God Or Mammon: Two Catholic Universities Make Their Choice

When St. Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, in chapter three, verses one through five, he was probably not contemplating the identity crisis facing the University of Notre Dame or the Jesuits' Georgetown University. His inspiring words apply, however, and should, at the very least, be considered by those who argue that academic freedom is really, after all, what it's all about:

But understand this: There will be terrifying times in the last days. People will be self-centered and lovers of money, proud, haughty, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious, callous, implacable, slanderous, licentious, brutal, hating what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, as they make a pretense of religion but deny its power. Reject them.

When President Barack Obama gave his address on the economy at Georgetown University, we all know that the university agreed to cover up over the symbolic "IHS," which symbolizes the name of Jesus Christ. They explained, after the fact, that they did this because "the White House had asked Georgetown to cover up all signs and symbols there." 

Patrick J. Buchanan, noted commentator and former candidate for president of the United States, made a telling point about this cave-in when he wrote,  

At the request of the White House, Georgetown University covered up all the symbols in Gaston Hall, before the Great Man spoke, including IHS, the millennia-old monogram for the name of Jesus Christ.

Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, had adopted the monogram in his seal and it became an emblem of the Jesuit order.

When it comes to rendering unto Caesar, Georgetown is not going to be outshone by Notre Dame, which stole a march by offering the nation's avatar of abortion a doctorate of laws degree, honoris causa.

Perhaps the most distressing aspect of all this is that these two bastions of higher learning have fallen prey to one man's agenda for insulting the Catholic Church. It is clear that not only has Obama targeted Catholic leaders and institutions, but in return, many, including these two institutions, have literally laid down their identity at the "Great Man's" feet. And the accolades for such betrayals of Christ are unbelievable.

For example, when Washington Times reporter Julia Duin interviewed Father Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Institute at Georgetown University, to ask what he thought about the covering-up of religious symbols during the Obama speech, he told her,   "It is more for camera quality than anything else."

The report  continued,

"They don't want distractions that would make the eye wander. I don't think this is motivated by theology, but by communications strategy."

Students "were dying to get into the hall," he added. "There is this great enthusiasm for Obama especially among Catholic young people. The conservatives don't know how to deal with this.

"The audience wanted to cheer and cheer this very professorial address. He played Professor Obama. He's a damn good professor but not even he could make economics a barn raiser."

As to University of Notre Dame president Father John I. Jenkins, CSC and his refusal to disinvite Obama, the South Bend Tribune reported, 

The loudest cheers on the Notre Dame campus Saturday weren't limited to Notre Dame Stadium for the annual Blue-Gold football game.

When Notre Dame president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, CSC, stated at a town hall meeting celebrating 60 years of black student-athletes at Notre Dame that the university was standing firm in its invitation to President Barack Obama to speak at commencement May 17, the audience shook down the thunder from the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

"We are very proud and honored to welcome the first African-American President of the United States in a few weeks as our commencement speaker," Jenkins said of the invitation, which triggered a firestorm of controversy among [pro-life] groups. "This is a tremendous event for us."

This year's Notre Dame valedictorian, Brennan Bollman, was asked how she felt about the Obama invitation. She said, 

The reason it's so meaningful for many of us to have this president speak is because we see him as someone who lives by example. He began as a community organizer and he continues to live by those values.

I can only hope that my graduating class can live our values throughout our lives as he has done. He sticks with his values and his ideals. … he's a great leader.

The article continued, "She said the university is a place where people should feel free to engage each other on the important moral issues of the day."

The euphoria appears to know no limits, and yet in the midst of the hoopla, the foundational principles of Catholic teaching have somehow been either lost or overshadowed by the "Great Man." What in the world is going on here, one might legitimately ask? And as we ponder this, we can look to George Weigel for some insight that may guide our thoughts about the tragic events that are unfolding in places once known for their strong Catholic identity: 

If Notre Dame wished to invite Obama to debate the life issues with prominent Catholic intellectuals during the next academic year, it would have done the country a public service and no reasonable person could object. If Notre Dame had invited the president to address a symposium on the grave moral issues the president himself acknowledges being at the heart of the biotech revolution, that, too, would have been a public service. For that is one of the things great universities do: They provide a public forum for serious argument about serious matters touching the common good. But, to repeat, a commencement is not a debate, nor is a commencement address the beginning of some sort of ongoing dialogue, as Notre Dame officials have tried to suggest. A commencement address and the degree that typically accompanies it confer an honor. That honor is, or should be, a statement of the university's convictions.

Indeed, that is precisely the point. The covering-up of Catholic symbols, the intentional denial of fundamental Catholic teaching and the arrogance of those who applaud the very mention of the name Obama, regardless of how events that involve him besmirch the integrity of Catholicism at its very core, lead to only one conclusion: A time of immense upheaval is upon the Church and those who claim not only to represent her, but teach young people the faith that is supposed to guide them in their lives.

President Obama is the epitome of all that the culture of death has to offer the most vulnerable in our midst. To ignore that fact or dismiss it for the purpose of public acclaim, prestige or power derived from men is clearly a sign of decay within the Church herself. And as St. Paul reminds us,

They will keep up the outward appearance of religion but will have rejected the inner power of it. Have nothing to do with people like that.