Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Kathleen Parler's latest Washington Post column begins this way:

Here on planet "What About Me," principled people are so rare as to be oddities. Thus, it was a head-swiveling moment Monday when Mary Ann Glendon, the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, quietly declined Notre Dame's Laetare Medal.

Glendon -- a Harvard University law professor and a respected author on bioethics and human rights -- rejected the honor in part because Barack Obama was invited to be commencement speaker and to receive an honorary degree.

And ends this way:

...[Obama's] abortion stance is in direct conflict with Catholic teaching. And no place symbolizes Catholics in America quite the way Notre Dame does.

Offering this backdrop and extending the school's imprimatur to Obama constitutes a wink and a nod to abortion. Why not throw a pig roast in Mecca? That was Glendon's point. By her symbolic gesture of self-denial, she demonstrates that faith is an act, not a motto.

Obama might consider following Glendon's lead. Although he supports choice, the president also recognizes the moral complexity of those decisions. Out of respect for pro-life Catholics and their beloved institution, he should politely bow out.

I'm puzzled about what Parker means when she talks about Obama "following Glendon's lead." Is he supposed to protest his own invitation by, in effect, boycotting his own speech? Is he supposed to stand up for "principle" by repudiating his own beliefs? Is it even possible, in Parker's view, to be "principled" if your "principles" aren't right-wing? And is Obama supposed to be, if not more Catholic than the pope, then more Catholic than the Catholics who invited him, and who haven't rescinded their invitation?

In Parker's view, Obama's stance on abortion is so intrinsically evil that even Obama should be repulsed by it. It's so intrinsically anti-Catholic that he needs to intercede to spare the Catholics who invited him to insult them. It's a bit like the subtext of a lot of Bush-era talk about jihadists -- namely that they're so evil that even they know it.


And meanwhile, as John Perr points out, this is far from the first time Notre Dame has picked a pro-choice commencement speaker:

...Go Forth and Do Good: Memorable Notre Dame Commencement Addresses ... features 24 notable graduation speeches from presidents of both parties as well as a litany of figures who no doubt found themselves on opposite sides of the abortion issue:

Among other featured Commencement speakers are: Joseph Kennedy, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Andrew Young, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Condoleezza Rice, Kofi Annan, and Presidents Eisenhower, Carter and Reagan.

Moynihan was pro-choice. Young is pro-choice. Carter accepts Roe v. Wade and is not opposed to first-trimester abortions or abortion in cases of rape and incest. Rice describes herself as "mildly pro-choice."

But -- in Pope Benedict's Catholic Church as well as in the post-November GOP -- it's seen as a good time to ratchet up the demands for absolute purism.

(Perr link via The Garlic.)

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