Xavier Joins Notre Dame on Bishops’ Boycott List

Another bishop has declined to attend another graduation ceremony at another Catholic university because of plans to bestow an honorary … Continued

Another bishop has declined to attend another graduation ceremony at another Catholic university because of plans to bestow an honorary degree on another pro-choice politician. This time it’s New Orleans Catholic Archbishop Alfred Hughes who says he will not attend next month’s graduation at Xavier University of Louisiana, which plans to award an honorary degree to Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist, Louisiana native, Roman Catholic and abortion rights supporter.

Hughes is joining in protest a dozen other Roman Catholic bishops who plan to boycott next month’s graduation at the University of Notre Dame, which plans to give an honorary degree to President Obama.

Are the bishops taking a moral and courageous stand or merely grandstanding? They’re not just playing politics. Obama and Brazile are Democrats, but back in 2005, for example, Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore boycotted graduation at Loyola College of Maryland when it bestowed an honorary degree on New York City Mayor and pro-choice Republican Rudy Giuliani. Last month, an Indiana bishop boycotted a speech by GOP leader Michael Steele.

In fact, according to the Cardinal Newman Society, bishops have boycotted dozens of graduation ceremonies since 2004 when they issued the document called “Catholics in Political Life.” In the document, they said Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. The should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

Apparently, those “fundamental moral principles” apply only to the issue of abortion, and not to other “life” issues such as imposition of the death penalty, support for the war in Iraq, policies that imperil the environment, or the widening gap between the world’s rich and poor, all of which have been condemned by the Vatican and the bishops.

Timothy A. Dolan, Archbishop of New York, in a recent interview with the New York Post, explained that abortion is considered intrinsically evil while war and the death penalty are not. “There’s a big difference,” Dolan said. “There are some issues where the Church has weighed in, that one must be very sensitive to the morality of some issues, but they’re not intrinsically evil. An intrinsic evil (abortion) means that something is always and everywhere wrong.”

If you believe a woman has a right to an abortion, in some or all circumstances, you probably aren’t paying much attention to the grandstanding bishops. But if you believe abortion is an intrinsic evil, you probably think what the bishops are doing is courageous and righteous.

Should the bishops do more? If they genuinely believe that abortion is an intrinsic evil, why aren’t the bishops engaging in some good, old-fashioned, faith-based acts of civil disobedience, what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called non-violent resistance or “non-cooperation with evil” which attempts “to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent.”

Imagine what would happen, for example, if all American Catholic bishops were arrested for blocking the entrance to one abortion clinic after another, or to the Capitol or the White House.

Or if all bishops declared all their churches to be sanctuaries for unborn children, places where pregnant women could come and get whatever food, shelter, clothing, medical attention, counseling and job training they needed not only to carry their children to term but to raise them afterward.

Or if all bishops staged a mass hunger strike, refusing to eat until abortion is made illegal?

“We will wear you down by our capacity to suffer,” King said.

Who suffers when bishops don’t attend graduation ceremonies? If the bishops truly believe abortion is an intrinsic evil, what else can and should they do to resist it?

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  • seville1978

    You make a good point regarding the potential power the Bishops have, but you miss one point. In order to stand up for the right thing one need not be a hero, and most Bishops are not the civil right protest type. I do wish they were though. I for one, would follow them.

  • Willis E. Elliott

    David:Ken Woodward – the leading Catholic spokesperson defending Notre Dame University’s having Pres. Obama as the principal speaker at the next commencement – alerted me to his NPR interview on the subject. Ken is pro-life, but distinguishes between violating church dogma and disagreeing with it. As Obama is not a Catholic, his being pro-choice does not violate church dogma, nor does Notre Dame violate church dogma in granting him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.Thank you for indicating that the 1994 document’s use of “fundamental moral principles” has been functionally limited to abortion. I’ll add that the notion that abortion is “intrinsic” (“always and everywhere”) evil is recent in Roman Catholic thought. This notion puts the pre-born in the category of the sacred as unntouchable, which I consider an idolatrous expansion of the concept of “respect for life.”

  • dadugganagain

    The majority of Bishops involved in the “raging” against Obama really are Republicans. Interestingly, the Pope’s public statements, to date, do not reflect their priorities. While some of the Bishops have taken issue with Guiliani (who also defied his own Bishop by making a display of going to Communion after his latest marriage) and perhaps Steele (another successful African American), none has ever made a comment about Gov. Schwarzenegger,a regular communicant who publicly flouts and has even initiated the rejection (in the case of stem cell research)of every “dogma” regarding sexual preferences and reproductive rights supposedly held most dear to the concerned hearts of these Prelates. It is the Bishop’s role as pastors to maintain the limits for Catholics regarding the sinfulness of abortion, in terms of imposing Church consequences on any individual who has or performs an abortion,use their moral persuasion to encourage non-Catholics as well as Catholics to respect life, and use their own resources to support life. The sexual abuse scandals, in which a number of these Bishops were complicit, have created very real problems for the Bishops’ moral authority among Catholics (especially mothers), never mind non-Catholics. The first and in many ways on-going response was and has been to change the subject as loudly as possible by focusing on an issue that can lay “blame” exclusively on the laity (women primarily)and expanding their own punitive authority to Catholics (voters and politicians alike) who merely think that non-Catholics, whose conduct and choices are consistent with a law more than 30 years old, should continue to be allowed to follow their own consciences.

  • usapdx


  • DavidinNC1

    It’s too bad that the Bishops have such a preference for the unborn (an issue Jesus did not address) but not for the poor. They might begin by embracing liberation theology and denouncing American Imperalism and all the death and starvation our economic policies inflict on already born children worldwide.

  • dmooney

    Were these Bishops actually invited to these graduation ceremonies? Considering how many bishops sheltered, recycled and thereby enabled pedophile Priests, I don’t think I would put any on my invitation list.

  • norriehoyt

    It’s good that the bishops are staying away from all these campuses: it will make it easier for freedom and liberty to prosper there.Campus boycotts rarely if ever accomplish anything.A bishop boycotting a campus is like a man peeing in a blue serge suit with the fly zipped up: it gives him a warm feeling and nobody notices.

  • razzl

    Catholicism’s time in America is already over; the younger generation of catholics are leaving the church in droves because of its blind clinging to its aloof, antiquated, sexist governing structure; acts of civil disobedience by bishops at this point would only hasten the decline. You can’t declare yourself ready to tear a well-ordered secular society apart to have your way on the abortion issue if you have already declared yourself to be utterly disinterested in other forms of injustice, particulary regarding war and women’s rights; it would just confirm to people how out of touch and morally bankrupt you really are…

  • resiliencyinworkplace

    Ah! The debate rages on. I have heard all of the comments above and there is validity to all on both sides. However, there is one comment which I think sums up the entire debate. I heard it from a stand-up comic years ago and I will never forget it.When talking about the Pope and the Catholic church’s leadership (all men) on the topic, he stated in his best Italian accent, “You no playa the game, you no maka da rules.” Let’s see what happens when women are allowed to become priests and leaders in the Catholic church.

  • arosscpa

    DMooney asks: Were these Bishops actually invited to these graduation ceremonies? Ir isn’t a matter of inviting the ordinary bishop of a diocese. A Catholic college or university exists and operates with the permission and under the authority of the local bishop per canon law. A bishop is not invited to a commencement. The commencement exercises take place with his permission.

  • resa_beth

    Why is it so terrible for a Church to have an opinion? Yes, Catholics hold innocent life as a greater priority than other issues, but that doesn’t mean the Church completely ignores everything else. And clearly you all worry enough about the poor, the war, and the death penalty for the rest of us. No one else really stands up for the unborn, so the Catholic Church is left to do it all. But let me remind you that the Church also does a lot of charity work for the poor, etc. The people I know who give the most to charity, or help the most, tend to be religious, and quite often Catholic. I have MANY friends who have saved all their money to go to third world countries to help the sick and hungry…some who have even given up YEARS out of their lives to be there. So to say that Catholics, or pro-life people in general, don’t care about the poor is ridiculous. Their charitable works are just less-noticed than their pro-life ones.

  • clearbeard

    King was not a Catholic Bishop. The moral fiber and fortitude of the two are completely incomparable in magnitude. The “moral outrage” at an “intrinsic evil” that is no such thing is political posturing and grandstanding, pure and simple.