Wednesday, May 11, 2011

John Boehner as Catholic University of America Commencement Speaker: Where's the Outrage?

David Gibson has started a valuable thread at Commonweal's blog today, noting the contrast between what happened when President Obama gave the commencement address at Notre Dame University two years ago, and what's happening now as Speaker John Boehner gives Catholic University of America's commencement address.  There's no outrage, none of the vitriolic reaction many Catholics exhibited when the president spoke at Notre Dame--vitriol stemming from the claim that the president undermines Catholic values, particularly in the area of respect for life.

Remember the firestorm that bishops including high-ranking Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston and Bishop Gregory Aymond of Austin tried to ignite when Notre Dame announced President Obama as its commencement speaker? DiNardo opined that the invitation militated against Catholic values--namely, "the fundamental moral issue of the inestimable worth of the human person from conception to natural death is a principle that soaks all our lives as Catholics . . . ."  Aymond argued that Notre Dame was "not living up to its Catholic identity" in inviting Mr. Obama to be a commencement speaker.  And his opinion must have been pleasing to some powers that be somewhere, since a few weeks down the road, he was named archbishop of New Orleans.

Well, it's perhaps not quite right to say that there's nary peep about Boehner's invitation to Catholic University, and how the values promoted and served by Speaker Boehner clash with "the fundamental moral issue of the inestimable worth of the human person from conception to natural death."  As Gibson notes, more than 70 Catholic theologians, scholars, priests, sisters, and social justice leaders have sent a letter to John Boehner as he prepares for this commencement address, noting that his "voting record is at variance from one of the Church’s most ancient moral teachings."  Michael Sean Winters has made the letter available at the National Catholic Reporter site.

The magisterial teaching about respect for life with which Speaker Boehner's record is at variance?  It's the teaching consistently held by the Catholic church from the church's foundations up to now that we are required to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first in social, political, and economic decision-making.  The letter to Boehner states:

From the apostles to the present, the Magisterium of the Church has insisted that those in power are morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor. Your record in support of legislation to address the desperate needs of the poor is among the worst in Congress. This fundamental concern should have great urgency for Catholic policy makers. Yet, even now, you work in opposition to it.

I wonder if Cardinal DiNardo and Archbishop Aymond will be speaking out about the threat to Catholic values and Catholic identity now that Speaker Boehner is headed to Catholic University of America.  Somehow, I doubt that this will be the case--particularly not as Cardinal Raymond Burke, whom Colleen Kochivar-Baker rightly calls "the de facto pope of the Republican Catholic Church," comes to Houston to lead a demonstration at a Planned Parenthood clinic.  

Cardinal Burke certainly gets around, as he flies from Rome to the U.S. to mount political demonstrations that predictably target one political party and anoint the other as the Catholic pro-life party, or as he flies to Australia to give lectures to college students about the decline of the Christian west.  As the Texas Tea Party Republican Women's website is announcing right now, in addition to his carefully staged Planned Parenthood demonstration, Burke will be in Kansas City this summer speaking at a conference being touted by the Texas Tea Party Republican women.

I wonder who foots all the bills for all those trips.

And I wonder why the focus of Catholic leaders and many Catholic pro-lifers on what is or is not a threat to the "inestimable worth of the human person from conception to natural death" is so slippery, so constantly shifting.  So selective.  And so selectively politicized.

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