I have to applaud Raymond Arroyo's courage for appearing on CNN Newsroom on 17 May 2009 to talk about Obama's speech at Notre Dame. Reading the transcript, I felt like I was seeing a modern Daniel in the Lion's Den. He did an excellent job of defending authentic Catholic teaching on the issues as well. Unlike Fr. James Martin SJ.
& while not surprizing, I was sorely disappointed in Fr. Martin's answers & spin. Something tells me that when Fr. Martin is standing before God for judgment that St. Ignatius of Loyola will be doing the questioning. & that Fr. Martin will have a "lot of 'splaining to do" about Martin's failure to live up to the Jesuit vow of "special obedience to the pope" (As an aside, the US Jesuit website does not include this vow in the list of vows. That explains a lot, doesn't it?)
I will also admit that despite her mostly hostile attitude towards Raymond, at least Fredricka Whitfield did uphold his point that Obama is Pro-abortion. But that was only because she had to in order to be true to CNN's pro-Obama, pro-abortion slant.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD: And we have with us still Raymond Arroyo, the news director of the Eternal Word Television and a New York Times bestselling author. And also the Reverend James Martin, a Jesuit priest and associate editor of America magazine, a Catholic publication based in New York. All right gentlemen, you know, let’s talk about the rousing applause as the president walked in. Certainly, particularly Mr. Arroyo -- not -- I guess it wasn’t really evident whether there were certain students who decided to stay seated, as we heard from Suzanne [Malveaux] earlier. There was a directive actually sent out to a number of the students who were silently boycotting the president, that they wouldn’t stand when everyone else did stand. What were your impressions about what we saw as the president walked in?
RAYMOND ARROYO, EWTN ANCHOR: Well, as your reporter said earlier, they were instructed to stand when the president came in, because that was no specific honor. And this is the question and this is what the heart of this matter is -- it isn’t about the president speaking here. He could have very easily come to this preeminent Catholic university and spoken -- given a commencement address. The question is the granting of an honorary law degree, which gives a Catholic imprimatur, if you will, upon his policies, his thinking, his legal reasoning --
WHITFIELD: But the university -- in fact, the president --
WHITFIELD: Reverend Jenkins said every president that’s been invited to -- to deliver the commencement speech always gets an honorary degree.
ARROYO: Right, but every president --
WHITFIELD: This would be quite the slap or an aside if they were to invite the president --
ARROYO: Well --
WHITFIELD: As they have invited every president since President Eisenhower --
ARROYO: But the bishops --
WHITFIELD: And not granted an honorary degree?
ARROYO: But none -- none of those other presidents were in -- and I’ll quote the bishops. The bishops told -- the bishops of the United States in 2004 told all of these Catholic institutions and universities, you should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles, and you shouldn’t give them honors and medals because that would be seen as supporting their policies. Now, the question here is you have a president --
WHITFIELD: So does the death penalty fall into that and also wars --
ARROYO: Well, we have to distinguish --
WHITFIELD: Does that fall into that as well?
ARROYO: No, no -- we have to distinguish. Abortion is -- has been identified by both the Vatican and the bishops of the United States as a foundational issue. One can’t get to poverty or climate change or immigration if that person hasn’t been allowed to live. I mean, it’s a -- it’s a very simple rational idea. It’s reasonable.
WHITFIELD: So Reverend Martin, I’d like you to weigh in on this. Are -- are you in concert with all that Mr. Arroyo is saying?
REVEREND JAMES MARTIN, AMERICA MAGAZINE: Not exactly. I mean, I think first of all, if anyone deserves a degree in law, it’s this constitutional law scholar. I think that needs to be kept in mind. But also, I think the pro-life world is a lot broader than simply abortion. I don’t think you can just sweep the death penalty, torture -- things like that under the carpet. The pro-life world is really what Cardinal Bernardin called ‘a consistent ethic of life.’ I think, unfortunately, for a lot of people in the pro-life movement, life begins at conception, but seems to end there. I mean, it just cannot be about simply abortion, and I really lament the fact that -- that some of the bishops have turned the Gospel of Jesus Christ into simply abortion. And so, I think we need to look at a broader perspective here.
ARROYO: Well, Father -- Father Martin, this isn’t a game of fish. I mean, this isn’t moral fish where you go out and pull the piece of social teaching you like. It all hangs together as you said, but one can’t somehow push abortion to the side. It is -- it is a foundational issue. And the death penalty, obviously, is something the Church has discouraged, but it is at times -- it can be morally justified, as can war. But abortion, under no circumstances, can be according to Catholic teaching. It’s an intrinsic evil. That’s not my opinion. That’s the teaching of the Church immemorial.
WHITFIELD: So Reverend Martin, does it concern you that there is almost a selective understanding about what is permissible and what is not permissible?
MARTIN: No, it concerns me that life issues are being reduced to simply abortion, and I think the Gospel is a lot broader than that. If we’re going to look at someone who accepts or rejects the Gospel, we cannot simply boil it down to one issue, and I really think that does a disservice to all of Catholic moral teaching. It’s certainly the preeminent issue for the Catholic Church, but it’s not the only issue, and it’s certainly not a litmus test upon which we should judge people.
ARROYO: But Father, when you say it’s the preeminent moral issue, is it or isn’t it? I mean, the bishops clearly say it is. Seventy-four bishops have spoken out against this, and let me -- we should be very clear. If Rudy Giuliani were here today, or Arnold Schwarzenegger, there should be and probably would have been just as vociferous an opposition, because the question is not here about the president. It’s about someone representing a pro-abortion policy, and vociferous pro-abortion policies being honored at a Catholic institution --
MARTIN: Yeah, I don’t --
ARROYO: That’s what’s at heart here. The politics is really irrelevant.
MARTIN: I think the politics is very relevant here. I don’t think you can call President Obama pro-abortion. I mean, someone who talked about convening a task force between pro-life and pro-choice people is certainly not someone who is pro-abortion. I don’t know anyone who’s pro-abortion, and I think that label is really very misleading.
ARROYO: Well certainly, he supports abortion rights, Father. You wouldn’t -- you wouldn’t object to that, would you? I mean, come on. We got to call things as they are --
WHITFIELD: Well, he has said -- he said on the record as a candidate, and he’s re-articulated that -- that he is pro-abortion rights. He does believe that a woman has a right to choose --
ARROYO: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: However, he’s also made it very clear that people can differ, and -- and that I think that is one message that we’re [going] to hear today. We heard it from Suzanne Malveaux, who has [an] advance copy of the speech and he will help try to convey that message, that while we don’t all necessarily have to think alike, it is -- it is the forum -- this is the forum, and this is America in which we can all express our views and move on and find common ground. Is this a valuable lesson for this university to be hearing -- for an audience of the rest of America who is hearing this -- whether it be via CNN or via the Internet -- that common ground really is at the root here?
MARTIN: I think it is a very important message. I mean, if the Catholic Church wants to work with the president on this issue, they’re going to have to find common ground. And so, I hope he makes an appeal to that because we have to dialogue with people. The Catholic Church is not about imposing its will on people that don’t agree with it. It needs to be about talking with the president in order to move ahead on this issue.
ARROYO: But Father, I think you would agree. Finding common ground doesn’t mean ceding important moral ground, and in this case, you’re talking about the random taking of life enshrined in law. And though the president talks about wanting to find common ground and reaching out to the other side, the difficulty is his policy picks -- the people on his Cabinet. Kathleen Sebelius, a pro-choice Catholic -- very supportive of late-term abortions in her state and probably will continue as a Cabinet secretary -- these -- these appointments and policy decisions, I think, are very troubling to Catholics, particularly those who supported the president --
WHITFIELD: Well, if more than -- what was it --
ARROYO: So he has to walk a very fine line today.
WHITFIELD: Fifty-four perecent of Catholics who were polled in America on Election Day actually voted for this president --
WHITFIELD: So hadn’t that conversation already taken place? Hasn’t it already been made clear that many Catholics who may have been struggling with the issue, whether abortion or stem cell research -- they’ve already gotten past that part?”
ARROYO: Well -- but if you look at the polling that we’re seeing now from Pew, from Gallup -- for the first time, since they’ve been asking the question, more Americans are pro-life -- 51 percent -- than opposed to life or supportive of abortion rights. So what we’re seeing, I think, is a sea change. I almost look at this as the Obama effect. As these policies get wheeled out -- as people, particularly Catholics, become more cognizant of the policy choices being made, you see a shift --
WHITFIELD: Well, Mr. Arroyo, I’m wondering, are you concerned that the view that you are conveying now really is in -- is a minority view if you look at, according to the polling that the Observer newspaper on campus did -- 70% of this mostly Catholic student body actually said we do embrace -- we do welcome this president.
ARROYO: No doubt.
WHITFIELD: And that the heated protest that’s taking place involving outside groups, that is not representative of the university campus --
WHITFIELD: So is there not a mixed message being sent here?
ARROYO: Well, no one’s saying that -- that there’s a groundswell of opposition on campus. The groundswell has come from outside of campus, from the Catholic bishops, from faithful people looking in. It is -- Notre Dame is symbolic of Catholic identity in many ways, and by conferring this honor at this moment in history, when these issues, particularly issues of life, are moving to the consciousness again of Catholics, this is becoming sort of a rallying point. I think it’s a moment --
WHITFIELD: Well, Reverend Martin, I wonder, is this groundswell representative of most practicing Catholics, in your view?
MARTIN: Well, I don’t see it as a groundswell. I mean, you heard the deafening applause when we he walked in. You saw the polls of who voted for Obama in the last election. I think Catholics also realize that there are many different ways of tackling the problem of abortion. I mean, I’m pro-life, but I also think that -- sort of fundamental economic policies, trying to help the poor -- those kinds of things work against abortion as well, which is something that President Obama has talked about. So, you know, we can differ on tactics basically, but I -- I don’t think anyone is really pro-abortion. So I think what you are seeing, in terms of Notre Dame, if you do see it as an emblem of Catholic identity, is the support that he has among Catholics, who see this as more than simply a one-issue Church.
WHITFIELD: And Reverend Martin, what do you think this does for the campus of Notre Dame? Eighty-five percent of the student body is Catholic, and really, barely half of the faculty is Catholic. But this particular moment for the University of Notre Dame -- does what to cement -- help cement its history, or in any way unravel it or change it?
MARTIN: Well, it depends who you are. I mean, if you’re a Catholic who is -- who feels like Mr. Arroyo does, and there are many -- I think it’s something of a stain. But if you are a Catholic, who, like I do, sees the Catholic Church as involved in the world, I think it’s a great honor for Notre Dame. One of the things, I think, that’s been lost is that by President Obama visiting Notre Dame, he confers this sort of honor on the school itself, and sort of, you know, gives his idea of the importance of Catholic education. And unfortunately, I think that has been lost in the discussion.
WHITFIELD: And Mr. Arroyo, how do you see this moment helping to define or reshape the history of the University of Notre Dame?
ARROYO: Well, I’m -- I’m a bit perplexed at how Father could see that 74 bishops of the United States, the Pope, and Catholics who disagree that the president should be here are somehow not in the world. But I’ll let that pass. The fact is --
MARTIN: The Pope has not talked about this. I just want to be sure about that.
ARROYO: No, no, no -- Father, last year at this time, I covered it at Catholic University [of America, in Washington, DC]. The Pope addressed all the presidents of the Catholic universities, and he made the very same point, that the school should not be used to honor those or give platform to those who are opposed to Church teaching. I’m sorry, that’s what he said.
WHITFIELD: But there has not -- there has not been an opinion from the Vatican or the Pope directly --
ARROYO: No, not on this particular issue -- correct.
WHITFIELD: Not on this issue. That’s what we’re talking about, on Notre Dame. So you can’t confuse the issue --
ARROYO: Well -- but the policy -- but the policy has already been stated by the bishops who are the teaching authority. You don’t need to hear it from the Pope. But a year ago, if you do, the Pope made the point.
WHITFIELD: Well, does that speak volumes that perhaps -- does that speak volumes, that perhaps the Vatican or the Pope has not addressed this specifically, when he was very much in front of every camera and microphone, particularly during his visit in the Middle East, and it was already public knowledge, and it already had been public knowledge of the type of protests that had been elicited as a result of the invitation to the president
MARTIN: Well, it’s also important to say -- let’s just give an example. The Pope just gave an honor to the pro-choice Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France -- he made him a canon of a cathedral. So, I mean, I think the Pope understands the need of the Catholic Church to dialogue with leaders and to work with them. I think when you -- when you sort of cede the ground -- the moral ground and say that we have nothing to talk about, then you have no stake in the political world, which I think the Pope understands. 2:42 pm EDT
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD: All right, you just saw moments ago the president of the United States receiving his honorary law degree to the rousing applause and hooping and hollering from the full house there at the Joyce Center there at the University of Notre Dame. They are bestowing other citations of honorary degrees, and then soon, we’ll also be hearing from the president as the commencement speaker. We have with us still the Reverend James Martin, Jesuit priest and associate editor of America magazine joining us out of New York, and Raymond Arroyo, news director of the Eternal -- Eternal Word Television and New York Times bestselling author, also joining us from Washington. All right, gentlemen. You know, they’re going through the other citations of honors, and we’ve been hearing from the president of the -- university, Reverend Jenkins. And he -- before he offered the honorary degree to the president, he says, you know, this man was willing to engage with those who disagree with him, and he is symbolizing exactly -- Reverend Jenkins is -- exactly the words of the president that he used to describe the president in this very moment. Not everyone necessarily agrees with his views, whether it be on abortion or stem cell research, but here it is in this institution -- he is being honored. Reverend, why don’t you jump on that one first.
REVEREND JAMES MARTIN, AMERICA MAGAZINE: Well, I think it’s terrific that he’s coming to Notre Dame, and I think it’s terrific that, you know, he’s going to mix it up with the graduates, as well as the faculty and the larger world on this question of abortion. I’d like to hear what he has to say. I think, you know, one of the things that is getting lost is I think the Catholic Church also needs to treat people with dignity and grace themselves. And I think to welcome the president -- this guy with, you know, a tremendous record -- I think it’s entirely appropriate, and I think if anyone has a problem with honoring him, I think they just need to look at his record. We just cannot just reduce Catholic social teaching to one issue. We cannot reduce the Gospel to one issue. I think we have to look at the much larger picture. So I think it’s -- it would be a good thing for him to talk, and I think it will be interesting to hear what people have to say in response.
WHITFIELD: And so Mr. Arroyo, as far as I understand, everyone else who was given a citation of an honorary degree --
RAYMOND ARROYO, EWTN: Right.
WHITFIELD: Or some sort of honor said yes except one, a scholar by the name of Mary Ann Glendon, who turned down the most prestigious award to be given from Notre Dame because she said she did not agree with the president’s invitation -- didn’t agree that he should be receiving an honorary law degree as well --
RAYMOND ARROYO, EWTN: Right. Well, that’s --
WHITFIELD: What’s your opinion of that?
ARROYO: Yeah well, that’s not exactly correct. I know Mary Ann Glendon. I’ve known her for a number of years -- covered her when she was the Vatican diplomat for the United States --
WHITFIELD: So you’re saying she did not turn down the honor --
ARROYO: No, no, no. Let me tell you why she turned down it down. She turned down the Laetare Medal because was she was being used as a beard, if you will. She was sort of the cover. And Notre Dame was saying, well, Mary Ann Glendon represents the Catholic point of view, a pro-life point of view, and President Obama will represent, you know, a different take, a pro-choice point of view. So we’re going to dialogue, kind of have a dispute and a discussion of two ideas --
WHITFIELD: So she was the only Catholic to be honored you’re saying?
ARROYO: No, no, no, no, no. She’s -- she was to be the representative voice of the pro-life cause. That was in the talking points released by Father Jenkins. Mary Ann Glendon turned down the honor because of that. She said this event should be about the graduates themselves, not about some fake dialogue -- not about some, you know, pro-life as opposed to pro-choice going at war with each other, you know, in some sort of dialogue. That’s not what’s happening here.
WHITFIELD: Do you like or agree with what Reverend Jenkins says, that, in part, the reason why they’re honoring --
ARROYO: Look, it doesn’t --
WHITFIELD: The president is because he was willing to engage with those who disagree with him?
ARROYO: Well, it doesn’t matter if I agree or disagree. The bishops of the United States clearly don’t agree with this, and when you say, and I’ll read from the citation -- ‘through his willingness to engage with those who disagree with him and encourage people of faith to bring their beliefs to the public debate.’ Well, when has that happened recently? I mean, in all of these recent decisions, whether it’s the conscience clause, the funding of abortion, I didn’t see anybody consulting religious voices. There was no summit on these issues at the White House. So I don’t quite know what they’re talking about. But again, what we’re seeing is the power of the president’s personality -- his rock star status being brought to bear. But if 98% of Notre Dame graduates loved and embraced this choice, it still would avoid the real question, which isn’t President Obama. The question is, should this university be honoring someone who violates the very fundamental moral values of the Catholic Church?
WHITFIELD: Well, might it suggest something else, that perhaps the Catholic majority has evolved in its opinion of certain things. Some of these things that you’ve outlined --
ARROYO: No, no, no, because this -- no, no, this -- there’s no --
WHITFIELD: Perhaps, it means that there’s a greater understanding in some of the areas that you say --
ARROYO: There’s no --
WHITFIELD: Once upon a time there wasn’t.
ARROYO: Yeah, there couldn’t be because there’s been no indication from the hierarchy or any official teaching that there’s been ‘evolution.’ I don’t know what ‘evolution’ from life means. I mean, if one throws life away, then torture, death penalty, war, everything is open game. It’s one -- I agree with Father in this respect. It is one -- all of these issues hang together. It is one consistent ethic of life. But one can’t then say abortion can be put aside. No, no, no. It is primordial. It is -- it is fundamental, and the bishops and the popes have taught this for centuries. This is nothing new.
WHITFIELD: So then as senator, he said I am not voting for war. Why would that not supercede, or at least have some equal footing with his position on a woman’s right to choose?
ARROYO: A great question -- because war, under some circumstances, can be just. War -- obviously, in World War II, when we were liberating people in death camps -- that was a just war, okay? But abortion, in all instances, is always intrinsically evil in the minds -- in the mind of the Church. So one can’t play this shell game. You know, as I said earlier, this isn’t a game of ‘go fish’ and find one teaching you agree with -- oh, I agree with immigration, but I’m not going to let people exercise their conscience in hospitals --
WHITFIELD: So Reverend Martin, am I hearing this correctly from Mr. Arroyo? There is no wiggle room on anything, and there has to be one monolith [sic] thinking to be a practicing Catholic. And if that’s the case, Reverend Martin, is that fair? A
RROYO: Well, to be honored -- to be honored at a Catholic university.
MARTIN: I think actually this whole thing of the honor is kind of a red herring. I mean, when you go to a university to deliver the commencement address, you get an honor -- you get an honorary degree. I mean, I don’t know when that doesn’t happen. So I think it’s more about inviting someone who is willing to address these issues, and I do think that the president has talked about bringing people together. I mean, he announced -- I think it was last week or two weeks ago -- he was going to have a task force with people from pro-choice and pro-life. I mean, if that’s not a dialogue, that certainly doesn’t sound fake to me. And I think part of it is giving the man the benefit of the doubt. I mean, he’s been in for 100 days, and I think we need to see what he does. But I certainly think we need to listen to him. I think part of the Catholic world and the Catholic life has been not fearing people that we disagree with. I mean, even Jesus went out and talked to sinners and tax collectors. So if Jesus did that, Notre Dame can certainly bring in Barack Obama without fear of the Catholic Church coming tumbling down.
WHITFIELD: So Reverend Martin --
ARROYO: But, Father -- Father, He didn’t give moral cover to Herod either. I mean, we’ve got to be careful here, just because he sat down --
MARTIN: Yeah, I also think we have to be --
ARROYO: I mean, we have to be awfully careful what we’re saying here.
MARTIN: Yeah, and we do, and I think we have to be careful not to compare Barack to Herod. I think that’s a bit of an overstatement.
ARROYO: I’m not doing that.
WHITFIELD: What’s your concern, Reverend Martin, about the collection of protests that have taken place off-campus. There were 19 arrests, and now, some recent numbers say there were over 20 arrests that have taken place involving some fairly high profile and recognizable faces -- one, former Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes, and even a priest who has been known to have been arrested over a dozen times outside abortion clinics. And that that is being -- that sentiment is being brought to this environment, albeit off campus. Does it concern you, or do you think that this is a fair representation of a majority of Catholics?
MARTIN: Well, let me say that I agree with Mr. Arroyo, that abortion is a fundamental situation in the Catholic Church, and I think it’s very important, and I’m pro-life. The question is, you know, disagreeing on tactics, and I don’t think that the sort of extreme pro-life movement is really a good way to enter into dialogue, which is what we need. I don’t understand how the Catholic Church can dialogue with our political leaders if they adopt these extreme tactics. So -- so my only concern, you know, in those situations is that it marginalizes the Catholic Church -- it makes us look like a fundamentalist sect with whom it’s more and more difficult to talk. And with that, we lose any sense of common ground or any sense of voice in the public square. So that’s my only fear for those kinds of things.