The National Catholic Reporter reports that leaders of an unspecified number of U.S. Jesuit universities have "privately expressed support" for Notre Dame's decision to invite President Obama to its commencement.
The National Catholic Reporter bases this report on an interview with Father Charles Currie, SJ:
"The president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities said he has privately expressed support for the University of Notre Dame in its decision to invite President Barack Obama as commencement speaker and hopes the controversy that has erupted over the invitation leads to substantive talks among college presidents and bishops.
“I think that the bishops have the responsibility to protect the faith of their folks, and so I think this is the kind of thing that really has to be talked out in a conversation between bishops and university presidents. We have to raise the level of the dialogue beyond condemnations,” said Jesuit Fr. Charles Currie in an April 13 phone interview.
"He said he and the presidents of the association’s 28 member institutions have privately expressed support to Holy Cross Fr. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, who recently has come under attack from right to life groups and some bishops who perceive the invitation as an endorsement of Obama’s pro-choice views on abortion and his support of stem cell research.
"He also said he and other association members “have been talking to individual bishops to see if we can’t lower the volume and lessen the heat of the discussion.”
Father Currie's remarks will come as no surprise to the Cardinal Newman Society and other Catholic groups and individuals seeking to strengthen the religious identity of Catholic institutions of higher learning. The Cardinal Newman Society has led the petition drive to register protests regarding Notre Dame's decision to honor President Obama at its commencement. Some questionable development at Jesuit universities in recent months include: Chris Matthews as the commencement speaker at St.Joseph's University, "Queer Week" at Xavier University, and "Sex Positive Week" at Georgetown University. More seriously, Jesuit universities have also lent credibility to theological dissenters like Father Charles Curran, who was dismissed from his post at the Catholic University of America. A few years back, the College of the Holy Cross hosted a speech by Curran, and Georgetown University published his recent work, Catholic Moral Theology in the United States.
Father Currie argues that a less heated tone will promote dialogue, and his counsel might be more compelling if he offered specific examples of a serious and sustained exchange of views. But critics of Jesuit university polices on dealing with issues from abortion to gay rights argue that the "dialogue" phase has moved quickly to a fait accompli in which Catholic moral teaching is ignored or presented in an ineffective manner. Research by Cardinal Newman Society underscores the consequences of this pattern of "dialogue": declining numbers of students from "Catholic" institutions of higher education still believe in and defend the increasingly counterculture teachings of their church.