Gabriel Garnica
The Fighting Irish have been fighting the Church for a long time
By Gabriel Garnica
May 16, 2009

When Pilate asked Christ if he were really a king, Christ answered him: (John 18:37-38) "You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."

There are many angles of approach to the Notre Dame-Obama story, but the most practical and simple one may be that this is not simply about Barack Obama, Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame or even abortion alone. These intriguing aspects form but a colorful sidebar to a much more profound story festering in our midst. This story includes four myths commonly accepted by many sincere Catholics trying to support traditional Church doctrine which actually blur, rather than clarify the issue. Ironically, the liberal secular media's lies concerning this situation are punctuated by one poignant bit of fact, which is that there is nothing shocking about Notre Dame's decision to honor Barack Obama.

A Tradition of Punting College Doctrine

The first myth accepted by Catholics defending traditional Church doctrine and authority in this case is that this dissent is a recent novelty coming out of the blue. It is foolish to believe that this controversy began with a rebellious cleric steering an institution away from Church teaching. The fact is, Notre Dame stopped respecting its Catholic roots when most of us were either children or not even born yet. The liberal, secular media would have us believe that Notre Dame has always been and still is a solid bastion of Catholic education, but the truth speaks a different tune. If anything, this institution named after Our Lady has been more likely to proclaim "I will not serve" in the tradition of Lucifer's rejection of God's authority than anything resembling obedience and respect to Catholic doctrine and teaching. Its 40 year legacy of such defiance began way back in 1961 when, under then university president Fr. Theodore M. Hesburgh, it honored John F. Kennedy with the same Laetare Medal just refused by former ambassador to the Vatican Mary Ann Glendon and continues in full force today as evidenced by the present abomination involving Barack Obama .

The Kennedy honor over 40 years ago made it acceptable for a Catholic politician to promise a greater loyalty to political expediency than his or her own Catholic beliefs. Hesburgh spearheaded the infamous 1967 Land O' Lakes Statement in which Notre Dame, along with numerous other similar institutions, basically rejected obedience to Catholic authority in favor of furthering its own self-determined academic, social and political agenda and interests.

That break continued into the 80s when Hesburgh and dissident theology professor Richard McBrien brought Mario Cuomo to Notre Dame to argue that Catholics can defend and support abortion rights in good conscience. Under the next President, Edward A. Malloy, this dissent took such forms as honoring the pro-abortion Catholic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, encouraging and welcoming the inclusion of homosexual student groups and discussions, and the inauguration of the controversial The Vagina Monologues in 2002 and The Queer Film Fest in 2004 .

While current President Jenkins has tried to raise the plunging Catholic faculty numbers at Notre Dame, he has not hesitated to continue the firm tradition of defiance with Church teaching. President Mary McAleese of Ireland, a frequent critic of the Church and advocate for women's ordination, and Dr. Mary Sue Coleman, an advocate of embryonic cell research, was similarly honored. Given this litany of open and blatant defiance of Church teaching and authority, Jenkins' defense and praise of Barack Obama should come as no surprise to anyone and is very consistent with Notre Dame's pattern of brushing off Church doctrine and influence in those areas in which the institution disagrees with that doctrine and rejects that authority.

Neither is it accurate to pretend that this situation is confined to Notre Dame, for Georgetown and a list of other allegedly Catholic institutions have shown their true allegiance time and time again, preferring to side with secular favor than courageously and respectfully defending the faith they purport to represent.

A Warped Sense of Academic Freedom Hiding a More Sinister Agenda

A second myth often accepted by many is that academic freedom and religious affiliation are somehow wholly incompatible. Saint Thomas Aquinas and other intellectual giants of the Church such as Saint Theresa of Avila prove that the mind can reach great heights while still being anchored to the soul. Despite this, history shows that secular forces enjoy pretending that deep religious faith and intellectual development are contradictory. The notion that any Catholic institution which obediently defers to Church doctrine and tradition is somehow violating its academic mission is typical hogwash most often generated by secular liberals whose hobby is finding ways to eviscerate the Church at every turn. These cunning cowards are cut from the same cloth as those who argue that the Church should be banished from the public, political and social arena to preserve freedom, tolerance and a truly democratic society. These people seek to eject the Church from all areas of public and, for that matter, private life, taking every opportunity to castrate its teaching, mock its doctrine, dilute its influence and ignore its authority over everything from abortion to family issues to education and daily life.

We should remember that popular history and culture bows to the French Revolution as some transcendent move toward profound intellect, tolerance, freedom and progression in human civilization. Truth, as evidenced by actual history, however, paints a different picture. Many of these revolutionary leaders were only keen on spreading intellect, tolerance, freedom and so-called progress consistent with their secular, anti-religion views. Ironically, a Church which had been both the trigger and the soil for great intellectual, scientific and philosophical advances was suddenly portrayed as the villain perpetuator of mass ignorance, superstition and intolerance.

The notion that academic freedom includes freedom from the Church has taken firm hold of many if not most so-called Catholic institutions, including Georgetown. We may recall that the latter so-called center of Catholic education preferred not to offend Barack Obama rather than show respect for Christ Himself by covering up a symbol of Christ during Obama's recent speech there. A typical class at many of these alleged Catholic universities will often include at least comments and even teaching directly contradictory to Church teaching. The usual tone of such comments or teaching is that "progressive" Catholicism is more aligned with so-called social justice thinking focusing on helping the poor, serving the marginalized and protecting the voiceless. This help, service and protection, of course, rarely extends to the unborn, who are the most marginalized and voiceless of all needing the most protection. The above cited recent history of Notre Dame leaves no doubt that its leadership is in no rush to criticize anyone for being pro-abortion, much less a recently elected president with the most blatant pro-abortion record of any before him.

One of the typical points peddled by academic freedom types is that fair debate and equal discussion is critical to intellectual development and progress. If these people are accurate in their assessment of fair play, tolerance for opposing views and equal discussion even with those opposing one's views, let them hold their breath until Planned Parenthood honors a pro-life speaker with any award in the interest of open debate. I fear that exercise will result in an untimely death from suffocation. As usual, those in opposition of truth are hypocrites as well.

It All Begins at The Top

The third myth surrounding this situation is that this controversy is mainly the work of Fr. Jenkins. While Jenkins is clearly in line with the questionable litany of past presidents of this tragic institution with regard to respecting Church doctrine, he is mainly a pawn in a much bigger game. A simple review of the political and social agenda of Notre Dame's Board of Trustees reads more like a support group for Obama than the leadership of a Catholic institution. All of this to argue that Jenkins is merely following the script consistent with not only Notre Dame's sad heritage of arrogant insolence regarding Church teaching, but also the agendas of that institution's leadership. In the face of such a pathetic situation, we can say that this scandal is not only not a surprise but a done deal.

The Debate That Isn't

The final myth often accepted is that situations like that found in Notre Dame highlight a great debate between conservative and liberal, Republican and Democratic, traditional and progressive, or a myriad of other spectrums of Catholics. Such an assertion seems reasonable given our society's taste for describing many controversies in such terms.

Unfortunately, truth once again fails to coincide with this myth. Contrary to the convenient assertions of so-called Catholic politicians like Biden, Kennedy, Kerry, Pelosi, Cuomo, Sebellius, Granholm, Giuliani and others, on both sides of the political aisle, there is no way to reconcile the murder of an unborn child with faithful adherence to Catholic teaching. The notion that one can claim to serve and follow Christ's teaching while defending the so-called right of someone to dismember, torture and discard a defenseless, innocent human being is the height of absurdity, arrogance and ignorance. The claim by many that Christ accompanies the woman as she proceeds to kill her unborn child is an abomination in and of itself, totally devoid of common sense and sense of God.

Truth be told, these Catholic politicians are Catholic frauds, perpetuating a convenient, subjective and rationalized surrender to political, social and personal expediency. They do great harm to the Catholic faith by confusing what should be the clear and single Church teaching on this subject. They are also often part of the general insolent, arrogant defiance that inspires minds and hearts to proclaim, not " I will not serve" but, more accurately, " I will only serve my own convenience." That expediency may be political, economic, social or any list of other reasons, but it is merely expediency nevertheless.

To accept this issue as a debate, then, is to lift the moral rubbish of the pro-abortion position to heights it has never deserved. This is merely a struggle between truth and deception in a society where these two combatants are confused on a regular basis. It is a conflict between those grounded in their faith and those who have driven their faith to the ground in the interest of their own golden moral calf fashioned from a conscience warped from continuous acceptance and adherence of lies. If Judas betrayed Christ, these Catholic frauds betray him with an ease Judas never displayed. If Peter denied Him, these false Catholic institutions and leaders deny Him every time they slander His Name with despicable alterations of His teaching.

What many call a debate then, is more a civil war between the God-given truth and man-made lies and nothing less.


There was a time when Notre Dame represented the very best of American Catholicism. It stood as a lighthouse showing the way toward education of both mind and spirit. Tragically, today it has merely become the most prominent battleground of a false debate which is actually a civil war between true and false Catholicism.

Many sincere Catholics wrongly believe that the current situation at Notre Dame involving Barack Obama is a recent development, a protection of academic freedom, the doing of its defiant president, and an illustration of a debate between conservative and liberal Catholicism. In truth, Notre Dame has a long history of arrogant defiance of Catholic faith in pursuit of its own agenda. In truth, the argument that academic freedom mandates rejection of Catholic doctrine is merely another excuse for ripping the Church from all aspects of daily life. In truth, its current president is merely the latest defiant symbol of a greater disdain for traditional Catholic doctrine. In truth, the current so-called debate which Notre Dame represents is more an open civil war between true and false Catholicism.

In truth, there is nothing about the recent history of Notre Dame that justifies any claim that this institution is a bastion of anything remotely Catholic. If anything, it has become a bastion of the so-called social justice façade which false Catholics drag out as a justification for rejecting traditional Catholic doctrine. Most tragically, there is nothing about this recent history that justifies surprise that it will fawn over the most prominent defender of the murder of the unborn this nation has ever seen. Given the nature of its Board of Trustees, the legacy of its presidents, and its history of mocking and ignoring Church teaching and doctrine, Notre Dame's honoring of Barack Obama makes perfect sense.

The greatest irony of all is that this institution which ridicules and disrespects tradition at every turn has fashioned a very real tradition of its very own. That tradition dictates that, while true Catholicism bends its eyes north toward Heaven, this school in South Bend tends to bend its eyes south toward the source of its defiance.

© Gabriel Garnica


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)


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