Friday, May 29, 2009

A Challenge to Catholics in Alliance / Catholics United

A while back I took Michael Sean Winters to task for falsely reporting the president's support of the Pregnant Women Support Act - a legitimate common ground effort to reduce abortion and support pregnant women. It has become commonplace for the president's Catholic supporters to applaud his plan to "reduce abortions" (a phrase he doesn't use) often tying that to his supposed support of the Pregnant Women Support Act.

The myth of the president's support for PWSA is now commonplace in the media and even the generally meticulous John Allen at NCR misreported the president's support of the bill. Commenting on L'Osservatore Romano's "first 100 days" editorial, Allen wrote that the author
also argued that Obama's support for the "Pregnant Women Support Act" represents a "rebalancing" of his abortion policies "in support of maternity."

L'Osservatore did not say the president supported PWSA and I pointed that out to Allen. He went back to the Italian and confirmed I was correct. No correction was ever made to the article however. (I'm not including Allen among those lying for the president. He's simply an example of how widespread the myth has become.)

Nat Hentoff today confirms the president's non-support of PWSA and challenged him to support the bill (h-t The American Catholic):
To be fair to the president, he did say at Notre Dame, as he has often before: "So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions. Let's reduce unintended pregnancies. Let's make adoption more available. Let's provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term."

There is just such a bill that has been introduced by two Democrats, Mr. President, in Congress: Lincoln Davis of Tennessee in the House and Robert P. Casey Jr. in the Senate. As reported in the valuable Catholic Weekly "Our Sunday Visitor" (May 24, 2009):

"The Pregnant Women Support Act includes a number of provisions to help women faced with ... Establish a federally funded, toll-free hot line to direct women to services that can provide them with assistance during and after their pregnancy. Provide support, including education grants and child care, to parents who are teenagers or college students. ...

"Require institutions that offer abortions to provide accurate information to pregnant women about their options, including adoption, and the potential short-term and long-term complications associated with abortion."

My column next week will provide more information about this measure, which should have been a law long ago. As of this writing, the offices of both Casey and Davis tell me there has been no word from the White House about supporting The Pregnant Women Support Act.

Mr. President, did you mean what you said at Notre Dame about "working together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions"?

Hentoff is not a Catholic. It's too bad the president's Catholic supporters have not yet issued the same challenge.

Last October, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver issued both a rebuke and challenge to certain members of the president's Catholic support team:
I think his [Doug Kmiec] activism for Senator Obama, and the work of Democratic-friendly groups like Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, have done a disservice to the Church, confused the natural priorities of Catholic social teaching, undermined the progress pro-lifers have made, and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue instead of fighting within their parties and at the ballot box to protect the unborn.

I've reported here before that Catholics in Alliance/Catholics United is the president's campaign.

They would deny that, but it is certain they now have much influence with the president and in the Democratic party. Their original founding board member Melanne Verveer is now Ambassador for Global Women's Issues. Their Board Chair Elizabeth Frawley Bagley has been given broad duties in Secretary Clinton's State Department. One of their speakers/theological advisers, Miguel Diaz, is now nominated as Ambassador to the Vatican. And their co-founder Thomas Perriello is now a freshman congressman from Virginia.

Were they Catholics first and not merely an extension of the president's campaign (or jonesing for jobs), they would be "fighting within their parties . . . to protect the unborn." And yet, while they issue any number of statements defending the president's actions and challenging others - they have never publicly challenged the president.

Issuing a public call for the president to support the Pregnant Women Support Act would seem like a good place to start. And while they're at it, they could challenge Rep. Thomas Perriello to support the bill. The abortion rights supporter has yet to be added as a co-sponsor.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A New Voice in Oakland

The newspaper of the Diocese of Oakland has a particularly strong front-page profile this week of Walter Hoye, an African-American Protestant Pastor who recently spent 18 days behind bars for violating Oakland's 'Bubble Law', restricting free speech near abortion clinics.

While in jail, he was visited by new (not-then installed) Oakland Bishop Salvatore Cordileone. The placement signals the new bishop's strong support for the controversial pastor who is trying to reach out to African-American churches with the message that abortion is disproportionately killing their community. (h/t A Shepherd's Voice who you should read for all things Catholic in California) Excerpts from The Oakland Voice:
Hoye, executive elder of the Progressive Missionary Baptist Church in south Berkeley, is on a mission not only to save unborn children and offer abortion alternatives to women, but also to inspire religious leaders — particularly African-American pastors like himself — to take up the pro-life mantle within their congregations and local communities.

“The women going into this clinic are not fully informed on this issue because our pastors have been horribly silent on abortion,” he told The Catholic Voice. “They’ll preach about the cost of discipleship, but in America today you’ve got to be willing to pay the cost of discipleship.”

That “cost of discipleship” — a term borrowed from theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose open criticisms of Adolf Hitler led to his execution in a Nazi concentration camp — is a real risk for pastors in many Protestant churches where “you can get voted out of your pulpit on the same day you preach,” Hoye said. “So when I talk to these pastors, I know what I’m asking them to do. I’m asking them to risk their jobs.”

Yet there is much more at stake. African Americans, he pointed out, are the “number one customers” of abortion clinics today. Although blacks account for only 12 percent of the U.S. population, 37 percent of all abortions in this country are performed on black women. With a live-birth rate lower than the mortality rate, Hoye said, there will be no black Americans left by the year 2100.

“Between 1882 and 1968, the Klan lynched 3,446 black folk. Abortion kills more than that in the African-American community in just three days,” he stated.

“When I explain to the brothers that abortion kills more of us than heart disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and violent crime, they begin to realize that this is the number-one issue facing the African-American community today.”

“I’m not using terms like ‘holocaust’ and ‘genocide’ to get a response,” he explained. “We’re literally killing ourselves.”

Unlike most black Americans, Hoye said he was “horribly disappointed” and “heartbroken” about the election last November of Barack Obama, who openly supports pro-choice positions and legislation, as the nation’s first African-American president. Most blacks “put their Bible down when it came to that election” and voted on the basis of the color of his skin, Hoye said.

Nevertheless, he places responsibility for the abortion issue squarely on the shoulders of Christians.

“This is a moral issue; it’s not a political issue. It’s not in the White House; it’s in the church house,” said Hoye. “Until we stand up as Christians and look at it as a moral issue, we’re not going to be effective in taking a stand against abortion.”. . .

. . .In the final days of his prison stay, Hoye had a “special visitor” in Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, who at the time had been appointed but not yet installed as bishop of Oakland.

They enjoyed a long visit together, shouting to each other through the thick glass of the visitation booths because the phones didn’t work.

“Getting a visit from him did my heart so much good,” Hoye said. “I am in love with the Catholic Church, I’m in love with this bishop. We had a tremendous visit.”

Bishop Cordileone told The Catholic Voice afterward that Hoye told him about “his high respect for the Catholic Church because we have been defending the sanctity of life all these years, and he even apologized for Protestants being late in the game.”

The bishop said he had the “highest respect” for the Baptist pastor for “what he was willing to suffer to bear witness to the sanctity of human life on this very contested issue, this very politically uncomfortable issue.”

Continue reading.

Well-Polled Words are Sinking Common Ground

At Notre Dame, President Obama delivered his now well-known and hotly debated policy line on abortion:
So let's work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term.

The formulation sounded familiar and sure enough, it was uttered January 14 by Alexia Kelley, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. She'd said it before, but here she explains the origin of the formulation:
A post-election poll conducted by Public Religion Research, and sponsored by Faith in Public Life, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Sojourners, found that the vast majority of voters — including 81 percent of Catholics and 83 percent of all voters — want elected officials to reduce abortions by working together to prevent unintended pregnancies, expand adoption opportunities and increase economic support for vulnerable women.

The main legislation supported by those truly seeking "common ground" solutions to reduce abortions is not aimed at preventing unintended pregnancies. That strategy and language have been used by the abortion industry to seek more money for their own coffers for years and the strategy does not work. In fact, while abortions have decreased throughout the country, abortions performed by Planned Parenthood, the main recipient of "reducing unintended pregnancy" dollars, have increased.

Increasing funding for Planned Parenthood does not now and never has represented a "common ground" approach to the abortion tragedy. The main truly common ground approach, the Pregnant Women Support Act, does not include money for Planned Parenthood. I explained the provisions of this excellent bill supported by Cardinal Rigali here.

Unfortunately, the president, and ironically those on the Catholic left who have uncritically accepted his "reduce unintended pregnancy" language, may kill the chances of this truly common ground approach. By seeking to join the compassionate and caring aims of the Pregnant Women Support Act with funding for Planned Parenthood they are making any common effort forward unlikely.

In fact, the effort to link the two approaches has killed the bill in the past. PWSA sponsor Kristen Day of Democrats for Life of America touched on this in a recent Newsday article:
The biggest objection to the legislation is that pregnancy-prevention measures are not included, such as making family-planning services available for the poor and guaranteeing that government-funded sex education programs provide medically accurate information about contraception.

Since there are other bills that address this, such as the Prevention First Act which was introduced by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the sponsors left this out.

For a minority of Democrats on the pro-choice side - the more absolutists - the bill goes too far toward common ground - specifically the provision that requires that abortion providers offer a woman the voluntary option of receiving pre-abortion counseling to learn of possible risks associated with the medical procedure. The opposition may even extend to objecting to the bill's providing pregnant women much-needed financial support.

But many are attracted to the legislation and want to expand it. Several national groups would like to merge teen pregnancy prevention, sex education and more funding for contraception programs. Unfortunately, similar efforts failed in the 110th Congress and detracted from the central premise of this bill as a comprehensive effort to address the needs of pregnant women.

Unfortunately Reid's Planned Parenthood approach has massive support in Congress, while the Pregnant Women Support Act has little.

Pro-life members of Congress and those of good will from both parties ought to sign on to PWSA now as the best way to ensure abortion reduction in this political climate and to head off counterproductive and self-dealing efforts by the abortion lobby masquerading as "common ground".

Thanks For Your Cannonball Vote

The Catholic Key Blog has won the 2009 Cannonball Award in the category of "Best Catholic Political Blog that's not the American Papist." It was the most voted in category.

Carolina Cannonball of The Crescat Blog sponsored the competition noted that it comes with no money or actual award. It is just for fun. And there are plenty of better blogs in the category, including our main competitor The Anchoress. But I am very satisfied that anyone in the blogosphere noted something of worth being produced in the medium by a diocesan entity. That is a testament to Bishop Robert Finn for allowing and encouraging us to do this and for frequently participating himself.

Special thanks to my campaign co-chairs, Bob Smith (my dad) and Evelyn Zappia and everyone who voted early and often.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

NARAL Wants Answers on Sotomayor

Nancy Keenan at NARAL has sent an email to members expanding on her previous public statement on President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court. She also asks NARAL supporters to contact Senators demanding specific questions of the nominee on Roe. Here's my "Dear Friend" letter:
Today, President Obama nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Judge Sotomayor has a distinguished record of professional accomplishments as a judge, prosecutor, and community leader, and America's pro-choice majority is eager to learn more about President Obama's nominee.

Make sure the Senate gives Judge Sotomayor a fair hearing so we can learn more about her views on the right to privacy.

Discussion about Roe v. Wade will—and must—be part of this nomination process. The vast majority of Americans support the values of freedom and privacy this ruling represents. As you know, choice hangs in the balance on the Supreme Court as the last two major choice-related cases were decided by a five-to-four margin.

Tell your senators that Judge Sonia Sotomayor deserves a fair hearing that includes questions about Roe v. Wade.

This is an extraordinary time for our cause—a chance to fill a seat on the Supreme Court with a champion of privacy and freedom. It's up to us to make our voices heard.

Thank you for taking action and speaking out.

My best,

Nancy Keenan
President, NARAL Pro-Choice America

I do believe the President is still firmly committed to his pro-abort litmus test for the high court. But so far, there is nothing in evidence to suggest Sotomayor's commitment to Roe - Not decisions, not political contributions, not public statements.

NARAL is also not acting like someone who's been privately or satisfactorily assured of Sotomayor's commitments. All that blue in the letter were action links in the original.

Trust me, I don't mean to get all L'Osservatore on you - I don't think the president's priorities have altered a bit. My father-in-law is fond of saying, "If something doesn't make sense, you probably don't have all the information." I think that is the case with this nomination. I expect there is much yet to know.

NARAL Cautious on Sotomayor

Nancy Keenan of NARAL has issued a congratulatory non-endorsement of President Obama's choice for the Supreme Court:
"President Obama has selected a nominee with a distinguished record of professional accomplishments as a judge, prosecutor, and community leader. This impressive personal biography signals that she possesses an understanding of how the law affects everyday people's lives," Keenan said. "We are encouraged by the strong support she receives from her peers and other legal scholars and the fact that the Senate has twice confirmed her for federal judgeships. We look forward to learning more about Judge Sotomayor's views on the right to privacy and the landmark Roe v. Wade decision as the Senate's hearing process moves forward."

That seems to indicate NARAL doesn't know Sotomayor's position on Roe and is therefore withholding judgment.

More on this and other reactions later.

Sonia Sotomayor - Courts Make Policy Video and More

Brian Saint-Paul has got a round-up of various reactions to President Obama's likely Supreme Court pick over at InsideCatholic.

Much will be made I'm sure of a statement she once made that the "Court of Appeals is where policy is made. There is a shorter video out there with the quote, but this one gives the full context (money quotes begins at 0:29):

She has no record of political contributions I could find.

LifeNews considered her the only potentially promising candidate on the shortlist in a post earlier this month, excerpt:
The only potential Supreme Court justice who may provide hope for pro-life advocates is Sonia Sotomayor, a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, has been the subject of considerable speculation because Obama is receiving pressure to appoint both a woman and Hispanic and she qualifies on both counts.

"Despite 17 years on the bench, Judge Sotomayor has never directly decided whether a law regulating abortion was constitutional," AUL explains.

Sotomayor participated in a decision concerning the Mexico City Policy, which President Obama recently overturned and which prohibits sending taxpayer dollars to groups that promote and perform abortions in other nations.

Writing for the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor upheld the Mexico City Policy, but AUL says the significance of the decision "may be minimal because the issue was largely controlled by the Second Circuit’s earlier opinion in a similar challenge to the policy."

AUL notes that Judge Sotomayor also upheld the pro-life policy by rejecting claims from a pro-abortion legal group that it violated the Equal Protection Clause.

"Rejecting this new argument, Justice Sotomayor wrote that because the challenge involved neither a suspect class nor a fundamental right," AUL notes. "She then acknowledged the ability of the government to adopt anti-abortion policies, noting, 'there can be no question that the classification survives rational basis review. The Supreme Court has made clear that the government is free to favor the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice position, and can do so with public funds.'"

At the same time, Judge Sotomayor wrote an opinion overturning, in part, a district court’s grant of summary judgment against a group of pro-life protestors.

Though not concerning abortion policy directly, the case is viewed as a stand against free speech for pro-life advocates.

UPDATE: Americans United for Life, upon whose analysis the above article was based, has released a statement on the nomination:
AUL President & CEO on Sotomayor Nomination

“For all the President’s talk of finding ‘common ground,’ this appointment completely contradicts that hollow promise. Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s judicial philosophy undermines common ground. She is a radical pick that divides America. She believes the role of the Court is to set policy which is exactly the philosophy that led to the Supreme Court turning into the 'National Abortion Control Board,' denying the American people the right to be heard on this critical issue. This appointment would provide a pedestal for an avowed judicial activist to impose her personal policy and beliefs onto others from the bench, at a time when the Courts are at a crossroad and critical abortion regulations – supported by the vast majority of Americans – like partial-birth abortion and informed consent laws lie in the balance.

Here's her wiki entry.

More as more is known.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Catholic Key in Vietnamese

Doing a vanity google search, I find that Bishop Finn and The Catholic Key Blog have received a few hundred mentions on blogs and news sites in recent days - mostly for this interview.

One surprise was to find the interview translated in full to Vietnamese here, excerpt:

Phỏng vấn Đức Cha Robert Finn về bài Thuyết Trình của Obama

VietCatholic News (20 May 2009 15:01)

Dưới đây là bản dịch bài phỏng vấn ĐC Robert W. Finn, Giám Mục Kansas City – St. Joseph của ông Jack Smith, Chủ Nhiệm tờ Catholic Key về bài thuyết trình của Tổng Thống Obama trong Lễ Bế Giảng tại Đại Học Notre Dame vừa qua được đăng ngày 18 tháng 5 năm 2009.

1. Đối thoại là một đề tài lớn của Ngày Bế Giảng tại Notre Dame. Hội Thánh có thể đối thoại về phá thai không?

Có rất nhiều những yếu tố liên hệ mà chúng ta phải làm trong việc chăm sóc cho các phụ nữ đang bị đau khổ bằng cách cung ứng cho họ những chọn lựa khác với việc phá thai. Chúng ta cùng nhau hợp tác, thảo luận và nghiên cứu xem phải làm gì để đáp ứng cách tốt nhất những nhu cầu của phụ nữ và gia đình. Chúng ta phải giảm thiểu số lượng phá thai bằng cách nào? Đó là những yếu tố để đối thoại. Nhưng còn việc phá thai là điều phải hay trái – thì đó là một sự ác tự bản chất. Việc trực tiếp hủy diệt đời sống của một người vô tội là một điều không bao giờ thương lượng được.

Đối thoại là một phương tiện để đạt đến một mục đích. Mục đích của việc đối thoại là thay đổi tâm hồn. Nếu tôi lắng nghe và mỗi người chúng ta nói lên sự thật thì việc đối thoại có thể có cơ đạt được kết quả. Nhưng trong đầu tôi phải thật sự có một mục tiêu chính đáng.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Awesome Vocation Story - From Saigon to Kansas City

I'm headed out of town for the weekend, so blogging may be minimal till Monday.

In the meantime, enjoy this vocation story by our associate editor Kevin Kelly. Duc Nguyen is one of our seminarians to be ordained to the priesthood this year for the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph.

Interesting fact - Six percent of all men to be ordained in the U.S. this year are from Vietnam.

Deacon Nguyen keeps his promise

By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — Deacon Duc Nguyen knows he was born in 1968. But he doesn’t know the date.

That’s what happens when a war robs a boy of his childhood.

When he emigrated to the United States in 1982 after two years in a refugee camp in Malaysia, he simply put down “June 1” as his birthday on his visa application. It seemed to the 14-year-old boy as good a birthday as any.

Two days before his 41st birthday, Deacon Nguyen will be ordained a priest of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, fulfilling a promise he made one night on a small boat in the Pacific Ocean.

“We were drifting in the ocean for many days,” Deacon Nguyen said. “I prayed that if I would make it to a free land, I would offer my life in service to the church.”

It would take him another 29 years before he could keep that promise. But he never forgot it.

Without a trace of bitterness in his voice, Deacon Nguyen described a life journey that took him to the priesthood that some might consider harrowing. Deacon Nguyen instead considers himself blessed by God.

He was born to a Catholic family in Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, during the year of the Tet Offensive that changed the course of the Vietnam War.

He was just seven years old when Saigon fell to the communist Viet Cong.

His father, Vu Nguyen, was a successful home builder in the former capitol city of South Vietnam. But after the war, there was no work. His family moved to the countryside village where his father tried to scratch out a living as a farmer.

After two years with his family all but starving, Duc’s parents gave their nine-year-old son to a parish priest who housed and fed him for the next three years.
Then one night, Duc’s uncle, Khanh Nguyen, got the boy.

“My uncle organized a boat,” Deacon Nguyen said. “It cost a lot of money to escape from Vietnam, but I went for free. I was the only one in my family to escape. If you got caught, you would go to prison. But I only had to escape once.”

With meager provisions, Duc was crammed into a small boat with men, women and children, and even babes in arms.

The provisions didn’t last long.

“We were caught by pirates,” Duc said. “The pirates took everything you had — food, anything.”

For days, the small boat filled with refugees stayed on the ocean without food. It didn’t bother young Duc.

“I was so seasick, I didn’t think about being hungry,” he said.

At night, with nothing but the ocean and a star-spangled sky above him, Duc remembered to pray with the intensity that the priest who raised him for three years had taught him. He had already learned to trust in God’s providence when there was nothing else to trust.

He still has no idea how long his ocean voyage took. He estimates it was around two weeks. But one day, the people on the boat saw two welcome sights: Malaysia, where they were trying to reach; and a U.S. Navy ship that picked them up, fed them and took them the rest of the way to a refugee camp.

Duc would live in the camp for two years. He still considers himself lucky.
“It was nothing,” he said. “Some people lived in the camp for eight, 10 years.”
Under the sponsorship of Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Duc was allowed to emigrate to the United States, without knowing a single word of English.

He spent a year in public high school in Philadelphia learning English. Then he transferred to Bishop Shanahan High School in suburban Downington where he earned his high school diploma.

Deacon Nguyen said he didn’t forget his promise to God, nor the three years he spent living with the priest he felt indebted to for his life, nor the call he was feeling strongly from God to the priesthood.

But a high school diploma was a ticket to a job, and he and his extended family — in both the United States and Vietnam — needed money.

“I was young, and I wanted to help my family,” Deacon Nguyen said. “I thought I should go to work, so I put it off.”

After several years of working and sending money back to his parents who were still in Vietnam, Duc finally entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in 1995. He continued his studies for the priesthood nearly through his second year of graduate theology studies when he was forced to put it off again.

“My sister became sick and I felt I had to help,” he said. “So I went to work in a bank for a while.”

By 2006, he decided to finish his seminary studies. But Philadelphia archdiocesan officials suggested he wait another year or two to discern his vocation.
It wouldn’t wait, Deacon Nguyen said.

“I searched around for a diocese who would take me,” he said.

During a visit to Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, Duc met Matthew Benjamin, a seminarian from the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph who put him in touch with Father Stephen Cook, diocesan vocation director, who introduced him to Bishop Robert W. Finn.

“Bishop Finn was so kind to take me in,” Deacon Nguyen said.

Father Cook placed him at St. Anthony Parish in Kansas City, whose entire history has been one of service to an immigrant church, for an internship, then to Kenrick-Glennon to finish his studies. Deacon Nguyen was ordained to the transitional diaconate in May 2008, then completed his graduate degree in theology the following December. He has been serving at Co-Cathedral Parish in St. Joseph since then.

His life, Deacon Nguyen said, is a gift from God.

“I live in a country of freedom with so much to offer,” he said.

“At first, I felt left out. I didn’t feel like I belong or a part of this society of freedom,” Deacon Nguyen said.

“But I saw at St. Anthony that this is a society of immigrants — Spanish-speaking, Vietnamese,” he said.

His first assignment as a priest will be at St. Therese Parish in Parkville, and he is anxious to begin.

“I’ll be a bit overwhelmed,” he said. “The parish is big. But I am looking forward to working with 3,000 families, the school and the parish.”

After that?

“Whatever God wants from me,” Deacon Nguyen said.

“I am open to receive whatever he hands to me.”

Photo - Deacon Duc Nguyen talks with Vocations Director Father Stephen Cook. Deacon Nguyen will be ordained to the diocesan priesthood on May 30.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

L'Osservatore Misquotes President - Full Text

In considering a response to L'Osservatore Romano's May 18 article on President Obama's speech at Notre Dame, I was originally going to suggest that the editors consult sources and evidence beyond the president's text before making glowing judgments.

But now that I've finally got hold of the entire L'Osservatore article, it's clear they have even misrepresented the President's own words.

First Problem

Stay with me, this'll be tedious, but I want to be fair to L'Osservatore by providing the original Italian, since I'm not terribly proficient.

L'Osservatore writes - "il presidente ha invitato gli americani di ogni fede e convinzione ideologica a «tenersi per mano in uno sforzo comune» per ridurre il numero degli aborti." or

"The president has invited Americans of every faith and ideological conviction to 'join hands in common effort' to reduce the number of abortions."

The problem is that when the president used the phrase 'join hands in common effort' it had nothing to do with any call to "reduce the number of abortions". First, the president nowhere called to "reduce the number of abortions". The president, much later in the speech, called to "reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies. . ." To anyone familiar with American political vocabulary knows that is a distinction with a huge difference.

"Reducing unintended pregnancies" is a clear call in the American landscape for funding Planned Parenthood and related contraceptive and teen sex-ed programs.

Further, the phrase 'join hands in common effort' is in the context of a rhetorical question - "Is it possible for us to join hands in common effort?" - 12 paragraphs away in the section where the president was discussing how to resolve conflict. So the editors of L'Osservatore have not only falsely paraphrased the president, but have pieced together disparate parts of his speech into a single rousing call from the president that he did not make.

Second Problem

L'Osservatore later reports the president was "esortando i presenti a difendere le loro opinioni con passione e convinzione, ma «senza ridurre a caricatura chi non la pensa come noi». or

"exhorting those present to defend their opinions with passion and conviction, but 'without reducing those with differing views to caricature.'"

Here's what the president actually said - "Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature."

There is no exhortation there. Again, L'Osservatore made a false characterization, turning a passive reflection by the president into an active call to debate an issue which he had just said in the previous sentence was "irreconcilable".

In a previous L'Osservatore article, the author plain got the facts wrong, which we reported on earlier. In this case they are either not understanding the text or deliberately trying to make the president more palatable on the subject of abortion than he has tried to make himself. Either way, the "Vatican" newspaper is doing real harm to the cause of life and the authority of U.S. Bishops and is in need of real change.

For the record, here is the entire L'Osservatore article (Thanks to CNA for sending it to me):
Obama alla ricerca
di un terreno comune

Washington, 18. La ricerca di un terreno comune: pare essere questa la strada scelta dal presidente degli Stati Uniti, Barack Obama, per affrontare la delicata questione dell'aborto. Messi da parte i toni accesi della campagna elettorale, Obama ha ieri confermato quanto espresso in occasione della conferenza stampa per i cento giorni alla Casa Bianca, quando aveva affermato che il varo della nuova legge sull'aborto non è una priorità della sua Amministrazione. E per ribadire questa posizione il presidente ha scelto la cerimonia per il conferimento della laurea honoris causa in legge da parte della Notre Dame University, nell'Indiana, il più prestigioso ateneo cattolico degli Stati Uniti.
Accese polemiche hanno segnato le settimane successive all'invito di Obama da parte del rettore, John Jenkins. E anche ieri — come era del resto prevedibile — non sono mancate contestazioni. Ma dal podio allestito nello stadio del basket, il presidente ha invitato gli americani di ogni fede e convinzione ideologica a «tenersi per mano in uno sforzo comune» per ridurre il numero degli aborti. «Non voglio dire che il dibattito sull’aborto sia destinato a scomparire: le opinioni degli americani al riguardo sono complesse e, a certi livelli, inconciliabili», ha detto Obama, esortando i presenti a difendere le loro opinioni con passione e convinzione, ma «senza ridurre a caricatura chi non la pensa come noi».
Nel suo discorso Obama ha ribadito la linea della task-force congiunta «per ridurre il numero degli aborti, diminuendo le gravidanze non volute, facilitando le adozioni e assicurando assistenza e sostegno a chi decide di tenere il bambino». Il presidente ha anche prospettato una clausola di coscienza per medici e paramedici che rifiutino di praticare gli aborti. «Ma — ha aggiunto — facciamo sì che le nostre politiche sanitarie siano fondate su criteri scientifici ed etici chiari, come sul rispetto dell'eguaglianza delle donne».
Nel suo intervento il presidente ha ricordato agli studenti le sfide poste dalla crisi economica e dall’estremismo violento, dalla proliferazione nucleare e dalle pandemie. Ma l'attenzione è stata tutta focalizzata sulla questione dell'aborto. «Anche se non siano d'accordo — ha detto — possiamo concordare che sia una decisione lacerante per qualsiasi donna».

The President's text is here.

Disclaimer - I am more than willing to alter this post if I've mistranslated the sections of Italian text I used. I do know my limitations.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

'Fetishism of Dialogue' - Fr. Barron Nails It

From Fr. Robert Barron's, "Word on Fire", excerpt:
Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, the legendary retired President of Notre Dame, was mentioned several times in President Obama’s speech as a model of the dialogue and openness to conversation that he was extolling. Does anyone think for a moment that Fr. Hesburgh, at the height of the civil rights movement, would have invited, say, George Wallace to be the commencement speaker and recipient of an honorary degree at Notre Dame? Does anyone think that Fr. Hesburgh would have been open to a dialogue with Wallace about the merits of his unambiguously racist policies? For that matter, does anyone think that Dr. Martin Luther King would have sought out common ground with Wallace or Bull Connor in the hopes of hammering out a compromise on this pesky question of civil rights for blacks? The questions answer themselves.

Then why in the world does anyone think that we should be less resolute in regard to the heinous practice of abortion which, since 1973, has taken the lives of 43 million children? Why does anyone think that further dialogue and conversation on this score is a good idea? I think those questions answer themselves too. Continue

HT - InsightScoop

Bishop Finn's NCRegister Column and More

Tuesday was a busy day for Kansas City - St. Joseph Bishop Robert Finn. And it was his day off.

Before heading to the vigil on the pending (now completed) execution of Dennis Skillicorn, he penned comments for the vigil and a last-minute column for the National Catholic Register on the Notre Dame commencement, excerpt:
. . .But, it was just halfway through Mr. Obama’s address that he said that our views — his views and commitment to promote abortion and those opposing abortion — were irreconcilable. I thought I heard the dialogue come to a screeching halt.

I might have thought that, at this point, Father Jenkins’ head would drop — all that hoped-for dialogue now dashed in this acknowledgment that the president had no intention of changing. But throughout the honoree’s address, Father Jenkins stood up with (nearly) everyone else and applauded.

In the remainder of his talk, President Obama offered the ground rules for going forward. He told a story of a Christian pro-life doctor who had thought of withdrawing his support for then Candidate Obama, unless he would start using “fair-minded words” when speaking about abortion. The doctor was willing to vote for Obama, despite his support for abortion, provided he would stop referring to “pro-lifers” as “right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman’s right to choose.”

It seemed as though the whole arena collectively nodded in agreement: that from now on we would use civil speech to oppose even the most thoroughly uncivilized policies, policies that promote a loss of approximately 4,000 human lives each day in our country. Read the whole column.

I'd also like to post here the full text of Bishop Finn's comments prepared for the death penalty vigil. I think it's a model of how Catholics can try to speak to the issue giving both the issue of punishment and the sanctity of life their due:
Comments at the Prayer Vigil – May 19, 2009 – Kansas City, MO
Eve of the Execution of Dennis Skillicorn
Most Reverend Robert W. Finn
Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph

Richard Drummond was, perhaps, a martyr for charity,
and certainly those who killed this Good Samaritan must appeal to God’s mercy.
What they did was an unprovoked and unjustifiable attack on human life.
It seems that Dennis Skillicorn was part of this, and society ought to be protected from him and others who have shown themselves a serious threat to the common good.

Nonetheless, I strongly oppose Dennis Skillicorn’s impending execution.
Society must have legitimate protection.
This can and ought to be accomplished by means short of the death penalty.

The Catholic Church’s position – in steadfast opposition to the death penalty – upholds the right and responsibility of legitimate authority to protect and defend its members.
However, when the State is able to secure people’s safety by non-lethal means, then the use of the death penalty cannot be morally justified. (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd edition, no. 2267)

I am grateful and consoled by what others observe as a change of heart – a conversion – in Dennis. He has – by all accounts – done some good in his time in prison.
Rehabilitation is one of the important goals of our system.
Dennis is a sign that this can happen.

Our prayers for clemency for Mr. Skillicorn are not strictly based on a claim of rehabilitation – but rather on something even more basic: the fundamental dignity and value of every human life, even those guilty of the most heinous crimes.

We have the means of protecting society without becoming killers ourselves. For the sake of our own integrity and dignity as stewards of society we ought to reject this method of ultimate retaliation.

There is another issue that troubles many of us today.
It is the recent choice of our elected leaders to put aside not only a moratorium on Capital Punishment in Missouri, but even a formal and objective Study of the use of the death penalty in our State.

It is hard to fathom how – with clear indications and evidence that our system is flawed, and capable, in some instances, of putting to death the innocent – we will not act to better assure that it is just.

We gather in prayer and public witness tonight for several reasons and intentions:

We pray for peace and consolation for the family and loved ones of Mr. Drummond.

In the spirit of our various faith convictions and human good will, let us also pray for Mr. Skillicorn and those on death row, for their conversion and for their deliverance from this ultimate and irreversible punishment by death.

And let us pray for our country, state and community, that by peaceful and legal efforts, we will determine to protect the dignity and value of all human life, from inception until natural death, and that we will seek justice through non-lethal means.

Maine Approves Ballot Language on Same-Sex Marriage Veto

From AP:
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland says it expects people of all faiths — and those with no religious background as well — to come together to defeat the state's recently enacted same-sex marriage law.

Spokesman Mark Mutty predicts efforts to create a coalition to jettison the law will become "one of the biggest grass-roots movements in Maine history."

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap on Tuesday approved the wording of a question that would go to a statewide referendum.

That clears gay marriage foes to begin collecting the signatures of at least 55,087 registered voters to get the measure on the state ballot.

Here's the specific language that will appear on the petition to get the initiative on the ballot:
"Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry and allows individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages?"

Petition gatherers must collect 55,087 signatures to qualify for the ballot. If and when those are certified, Maine's new same-sex marriage law would be stayed under state law until the results of the election are known.

Benedictine Sister Celebrates 102nd Birthday

Sent from our friends in Clyde, Missouri. Happy Birthday Sister!

(Longtime friends Sister Mary Denise McMahon (left) helped celebrate Sister Mary Irmina Blatt’s 102nd birthday in May.)

CLYDE, Mo. — The Clyde, Mo., community of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration gathered to celebrate the 102nd birthday of Sister Mary Irmina Blatt, OSB during a party held May 7 at Our Lady of Rickenbach.

Sister Mary Irmina, the Congregation’s most senior Sister, enjoyed a cake and punch reception and posed with the numerous cards she received from a variety of friends and family across the country.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bishop Finn Prays at Missouri Execution Vigil

About an hour ago, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon denied clemency for Dennis Skillicorn who's scheduled to die tonight. At the same time Kansas City - St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn was down on J.C. Nichols Plaza in KC, rosary in hand, joining death penalty opponents at a vigil. Here's the story filed moments ago by Kevin Kelly.

Bishop prays as Missouri resumes executions

By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — Just hours before Dennis Skillicorn was scheduled to die, Bishop Robert W. Finn prayed in public.

His rosary in hand, Bishop Finn joined the silent vigil May 19 at the J.C. Nichols fountain on Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza, where the Western Missouri Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty has conducted evening vigils for 20 years, just before Missouri executes another prisoner.

Skillicorn, 49, would be the 67th inmate put to death in Missouri in those 20 years since Missouri reinstated capital punishment. He will be the first since 2005, when executions by lethal injection in Missouri were put on a court-ordered moratorium that was lifted in 2007.

Bishop Finn told The Catholic Key that he offered his prayers for Skillicorn, who has been involved in Christian prison ministry since his conviction for the 1994 murder of Richard Drummond, an Excelsior Springs businessman.

He offered his prayers for the family of Drummond, who stopped along I-70 to offer Skillicorn and two other men assistance when their car broke down and was later robbed and shot execution style in a wooded area in Lafayette County.

And he offered his prayers for the sanctity of life.

“The principle reason we oppose the death penalty is because it is not necessary in order to protect society, and if it is not necessary, we ought not to kill another person,” Bishop Finn said. “That is what we learned from Pope John Paul II.”

In his 1995 encyclical The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II wrote: “Not even a murderer loses his personal dignity, and God himself pledges to guarantee this” and that society “ought not go to the extreme of executing offenders except in cases of absolute necessity . . . when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today, however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare if not practically nonexistent.”

Pope John Paul II also personally appealed to Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan during the papal visit to St. Louis to spare the life of Darrell Mease, a Missouri inmate whose execution date was rescheduled to avoid the dates that the pope was in Missouri.

“The public witness is important,” Bishop Finn told The Key. “Our laws need to be reconsidered.”

Bishop Finn said that his presence at the vigil will also serve to register his personal protest against the failure of the Missouri General Assembly this year to fund even a study of the state’s death penalty system.

“We wanted the possibility of a moratorium, but at the very least we should have had a study,” the bishop said, noting that three persons have been released from Missouri’s death row after they were later found to be innocent of the crimes of which they were convicted and sentenced to death.

“There are serious flaws in this process. Our elected leaders should have agreed that we ought to study this in a methodical way to determine if we are at least doing this in accordance to the law,” Bishop Finn said.

“They failed in their responsibility to support that study,” he said.

Bishop Finn said that he has been impressed to hear of how Skillicorn has spent his years on death row, ministering to other inmates, working in restorative justice, and editing a national magazine, Compassion, written by fellow inmates.

“I am happy that there are some indications of a conversion and a transformation,” he said. “If that is the case, then thanks be to God.”

Bishop Finn said he will pray for God’s graces for the Drummond family.

“The incomprehensible suffering of the Drummond family needs God’s healing, too,” he said.

But Bishop Finn said he is compelled to offer public witness in defense of life.

“When we face the mysteries of life and death, prayer is the best thing we can do,” he said.

“We stand up as free citizens and our neighbors need to learn that there is something here that is very important,” Bishop Finn said.

“It has to do with the sanctity of life, even if someone has made a horrible, horrible mistake,” he said.

“Our society will reject capital punishment before it is all said and done,” Bishop Finn said. “There is no doubt in my mind.”

There is also no doubt in the mind of Donnie Morehouse of the Western Missouri Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, who was elated to learn that Bishop Finn would be joining the May 19 vigil.

“One of the things that the bishop’s presence will mean is to point out how important this issue is, and it’s about time that (Gov.) Jay Nixon pays attention and grants clemency to Dennis Skillicorn,” Morehouse told The Key on May 18, less than 36 hours before Skillicorn’s scheduled 12:01 a.m., May 20 execution.

The coalition “is a diverse group of people who realize that the death penalty is not good policy, it’s not good criminal justice, and it’s not something we should be doing,” Morehouse said.

Support 'The Catholic Key Blog' with Your Vote

I was quite surprised to see that The Catholic Key Blog was nominated for a blog award. I'm even more surprised to see that we're contenders.

The Cannonball Award organized by The Crescat blog, recognizes newish blogs in various categories named for an established standard bearer in that category. So, The Catholic Key has been nominated in the category "Best Catholic Political Blog that's not American Papist" and we're running neck-and-neck with the more than very deserving Anchoress.

But I'd like it nonetheless. If you've appreciated the our reporting and commentary and the always powerful messages from my boss, Bishop Robert Finn, then Please Vote For The Catholic Key here.

Many thanks.

Bishop Finn - Make Adult Faith Formation a Priority

In his column for the upcoming edition of The Catholic Key, Kansas City - St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn introduces a new initiative by the diocese to assist parishes in making adult faith formation a priority:

Adult Faith Formation and the Love That Transforms Us

By Bishop Robert W. Finn

One of the primary reasons for calling the Second Vatican Council was in the words of Pope John XXIII “to renew [the Church’s] faith, to reflect on her unity, to promote the sanctification of her members, the diffusion of divine truth and the consolidation of her structures.” He said, “the greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council is . . . that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously.” In the wake of the Council much has been done to implement its concerns but much remains to be done.

Since the Second Vatican Council the Church has been calling for the laity to evangelize and transform society. Pope John Paul II in his 1998 apostolic exhortation Christifideles Laici, envisioned a laity who are living witnesses to Christ, that is, well-formed in faith, enthusiastic, capable of leadership in the Church and in society. The USCCB asked for a new focus upon adult faith formation with the publication of Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us: A Pastoral Plan for Adult Faith Formation in the United States (OHWB) in 1999. They spoke of John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization and a new apologetics, which is the work of the Holy Spirit. This is apologetics, properly understood, as the practice of elucidating the articles of faith and explaining their authentic history, loving design and profound meaning. Pope Benedict XVI recently urged Christians to be able to give reasons for their faith in Christ after the example of Clement of Alexandria, an Early Church Father. For Clement, “the knowledge of Christ is not just a thought, but a love that opens the eyes, transforms the person and creates communion with the ‘Logos,’ the divine Word that is truth and life.”

Thus, for over a generation it has been recognized in the Church that adult faith formation must be a priority going forward if we are to evangelize the culture and promote truly Christian values from the protection of life to social justice across the spectrum. The problem of poorly catechized Catholics has been a concern to the bishops of the United States as well. In their publication OHWB they freely acknowledge, “some of our catechetical efforts have fallen short. It is time to build on our strengths so as to forge a more balanced and mature catechetical ministry.” They insist, quite logically, that “every Church ministry will be energized through a dynamic ministry of adult catechesis.”

In May 2007 I formed a diocesan Faith Formation Commission to address the area of spiritual formation of adults and to meet the challenges set forth in OHWB. This Commission produced a pastoral plan for implementing the vision and this has recently been sent out to all our parishes and missions. These call for parishes that have not already done so, to appoint a Faith Formation Leader and Team to facilitate this formation and to prepare a parish pastoral plan. The goal is to encourage parishes to put adult catechesis at the center of the parish’s stated mission and goals and to promote adult faith formation at every occasion. This is a broad brush which includes six dimensions, namely, knowledge of the faith, liturgical life, moral formation, prayer, communal life and missionary spirit. OHWB listed three major goals of this effort:

(1) Invite and enable ongoing conversion to Jesus and holiness of life.

(2) Promote and support active membership in the Christian community. This will allow adults to be more active in the parish and better stewards of their time, talent and treasure.

(3) Call and prepare adults to act as disciples in mission to the world. They note, “Their dual calling to evangelization and justice is integral to the identity of the lay faithful . . .”

Some might be concerned that this places another burden on an already full plate of pastors, but if designed properly it should have the opposite effect. The Commission surveyed our parishes and found that eighteen listed the pastor as the adult faith formation leader and twelve said there was none. By appointing a Faith Formation team consisting of between three and ten members, depending upon the size of the parish, the pastor will be aided in moving the parish in the direction of lifelong living of our faith in closer communion with Christ. This will allow more parishioners to become involved in a vibrant parish life and make them better stewards of their gifts, lights of Christ in the darkness of our culture and ultimately make the pastor’s role more fruitful in Christ’s service.

Pope Paul VI wrote that “the Church exists to evangelize.” This evangelization can only begin with adult faith formation that produces conversions of hearts. I invite all to join me in this worthy task. Together we can form adults who respond to their Baptismal call and utilize to the fullest extent their Baptismal graces and Eucharistic communion to become apostles, sent by Christ into the world. Nourished by the Word, the sacraments and communal life, they will be ready to share the Gospel in their homes, neighborhoods, places of work and centers of culture.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Archbishop Chaput - Obama Honor a Fitting Bookend for Catholic Higher Ed

Hat tip - Via Media. See Amy's post for other reactions.

Statement by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver on Notre Dame commencement:

"I have found that even among those who did not go to Notre Dame, even among those who do not share the Catholic faith, there is a special expectation, a special hope, for what Notre Dame can accomplish in the world."

~ Reverend John Jenkins, C.S.C., May 17, 2009

Most graduation speeches are a mix of piety and optimism designed to ease students smoothly into real life. The best have humor. Some genuinely inspire. But only a rare few manage to be pious, optimistic, evasive, sad and damaging all at the same time. Father John Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president, is a man of substantial intellect and ability. This makes his introductory comments to President Obama’s Notre Dame commencement speech on May 17 all the more embarrassing.

Let’s remember that the debate over President Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame was never about whether he is a good or bad man. The president is clearly a sincere and able man. By his own words, religion has had a major influence in his life. We owe him the respect Scripture calls us to show all public officials. We have a duty to pray for his wisdom and for the success of his service to the common good -- insofar as it is guided by right moral reasoning.

We also have the duty to oppose him when he’s wrong on foundational issues like abortion, embryonic stem cell research and similar matters. And we also have the duty to avoid prostituting our Catholic identity by appeals to phony dialogue that mask an abdication of our moral witness. Notre Dame did not merely invite the president to speak at its commencement. It also conferred an unnecessary and unearned honorary law degree on a man committed to upholding one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in our nation’s history: Roe v. Wade.

In doing so, Notre Dame ignored the U.S. bishops’ guidance in their 2004 statement, Catholics in Political Life. It ignored the concerns of Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon, Notre Dame’s 2009 Laetare Medal honoree – who, unlike the president, certainly did deserve her award, but finally declined it in frustration with the university’s action. It ignored appeals from the university’s local bishop, the president of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference, more than 70 other bishops, many thousands of Notre Dame alumni and hundreds of thousands of other American Catholics. Even here in Colorado, I’ve heard from too many to count.

There was no excuse – none, except intellectual vanity – for the university to persist in its course. And Father Jenkins compounded a bad original decision with evasive and disingenuous explanations to subsequently justify it.

These are hard words, but they’re deserved precisely because of Father Jenkins’ own remarks on May 17: Until now, American Catholics have indeed had “a special expectation, a special hope for what Notre Dame can accomplish in the world.” For many faithful Catholics – and not just a “small but vocal group” described with such inexcusable disdain and ignorance in journals like Time magazine -- that changed Sunday.

The May 17 events do have some fitting irony, though. Almost exactly 25 years ago, Notre Dame provided the forum for Gov. Mario Cuomo to outline the “Catholic” case for “pro-choice” public service. At the time, Cuomo’s speech was hailed in the media as a masterpiece of American Catholic legal and moral reasoning. In retrospect, it’s clearly adroit. It’s also, just as clearly, an illogical and intellectually shabby exercise in the manufacture of excuses. Father Jenkins’ explanations, and President Obama’s honorary degree, are a fitting national bookend to a quarter century of softening Catholic witness in Catholic higher education. Together, they’ve given the next generation of Catholic leadership all the excuses they need to baptize their personal conveniences and ignore what it really demands to be “Catholic” in the public square.

Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George has suggested that Notre Dame “didn’t understand” what it means to be Catholic before these events began. He's correct, and Notre Dame is hardly alone in its institutional confusion. That's the heart of the matter. Notre Dame’s leadership has done a real disservice to the Church, and now seeks to ride out the criticism by treating it as an expression of fringe anger. But the damage remains, and Notre Dame’s critics are right. The most vital thing faithful Catholics can do now is to insist – by their words, actions and financial support – that institutions claiming to be “Catholic” actually live the faith with courage and consistency. If that happens, Notre Dame’s failure may yet do some unintended good.

Bishop Finn Interviewed on Notre Dame Commencement

Kansas City - St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn agreed to an interview today with Catholic Key Editor Jack Smith on the subject of yesterday's Commencement exercises at Notre Dame. The full text follows:

Dialogue was the big theme of the Notre Dame commencement. Is it possible for the Church to dialogue on abortion?

There are many associated elements that have to do with taking care of women in distress, offering alternatives to abortion. We have to work together, discuss and study how best we can provide for the needs of women and families. How can we reduce the number of abortions? These are elements for dialogue. But the rightness or wrongness of abortion – this is an intrinsic evil. The direct taking of an innocent life can never be negotiated.

Dialogue is a means to an end. The purpose of dialogue has to be a change of heart. If I listen well and we each speak the truth, then the dialogue may have a chance of being productive. But I have to have some authentic principled goal in mind.

President Obama asked in his address, “Is it possible to join hands in common effort?” Can the Church join hands in common effort with the administration?

As a country we want to see an end to racial prejudice. We want a more secure peace in the world. We want sound economic justice for people. So we can’t give up on working with the administration.

But we’re fighting for our lives – literally. We are attempting to protect real unborn children by the thousands. We’re fighting for the right to exercise a rightly-formed conscientious difference with public policy. We shouldn’t underestimate the danger of dragging our feet in this effort, or taking a “wait and see” approach. If we are not ready to make a frontal attack on the protection of conscience rights, the overturning of Roe v’ Wade, and the primacy of authentic marriage, we will lose in these areas. I think the rug is already being pulled out from under us. If we sit back and allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of peace and cooperation in regards to these things, then we will lose these battles and, later, wonder why.

Without identifying any person or group, Notre Dame President Father John Jenkins in his introduction of the President warned against a tendency to “demonize each other”. Were the bishops who spoke in opposition to an honorary doctorate of law for President Obama “demonizing” him or Notre Dame?

I think the bishops (and many others) were pointing out the hurtful nature of the invitation. As I reread Fr. Jenkins’ remarks I found it fell into three parts. In the first part Fr. Jenkins himself uses a whole series of very, very hard words. He uses the words - division, pride, contempt, demonize, anger, distort, hateful, condemn, hostility. And one might wonder whether he uses these words as a kind of a caricature of the 60 to 70 bishops who have spoken out against his invitation.

The center part is all about dialogue. He uses the word dialogue, I think, six times. And he quotes it from Pope Benedict, and he quotes it from Ex Corde Ecclesiae and he quotes from the Second Vatican Council.

And in the third part, he expresses his admiration for the President. So this seems to be the way he sets up the President’s talk for him – to speak in a very negative way about anyone who appears to be contrary to the decision they made, and then to stress the primacy of dialogue, and then offer his admiration of the President. Dialogue is important, but the question is fairly raised, “May we negotiate about things that are intrinsic evils?” and I think the answer is no.

The President also spoke against reducing those with differing views to caricature. Is that what these bishops have done with regard to the President’s actions on life?

The bishops realize the very destructive decisions that President Obama promised to make concerning the life issues, and now has been making in connection with abortion and human embryonic stem cell research. This is serious business; it is about life and death. If in speaking out on these things, we are characterized as being angry or condemnatory – then so be it. Such actions are worthy of condemnation.

This is part of the scandal of Notre Dame’s invitation to the President - that it has the potential of confusing people concerning the Catholic teaching against abortion, and on the priority of abortion among other issues of public policy.

Was there an overriding message to the commencement proceedings that came through strongest?

I think the message of the day was this – that the President of Notre Dame said that they had invited the President of the United States and decided to honor him for the sake of dialogue. And then the President got up and said that the differences that we have on abortion – namely the Catholic Church’s staunch opposition to abortion and his staunch support of abortion were “irreconcilable.” And at that moment, it would seem to me that the dialogue came to a screeching halt. Father Jenkins’ expressed desire for dialogue, whether it was well-founded or justified, at that point got thrown back in his face. The President shut the door on dialogue by saying that there was not going to be any change in his position on abortion and he understood that there was not going to be any change in the Church’s position on abortion. To me, that was the lesson of the day. I am glad that Mr. Obama was so clear.

And then, amazingly, everybody gave him a standing ovation. The perception unfortunately was that this was a completely acceptable position of his and, because he is a bright and talented man, this trumps the destructive decisions that he’s making day after day.

Is President Obama’s call to work together in reducing unintended pregnancies a new way to find common ground?

I fear that the specific way that the President frames this in terms of “reducing unintended pregnancies” is through the promotion of Planned Parenthood and contraceptive services. The President has supported the Prevention First Act bill that’s going forward. This is not about abstinence education. This is about promoting contraception and giving Planned Parenthood a huge blank check. If Catholics don’t see a problem with this then I don’t think they understand the threat it represents to the meaning of marriage, to fidelity, to chastity, to the very sanctity of human life and intimate love.

Missouri Legislative Roundup - Death Penalty, Abortion, Private Jails, Immigration

A report from the Missouri Catholic Conference:

MCC Reports on Final Days of 2009 Legislative Session

May 18, 2009, JEFFERSON CITY, MO – A ban on coerced abortions, alternative to abortion funding, elderly in-home care, death penalty moratorium, regulation of private jails, immigration, Catholic school concerns and health coverage for working parents received priority attention by the Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC) in the 2009 session of the Missouri General Assembly, which concluded Friday, May 15.

Legislators failed to pass a bill making it a crime to coerce a woman to have an abortion. HBs 46 and 434, sponsored by state Representatives Bryan Pratt (R-Blue Springs) and Cynthia Davis (R-O’Fallon), also sought to strengthen Missouri’s informed consent law.

The coerced abortion bill passed the Missouri House of Representatives in March, but the Senate waited until the last week of the session to debate it. According to the Missouri Catholic Conference’s executive director, Deacon Larry Weber, the delay proved fatal for the bill.

“You can’t wait until the last minute to pass this kind of bill,” he said. “Abortion proponents are always going to filibuster and you have to allot sufficient time to break the filibuster.” The Senate prides itself on unlimited debate and very rarely will Senate leaders close off debate, according to Weber.

With time running out and citizens demanding action, the Senate jettisoned the coerced abortion provisions in order to mollify pro-abortion senators. The bill sent back to the House addressed only Missouri’s informed consent law. In their haste, the Senate weakened Missouri’s current informed consent law. The House requested a conference to repair the bill but the Senate refused to negotiate.

“We are very disappointed with the defeat of the coerced abortion bill,” said Weber. “Women in crisis pregnancies deserve protection from bullies who want to force them to abort their unborn child.”

The MCC had more success in ensuring almost $2 million in funding for the Missouri Alternatives to Abortion program. Under this program the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services contracts with providers, including Catholic Charities of St. Louis and Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph, that offer emergency housing and counseling, job search assistance, pre-natal care referrals and adoption services.

Despite the tight state budget, Weber found bright spots for Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens. “We were able to preserve funding for in-home care services to the elderly. This is another program our Catholic Charities agencies provide in partnership with the state of Missouri.”

For the first time in many years, death penalty legislation cleared the committee level and received floor debate in both the Missouri Senate and House. The House added a provision to a crime bill calling for a commission to study the fairness of capital punishment. The bill failed to pass but the MCC’s Rita Linhardt counseled patience. “It will take time to build a consensus against capital punishment, but the floor time given to death penalty bills this year shows we are making progress.”

State Representative Bill Deeken (R-Jefferson City) and Senator Rita Days (D-St. Louis County) sponsored the death penalty study commission bills. The bills originally proposed a moratorium on carrying out death sentences while the commission conducted its deliberations.

The MCC led a successful effort to strengthen the regulations of private jails. Senator David Pierce (R-Warrensburg) sponsored the measure (SB 44), which now awaits Governor Nixon’s signature to become law. Senator Pierce filed his bill after a private jail located in Holden failed to notify local law enforcement about two escapees until fifteen hours after the escape.

Some legislators initially wondered why the MCC had concerns about private jails. The MCC reminded lawmakers how private jailers in Texas in 1996 had mistreated Missouri offenders, forcing them to crawl on the floor as dogs attacked and bit them.

“Thanks to MCC efforts private jails now are subject to applicable state laws and local ordinances and must have proof of financial liability in the event of a lawsuit,” said Rita Linhardt, corrections specialist. “We also successfully opposed a provision in the bill that prevented the local sheriff the right to enter a private jail.”

The MCC turned back efforts by legislators to enact anti-immigration measures relating to college students. Legislation proposed to add to Missouri law a prohibition on the college attendance of Missouri high school graduates lacking proper immigration documents. The MCC’s Assistant Director, Mike Hoey, testified in a Senate committee that young people brought into the U.S. by their parents were not to blame for their lack of legal status. The Committee responded by deleting the enrollment provisions from the bill. As approved by the General Assembly, however, HB 390 retained a provision barring student scholarships to undocumented students.

Legislators approved an education bill that ensures the participation of private, parochial and home school students in virtual school courses offered by their local public school district. Virtual courses can be provided over the internet and via e-mail. Senator Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles) added the MCC drafted provision during floor debate to an omnibus education (SB 291).

If signed by Governor Nixon, SB 291 will allow Catholic school students to participate in virtual courses without leaving their home or Catholic school. “The virtual school provisions of SB 291 will expand educational opportunities for our Catholic school students,” MCC’s Mike Hoey said.

The General Assembly failed to pass a measure that would have provided Medicaid health coverage to an additional 35,000 working parents. The MCC strongly supported the proposal.

As crafted by the Missouri Senate, the Medicaid expansion would not have cost the state of Missouri any tax dollars. The Missouri Hospital Association agreed to a tax on its member hospitals with the revenue generated used to draw down federal Medicaid dollars. But the Missouri House of Representative refused to agree to the plan.

Due to the legislature’s failure to act, eligibility for Medicaid in Missouri will remain at 22% of the federal poverty level, or $292 per month income for a mother with two children.

During House debate some members said the Medicaid expansion was not needed because it would only be helping “able-bodied adults.” The MCC, however, pointed out that increasingly workers are not offered health benefits by their employers. Currently, only 60% of employers offer health coverage, a figure that has decreased in recent years.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Reducing 'Abortion' vs' 'Unintended Pregnancy' - Part 2

(Please see update after post.)

In Part 1 of this series we looked at the Pregnant Women Support Act which is a good bill being sold under the rubric of "reducing abortion" by providing direct support to pregnant women and their families.

In this post we'll look at the Prevention First Act which is being sold under the rubric of "reducing unintended pregnancy" and sometimes "reducing the need for abortion."

Unlike the Pregnant Women Support Act, the President and a clear majority of the Democratic Caucus support the Prevention First Act. Both were introduced as well in prior Congressional sessions. As a Senator, the president did not support the former, but was a cosponsor of the Prevention First Act.

PFA was introduced into the current Congressional session by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) in the House and Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) in the Senate. It currently has 136 Democrat and 2 Republican cosponsors in the House. In the Senate, the bill is cosponsored by 23 Democrats, 1 Republican and 1 Independent. The bill is supported by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the National Abortion Rights Action League.

Here's what it does:

1. Appropriates "$700,000,000 for fiscal year 2010 and such sums as may be necessary for each subsequent fiscal year" for Title X Family Planning. The previous allocation was $300,000,000 which had to be renewed each year. Title X is a major source of funding for Planned Parenthood.

2. Requires all group health plans to include contraceptive prescriptions and devices and contraceptive outpatient services. There is no exception for religious employers or any allowance for conscientious objection.

3. Disseminate to the public through non-profits, government agencies and the media information on emergency contraception including recommendation for usage and availability. Emergency contraception is defined as a drug regimen prescribed after intercourse that "prevents pregnancy, by preventing ovulation, fertilization of an egg, or implantation of an egg in a uterus."

4. Every hospital receiving any federal funds must provide emergency contraception to any woman claiming to be a victim of sexual assault or "whom hospital personnel have reason to believe is a victim of sexual assault." The woman must also be told, "emergency contraception does not cause an abortion."

5. ". . .award on a competitive basis grants to public and private entities to establish or expand teenage pregnancy prevention programs. . . Grant recipients under this section may include State and local not-for-profit coalitions working to prevent teenage pregnancy. . .Funds under this section are not intended for use by abstinence-only education programs."

6. ". . .any information concerning the use of a contraceptive provided through any federally funded sex education, family life education, abstinence education, comprehensive health education, or character education program shall be medically accurate and shall include health benefits and failure rates relating to the use of such contraceptive."

7. Expand family planning services to certain eligible individuals. Such services "shall be limited to family planning services and supplies described in 1905(a)(4)(C) and, at the State's option, medical diagnosis or treatment services that are provided in conjunction with a family planning service in a family planning setting provided during the period in which such an individual is eligible."

8. ". . .may make grants to eligible States to conduct sex education programs, including programs that provide education on both abstinence and contraception for the prevention of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS."

As you can see, not a single word about economic assistance or support to women in crisis pregnancies. This bill is entirely different from the Pregnant Women Support Act. This is strongly testified to by the fact that of 198 sponsors of the two bills, only a single member of congress is a sponsor of both. And yet, many of the president's Catholic apologists are trying to conflate the two approaches. That will be the subject of our next post.

UPDATE - Please see Cardinal Rigali's letter in support of the Senate Re-Introduction of the Pregnant Women Support Act (pdf). It very clearly distinguishes that bill from this horrible Prevention First Act. Note to USCCB Communications Office - Stop making important announcements as locked pdfs. You might as well throw them in the garbage.

Reducing 'Abortion' vs' 'Unintended Pregnancy' - Part 1

(Please see updates after post.)

There is a difference and it is made plain by two competing bills currently before Congress - the Pregnant Women Support Act and the Prevention First Act. We'll look at the first in this post and the latter later. A final post will look at the politics of both and the likely outcome.

Pregnant Women Support Act

The Pregnant Women Support Act was developed by Democrats for Life of America and introduced in the House by Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-TN) and Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) in the Senate. It currently has 21 Democrat and 9 Republican cosponsors in the House and a single Democrat cosponsor in the Senate.

It is a good bill, a pro-life bill and is supported by Cardinal Rigali and numerous Catholic and pro-life organizations. It has not been supported by the President or the Democratic Caucus as their Catholic defenders have falsely claimed. But more on that later.

The bill's short description is "To provide for programs that reduce abortions, help women bear healthy children, and support new parents." Here's what it does:

1. ". . .make grants to States to increase public awareness of resources available to pregnant women to carry their pregnancy to term and to new parents."

2. ". . .make grants for the purchase of ultrasound equipment. Such ultrasound equipment shall be used by the recipients of such grants to provide, under the direction and supervision of a licensed medical physician, ultrasound examinations to pregnant women consenting to such services."

3. Restricts the ability of insurance companies to classify pregnancy as a pre-existing condition to coverage.

4. Extends Medicaid and SCHIP coverage for pregnant women and unborn children.

5. Abortion facilities must acquire informed consent which must include information on gestational age and characteristics of the unborn child, risks of abortion, how the abortion is performed, and alternatives to abortion including adoption and alternative resources available in the community.

6. Creates a Pregnant and Parenting Student Services Pilot Program providing a long list of services and accommodations for pregnant women at colleges.

7. "make grants to States to allow early childhood education programs, including Head Start, to work with pregnant or parenting teens to complete high school and prepare for college or for vocational education."

8. Creates a Program to Support Pregnant Women Who are Victims of Domestic Violence.

9. Establishes a "pilot program to fund supportive services for pregnant women, mothers, and children," providing, among other things, relocation assistance, temporary residential care, parenting classes, business skills training, educational support and emergency financial aid.

10. Expansion of Adoption Credit and Adoption Assistance Programs.

11. Expands and makes additional appropriations to WIC and The Child Care and Development Block Grant Program.

12. Makes grants for the collection and reporting of demographic abortion data to Congress.

In Part 2 we'll examine the Prevention First Act and how it doesn't look anything like this good bill. UPDATE - Part 2 now posted.

UPDATE 2 - Please see Cardinal Rigali's letter in support of the Senate Re-Introduction of the Pregnant Women Support Act (pdf). It very clearly distinguishes this bill from the Prevention First Act. Note to USCCB Communications Office - Stop making important announcements as locked pdfs. You might as well throw them in the garbage.

USCCB Calls for Urgent Action on Stem Cell Policy

From the USCCB Pro-Life Secretariat:

The Little People on Death Row

By Tom Grenchik

Americans have until May 26 to intervene in the death sentences of countless members of our human family. Unless we speak up, some of our youngest sisters and brothers may now be destroyed because their parts are valued more than their very lives.

Stem cells are biological building blocks that can be manipulated to replace many other types of cells, in the hope of repairing the human body and curing disease. Stem cells can be taken from adult tissues and from newborn babies’ umbilical cord blood without any harm to the donor, and without any moral dilemma. These are loosely called “adult stem cells.” But stem cells can also be immorally harvested from a human embryo, destroying the un-consenting “donor.” These are called “embryonic stem cells.”

Adult stem cells have been used to regenerate areas of damaged organs, restore eyesight, repair heart damage and treat rare blood disorders. Embryonic stem cell treatments, on the other hand, have chiefly resulted in growing tumors and killing laboratory rats.

Following President Obama’s March 9 executive order, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has proposed new guidelines for federally funded embryonic stem cell research. The guidelines would – for the first time – use taxpayer funds to encourage the killing of embryonic human beings for their stem cells. This is morally wrong. Even if an embryo may be at risk of being abandoned by his or her parents in a fertility clinic, that does not give researchers or the government a right to kill that human being – much less a right to make the rest of us subsidize that destructive agenda. These guidelines mark a new chapter in divorcing biomedical research from its necessary ethical foundation, respect for human life at all stages.

Some in Congress and the Administration want an even broader policy. They want to obtain stem cells by destroying human embryos specially generated for research through in vitro fertilization (IVF) or cloning procedures, a “create to kill” policy. While the president’s executive order gave the NIH the leeway to push to that extreme, so far these initial guidelines have not done so.

Patients suffering from devastating illnesses deserve our compassion and our committed response, but not at the cost of innocent life. The Church supports ethical stem cell research and treatments that do no harm and respect the inherent dignity of persons, such as the morally acceptable medical advances that are already benefiting patients with dozens of conditions in clinical trials.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has launched a new “Oppose Destructive Stem Cell Research” campaign, equipping citizens to contact Congress and the National Institutes of Health to oppose embryonic stem cell research and support ethical and effective cures and treatments. The campaign homepage,, explains why the proposed NIH guidelines are unacceptable, provides links to USCCB resources, and helps web users to “Contact Congress & NIH Now” by e-mail.

But time is running short for our embryonic sisters and brothers. If we don’t speak up, after May 26 their fate lies in the hands of researchers and ideologues who may see them merely sources of body parts, as commodities for our use. Please go to right now.

Tom Grenchik is Executive Director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Go to to learn more about the bishops’ pro-life activities.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Archbishop Wuerl on Catholic Universities and Bishops

No names, but very direct nonetheless. Printed in The Catholic Standard, excerpts (emphases mine):
Institutions that are recognized as Catholic and that exercise their ministry and activities as a part of the Church and in the name of the Church are not independent from the Church. As members of the Catholic community, they must live and act within the structure of this community. That means working in solidarity with the bishops who as the successors of the Apostles are given the responsibility for preserving the unity of the Church, and providing leadership as well as teaching and sanctifying.

Since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), there has been great development in the understanding of the relationship that the bishops have with Catholic institutions of higher learning. In 1990 Pope John Paul II issued an Apostolic Constitution, Ex Corde Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church). This document seeks to explain the connection between Catholic colleges and universities and the Church herself and marks significant progress in our understanding of these relationships. What is increasingly being reaffirmed is that a Catholic university is an integral part of the Church and, as a part of the Church community, looks to the bishops, particularly the local bishop, for the authentication of the school's claim to be an expression of the faith and mission of the Church.

Sometimes the bishops will make a practical judgment that a particular course of action best serves the unity and teaching of the Church. This happened in 2004 when the Bishops of the United States agreed that "the Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles" (Catholics in Political Life). While everyone may not agree with how an individual bishop applies this principle for institutions within his own diocese, it, nonetheless, is the bishop's call. Communion in and with the Church obliges its members, even in practical decisions, to support the legitimate exercise of a bishop's responsibility. Solidarity, which is a practical expression of spiritual communion, requires such support. Otherwise, the unity of the Church becomes a theoretical consideration and the role of the bishop, who has the responsibility of unifying, is diminished.

What makes the valid request of the bishops in the 2004 document all the more significant today is the context. There is a current in our society today that suggests that the bishops are just one among many voices offering legitimate direction and guidance to Catholics and the wider community in the name of the Church.

Read on.

Ditching USF?

American Papist has a post today about students and faculty at the University of San Francisco protesting President Stephen Privett's planned closure of the University's Masters in Theology program.

There is an online petition to support the program and some are claiming its eradication diminishes the Catholic character of the school.

Actually, the San Francisco Chronicle reports more precisely that (critics in the Theology department) "say the closure is the culmination of a series of actions eroding the institution's Catholic identity."

There are two bits of irony here.

One, since at least the late 1970s, it has been the Department of Theology which has been the locus for erosion of the institution's Catholic identity. They had increasingly divorced themselves from any necessary reliance on the Magisterium for their own legitimacy and now the University has decided its own legitimacy doesn't require them.

Second, the Theology department had always agitated against the University's highly regarded and orthodox St. Ignatius Institute and they were pleased as punch when Fr. Privett fired the Institute's staff and gutted the program as one of his first major actions as President. Ironically, they lost what could have been a powerful ally in asserting the centrality of Theological study at a Catholic university.

Speaking in defense of closing the Masters program, Fr. Privett tells the Chronicle, "It would be simplistic to reduce the Catholic character to any single program," but the Chronicle reports it's about more than one program:
The university requires that undergraduates take only one course in religious studies. That means that a single course about Buddhism, for example, might be the full exposure a student may get at USF, San Francisco's premier Catholic educational institution. Department supporters say this means USF has the weakest religious studies requirement of any of the 28 Jesuit universities and colleges in the nation.

"If we require only one course at the undergraduate level, and we're canceling the M.A. program, what does that say about our Catholic identity?" asked the Rev. Dan Kendall, a professor in the department for 30 years.

In his defense, Fr. Privett points to his creation of the Lane Center for Catholic Studies and Social Thought as evidence of USF's continuing Catholicity. "We have ample opportunity for students to pursue theology in depth," he said.

Sounds fine to anyone ignorant of what the Lane Center is. To those who know, it's a laugh line. Here's a summary from Gibbons Cooney at A Shepherd's Voice of some of the Center's programs:
March 9, 2009: The Lane Center hosted ex-priest (and, according to the Cardinal Newman Society, same-sex "married) Professor James Nickoloff: “'Intrinsically Disordered': The Role of the Despised in Establishing the Holiness of the Church. A community conversation exploring gay marriage and Catholic identity in light of Proposition 8. Sponsored with the USF LGBTQ Caucus.”

June 15, 2008: The Lane Center (in conjunction with "Voice of the Faithful Northern California) hosted ex-priest Paul Lakeland at a seminar entitled "How the Laity Can save the Church? Lakeland is best known for his support of Connecticut's recent attempt to have lay persons take over the governance of the Catholic Church.

June 13, 2008: The Lane Center hosts Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, depite Archbishop George Niederauer's orders that he not speak at Catholic institutions in the Archdiocese.

October 30, 2008: On October 30, USF's Lane Center for Catholic Studies and Social Thought hosted professor and abortion advocate Sylvia Marcos. Marcos believes in working to make abortion legal in countries where it is illegal.

March 10, 2008: The Lane Center sponsors a screening of "For the Bible Tells Me So"--film challenging church teaching on homosexuality.

October 20, 2007: Julia Dowd, Associate Director of the Lane Center (and other USF Faculty) attends "OutThere" conference at De Paul University

May 23, 2007: The Lane Center hosts "Religion and Sexuality: What's the Connection" activists planning session. Guest speakers included the Rev. Ignacio Castuera, President of the Clergy Network of Planned Parenthood and the Rev. Lisa Sargeant, Chaplain of Planned Parenthood Golden Gate.

March 29, 2006: The Lane Center sponsors the "Alienated Catholics: Establishing the Groundwork for Dialog" seminar at S. Agnes parish.

February 12, 2006: The Lane Center sponsors the "Is it Ethical to Be Catholic? Queer Perspectives." seminar at Most Holy Redeemer parish.

Pure speculation on my part - The decision to close the Masters program was closely timed to the announcement of the merger of the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley with the Bay Area's other Jesuit U., Santa Clara University (Even though USF is much closer to the JSTB). A number of professors and Jesuits themselves over the years have observed, off the record, that the Society of Jesus (given its numbers and resources) seemed to be concentrating their efforts in building up Santa Clara as the Jesuit university in NorCal. A commenter at the Chronicle smells a conspiracy:
Santa Clara's plan to destroy USF by dumping Fr. Privett on the schoo; has worked like a charm!! Under Privett the school's academic rating has steadily fallen, Catholics shun it to go to better schools, he hired an athletic director who Santa Clara wouldn't hire. She destroyed what little was left of USF's athletic program and is reviled by the alumni.

A little over the top, but there is plenty of evidence to wonder legitimately whether the Jesuits are ditching USF.

UPDATE: USF's student newspaper, The Foghorn, reports the university is looking at selling off assets including its rare book collection.

(Photo, AP - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, left, is presented with a large gavel by University of San Francisco President Stephen Privett during commencement exercises at the University of San Francisco, Saturday, May 19, 2007, in San Francisco. Pelosi delivered the commencement address at the exercises.)