Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

April 5, 2009


The President of Notre Dame has kicked up more than a dust storm by inviting President Barack Obama to give this year's commencement address. A Virginia-based Catholic watchdog group has announced that 54,000 on-line signatures have been collected, urging that Notre Dame rescind the invitation and not confer on him an Honorary Degree. This is not the first time that extremist abortion opponents have shot themselves in the foot. But this time they are shooting our Church in more than its foot.

Retired San Francisco Archbishop John R.Quinn has posed a number of significant questions to be reflected upon by the petitioners and those puzzled by the controversy. Quinn's questions, in summary, are these: If President Obama is forced out, will that diminish the number of abortions in our country? Will it further our pro-life efforts? Will it increase cooperation between the Catholic Church and the administration or will it create tensions and deepen hostility? Will it cause more people to join the pro-life effort? How will it impact on the image and mission of the Church? Might the banishment of the first African-American president from Catholic college campuses be seen as grossly insensitive to our nation's heritage of racial hatred? Will it be used to paint our bishops as supporters of only one political party? Will our Church be seen as not sincerely seeking dialoge but only acquiescence?

The obvious answers to these questions indicate the grave consequences of how this issue plays out. Until recently our bishops have resticted themselves to making judgments about policy, but not about political personages. That has changed. Some bishops have banned pro-choice candidates from Holy Communion; other bishops have told them not to approach the altar. This moves our bishops from confronting issues to confronting personalities. It is an historic move. It neglects the role of the personal conscience of candidates, most of whom are good people, but who erroneously give a priority to the freedom of women over the right to life of the unborn. It is a practice that is the basis of the charge that the Church puts a "don't vote" label on a pro-choice candidate by putting this public spiritual penalty on them without any inquiry process whatever. It is also contrary to our bishops' "Faithful Citizenship" document that counsuls broad consideration of many issues, not a narrow focus on one.

Despite radical differences on "pro-choice", NY's Cardinal Egan invited Obama, the then presidential-candidate, to speak at the 2008 Al Smith dinner. Cardinal O'Connor was a personal friend of pro-choice Mayor Ed Koch. He even wrote a book with him! Soon to be NY's archbishop, Timothy Dolan, has invited President Obama to his installation on April 15. Obama recently said it well: "We do not govern out of anger." We may well understand the outrage of the extremist anti- abortion people, but we Catholics cannot permit their anger to shape our relationships and the relationships of our Church.

Archbishop Quinn's questions, mentioned above, might well be suggested reading for those petitioning for the exclusion of President Obama from Notre Dame's 2009commencement exercises.

(My next post will review some counterproductive actions by extremist right-to-lifers that I have personally experienced.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The difference between Obama's invitation to the Al Smith Dinner and Archbishop Dolan's installation, on the one hand, and his invitation to Notre Dame is that in the latter case, the university plans to bestow an honorary doctorate on him. "Catholics in Political Life" says that "Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles."
Further, the Al Smith Dinner took place during the campaign season, when Obama's pro-abortion record was largely based on what he promised to do if elected president. Now he's solidified that record with, among other things, the reversal of the Mexico City Policy, reversal of Bush's stem-cell policy, funding for UNFPA and support for overturning conscience rights.

April 7, 2009 at 9:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Extremist pro lifers?" One might say that this particular priest is an extremist do nothinger! Who are the real extremists? Politicans know very well that abortion takes and innocent life. They simply do not care.

April 7, 2009 at 1:40 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Fr. Byrne

We have met several times, since I am on the Bd. of Advisors at St. Ann's in Ossining.

I appreciate your past and ongoing service to the Church but on this issue you are just completely wrong. And referring to the now almost 250,000 signatorees of the Newman Society petition as "extremists" is embarrasing to read.

I suggest you read some of the postings here -
which includes letters from Bishops as well as priests to Fr. Jenkins at ND.

That Jenkins would thumb his nose at the Bishops and the prolife community - which you seem to not be a part of - is a true scandal.

April 7, 2009 at 5:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a post abortive woman reunited with the church and forgiven by His mercy I would love to know what you mean by "pro life extremist".

I saw my aborted son father, and I find it very offensive that a priest would call pro lifers extreme. we are not talking abut violence here, we are talking abut standing up for the teaching of the church. We should be extreme as over 120,000 unborn children are dying each year in NY, some across from your parish.
It is an insult that a catholic university would honor anyone who not only supports abortion but has passed numerous measures since getting into office that will surely increase them.

April 7, 2009 at 5:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama is the racist. Although 12% of the US's population is black, 36% of all abortions are of blacks. Obama is aiding, fostering, funding and supporting his own people's genocide as well as the people of third world countries.

April 8, 2009 at 1:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Harry Byrne. Abortion is a serious Issue, one of many serious pro-life issues. The U.S. bishops admitted such in their pastoral letter "On Forming a Right Conscience." Unfortunately, questions of war, lack of health care, homelessness and suchlike are not given
the same serious consideration even though all
concern the taking of innocent life. We may disagree with President Obama for his pro-choice stance but to portray him as anti-Catholic is a caricature. FM

April 10, 2009 at 8:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

God bless Notre Dame, Fr. Jenkins,CSC, and the good Father Byrne!

May 7, 2009 at 7:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please read the article carefully, or better yet, wait for the next article. I believe there is some confusion here. The post refers to extremist pro-lifers. It refers only to the extremist faction within the pro-life group -like people who would commit murder to further the cause. (Note - I am not saying all extremists would commit murder.)

May 22, 2009 at 10:17 AM  

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