National Catholic Reporter

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Politics

'No consensus' on follow-up to Notre Dame flap

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Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry of Los Angeles, 66, is chair of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Education, and thus likely to be a key player in discussions about the fallout from the University of Notre Dame’s controversial decision to invite President Barack Obama to deliver the commencement address and to award the president an honorary doctorate. Curry is also a distinguished intellectual with a special interest in church/state relations; he even operates a blog devoted to church/state issues at www.thomascurry.org. He sat down with NCR during the bishops’ spring meeting in San Antonio today to discuss the Notre Dame/Obama case.

(Read also Allen's interview with bishops' conference vice president Bishop Gerald Kicanas: No push to punish Notre Dame for Obama invite.)

Will there be any conversation about the Notre Dame/Obama controversy at this meeting?

No push to punish Notre Dame for Obama invite

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Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, 67, is a Chicago native, former rector of Mundelein Seminary and a former auxiliary bishop in Chicago. Widely seen as a moderate and pastoral figure, Kicanas was elected vice-president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2007, which puts him in line to become president of the conference in 2010.

He sat down on the margins of the U.S. bishops’ meeting this week in San Antonio to discuss the fallout from the debate over the University of Notre Dame’s decision to award an honorary doctorate to President Barack Obama, and to invite him to deliver the university’s annual commencement address May 17, despite the protests of dozens of bishops, and despite a 2004 conference statement which said: “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

(Read also Allen's interview with Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry of Los Angeles: ‘No consensus’ on follow-up to Notre Dame flap.)

Obama and the Catholics

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It is increasingly evident that the Catholic conversation in the public square has undergone a significant change during the past two years and with the help of some unlikely participants. The first of those would be the new president, who has drawn significant fire from certain episcopal quarters and another would be the Vatican, which has been playing against type -- or at least the expectations of some -- when it comes to the new president.

A third set of players -- high profile neoconservative Catholics in the United States -- has succeeded in highlighting not only the changing conversation but the disintegrating royal construct out of which bishops could once command authority simply because of their station.

White House consults on how to make abortion rarer

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WASHINGTON -- To state the obvious, the Obama administration is not about to take any steps to make abortion illegal. But after 35 years of culture wars, the administration is engaged in extensive consultations on what can be done to make abortion rarer in this country.

Participants in the consultations said several sessions were held in May and more were expected in June.

Engage Obama or fight him?

WASHINGTON -- While agreeing that abortion is unacceptable, two pro-life professors disagreed on whether it is appropriate to engage President Barack Obama on the issue of abortion or to insist that it be outlawed in order to protect the dignity of the unborn.

During an 80-minute discussion May 28 at the National Press Club, Robert George, professor of jurisprudence and director of the James Madison program in American ideals and institutions at Princeton University, and Douglas Kmiec, professor of law at Pepperdine University, expressed divergent views on how to approach the Obama administration.

Complaint filed with IRS against Maine diocese

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PORTLAND, Maine -- A complaint filed with the Internal Revenue Service against the Diocese of Portland for its efforts to fight the state's same-sex marriage law is "utterly frivolous" and with "no foundation in either law or fact," said an attorney representing the diocese.

The complaint was filed May 20 by a San Diego-based homosexual advocacy group called the Empowering Spirits Foundation. The group said the diocese's work in gaining signatures for a referendum aimed at repealing the state's new same-sex marriage law was in violation of the IRS rules against nonprofit groups engaging in political activity.

Obama at Notre Dame: A conversation begins

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Notre Dame, Ind.

Although Barack Obama was invited to speak at the University of Notre Dame’s commencement because of his historic victory as the first African-American president of the United States, he may be remembered for something even greater: beginning a civil conversation between supporters and opponents of legalized abortion in a speech that earned praise from those on both sides of the issue.

For all the news coverage of finger-wagging bishops, bussed-in protesters and Alan Keyes being dragged off in handcuffs, the bigger story at Notre Dame’s 164th commencement was the respectful tone, not only from the president of the country and the president of the university, but also from the majority of graduates and other Notre Dame students.

In the end, it was pretty much like any other graduation. Black-robed graduates posed with beaming parents for pictures in front of the Touchdown Jesus mosaic before the ceremony. Afterwards they ran up the stairs of the golden-domed Administration Building, smiling for even more pictures at the top. And they cheered their graduation speaker, who just happened to be the president of the United States.

Why was Obama ND visit 'Eloquence Incomplete'?

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As suggested in the my recent essay, the most obvious incompleteness: missing bishops.

But there is a deeper level of incompleteness: the million plus abortions every year in this country. The speech was wonderful, but the real work remains. President Obama understands that. I know the talented young men and women now staffing his Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships do too.

Do the street demonstrators fully appreciate the need for the practical? Some do -- especially those who volunteer hour after hour at pregnancy counseling centers. They see the real anxiety faced by a woman in poverty or a college coed confronting God's unexpected gift of life under circumstances or at a time when that gift overwhelms. Yet, far too many churchmen in America, though perhaps not Rome given the highly receptive reviews of the speech, have become so fixated on changing the law that the humanity of the woman gets lost in abstract argumentation.

Obama's singling out Bernardin, Hesburgh is message for us

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It is not a surprise that the media and most commentators have focused on what was evident to just about everyone present at the University of Notre Dame's Joyce Center for Sunday's graduation ceremonies and to those who subsequently read the full text of President Barack Obama's address to the graduates, their parents and special guests, and the faculty, and through them to the entire nation.

Obama called for achieving some measure of common ground on the highly charged abortion issue. He urged both sides in the debate to engage one another with "open hearts" and "open minds," and always to employ "fair-minded words," acknowledging all the while that "at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable."

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