renounced his abortion practice. How many other prelates — how many other Catholics in general — can say their example brought about even one such conversion? I know I can’t claim to have done anything like that. Perhaps it was a case of God writing straight with crooked lines.

  18. Also, I dunno that Saul Alinsky’s “dedication” of “Rules for Radicals” to Lucifer was necessarily meant to be taken seriously. I suspect he did it simply because he was an agitator at heart and liked to get a rise out of people. Getting all bent out of shape about it and wielding it as “proof” that everything he did and everything he may have inspired, including Obama’s community activism, is all part of a Satanic plot is just playing right into his hands.

  19. EK: God did not create evil. Satan is the enemy. He is evil. He is the father of all evil.

    Satan’s greatest victories come when people do not recognize evil/sin.

    St. Augustine says it (for me) best. “The only evils these people recognize are having to endure hunger, disease, and murder. It is as though man’s greatest good were to have everything good, except himself.”

    It appears that guys like Bernabin, Lfluger, Wright, et al came to think (maybe they don’t think, they “feel”) that fighting class/race wars and voting democrat qualify for some sort of a “Get Out of Hell Free” card.

  20. “Saul Alinsky begged God to send him to hell when he died.”

    Given the perverse affection for Lucifer expressed by Alinsky, perhaps God expressed His infinite mercy by consigning to the Evil One the fate of Alinsky’s soul:

    Masochistic Alinksy: “Hurt me, hurt me!!”
    Sadistic Lucifer: “No, no!!”

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