15 May 2009

Fr. Z's Response to the Notre Dame Talking Points

Fr. Z has provided a response to a number of the "talking points" commonly heard by the supporters of Notre Dame's decision to invite and honor Pres. Obama on Sunday. As in any time you might be called on to defend the Faith, it is a good idea to become familiar with the opposing arguments and the well reasoned responses. Check out Fr. Z at WDTPRS. Here is one talking point in particular that is a bit more challenging and a clarifying response.

7. Pro-abortion French President Nicholas Sarkozy was made an honorary canon of the Pope’s own Cathedral, the Lateran Basilica. If that can happen in Rome, then no one can object if Notre Dame gives an honor to the President.

On the surface, this point seems compelling. But the analogy isn’t good enough to support the position that Pres. Obama should therefore be honored at Notre Dame. The President of France has, ex officio, the right to be a canon of the Lateran, no matter what his stance on abortion may be. He takes that place as a matter of course. The Holy Father could, of course, rescind that, but there would be diplomatic repercussions between states: this has been the right for the French head of state since the time of King Henry IV (+1610). Henry in 1604 gave to the Lateran chapter the ownership of the Benedictine Abbey of Clariac. The Pope therefore made the French head of state ex officio an honorary canon of the Lateran. Thus, this "honor" comes automatically. It does not come after a decision of the Pope or the Lateran chapter. Though I remember reading that Notre Dame has a standing invitation to Presidents to speak at their commencement, Pres. Obama does not have an ex officio right to do so. Notre Dame made a decision to give an honor to Pres. Obama. Moreover, even though Pres. Sarkozy is known to be pro-abortion, I doubt very much that he would have twice voted in a provincial assembly against a law that would require life-saving measures to be applied to a baby who had survived attempts to abort it. There is the issue of Pres. Obama’s extreme position. There is also the policy of the USCCB for Catholic institutions. The USCCB said that Catholic institutions should not give these platforms to such politicians. Notre Dame ignored the USCCB.

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