The Superior General of The Congregation of Holy Cross, which
originally founded the University of Notre Dame and still fills the
presidency there, recently issued a letter to President Barack Obama. It’s very long…
It starts off cordially:
Dear Mr. President,
Congratulations on being awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Notre Dame.
Rev. Cleary takes pains to be cordial and correct at the open. But this thing is 13 pages long for a reason.
In his 5,319-word letter, released in its entirety on
April 1, Cleary says that he has great respect for Obama – “a person
endowed with extraordinarily well developed intellectual gifts” and
“enormous compassion” who has “the potential for greatness.”
However, Cleary emphasizes that Obama’s policy views on the “life
issues” cannot be supported by Notre Dame or the “faithful Catholic
“President Obama, your presence at Notre Dame, a premier Catholic
institution, is regarded by many good Catholics as scandalous because
of your support of abortion rights, regarded by us as an intrinsic
evil,” Cleary stated.
“In awarding you this degree, they experience Notre Dame as
undermining essential, intrinsic Catholic dogma which upholds the
dignity of human life. They believe that in honoring you or in giving
you a platform to speak, the University of Notre Dame is selling her
soul for who knows what: perhaps, at best, for the prestige and glory
of having the president of the United States on campus ….” Cleary added.
Cleary then explains that, as a Catholic, he finds it harder and harder
to participate in America’s political and electoral process because he
sees both parties as incapable of defending innocent human life –
simply, if a politician does not oppose the killing of children – at
any stage of development – what is the point?
Yes, it is difficult to see one party as aligning with the complete
and pure and well-grounded defense of the rights of all human beings.
Amazing, when you think of it.
Cleary then proposes that faithful Catholics could
consider shunning the president “or any other government leader, who
upholds what we believe to be the intrinsic evil of abortion and who is
willing to sign the FOCA legislation.”
FOCA, the Freedom of Choice Act, would lift all restrictions on
abortion nationwide – and Obama pledged to sign the legislation into
law if it passes in Congress.
“President Obama, would you really sign into law a bill like FOCA,
which would force faith-based hospitals and health care facilities to
perform abortions? Would you deny doctors and health care professionals
their most precious human freedom in choosing life?” writes Cleary.
“[I]n your logic it will be lawful to choose abortion but it will be a
crime to choose life.”
That’s the tension Obama holds in his own convictions.
“And so now today we are engaged in a great civil war
over conscience formation,” Cleary wrote. “The defense of human life is
an obligation for all humanity, not just for Catholics.”
In his letter, Cleary also criticizes the national news media in
America, who he says do all that they can to prevent Catholic
politicians from bringing their “faith convictions into the culture
wars of legislating for the common good.”
Now as much as ever, given the results of the last election, and the role of Catholics in it. Confusions abounds.
“Unfortunately, the current newsmakers clearly find
Catholic bashing in vogue,” Cleary said. “They ridicule the Church’s
rich social and spiritual teaching with inane sound bytes meant to
undermine the teaching authority of the Church in fostering a good and
just civilization of love.”
Given the power of the news media, Cleary said, “From what platform,
then, ought Catholics to speak? Can we only shun the political world
and thereby risk losing our souls to a possible spiritual death through
indifference or self-righteousness? It seems shunning has become our
In closing his letter to Obama, Rev. Cleary wrote: “The defense of all
human life is the great truth standing before the door of our lives in
American society today. I pray that the nation will open that door of
truth and walk through it.