Bishop Kicanas of Tucson, VP (and likely the next Pres) of the USCCB gave a very interesting interview on the Obama/Notre Dame issue. Some of the quotes I found interesting:
Will there also be discussion about what the bishops should do when a university doesn’t follow your policies?
It may be that there was some lack of clarity about the statement itself. It did refer to ‘Catholic politicians’ in the title. Certainly, most bishops probably understood it in a broader context, but there could have been some misunderstanding of that. Again, there’s a need for more conversation with presidents of universities to help clarify what the bishops’ concerns are and if some accord could be reached.
If that conversation does not bear fruit, do you reach a point where punitive measures have to be on the table?
I think the local bishop has to make some decision about an institution that calls itself Catholic in his own diocese. We have to approach that carefully, sensitively, more in a spirit of conversation. I don’t think anyone feels that President [John] Jenkins [the Holy Cross priest who heads Notre Dame] is a person of bad intention. He’s a good man. He’s deeply committed to the faith, as is the university. But we need to have dialogue and that’s what Bishop D’Arcy was expressing … the desire for some consultation.
If there was a Catholic university in my diocese, I would want to be in regular and continual dialogue [with its leadership], and to be present on the campus. The university community is a significant community in a diocese.
So far as you’re aware, there’s no push among the bishops to punish Notre Dame in some way?
I haven’t heard that. There could be a bishop who would say that, but I haven’t heard it.
You know this is a question many ardently pro-life Catholics are asking: If a university deliberately defies the bishops’ guidelines, don’t there have to be consequences? Otherwise, what’s the point of issuing the statements?
You used the phrase ‘deliberately defied.’ I think that’s a pretty harsh statement. If that’s actually what they did, I think Bishop D’Arcy would feel affronted.
I ask the question because the argument often made in favor of inviting pro-choice politicians to speak is that if we want to win hearts and minds, we have to engage the other side in dialogue.
It depends on what form the dialogue takes. I’m totally supportive of the idea. Cardinal George, the president of our conference, has spoken with President Obama. I think it was a helpful gathering, and I hope there will be other opportunities. There is a need for dialogue. Certainly President Obama invited dialogue, asked for dialogue. So again, this is a strategic question – we shouldn’t turn our back on these opportunities for dialogue, we ought to pursue them. The teaching of the church is understandable, it’s able to be convincing, but we have to engage in those conversations.
So the tension is between dialogue and clarity?
The teaching of the church does go contrary to the grain, and we can’t be afraid to speak up about issues that are not popular. On the other hand, we have to engage. We have to dialogue, we have to interact. We have to make our arguments and present them in convincing ways, and that takes interaction.
Many commentators, myself included, have drawn attention to the rather strikingly positive tone from the Vatican vis-à-vis the Obama administration. Have you been concerned about a contrast between the American bishops and the Vatican?
As within the conference itself, or between different episcopal conferences, there’s sometimes a difference in approach. Again, that’s not a difference in principle, but certainly in how one interacts with or engages political figures. There are differences, within the conference the in the larger church. The Vatican has always been open to engagement and his consistently pursued that effort. They certainly have a long history of experience in how to operate in complex situations. President Obama is involved on a wide front of issues, and many of them commendable.
The whole thing is worth reading:
ncronline.org/print/13591 (printer friendly)
I realize this is somewhat related to the “Why can’t Father Jenkins be fired?” thread, but thought it was worth starting a new thread.