D’Arcy to ND: You’re Wrong

Bishop John D'Arcy
Bishop John D'Arcy (photo: CNS)

Bishop John D’Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., has published another detailed statement denouncing the University of Notre Dame’s decision to honor President Barack Obama at its May 17 commencement.

In the April 21 statement, Bishop D’Arcy says action is necessary “to heal the terrible breach, which has taken place between Notre Dame and the Church.”

The statement focuses on the claim by Notre Dame’s president, Holy Cross Father John Jenkins, that the honors to be conferred on the pro-abortion president do not violate the instructions in the U.S. bishops’ 2004 document, “Catholics in Political Life,” that honors should not be given to pro-abortion politicians.

Bishop D’Arcy said he had responded in detail to this argument in an April 15 letter to Father Jenkins, and his April 21 statement covers “some of the key points” he made in that letter to Father Jenkins.

Notre Dame has claimed that it reached its opinion after receiving advice from a qualified canonical lawyer. However, the university never took the simple step of asking Bishop D’Arcy whether honoring Obama contravenes the 2004 document’s clear instruction that, “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

Notre Dame’s position has been that this instruction applies only to refraining from bestowing honors on pro-abortion Catholic politicians, not on non-Catholics like Obama.

Bishop D’Arcy notes in his statement that the meaning of the sentence in U.S. bishops’ 2004 document “is clear,” in terms of specifying that no one who violates basic Catholic moral principles should be honored by Catholic institutions.

Moreover, if sincere confusion exists about the correct interpretation “concerning the meaning of a document of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops … A fundamental, canonical and theological principal states that it is found in the local bishop, who is the teacher and lawgiver in his diocese,” Bishop D’Arcy notes.

Bishop D’Arcy, who is Notre Dame’s diocesan bishop, was only informed March 20 that Notre Dame had invited Obama to serve as its May commencement speaker and intended to confer an honorary doctorate of laws on Obama, shortly before the news was publicly announced at the White House.

Wrote Bishop D’Arcy, “I reminded Father Jenkins that he indicated that he consulted presidents of other Catholic universities, and at least indirectly, consulted other bishops, since he asked those presidents to share with him those judgments of their own bishops. However, he chose not to consult his own bishop who, as I made clear, is the teacher and lawgiver in his own diocese. I reminded Father Jenkins that I was not informed of the invitation until after it was accepted by the president. I mentioned again that it is at the heart of the diocesan bishop’s pastoral responsibility to teach as revealed in sacred Scripture and the tradition.”

Bishop D’Arcy concludes his letter by requesting that Father Jenkins publicly acknowledge that Notre Dame was wrong to assert publicly that “Catholics in Public Life” does not prohibit the granting of honors to a non-Catholic, pro-abortion politician like Obama.

“In my letter, I have also asked Father Jenkins to correct, and if possible, withdraw the erroneous talking points, which appeared in the South Bend Tribune and in other media outlets across the country,” Bishop D’Arcy said. “The statements which Father Jenkins has made are simply wrong and give a flawed justification for his actions.

“I consider it now settled — that the USCCB document, ‘Catholics in Public Life,’ does indeed apply in this matter. The failure to consult the local bishop who, whatever his unworthiness, is the teacher and lawgiver in the diocese, is a serious mistake. Proper consultation could have prevented an action, which has caused such painful division between Notre Dame and many bishops — and a large number of the faithful.”

Concluded Bishop D’Arcy, “That division must be addressed through prayer and action, and I pledge to work with Father Jenkins and all at Notre Dame to heal the terrible breach, which has taken place between Notre Dame and the Church. It cannot be allowed to continue. I ask all to pray that this healing will take place in a way that is substantial and true, and not illusory. Notre Dame and Father Jenkins must do their part if this healing is to take place. I will do my part.”