Memo to Bishops: Most Catholics Aren’t Listening

THIS CATHOLIC’S VIEW By Thomas J. Reese, S.J. During the 2008 presidential campaign, there was a steady drumbeat of opposition … Continued


By Thomas J. Reese, S.J.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, there was a steady drumbeat of opposition to Barack Obama from some U.S. Catholic bishops, which only increased after his election. But despite the attention these attacks received in the media and on Internet blogs, polls show that the Catholic people are not listening.

He has been criticized:

• for being the most pro-abortion president ever, even though he wants to develop programs that will reduce the number of abortions while keeping it legal under most circumstances (he supports restrictions in the third trimester with an exception for the health of the mother);

• for allowing organizations that do abortions outside the U.S. to receive government funds, even though the funds cannot be used for abortions but only for non-abortion-related activities such as health care and birth control;

• for proposing to revise the Bush regulations dealing with stem cell research, even though the proposed revisions are less radical than many anticipated (no cloning is allowed and only stem cells from IVF embryos that would otherwise be discarded can be used; plus the informed consent rules are tightened);

• for proposing to revise the Bush regulations that allow conscientious objection in health care, even though it is clear from the law that the revised regulations cannot require doctors, nurses or hospitals to perform abortions;

• and for supporting the Freedom of Choice Act, even though everyone in Congress says FOCA is going nowhere (it has not even been introduced in this Congress) and the President has said it is not one of his priorities (which is the equivalent of deep-sixing it).

These critiques seem to be falling on deaf ears.

In the presidential election, Catholics voted for Obama, and Hispanic Catholics, who are a growing percentage of U.S. Catholics, gave him around two-thirds of their vote. Since the election, Obama has continued to do as well if not better with Catholics in the polls.

Nor are Catholics listening to those bishops who have condemned Notre Dame University for inviting the President to speak at its commencement this month. According to a Pew Forum poll, 48 percent of Catholics have not even heard of the controversy. And when asked whether it was right or wrong for Notre Dame to invite Obama to speak and to give him an honorary degree, 50 percent of Catholics said it was right and only 28 percent said it was wrong.

What is wrong? Why are the bishops not being listened to?

Many think they lost their credibility because of the sex abuse crisis. Others say it was even earlier when the laity rejected the hierarchy’s opposition to artificial birth control.

I think part of the problem is that the bishops stopped listening and teaching and started ordering and condemning. With an educated laity it no longer works to simply say, “it is the teaching of the church.” This is the equivalent of a parent shouting, “Because I said so.”

The bishops must persuade and convince with arguments not by turning up the volume. When they resort to commanding and threatening punishments, people are turned off. Banning speakers, denying Communion, silencing theologians is a sign of weakness not strength. Censorship and violations of academic freedom come across as admissions that their arguments are not convincing and therefore the opposition must be silenced.

The result is that the sales of books go up after a theologian is condemned. Obama’s Notre Dame speech will be covered by every cable news channels. Even movie producers understand this dynamic, which is why “Angels and Demons” is having its world premier in Rome and is just begging the Vatican to condemn it.

The bishops are being egged on by Republican activists whose presidential candidate lost the election. There is clearly a conservative conspiracy to do whatever is possible (including lying about ambassadorial candidates) to create conflict between the Catholic Church and the Obama administration. They want the Catholic Church to be the Republican Party at prayer. Some bishops are falling for this.

But the Vatican is not falling into this trap. It clearly wants to have a positive relationship with Obama. The Pope sent him a congratulatory note after his election, although it is normal Vatican protocol not to do this until after the inauguration. Recently, an article in L’Osservatore Romano stated that the first 100 days of the Obama administration have not confirmed the Catholic Church’s worst fears about radical policy changes in ethical areas. No American bishop has been brave or honest enough to say this.

The best Vatican journalists John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter and John Thavis of Catholic News Service could find no evidence of an anti-Obama sentiments from the Pope or the Vatican Secretariat of State. The Vatican has had centuries of experience working with governments where they agree and talking to them about those issues where they disagree.

The bishops who oppose the President’s presence at Notre Dame are going to be embarrassed by the warm welcome he receives from the commencement audience. Every round of applause will be a repudiation of their condemnations.

The bishops will also be embarrassed when Pope Benedict welcomes President Obama at the Vatican, or are all these people going to tell the Pope that he cannot talk to a pro-choice President?

Thomas J. Reese, S.J., is Senior Fellow at Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.

By Thomas J. Reese | 
May 5, 2009; 4:44 PM ET

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  • newagent99

    Does the author of this article know that abortions are only legal for the first two trisemesters?It appears not.

  • scdem

    Thanks for this insightful column that expresses my own sentiments perfectly. I do think that Mr. Reese lets the papacy off the hook a bit too easily, though. Benedict has made enough errors already (admittedly most are tonal, but still), and there seems to be an effort to reinforce that top-down authority structure that is so sixteenth century. American bishops feel free to act, declare, and try to dictate our voting behaviors because that’s the leadership style at the top.

  • cornishpj

    The Catholic Bishops in the United States have lost credibility with their flocks for a number of reasons. One is that the previous generation of Bishops ignored canon law and civil law by secretly hiding known sex-offenders from investigation and prosecution. Another is that the Bishops have often ignored the concerns of their flock for the protection of historic schools and parishes and instead have been moved by the bottom line. Finally, many Bishops of the previous generation failed to faithfully preach the truth of the Catholic faith, and failed to provide for proper religious education for the young. Fr. Reese’s partisan attack seems to me to entirely miss the point, unless he himself truly believes that abortion is simply a matter of choice.

  • sojourner3

    The younger generations are no longer as docile and obedient as the generations of the bishops themselves. In a defensive crouch since the altar boy scandals, these bishops have held on to their theoretical moral shields as a defense against accepting responsibility and changing reality. Instead, they blindly rail against a terrifying outer world they neither inhabit nor understand. The younger generations say, Show, not Tell. Show me your moral virtue before you expect me to respect your view. Show me your love for the sick, the dispossessed, the innocent victims of war, pestilence and greed. Silence. Showing simple Christian virtue is beyond the reach of these dessicated “theologians”. They speak to themselves in an empty room, a living tomb, as the world turns. And don’t even know it.

  • Patriot9

    As usual, standard anti-Catholic establishment stuff from Reese. Each article is more tiresome than the last. The bishops aren’t “brave or honest” enough? That’s quite a sweeping condemnation, don’t you think? Reese: we get it. You’re liberal. You love Obama. That’s fine; it’s your choice and you can obviously feel free to choose however you like. But articles meant to needlessly and senselessly turn people against the Church do not do you credit. Time will tell if Obama is or is not a friend to Catholics, and his stance on abortion will be an important piece of that. We’ll see. It’s a little early to say, however, that since Catholics voted for him they support him in everything he does. That’s ridiculous, and you should know better.


    Erm, actually they’re legal to do as long as they’re not done by the specific method of “intact dilation and extraction” (a.k.a. IDX, or “partial-birth”) which is different than merely having it be in the 3rd trimester…lots of states have bans on late-term abortions, but the federal gov’t does not have a blanket cover on such things. The Supreme Court merely banned IDX procedures in ’07, not late-term abortions entirely.

  • ScottChallenger

    The most insightful analysis ever produced on the issue. God help you. This will enrage the those same bishops and the right, you will be thrown under the bus and be cast out amoungst us sinners. Welcome! Any others with you?

  • BlueIguana

    Patriot9Well stated and well written.

  • jplannert

    Another decade, another Daniel Berrigan.

  • JEllswo3111

    “Because I said you so.” do you mean “Because I said so” Thomas Reese get a new copy editor.

  • clifc

    I think Fr. Reese is mistaken in his assertion that the bishops are being egged on by shady Republican activists.

  • pwelvr

    As T Hobbs stated, “The Papacy (and its Bishops) is not other than the Ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned upon the grave thereof.” Smoke and bells with no relationship to the real world.

  • GodsGadfly

    Fr. Reese,You *do* realize that one of Pope Benedict’s first actions as Pope was to order your dismissal as editor of _America_, which a Polish priest I knew described as pornographic.You *do* realize Georgetown employing professors like you, and Notre Dame employing professors like Richard McBrien, is just as scandalous to many Catholics than their respective denials of Christ in order to invite Obama.Memo to Fr. Reese: No one is listening to you except your friends in the MSM and self-defined Catholics who admit they commit mortal sin every Sunday by not going to Mass.

  • NBABostonGuy

    What a ridiculous and biased article.This article is a wish list for the anti-popes anti-catholics anti-christians of the world.Tipical Liberal patological reasoning… state a few true statements and paint the conclusion to fit your agenda. You are so pathetic.Catholics and many evangelicas and MANY MANY CENTER-RIGHT people voted for Obama… NOT because of all the wish-list that you so carefully describe but because the REPUBLICANS: 1) WRECKED THE ECONOMY 2) MOVED TO THE LEFT IN MOST ISSUES 3) WE were hoping for a more balanced Obama… NOT this fanatic. The PROOF will be shown in the next election… and you will see more of us at the TEA PARTIES.About the bishops losing grip of their flock– that is SO OLD. Americans never allow anyone to impose their beliefs on them… not from the Pope… not from the LEFT either… that is WHY THERE IS SO MUCH ANTI-GAY marriage sentiment… the left is ACTING JUST AS THEY DESCRIBE THE US BISHOPS… BULLYING, SHOVING DOWN OUR THROATS WHAT THEY THINK IS THE RIGHT WAY TO THINK. Just look at what happened to Miss California… Do not think for a minute that we are THAT stupid an do not see your radicalism. Just watch the Paris guy YouTube vulgar ranting to see yourselfs in the mirror.This article is so pathetic that to put in our mouth/conclude that the church has lost credibility because of the child abouse should be embarrasing to your publication. To my knowledge the Church still is the ONLY MORAL AUTHORITY in the World otherwise we wouldnt be talking about it.The left is in PANIC MODE after the vote in california (gay marriage) and is trying at any chance they get to discredit the Church and try to lure the fringe catholics into their ‘world’ by painting a bleak picture or undermining the authority of the church.As far as you concluding that the Vatican has done nothing… You couldnt be further from the truth… you just have to remember what happened to Card. McCarrick… he lost D.C…. do you know why? Because the Vatican officially and publicly agreed with Bishop Burke in that the church SHOULD REFUSE COMMUNION WITH Either this article is part of an agenda or is cheer ignorance of historical facts.

  • kelpius

    If our ultra-smart quotable super-Jesuit promoter is right about “no one” listening, maybe it’s because for 40+ yrs so many Catholics got enculturated into the post-Vatican II “spirit” that church teaching matters less if it’s not the outcome of a democratic process (What do we believe? Let’s have a show of hands.). Make it up as you go along and go to mass when you feel like swaying to badly-performed folk and Broadway music. On FOCA, Reese forgets that Obama is master of the head fake. All leading Dems and other prominent abortion advocates recite the same talking point about FOCA going nowhere, word for word. Their lock-step eagerness to say this seems odd. Remember, we’re dealing with an exceptionally shrewd Chicago confidence man here, so let’s stay sharp. “Above my pay grade” was a head fake; he decided long ago about the value of “the products of conception.”

  • mez_

    “for allowing organizations that do abortions outside the U.S. to receive government funds, even though the funds cannot be used for abortions but only for non-abortion-related activities such as health care and birth control”.Do you even have an editor? This is a laughably silly argument. Money is fungible. Let’s imagine for a moment that a foreign entity has a $10 million budget and it provides a variety of reproductive services (for this example, let’s just say abortions and birth control), on which it spends equal amounts of money. Now add in money that Obama is giving them (let’s say a 10% boost, or $1 million); based on this new budget, the entity will probably continue to spend based on its past priorities (i.e., half on each of its two programs). But the entity can claim the $5.5 million it spends on that comes only out of its separate funds, while the $5.5 million it spends on birth control is the only portion affected by the Obama administration grant. Unless we have really strict controls and dive into the operations of each of these entities (something I don’t think anyone wants to do), there’s no way to be sure that American dollars aren’t funding these abortions. Sorry for providing such a long example, but anyone who doesn’t get this probably needs the issue really dumbed down.

  • usapdx

    These G.O.P. bishops should read the PEW report in detail. I wish they let us know where they stand on the case in the case of the NINE YEAR OLD RAPED GIRL IN BRAZIL of March, 2009 of 80 POUNDS PREGNANT with TWINS. Do they agree with Cardinaal Giovanni Battista Re, and Bishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho? Also, when the world cannot produce enoff food or drinking water for the people of the world, will any of the church teachings change? Many Catholics do not know the teachings of the church or do not agree with them. Most Catholics are not baptize by their choice either. Has man change some of CHRIST’S teachings? Dear bishops, please read the full Pew report.

  • NoteToSelf

    As I usually ask, how many are in the Pew polls were “practicing” Catholics? C&E Catholics and those that went to Catholic school back in the day don’t count. Give me that data and I can respect your viewpoint a little more.Bishops are responsible for leading and teaching the tenets of the faith. If the followers disagree with the tenets of the faith, they should find another Christian denomination that best suits their beliefs. There are now plenty of them out there. If you want to use birth control then find a denomination that teaches it’s OK to use birth control. If you want women priests then find a denomination that has women priests. Why do people in America keep expecting the Catholic Church to change their teachings just because other churches do?

  • sharon7

    Thank you Mr. Reese,

  • emonty

    It is very interesting to me to notice that most of the nay-sayers (aka Conservative, traditionalist, “all Catholics must be like me to be real Catholics, etc.”)seem to endow bishops with ‘infallibility’ in everything the bishops say and do, as long as the naysayers agree with it of course. You have to love the irony!

  • elife1975

    Organized religion has always stood in opposition to any cultural advances that have taken place throughout history.

  • lizann1

    I’m a Catholic and I’m listening to the bishops.Lesson from first-year stats class: statistics don’t necessarily present the entire picture nor do they always present an accurate picture.

  • clifc

    usapdx:You brought up a very good point that really applies here when you mentioned the little girl in Brazil.What’s a bishop to do? (A bishop, not you or I) My understanding (I’m no Canon lawyer) is that the Canon says if you procure an abortion for someone you excommunicate YOURSELF. Like the father of that girl supposedly did.Now the bishop could have rehabilitated the father after the fact if he (and the father) wanted to. But I doubt very much if he could have said it was OK, even if he wanted to. So yes, he COULD have kept his mouth shut about something he considered wrong and worked it out with the father later.So what does a bishop usually do when faced with a choice between justice and enforcing longstanding, written down things? Give a dispensation. Yet in these “life” issues they don’t have a lot of wiggle room.So much for formalities. American Catholics, myself included at times, grant the “dispensation” themselves.

  • ravitchn

    It is encouraging to know that Catholics are not being stampeded into rightwing stances by their bishops. This is something new indeed.

  • lairb7

    For a number of years the Catholic Church’s effort to control it’s members has increasingly fallen on deaf ears because it’s theory of what is necessary to be a good catholic is no longer practical or appropriate. Unless it is willing to reexamine ramifications it’s dogma on it’s member’s quality of life it will continue down the road of becomming irrelavant and expendable.

  • thebobbob

    The Catholic Bishops have indeed come to represent the right wing lunatic fringe. Keep supporting the secessionist, pro-torture party. Only true believers need apply.

  • PierreAngulaire

    If Tom Ridge, a pro-choice Catholic Republican, decides to enter the Penna. senate race for 2010, it will be interesting to see what response he gets from Bishop Martino and the other bishops who were in Joe Biden’s face last fall. If Ridge is told to stay away from the Communion rail, it would undercut the charge of partisanship, although not addressing Fr. Reese’s main point about whether the bishops should be banning and shunning any Catholic.

  • TracyAligDowling

    I wince at being labeled a conservative reactionary simply because I believe the bishops were right in speaking out against Obama receiving an honorary degree from an institution that professes — at least in theory — to teach an attitude toward life that differs from Obama’s and much of America’s pro-choice stance.I would propose to Fr. Reese, whose opinions and perspective I do respect, that perhaps the attitude of the American bishops and the attitude of the Vatican represent two different approaches for the simple reason the bishops and the Vatican (i.e. Pope Benedict) serve two very different functions.The Pope, as he relates to other heads of states, has an obligation to be diplomatic and open. Certainly he has an obligation to be open and welcoming to Obama as the head of state — as he has an equal obligation to other heads of states that represent viewpoints very different from the Church’s teaching.However, the American bishops are not concerned with the diplomatic function — in this instance their concern is the teaching function of the church as it relates to their American flock. (Yes, I know “flock” has the connotation of sheep, but our real leader, JC himself used it.) Notre Dame has always been a source of pride to American Catholics (as has Georgetown University) representing the best of Catholicism and the best of scholarship and education…a merging of the secular and the sacred…as former GU president Timothy Healy put it … the Catholic University is where the Church meets the world. But it should not be the place where the Church agrees with the world, and the giving of an honorary degree to Obama is going to seem, in the eyes of many beholders, a tacit approval of his viewpoints. Certainly he should speak there — an university is about the exchange of ideas. An honorary degree? I think not. You fell into the trap of categorizing your fellow Catholics as the ‘liberal’ and thinking, versus the ‘conservative’ and led. That is extremely unfair, and cheapens you.The sixty per cent of Catholics who voted for Obama did so for many different reasons — and probably the life issues has little to do with their choice. Bishops know when they open their mouths that not everybody is going to do what they think they should do — that doesn’t mean they should take a stand.

  • catfish5437

    I am a Catholic Democrat. I, along with millions of other Catholics, voted for Barack Obama despite the great amount of pressure on the part of some activist Republican bishops to vote for John McCain. Once Obama became the Democratic candidate, there was really no other reasonable option available, even disregarding McCain’s obvious inability to counter the deep recession the Republicans had generated, and his selection of a running mate. Senator John McCain is one of the longtime neocons who, years before 9/11, sought to inveigle America into invading Iraq, and finally succeeded when President George W. Bush adopted the “preventive war” doctrine, ignoring our “just war” history and convictions. McCain had every intention of continuing Bush’s wars, even called for bombing Iran, and tried to get us involved in the Georgia/Russia quarrel. The Republican bishops ignored the criminal deeds of the Bush administration, and tried to bully Catholics into voting for McCain. These relatively few vocal activists suppressed the fact that the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, the national organization of which they are a part, had adopted a “Faithful Citizenship” doctrine to guide voters. It explicitly instructs Catholics that we have not only the right, but a responsibility, to consider all issues and candidates, not just abortion, in making our voting decisions. Some of them even publicly disavowed the “Faithful Citizenship” document, and totally ignored the crimes against humanity committed by the bloodthirsty Bush neocon administration. Regretfully, the majority of Catholic bishops kept silent, rather than speaking out against the misleading publicity generated by the Republican activists. The election of Obama did nothing to quell the rancor of the activists; actually, it increased. This article is simply telling it like it is.

  • smi2le

    “… how many are in the Pew polls were “practicing” Catholics? C&E Catholics and those that went to Catholic school back in the day don’t count. Give me that data and I can respect your viewpoint a little more.”I am always amused by statements like this. The Roman Catholic Church itself is one of the greatest purveyor of bogus membership stats. The RC church claims as a member everyone in the U.S. who was baptized a Roman Catholic when in fact, as they themselves admit, most of those baptized as Roman Catholic in the U.S. (and Canada) do not practice or believe many of the major tenents of the church or attend church on any sort of regular basis. Indeed, if regular attendance counts then less than 10% of Americans are Roman Catholics.Ditto for Latin America which the Roman Catholic Church continues to claim is predominantly Roman Catholic. In fact most Latin Americans who actually attend any church on any given Sunday, in every country in Latin America, attend a protestant church and this has been the case for years now. That is why each of the last two popes have had to make “damage control” visits to Latin America, which were not sucessful.

  • jaroszmm

    I whole heatedly agree with this article.I am Catholic and I am not listening to the Bishops.

  • chatard

    And so the assault on faith, particularly Christian faith, continues, with Meacham and Quinn providing a forum to a faith-denier, one who wants religious leaders to “listen” rather than teach. He probably thinks Jesus, the rabbi, should have “listened” instead of speaking. He probably thinks it would have been better if Jesus “listened” to Satan who was tempting him, and Meacham and Quinn probably do too. This forum is set up to be a progressive propaganda machine.

  • davidinathens

    Only sheep need shepherds. Thinkers find their own way.

  • delusional1

    One of the reasons that Catholics don’t follow their Bishops or Pope is because priests like Fr. Reese have been continuously pounding into our ears, since Vatican II, how wrong and stupid the Pope and Bishops are because they won’t go along with the morals of the culture. Father Reese, stand up and take responsibility for your part in leading the flock astray.

  • adrienne_najjar

    Why should anyone listen to these creepy old perverts? Religion is irrelevant. Belief in a supreme being is illogical, insane, immaterial, idiotic, inane, and that’s just the Is. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet.

  • Donna3

    I think that we should stop electing Catholic candidates entirely. John Kennedy had it right when he assured the American people that he would not let the Catholic Church color his oppinions but that he would represent the entire population of Jews, Muslims, Methodists,Episcopalians and ,yes, even athiests. But now the Bishops seem to think that Catholic candidates should only represent the Catholics in this country. I believe that life begins at Quickening as many other religions also believe. I do not consider birth cantrol a sin. I am opposed to the death penalty and I am opposed to unjust war. I believe in charity toward the poor and I believe in Christ when he said “suffer the little children to come unto me”. I believe that pedophilia is an abomination. What do the Bishops believe? They seem to only object to what a woman does with her own body. The Bishops threaten to with hold communion to some that support Obama, how many refused communion to the priests that they knew were pedophiles?

  • lufrank1

    Good for the Catholics who think for themselves. Now . . . if more non-Catholics ignored TV right wing fundamentalist, Evangelical Preachers, our progress upward would be even better!

  • debbieqd

    Well, wouldn’t the Catholic Church just love being part of a theocratic United States like that desired by the right-wing base. Unfortunately, we Catholics belong to a Church whose fundamental spiritual beliefs have remained intact over centuries but whose social teachings have also remained intact form centuries of old. We only stick to the spriritual — so, we can’t possibly listen to bishops or priests who are concerned only with holding power over the minds and souls of people. They haven’t entered the 20th century yet, much less the 21st.

  • dissertator08

    I am a life-long Catholic and do not listen to the bishops because:There are of course exceptions to this. Some bishops are wonderful. But they are in the minority.The Catholic Church has been taken over by right-wing Republicans. This pains me greatly. I don’t feel as if there is a place for me in my Church any longer. I long to go to a service that focuses on Jesus’s message to love one another. I almost never hear that in Church. Almost never.

  • MikeL4

    Oh the “good” Father Reese. He loves mentioning polls. How about the poll that shows that “Catholics” that voted for Obama are not the Catholics that regularly attend mass. Unfortunately, almost 2/3rds of US “Catholics” don’t go to Church on a regular basis and you wonder why these “Catholics” don’t listen to their Bishops. They aren’t even listening to the Word of God.The majority of Catholics who attend church regularly support the Bishops on life issues and social justice issues. They also did NOT support President Obama in the past election.You yourself have to write excuses for President Obama’s pro-abortion policies at the beginning of your article. Explain yourself to your confessor. You are putting your politics ahead of your God by excusing his behavior.

  • youba

    Thank God for the Jesuits. If there were more of them, there would probably be more Catholics. They seem to understand and connect with people better than many other orders. I always liked their homilies. But I digress…I left the Catholic Church after 18 years of Catholic schooling–mostly because of the daily hypocrisy that I witnessed from those who claimed to be closer to God than me. People who feel they are empowered by God, not humbled by Him, are doomed to become arrogant tyrants. Sometimes I’m sad about the church’s apparent decline. But if it remains the arrogant institution that its become, I’ll ultimately be happy to see it fade into history.

  • RPW3

    Clearly, the Bishops vied for political power through the Bush Administration to control the Supreme court and get laws enacted that were Catholic-Friendly. That ploy was interpreted as anti-democratic among non-Catholics and threatened their Constitutional freedom of religion.The other criticism of the Bishops is they did nothing to create institutions to support pregnant women during their pregnancy – a historical role of the Catholic Church – if their customers would not promise obeisance to Catholic religious principles.Worst of all, the Bishops prescribed corporal punishment for those who would break anti-abortion laws they wanted passed – this is not even Christian except in the mind of the most rigid Catholics that support the philosophy of Iraneus and the “catholi” absolutist principles. It is a reversion to harsh Judaic traditions of 2000 years ago that were condemned by Jesus: “Let he who hath not sinned cast the first stone.”And don’t forget that it is only since 1869 by edict of Pope Pius IX that abortion in the first 40 days of pregnancy has been prohibited (based on the 1869 Papal edict that life begins at conception). The world needs a little more time to absorb these Catholic edicts that suddenly confront all humanity once the Vatican Council has “decided”.

  • ElrodinTennessee

    I find it interesting that the Catholic Church is losing membership year after year – much of it to the “no religion” camp. The ironic effect is that the remaining Catholics are more conservative than those who called themselves Catholic twenty years ago.The problem, though, is that many Americans consider themselves culturally Catholic, even if not religiously so. That is, they take pride in their Irish Catholic (or Italian or Polish or Mexican, etc.) origins, they may go to Mass (especially on Christmas and Easter), they’ll baptize their children and get married in a Catholic church, and they’ll support Notre Dame…all the while eschewing 90% of Catholic theology and teaching. As a Jew, I see this in my heritage too. Like many Jews, I am a cultural Jew but not a religious Jew. It’s a bit easier in the Jewish case because the Jewish ethnicity is less varied than the many Catholic countries of ancestry. Still, there are lots of similarities here.That said, non-religious Jews still call themselves “Jews” on these surveys; many cultural Catholics no longer call themselves Catholic when asked their “religion.”I would expect the bishops to take the hardest line; the Catholic Church is the most conservative institution on the face of the earth. But lay people are a different matter entirely. How long will cultural Catholics continue to identify themselves as Catholic? When they make the leap to “no religion”, as so many in the Northeast have done, the remaining set of Catholic self-identifiers will be more like the bishops.

  • outragex

    Readers interested in recent Catholic history and doctrinal debates should read: PRACTICING CATHOLIC by James Carroll. The book helped me understand the controveries in the RC Church since Vatican II.I am a non-Catholic Christian who loves much about the Catholic church and who struggles to understand it.

  • JaneDoe4

    The usual “liberal bias” label just because Mr. Reese tells the truth.You ultra conservative Catholics are so retro and so biased and such sheep.Shame on you! Your church did not take responsibility for the clergy abuse scandal and, therefore, they lost their so called “moral authority”. Period. End of story. Move on.If you ubers still kiss the feet of the Vatican, that’s your problem. The rest of us former Catholics know what this church is all about – money, power, greed, control.They’ve lost all credibility.

  • MaryC4

    Personally I think the birth control revolt started it. The majority of Catholics convinced themselves that it simply wasn’t sinful to practice contraception. If it’s not a sin, why confess it? And the first, huge step away from unthinkingly accepting authority had been taken. It wasn’t a great leap to thinking, if the Church is wrong about contraception, maybe they’re wrong about masturbation, abortion, and embryonic stem-cell research. Maybe they’re wrong about sex outside of marriage and divorce and gay sex. Maybe they’re wrong about saying Obama’s ethics are worse than those of McCain. And then we get to the item that figures in the “no true Scotsman” argument made by some to prove that the REAL Catholics are listening to the bishops. Maybe the Church is wrong about the need to attend Mass on Sunday too. So there are a lot of people who have come to consider Church laws, and laws the Church has identified as “Natural” laws, as “more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.” Yet they insist on calling themselves Catholic.I’d say the RCC is in the same pickle as the RNC. What’s more important, a big tent or purity?

  • cdierd1944

    Fact: Gallup survey indicates that roughly 70 percent of Catholics support Obama.Fact: Some priests are endangering the tax exempt status of the church by their clearly political positions. For example, a priest in Gainesville, VA said that members who voted for Obama needed to go to confession to be absolved of their sins.Fact: Nearly 1/3 of the new members in my Methodist Church come from a Catholic background. They have rejected the heavy handed treatment they received from priests who have no knowledge of how real people live.Fact: Most Bishops are old white men who are trying to impose their views on a younger and increasingly diverse congregation. Fact: Educated people tend to support Obama which makes the priests’ job of pitching the GOP more problematic in areas where there are increasingly knowledge based employees.

  • pamhasegawa

    Since 1980, the NJ Catholic Conference, representing the Catholic Bishops of NJ on matters of public policy, has opposed legislation to restore the right of adopted persons to their pre-adoptive identity recorded on their original birth certificates. In 1992, the directors of Maternity and Adoption Services for the five NJ dioceses sent their recommendation to CCNJ. It was not accepted and not disclosed until one of the signatories included it in testimony at a hearing in Trenton a few years later. It said, “The directors support the adult adoptees’ right to have access to their original birth certificate for the following reasons:1. We believe it is a human right to have access to the knowledge of who gave birth to you.2. The secrecy surrounding the institution of adoption (since the early 1900s) has produced an atmosphere of shame and consequent detrimental psychological damage to the people involved.3. The guarantees of confidentiality which were given to our clients have been impossible for agencies to fulfill. In today’s open society information can be bought and many people have already done so…This bill allows the birth parent to indicate their desires re: contact. Our experience as agencies is that the majority of birth parents do no desire confidentiality. According to the bill those who wish to remain anonymous may indicate so. We do not feel it is just to thwart the many in order to protect the few. 4.We find this bill to be the most cost-efficient way to meet the needs of the people involved.The bill’s opponents claim that not every woman who relinquished a child in NJ will hear about the provisions for her to have a voice in whether her adult son or daughter receives her name and address on the birth certificate or about the contact preference option she may file.In fact, relinquishing mothers who were clients of Catholic Charities in NJ have the best chance of any original parents in the world to hear about the legislation. Once the bill becomes law, Catholic Conference USA can, at no cost, send electronic bulletin announcements/inserts to every diocese in the country (and through affiliates, every diocese in the world) notifying millions of Catholics, who will be able to notify their daughters/sisters/friends who may no longer attend public worship, of the change in NJ law.I don’t know if this has been done for the states which already allow adopted persons access to their birth certificates — Kansas, Alaska, Tennessee, Oregon, Alabama, Maine, New Hampshire, Delaware and several others which allow access to some adoptees based on the year of their birth. For the most globally-networked religious institution in the world to ask, “How will they (birth mothers) ever hear about the law?” seems oxymoronic. I’d say, “You tell them. It won’t cost a penny.”

  • Donna3

    I find it amazing that the Catholic Church just accepted Newt Gingrich as a new convert! They condemn Obama who is a faithful father and husband and accept a leacher who has had numerous affairs while he was married and is now on his third wife>.I guess if you are republican anything goes.What would Christ say? I suppose he confessed and said he was sorry and will never do it again, at least until the next sweet young thing comes along!!

  • youba

    The longer the church exists, the longer its list of foibles grows, the more it proves to be a human, fallible institution–not a divine one.Sorry, I don’t unquestioningly follow any human, or any human institution.Unless the church starts providing convincing answers to those questions, as Fr. Reese suggests it should, its going to have a rough time.

  • AverageJane

    By the Bishops’ standards, I dare them to tell my 82 year old devoutly religious, Irish Catholic mother that she can’t receive Communion because she voted for President Obama. The Catholic Church is kind of like the Republican Party. A bunch of old White men telling the rest of us what we should be doing. No wonder both entities are shrinking in numbers.

  • albacheeser

    This guy uses his credentials against the Church and, as many believe, he should be defrocked. The Catholic Church is subscribing to a kind of suicide pact to continue to allow this man to claim any church credential.What bothered me about the Notre Dame situation is not the invitation to come to ND but nature of the speech and situation and the honorary degree. It has NOTHING to do with suppressing dialog. It has to do with the Church being able to say “this is what the Church Teaches” without it being confused by those that ostensibly represent it. Just like Coke and other big brands, their brand must not be diluted or the brand itself becomes devalued. I would understand the frustration even if I was NOT Catholic because it is simple logic.It is of the most profound intellectual cowardice to simply play the “abuse”. The abuse scandal actually MAKES OUR POINT. It was a scandal on the Church because people ostensibly representing the Church repeatedly and recklessly did what the Church teaches NOT to DO.Lastly, the Pope is head of the Vatican, which is a sovereign nation. As a result, there is a temporal, secular component to his activities that do NOT in any way apply to US Bishops.

  • DoTheRightThing

    Obviously, Reese is one of the deaf. He also is unable to see that it is NOT Obama who is being “opposed”, but Notre Dame’s practice of academic prostitution [giving its honorary degree to one undeserving of such recognition by a Catholic institution.]

  • furtdw

    Father Reese,I’m a 55 year old craddle Catholic. I have always and will always listen to my Bishops and not the Father Jenkins of the world or yourself.God bless you, our Bishops and the entire Magisterium.

  • albinoluciani

    Fr. Reese, SJ, is 100% correct. Merely a few days read at vetted/verified SOLUTION? “STOP DONATING LAITY” as St. Peter Damien correctly asserted.Until the primary causes of a MASSIVE, UNREFORMED, UNCORRECTED pedophile cult are each removed, each canonically censored, and each placed under Gulag-Style, forced hard labor, sentences for life, no true reform will exist in Roman Catholcism.The pedo curia have put the final nails in their own self made coffin, and resurrection or salvation, for them, is a highly unlikely scenario.The Pedo Cult Curia are a CLEAR & PRESENT DANGER to all children, and still costing laity tens of billions of documented diverted/stolen offetory plate dollars, and squandered laity paid for assets.No one in their right mind should endorse these criminals, let alone donate.The Mass attendance numbers (plummeting), lack of donations (down over $3.2 billion just in the USA in the last 14 months – though the Bishops continue to LIE about this), and lack of vocations, directly in the sewer, are leading indicator of the TRUTH Fr. Reese addresses.Edmund Burke reminds each of us: “The only condition for the triumph of evil is for good men (or women) to do nothing.”The good laity GET IT and are LEAVING!Fiat Lux & Veritas!Albino Luciani,

  • youba

    albacheeser–By your standards, Jesus would be the only qualified person to speak at Notre Dame’s commencement. All presidents, and even many popes, would probably be off the list. Wouldn’t want to dilute the brand with a war-monger or an executioner, would we?I’d also suggest that by challenging Fr. Reese’s authority you’re challenging the authority of the church. Doesn’t that go against your whole point that laypeople should obey and get in line behind those in authority? Gotta love the circular quandries that dogmatic belief gets a person into!!!

  • Donna3

    Notre Dame should giva a questioneer to all of it’s graduating class and ask if they are pro-choice and then refuse to give them their degrees if they answer yes, that should make the Bishops happy, of course they will also have to refund all the money that they were paid for tuition!! Then they can close their doors when they have this litmus test.There is no difference in giving an honorary degree to Obama and a degree to any graduate.

  • hokej-je-zivot

    Right on, Fr. Reese, if anything you’re too kind. Whatever the issue, the bishops are taking their leadership cue these days more from their attorneys and Iranian ayatollahs than they are from Jesus or the people they are ordained to serve.

  • fisherfc

    I might take the “Culture of Life” more seriously if the Pope did not sentence millions (tens of millions? more?) to death by telling Catholic Africans that wearing a condom is a sin and that they do not prevent AIDS anyway.

  • F-4Phantom


  • fisherfc

    Perhaps from now on, Notre Dame should not confer diplomas upon students who profess to be Pro-Choice, just to be consistent.

  • socaloralpleazer

    “Cafeteria Catholicism” is a time-honored tradition in the U.S. which allows those of us who consider ourselves to be Catholics to dismiss those teachings which we believe to be inconsistent with open-minded, compassionate Christian beliefs.

  • 39durham

    Thank you so much for this artice Father,I am a practicing Catholic who goes to mass every Sunday and is a current student at the Catholic University of America. I am a democrat and am proad of it because in the end, the Catholic Church and the Democratic Party have more platform policies aligned than The Church and the GOP.I agree that it was the birth control issue that sparked the disconnect between parishaners and bishops. However, the true of the matter is Catholic educational institutions have been recoginzed as excellent intitutions throughout the years. However if you are like my school, CUA, the actual papally charted school that adhears to a strict “no pro-choice speakers only” rule guess what, we have one school that has very little national recogition and little respect within Washington D.C. and then there are amazing schools like Georgetown and Dotre Dame. The Church needs to stop hyperfocusing on life issues that only pretain to prenatal life. The Life Doctrine is about all life, from prenatal to death.

  • cricket35

    My son and I went to a Holy Thursday service during Holy Week expecting a reflective service. What we received was a verbal bashing by the pastor on President Obama and his stance on abortion. What was a total surprise was the Pastor’s comment saying he wanted to slash the tires of those who had Obama stickers on their cars in the church parking lot. After hearing this tirade, several people walked out, includng myself. Inciting violence by a church offical is uncalled for and is one of the reasons why Catholics are having a hard time giving a voice to Catholic Bishops. They’re hypocrites with the abuses that were covered up over the last decades, funneling dollars to illegals sitting in their pews who have knowlingly broken the law and now using the pulpit for political purposes. Abortion is a personal, private decision made by a woman and not by the priest or bishop. No one likes abortion but to condemn a president on one issue alone is stupid. To make American voters feel like they can only vote on one issue alone berates the intelligence of American Catholics. There are so many issues affecting Americans and to condemn a person or a President on one issue alone is to bury one’s head in the sand and not see what else is going on around them. Clearly, the abortion issue didn’t win McCain the presidency.

  • AustinScott

    Confirmation, if any were needed, of how right it was for Fr. Reese to be removed from oversight of a Catholic publication. Mr. Meacham says this stuff just as well, but without the added piquancy of being a certified quisling.

  • explorers100

    As a former Catholic I was dismayed by the resurgence in religious fervor especially religious fundamentalism that seemed to arise with the new millennium. Lucky for civilization that phenomenon appears to be on the wane.The sooner that Catholicism can be relegated to what it is in Europe–care taking of religious monuments and icons rather than any institution to be taken seriously, the better our chances as a civilization to survive.As Gore Vidal called them–the Sky God religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam have long outlived their usefulness. Civilization must moult this ancient skin of ignorance and superstition. It is time to move on. I am astounded that any educated, modern, human being can still wallow in these controversies–how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. If there is anything truly evil in this world it is the allocation of energy and resources to such ridiculous debate when billions on this planet suffer.

  • heathroe2

    As long as Catholics self-decive themselves into thinking that one of the goals of the political Left is not a post-Christian world, we will continue to slide into the darkness. The politcal Left wants all religion, except itself, relgated to being a quaint left-over from the past. Walk out of the cave and see the sun, my friends. Great thinkers have been warning us about this for 5,000 years.

  • mjgeer518

    Thank you Farther Reese. You got it just right. So many of my Catholic and formerly Catholic friends agree with you. Time will tell, but the strident, condemning bishops, as well as the priests and lay people to follow their lead, may be hurting the church in the long run. I no longer feel comfortable in my parish church.

  • patrickp

    Contraception and abortion are slowly but surely killing western society. The bishops have a duty to speak out against them before it is too late- take a look at

  • EyesWideOpen8


  • Chagasman

    The Catholic church, the fundamental evangelicals, and religious activists in general need to stop trying to legislate values and morality. All they are doing is destroying their own credibility. Demanding that the members of their church base their votes on a single issue is insulting, small-minded, and undemocratic. Keep your religion to yourself, bishops. Don’t attempt to force your religious beliefs on the public.

  • enaughton27

    All the church dissenters come out to complain. Blah blah blah.

  • paulc2

    Father Reese,

  • enaughton27

    There was once a time when Jesuits were the joy of the papacy. Now they are known as the weirdest, most out-there order in the church.


    I agree Tom. The lack of accountability and transparency vis-a-vis the mishandling of the church’s sexual abuse problems on the part of the U.S. bishops on the whole, has only gotten them more deeply mired in the mud. Their focus on that one issue at election time with the result that it didn’t have the desired effect among voting catholics largely pushed them down into it by a few more feet.And, like the handling of the abuse problems, most seem unwilling or unable to learn from their mistakes.The problem with somebody like Cardinal George, the current president of the USCCB, is that when he speaks, the rank and file assumes that he speaks for the entire group. And as the retired bishop correctly noted, he does not. I have no doubt that being able to do exactly what he did is a heady trip. It reminds me of the investment commercial of a few years back, “When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen.”But few listened.

  • jaimie2

    Thank you Father Reese for a well-written, thoughtful article. For the record, I attend Mass weekly and voted for President Obama because his views on ALL the issues — particularly poverty and war — are more closely aligned with Catholic social teaching.I hope that President Obama and Congress will implement abortion reduction legislation. Republication policies of opposing abortion while doing very little to help pregnant women in crisis have gotten us nowhere.

  • nicanora

    Fr. Reese-

  • stevestegman

    The Catholic faith in it’s spiritual form is original, authentic and beyond beauty. Unfortunately, it has a centuries long habit and history of compromising and contaminating itself by inserting itself directly into the political process in the many nation states that it has been and is active. This is a hangover from the church’s 1,000 year primacy after the fall of the Roman Empire.Would one go to a medical doctor for legal advice? Or to a lawyer to confess one’s sins? Modern society has evolved into the culture of the specialist and the church’s problems stem mainly from attempting to advise their flock (and everyone else) in areas beyond their expertise. In most professions, this is a sure way to end up in court facing large civil suits. I am not being facetious when I say that someone needs to gently inform many bishops and priests that the Holy Roman Empire expired over 500 years ago.

  • CCNL

    Why aren’t “Catholics” listening to their biships??One – many “Catholics” are part of the Immoral Majority, i.e. those “mothers and fathers” who destroyed their womb babies. Currently there are over 70 million adult members/voters in this category (35+million abortions since 1973). It is unknown how many “Catholics” are members but considering the large number of Catholics in the USA, the number is probably very large. Two- “pew sitters” are becoming much more educated about their religion and are reading studies/books published by a large number of NT exegetes who have questioned the passages of the NT with respect to authenticity. These historians, most are professors, have concluded that only 30% of the NT has any historic basis. e.g. Matt. 16: 18, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,” passage has was not said by the historic Jesus but was a later embellishment of Matthew to set the stage for leadership in the growing Christian community. Third, Fourth and Fifth-Pedophiliac priests, the inane atonement theology and the equally inane original sin!!!!

  • Bluefish2012

    Based on the gospel message (cf., inter alia, the Beatitudes) the Jesuits must be doing a little jig to be validated by the bombast of the anti-Jesuits here.Pigeon-holing all Jesuits in one radical corner is foolish. From what I read, you can find Jesuits all over the board; they hardly fit anyone’s political mold. For example, I can imagine Cardinal Dulles and Fr. Reese saying Mass together or having a lively discussion while breaking bread over a good bottle of wine (non-sacramentally!).Fr. Reese makes good points which go a bit farther than this Catholic prefers, but he’s hardly heretical. As far as I can tell, he’s a priest in good standing, and one who writes with discernment and grace.

  • dkoflynn01

    I think the flock is losing the faith, not the other way around. You can’t be pro-choice and a good Catholic – not possible / not logical. Abortion is wrong. You can’t have it both ways – be a Catholic when it suits (like at election time – Joe B. and Nancy P take note) – but not when it comes to tough decisions that might lose votes. Or might not. People with convictions are typically leaders. Core convictions are not the same thing as having expedient views that shift with polling. Being a Catholic and trying to live up to the basic obligations (10 commandments and the 11th – love each other) would seem to qualify as a set of core convictions. I don’t think abortion fits in with core convictions. If it does, then we should all support the death penalty too. So the Bishops may be out of step with popular opinion, but that does not mean that they are wrong. Bad salesman perhaps, but not wrong. Exhibited bad judgement on many issues, bot not wrong on all. There are lots of other churches out there – go join one if you don’t like the RCC and the obligations that come with it. That doesn’t mean anyone is condemning anyone else. Choose a religion that you like.

  • carlo4

    Fr. Reese should rather wonder why 2 or 3 generations of people like him have so utterly failed to educate the catholic people of the US. A well educated laity? In your dreams, Fr. Reese. All statistics show that US catholics are culturally undistinguishable from the mainstream population. This is why the bishop’s appeals fall on deaf ears: because liberal catholicism has completely failed in connecting faith and culture. Both you and the bishop should stop and think how this happened.

  • carlo4

    NEGAWENT99:it appears you know nothing about abortion legislation. What did you think the partial bith abortion controversy was about? And Obama’s vote in the Illinois senate about dispatching abortion survivors? Do you live in a cave?

  • skyeapril

    There are MANY cafeteria Catholics and while my religious upbringing continues to play an important part of my life it is NOT my whole life. I personally find it difficult to ignore my opinion about issues, so I vote and comment based on my own views. The Bishops would not see the benefit of this stance, but there is more to life than the narrowed issues that Bishops advocating no communion to erring-in-their-view-Catholic-politicians. I think it is unbelievable that these Bishops gave the Bush administration a free pass on torture and is taking a stance on whether or not a person is pro-choice.

  • forrest3

    It is simply nonsense to reduce Catholicism to one issue, particularly abortion, because Jesus spent absolutely no time talking about abortion. Jesus, however, spent a lot of time talking about the need to forgive others, to turn the other cheek, to love each other, to have faith, to refrain from judging others, and to give away your wealth.These things are simple, but hard for most of us. How come I never hear the Bishops talking about these core messages of our Christian faith? Do they think they know better than Jesus what the real teachings of Catholicism are?So many Christians, so few followers of Christ!

  • readerny

    It’s very sad that the bishops are tone deaf in so many areas. Even my mother who was attending mass daily does not want to be dictated to by the hierarchy about her vote in Presidential races. As for me, when I found out that the church prosecutes priests to the fullest extent of the law when they steal from the collection plate but simply moves around those who rape and abuse children — that’s what did it for me. I do not view the priests and bishops as anything other than human now. Certainly, they are no closer to God than I am. For many raised in the Church, I would bet that’s the crux of the issue.

  • patrick9

    I believe there is yet another reason, and that is the sheer hypocrisy demonstrated by the bishops. The same bishops who decry various politicians’ pro-choice positions, barring them from speaking and refusing them communion, have warmly welcomed others who have supported an illegal, immoral, and unnecessary war, in which hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have been killed. What exactly does “pro-life” mean, anyway?

  • jimmoriarty

    From most of the liberal modernist replies on this comment page, I am steadily reinforced for my getting out of the Novus Ordo cesspool 12 years ago and going to the SSPX with the Traditional Latin Mass and the real sacraments, not the newly made up ones from the NEWCHURCH of Vatican 2, founded in 1965. As a certain talk show host is wont to say, “Liberalism is a mental disorder.” You liberals please turn out the light when leaving. Don’t let the door hit you in the butt. The rejection of Humane Vitae by the world’s bishops was just the beginning. Paul VI got the theology right and the presentation was a giant flop. Abortion and Birth Control are killing the future. As Fr. Charles Fiore once said; “No Babies =No Future.” We are now at the point where not enough babies were born over the last 35 years (50 million killed by Roe vs; Wade) to support the retiring Baby Boomers. Eventually demographics will win out and not enough taxes can be raised to pay for Social Security, Medicare, and Part D Prescriptions. Then the old folks will look to Omama for Socialized Medicine for the solution. The solution is rationing, and denial of care to those who “lived a good and long life”. It’s already happening in Canada, Britain and France. Seniors, be careful waht you wish for. Some Zero Population nuts want only a Half Billion people on this earth. What happens to the other 6+ Billion?? The ZPG people will think of some way to kill them (us) off. God is not mocked. You don’t kill 55 millions by arortion each year and get away with it. (Check Planned Patenhood for the numbers killed each year by Abortion.) Judgement is already unfolding upon us and we ignore it, or complain about it. TOUGH! We deserve it in spades. You good liberls keep voting for the Commies like Obama and his friends. Read up on how Hitler came to power in Germany. It is very similar to what Obama says he wants. See you in the re-education (prison) camps. Learn to pray the rosary. You will need it.

  • bssc23public

    Fr. ReeseUnfortunately what you say is not new. I do not believe that the Church really believes that abortion is death. It certainly does not practice it. A friend of mine had a stillbirth some years ago. When she asked the priest to baptize her child, he said that he could not since the child was dead. He also thoughtfully added that the child was going to hell since he had not been baptized. She thoughtfully left the Church. If the Church really believed in life at conception, it would baptize at conception but this idea has never seem to have crossed anyone’s mind since everyone believes that life begins at birth and separation from the mother.A hundred years from now, we will see the Pope apologize for the Church’s treatment of those health care professionals and innocent bystanders killed by the fanatics in the current church and an admission that abortion is not murder. After all the recent popes have apologized for everything from the massacre of the Jews, Muslims, indigenous populations and persecution of scientists. This is just another example of where the people and the clergy have parted ways and it will take the clergy to several more decades to catch up with them.

  • sobugged

    The most redeeming feature of Catholicism is that most Catholics are not Catholic.

  • magallagh

    The author chooses to deny the truth. Our president’s record shows he had the most pro-abortion voting record ever.To set the record stratight, the Mexico City Policy, is a policy that required all non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that receive federal funding to refrain from performing or promoting abortion services, as a method of family planning, in other countries. Our president rescinded this restriction. If this isn’t supporting abortion, I don’t know what is.If our president was so intent on reducing abortions, why didn’t he implement a pro-life program first?Life is life, and destroying embryos is not honoring the human beings that have been created. There’s been no evidence that embyronic stem cell research is going anywhere. Only adult stem cells have shown promise. The most basic human right is life. No-fault divorce, contraception, abortion, and now gay marriage are symptoms of the disintegration of the family, the most basic institution of our society. As the family goes, so does our society.I trust the bishops more than I trust the government. May God have mercy on us all.

  • jimmynj

    Father Reese,Thank you. Your words are the words of the silent majority who respectfully sit and allow themselves to be scolded by the “righteous.”Peace in Christ,

  • AnneG

    I am a cradle Catholic totally disillusioned by my church.Over $2 Billion in damages have been paid out for sexual abuse by priests in America alone. Consider the example of Cardinal Bernard Law who transferred priest perverts throughout parishes in Boston. He failed to protect children from these priests. When it came to light, over $100 million in damages were awarded (just think of the many acts that would merit these types of damages!) Was he punished and defrocked for his grave dereliction of duty? NO! he was appointed a member of the Roman Curia, archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, and titular Cardinal Priest of Santa Susanna, the American Catholic church in Rome. He remains an important advisor to the Vatican on topics such as tyhe appointment and transfer of bishops and priests (I kid you not). The church almost became a cult under John Paul ll. They are actively searching for a miracle to proclaim him a saint within 5 years of his death. He presided over and approved of this debacle.The true saint is gentle loving Pope John the twenty third who presided over Vatican ll.

  • teacher16

    Thank you, Fr. Reese. As someone with 16 yrs. of Catholic education, in addition to my subsequent education, I find your analysis to be exactly on point. Not content with moving away from the people, the church’s hierarchy is positively fleeing.

  • Nosmanic

    Thank you for the article it gives me hope that the Vatican is willing to talk to the left and not discard them.

  • practica1

    Some of the liberals who voted for Obama – like myself – are appalled by his abortion position. We were equally appalled by GW’s position on capital punishment and torture and war. We sometimes have only the lesser of evils to choose from.The current Catholic clergy are so busy trying to defame gays as a way of avoiding taking real responsibility for the abuse of power and the innocent that child abuse represents that they fail to make a difference between being gay and being pro-abortion: gays do not equal abortion; contraception (genuine contraception) is not equal to abortion; bossing people around is not the same as moral teaching.The Curia is vexed: Catholics behave in most cases more like the rest of America than as the bishops direct (not teach) them. The most important difference is in a lower rate of approval for capital punishment and a higher rate of both charitable giving and concern for social justice than the right wing some of us stood next to because we abhor the brutality of abortion.The Church is increasingly less and less a force for justice and mercy than for orthodoxy and patronage. For a few hundred dollars Catholic and non-Catholic marriages are “annulled” by clergy and lay monsignoras and monsignors who can find no other way to have power over what married people can and can’t do.Jesus wouldn’t like the D&C termination of a pre-born child’s life – and he would drive the waterboarders and lethal injectors and usurers out of town, too.

  • Bojo10

    Catholics aren’t Listening to their Bishops? They got bigger problems. Their not reading their bibles. It’s difficult for me to understand how you can let a man who represents a church that hides and pays-off it’s problems then wants you to take him seriously about the most important teachings about your life. When I would ask questions about the bible teaching and the sermon I just heard. I was told it was a mystery or I was lectured on how I’m not to question the gospel. That’s crazy, The reason you attend church is to know god and have a relationship with him. I see it like this. If I meet someone new that I want to get to know. I would want to know his name and get to know him as much as I can because he represents everything I want to be. There’s an attraction to him and it should not be a mystery or mislead by someone who doesn’t really know who or what their talking about. It’s not the congregation. It’s the teachings and if you can’t depend on your leaders in your church to show the right examples or hides things from you. You need to find out for yourself. I know it’s not easy to hear and nobody says you have to change your religion. If you have any doubts at all about anything. Especially your faith or your church. Find out for yourself.

  • JaneinMaineVOTF

    Perhaps Catholics are listening because the bishop get it all wrong and there is NO DISCUSSION, NO DIALOGUE.They fight window legislation and the removal of the statutes of limitation on sexual abuse crimes (and sins) which are ways of providing justice to surviors and further reveals to the world the names of the rapists hidden by the bishops.They live opulent lifestyles despite vatican directives to live simply.They fight gay marriage legislation yet they themsleves and many of their priests freely live homosexual lifestyles.They continue to transfer abusers (check out Chicago’s cardinal george) despite promises to clean up their act and protect children.They support war, capital punishment and torture yet demand obedience on THE issue, abortion, never buying into Berbnardin’s Consistent Life Ethic.The Eucharist is the “source and summit” yet they deny the Eucharist by not supporting a married priesthood and respond to a priesthood shortage by closing viable parish communities.Catholics aren’t listening because there is no dialogue. There is no exchange. Bishops issue edicts with no discussion except maybe from their cabinets and advisors who are caught in episcopal ga-ga.I believe the bishops oppose abortion because they know it thins the herd and there are fewer of us to continue to support the opulent lifestyles. Let the mansions, drivers, limos and French Cuff and gold links be gone!

  • IoannesAndreades

    I dance with joy when I hear that President Obama’s policies will reduce the number of abortions. Why do anything as drastic as support a consitutional emendment that will save millions of lives when we can throw a few dollars at a problem to save a few thousand. Everyone’s consciences will surely be at peace then. Huzzah, the number of abortions has been reduced!

  • warrengoddard

    Having dismissed Fr.Leonard Feeney the Jesuits deserve this Jesuit disgrace to the Faith.Outside the Catholic Church no one at all can be saved from going to Hell.Warren Goddard

  • plhgg

    I think it’s very sad that Mary Ann Glendon has taken such a hard line on Obama, considering that her book (“Abortion and Divorce in Western Law”) seems to me to represent such a valuable approach to a centrist position on abortion. In the book, she argues that there can be a compromise stance on abortion law, one that does more to uphold the value of unborn life. Ms. Glendon points out that the way the law is written has educational value (and she focuses on Plato in discussing that idea), and that it’s ultimately the mores of a society and not its laws that will determine the actual incidence of abortion. According to Glendon, there are many countries where abortion is more frequent even though harshly prohibited by law, and other countries where abortion is less frequent even though laws are permissive.

  • analyst72

    Why should I listen to a bunch of unmarried guys giving opinions about the relationships between a man a woman or about the realities of life.

  • AIPACiswar

    All the fancy robes and titles on Earth aren’t going to make a well educated Catholic deviate from his or her own good conscience. That’s the essence of Catholicism – let your conscience be your guide.We don’t buy the Bible, and take the Pope and others with a nostalgic grain of salt. It’s non Catholics who read so much into what some Bishop says, not Catholics. The church is comforting for it’s historical grandeur, but Catholics aren’t standing in front of a priest believing he’s turning bread into flesh, or that he has special powers to forgive sin. It’s wink wink isn’t this nice, yeah we have faith in god yeah sure. In fact most Catholics are proper skeptics, too well educated to fall for spiritual stories and myth.WE give the power to the church, not the other way around.

  • reiszce

    The Organizational Catholic church is about maintaining power and money, pure and simple. Those two principles over ride any consideration of morality and justice. This is reflected in their actions and talk.

  • center-leftAmerican

    My wife and I were both educated in parochial schools (grammar and high), she in Philly and me in NJ. Our daughter has made all of the sacraments she can, baptism, communion and confirmation, and we still enroll her in CCD. We do it because we think the church is the entity to instruct her on spiritual matters. Unfortunately whenever we ask her what did they talk about in class her answer is abortion and same sex marriage.When did the Bishops decide these were the only two issues Catholics needed to hear about? I would much rather her CCD program go back to the Baltimore Catechism and use the Apostle’s Creed to teach faith issues.While we teach her what we, as Catholics believe in, we also teach her that some issues can not solely be decided based on faith. When our politicians are making policy decisions, they are made for everyone, not for Catholics, Jews or agnostics. Faith can help guide them, but the need to answer to the Constitution and not the Bible.Do we listen to our Bishop? In matters that are solely church issues, yes. In matters of a political issue, not as closely as the bishop would like us to.

  • CCNL

    Once again:Why aren’t “Catholics” listening to their biships??One – many “Catholics” are part of the Immoral Majority, i.e. those “mothers and fathers” who destroyed their womb babies. Currently there are over 70 million adult members/voters in this category (35+million abortions since 1973). It is unknown how many “Catholics” are members but considering the large number of Catholics in the USA, the number is probably very large. Two- “pew sitters” are becoming much more educated about their religion and are reading studies/books published by a large number of NT exegetes who have questioned the passages of the NT with respect to authenticity. These historians, most are professors, have concluded that only 30% of the NT has any historic basis. e.g. Matt. 16: 18, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,” passage has was not said by the historic Jesus but was a later embellishment of Matthew to set the stage for leadership in the growing Christian community. Third, Fourth and Fifth-Pedophiliac priests, the inane atonement theology and the even more inane concept of original sin!!

  • CCNL

    For added thought, here is what Professor JD Crossan, an On Faith panelist, has to say about atonement theology: (from his book, “Who is Jesus” co-authored with Richard Watts)”Moreover, an atonement theology that says God sacrifices his own son in place of humans who needed to be punished for their sins might make some Christians love Jesus, but it is an obscene picture of God. It is almost heavenly child abuse, and may infect our imagination at more earthly levels as well. I do not want to express my faith through a theology that pictures God demanding blood sacrifices in order to be reconciled to us.” “Traditionally, Christians have said, ‘See how Christ’s passion was foretold by the prophets.” Actually, it was the other way around. The Hebrew prophets did not predict the events of Jesus’ last week; rather, many of those Christian stories were created to fit the ancient prophecies in order to show that Jesus, despite his execution, was still and always held in the hands of God.” “In terms of divine consistency, I do not think that anyone, anywhere, at any time, including Jesus, brings dead people back to life.”

  • arosscpa

    Fr. ReeseFor someone who lost his previous position at the behest of the Vatican, you are playing fast and loose with the facts, again.

  • EddDoerr

    Rank and file Catholics clearly have more sense than the bishops. If the bishops would think of something other than what Catholic ethicist Daniel Maguire calls “pelvic politics” they might get more favorable attention. Hooray for Notre Dame, Fr Reese, Fr Jenkins.

  • AIPACiswar

    From what I know, Catholic doctrine does not claim to KNOW when life begins, unlike the dogmatic and unlearned opinion of fundamentalists. It’s writing says it stands against early term abortions so as to err on the conservative side of the issue, if indeed there is error. This is consistent with most Catholic ruling on scientific issues, always paying great heed to current scientific understanding as truth. If and when science definitively says a fetus is not a human, the church will comply with that, too. People who are Catholics have individual superiority over the Church’s administrators, there is no higher authority in Catholicism than the well educated individual conscience.Those who try to lump Catholics with fundamentalists are doomed to fail.

  • CarolMarie

    Fr. Reese,Having the Pope meet with Obama would be completely different than having a Catholic University inviting him to make the commencement address and receive an honorary degree. The contents of a meeting between the Pope and Obama would be kept private, with the typical exception of a brief press release or public comment as they great one another. This gives the Pope and the President the opportunity to speak candidly on matters of importance to each.At the commencement, on the other hand, Obama is on a platform, where he can promote whatever ideas he deems appropriate, and the University’s issuance of an honorary degree suggests that the policies he has been and continues to be putting into place are worthy of honor. With regards to the issue of Life, this is most certainly not the case.You appear to be an intelligent man, and I find it difficult to believe that you honestly do not see the distinction.I’ve had an abortion, and I can assure you, if it had not been legal, if the Church had done her job in education me and my peers on the evils of contraception and pre-marital sex, I wouldn’t have been in the position of even needing to contemplate an abortion, let alone get one. It is perhaps the only thing in my life that I really regret, as the life lost can not be brought back, this decision cannot be “unmade”.It is our responsibility as faithful Catholics to ensure that the truth of abortion is understood, that we don’t gloss over the truth, or soft peddle it. Abortion is in FACT an EVIL which cannot coexist with human rights and dignity. We must take action to ensure that every

  • MurphysLawRAPToo

    I am writing in response to your article. The Catholic Church should not be afraid to stand for its beliefs because it may be ashamed of its past, most recently with the sex abuse scandal. As someone raped and abused by a priest more than thirty years ago, my suppressed thoughts and feelings were brought to my attention during a series of psychological exams as a result of symptoms and my actions and behaviors over a period of years that concluded I was an undiagnosed and unmedicated manic depressive (bipolar). It was suggested that this experience may have contributed in some way to my diagnosis. I was encouraged to pursue a claim with the Diocese of Trenton in NJ, regarding the behavior of a priest in Ocean County in the seventies. I did, they settled, no criminal charges were brought as the statute of limitations had run. I approached the former priest, he left, married, now top guy at a major non profit corporation representing a textile/commodity producer. I wanted closure, a simple sorry. Despite the settlement, he agreed to pay some small medical bills afterwards, but did not apologize, only expressed his disappointment in me.When I pressed him for a meaningful apology, something I knew he meant, he claimed I was trying to extort him and hired a lawyer to scare me. He is an alcoholic, sought treatment, but despite steps eight and nine in the twelve step program, never reached out to me. I understood he may not have remembered all of it, being drunk most of the time. But he remembered enough to settle and make a subsequent payment. A simple apology was all I was seeking to bring some kind of closure.The statute of limitations worked in his favor. While my life was destroyed at almost every level, suicide attempts, professional ruin, I have worked hard to regain success and continue to do so. I don’t think of myself as a victim, but work to find something positive in all of this to help others. The Catholic Church more than any other institution teaches you can sin and be forgiven, people make mistakes, but the church and its priests and former priests need to be held to account. They can be forgiven, but to forget the past is to repeat the past. We don’t need more victims.The church made a mistake, we all do, but to hide behind our mistakes and forgo our fundamental beliefs because of them is wrong. I chose not to be a victim, I used my faith to get me through. Mistakes can strengthen us. The church needs to stand for what it believes in, what it’s teachings are and voice them, now more than ever.

  • ThomasBaum

    Thomas J. Reese, S.J.You wrote, “What is wrong? Why are the bishops not being listened to?”I would think that the bishops are being listened to but at least some are making up their own minds, since one of the basic things that the Catholic Church teaches is to follow your conscience not someone else’s.We are not called to follow the priests, the bishops or the Pope, we are called to follow Jesus and if people actually listen, that is what the Church teaches.There are some in both the clergy and the laity that disagree with this, in fact I hear it quite often but we are called to follow Jesus.As I have said we are called to follow Jesus, not the clergy, not the bible, not the Church.Some think that we are to follow the Church but if one were to think about it, if one followed the Church than they would ultimately be following themself since we are the Church, the living stones, at least that is what we are suppose to be.You also wrote, “I think part of the problem is that the bishops stopped listening and teaching and started ordering and condemning.”I believe that this is a gross oversimplification considering that some didn’t stop “listening and teaching” because they never did and some did not start “ordering and condemning”.This is why it can be a good idea to “listen to all” but follow ONE and it should be obvious Who the One is.Unless one listens, one cannot hear.Jesus did not call us to be robotons, puppets on a string, clones or anything of the sort, we are all individuals and God, in His Wisdom, made us all individuals and we are called to be who God created us to be.All of us have different “jobs” but as I was taught in second grade, we are all equal in God’s Eyes, not the same but equal, there is a big difference between being the same and being equal.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • catholicannie

    Actually, a lot of Catholics are listening. This has to be one of the more intellectually dishonest pieces that I have ever seen. The author has twisted the logic and reasoning that previously made the Jesuits an asset to the Church. The errors in your reasoning are just too numerous for a blog. It gives me a headache to think that you are scandalizing hundreds if not thousands of souls. BTW, the count is now over 70 bishops protest this scandal. And to the poster who asked “who’s church is it?” It is the church of Jesus Christ not the people, the bishops or the pope. God save us from a church run by popular consensus, if you want that then I am sure there is a protestant church right down the street to your liking. And to those who are using this blog to rehash all the faults of the bishops and the priests, most of the bishops, priest and lay faithful freely admit to being imperfect, to being sinners so can we move on to something other than a rehash of all the old sins? It is boring and predictable what one will find posted for comments by Catholic bashers, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. If you find a church that is not full of sinners, please let me know. Regards and God Bless.

  • coloradodog

    catholicannie “with a log in her own eye” wrote “This has to be one of the more intellectually dishonest pieces that I have ever seen…”Maybe an eye doctor (preferably not a Notre Dame graduate) can help you see the “intellectual dishonesty” of your Chruch inviting Obama to speak at Notre Dame in the first place.How much more dishonest is it (even more than Dobson inviting his sworn enemy Obama to a Prayer Breakfast) to invite the President of the United States to speak at Notre Dame so he can be publically lynched by your good “Christian” pedophile-hiding Bishops who rant and rave at abortion and conveniently look the other way at torture, pre-emptive war and capital punishment? Catholics who try to bully Americans politically, like their intolerant evangelical allies, bring it upon themselves to be “bashed” Whine about being “bashed” will you, while “bashing” Obama in the name of poor old Jesus for your neocon political agenda and call others “intellectually dishonest” Shame on you. You should go say 100 “hail Marys” for your ignorance and hypocrisy.

  • coloradodog

    As I write this, two hundred miles north of me, in the Mexican state of Puebla, Padre (“Father”) Thomas Aguilar is conducting Holy Catholic Mass. Aguilar has been indicted for sexually abusing young boys in the United States and is a fugitive from US Justice. Aguilar was transferred back to Mexico after he was originally transferred to Cardinal Mahoney in LA because of original problems with little boys here in Mexico. Mahoney then transferred him back to Cardinal Rivera in Mexico to hide him for US justice.Tell me catholicannie, if these sins have been forgiven (among other sins that, conveniently, never are in your Church) why does the Pope allow his Cardinals and this “Father” to continue in their complicity for these crimes against the laws of God and man? You are quick to dismiss pointing out the disgusting and criminal pedophile habits of some priests as “Catholic bashing” but cherry-pick abortion as something to bash Obama with even though he is not, as you Hannity Catholics dishonestly label him, “pro-abortion” or a “baby murderer” Where did you loose the teachings and love of Jesus?

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Fr. Reese,As you can see from this blog, some Catholics are listening to the 68 bishops, noting the 350,000 signatories of a petition to bar the President of the United States from speaking at Notre Dame.This is the United States of America, not Vatican Nation. The citizens, citzens of all faiths, and no faiths are sovereign.In 1977, one Jimmy Carter gave the commencement address at Notre Dame. One did not see the hysteria among some Catholics that one sees now.Of course, Carter was white.The 68 bishops, the 350,000, and friends would do well to shut up for a good, long time. They are beginning to look downright ugly.

  • CCNL

    The opening of the Notre Dame graduation ceremonies should have begun with the following poem instead of a prayer:(should also have been read at the White House poetry slam):BOBarack Obama is his name,Voting “moms / dads” of said life forms,And now the Immoral Majority rules life’s door!!!

  • MikeL4

    Poor Fr. Reese, kicked out by the Vatican for his non-Catholic views from his teaching job. Yet still spewing his non-Catholic views.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Fr. Reese,Have done a bit of research on you. You seem to be a just man, but one is easily disappointed nowadays.Everything I’ve seen so far suggests that you are, indeed, just, perhaps, wise.Good to know such people still exist.Farnaz

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    For those wishing to know more of CCNL’s theological perspective:C. Christian Nut-Louse. The New in the New Testament. Antartica UP. Antarctica, 1957.Available in Deep Drifts, Antarctica. Starting at $1.29 (ending at 1.34)Contains information on rites, rituals, holidays, rationale for why African American Presidents should not give commencement speeches at Notre Dame, etc., based on the C.Christian Nut-Lousian reading.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    And as CCNL’s remaining brain cell struggles vainly for life, it asksWWHDWhat would Hitler do?

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Well, Tom, did some more research, and, for the moment, at least, I’ll add courageous to just and wise.

  • CCNL

    From the mouths of 35 million aborted children are heard these cries:THOU SHALL NOT KILL!!!ADOPT ME!!!

  • daniel12

    To me all of this seems depressingly trivial–on all sides I might add. First Notre Dame. What is this self-importance of institutions of higher learning that they feel honorary degrees in general let alone from themselves are worth a damn? And then this controversy at Notre Dame over whether to honor Obama. Would you not think that if a controversy were to erupt over something so trivial in the first place as an honorary degree that the whole thing would be called off? But no, Notre Dame not only had to wade into the controversy, they called into question their entire integrity (and is there any other?) about whether or not they are a conservative not to mention Catholic institution. And then we have Obama. I see no integrity from him at all on this matter. You would think he would reflect a bit on whether he deserves such a thing for the simple reason why would any man be eager for an honorary degree, would feel deserving of such without having done any work for such–no matter if in the first place the whole notion of honorary degrees is trivial. Then we would ask why a man would be willing to accept one if a controversy exists about whether or not he should be so honored. You would think at least the person receiving the honor would question himself as to whether he was ever such as to receive the honor without controversy, and generally you would expect the person receiving the honor to state that he will modify his behavior (or whatever) to be worthy of the honor without controversy. But no, Obama just steps forward and accepts the honor.Who is more corrupt, Obama or Notre Dame? Then we have the students of Notre Dame without a shred of integrity themselves, more a pack of noisy animals than anything else, although I suppose Notre Dame can be blamed for corrupting them–for they are corrupt, not at all thinking about what is taking place. It just stinks on all sides. Not least because I am reading Machiavelli with his descriptions of VIRTU and all the astounding character traits and decisions of great military leaders. In Machiavelli’s terms, Notre Dame is not an army worth joining, and Obama is not worthy of being in any army. However, ironically, he might be worthy of Notre Dame. Yes, Obama and Notre Dame deserve each other.

  • MikeL4

    There are plenty here who wish to change the subject I see, but here it is. President Obama supports the right to kill developing human beings in the womb. To practicing Catholics, this is an evil act. The killing of innocent lives. To non-practicing “Catholics”, its do what you want to do. Sorry, the Catholic Church doesn’t work that way. We believe God set up a way of life to live by, and when you don’t (sin) occurs. The deliberate killing of innocent lives is about as evil a decision as one can make in life.