I'm just catching up with President Obama's controversial visit to Notre Dame.
A reported seventy (70) of four hundred and fifty (450) Roman Catholic bishops criticized the presence of President Obama at a Notre Dame graduation and they denied the value of his speech.
This was, of course, before they had a chance to hear it. Why bother when you are already secure that the knowledge you possess is 'the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God'?
Sr. Joan Chittister says it was their loss and Notre Dame's gain. She called the President's address a "face-up-to-the-life-you-have-just-inherited" speech, saying,
"It was a call not only to this year's graduates but to all of those who have preceded them intent more on winning than on working things out."
"It was a call to adults to stop acting like sophomores in the name of faith. It was a cry to those on both sides of every issue to refuse to suppress complexity in a global, interfaith world. It was an attempt to move beyond force, beyond the denunciation of those who are just as committed to resolving problems as we are without making outlaws of those for whom the issue cannot wait for long-term answers.
It was, most of all, a very Catholic speech."
To my ears, that is the best of what Anglicanism is all about - or, at least, what I once thought it was all about.
A few more words from Sr. Joan:
"Obama asked graduates to see themselves as responsible for the global good as well as for their own success. He challenged them to go beyond the commitment to personal advantage to global good. He taught them that the zero-sum game, the notion that for me to win everyone else must lose, only means that everyone else will lose, and I, too, eventually. How can anyone in that audience who just went through an economic meltdown driven by greed which eventually brought the entire country down, doubt the value of those words, of that kind of commitment to a pro-life agenda.
He asked them, as an article of faith, to recognize the value of self-doubt that leads us to forego our own self-righteousness and inspires us to learn to listen to the wisdom of those around us.
He called them not to revel in the grandeur of their degrees from an isolated perspective but to remain open to the rest of the world. He called them to live their ideals but to resist the attempt to force them onto others.
He taught them to gain their hope from what has already been done in the past, what we as a people have already worked through and achieved, already overcome as a people together like the oppression of a king, the disregard for civil rights, the exploitation of laborers, the enslavement of a people, the struggle for animal rights, the recognition of women's equality, the movement beyond racism. It was, indeed, a very Catholic speech."
Gee, that sounds like a list of resolutions from any one of the five General Conventions I've attended over the past few years. Are we sure the President isn't an Episcopalian?
Then again, perhaps that is what all religion, at its heart, is all about - seeking the heart and mind of Jesus.
NCR (National Catholic Reporter) journalist, Heidi Schlumpf, reported that the President was interrupted three times during his speech.
"The third interruption, again from the seats near the press box where parents and guests were seated, came, somewhat ironically, as Obama was saying, "Your generation must find a way to reconcile our ever-shrinking world with its ever-growing diversity: diversity of thought, of culture, and of belief. In short, we must find a way to live together as one human family."
His speech closed with a story--on this, the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education--about the Civil Rights Commission, which included former ND president Father Ted Hesburgh (who received almost as much applause as Obama). As the story goes, the group had difficulty finding a hotel or restaurant that would serve the black and white members of the commission together. So Father Ted flew the group to the university's retreat house in Wisconsin, where they hammered out what would eventually become the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
"Years later, President Eisenhower asked Father Ted how on Earth he was able to broker an agreement between men of such different backgrounds and beliefs," Obama said. "And Father Ted simply said that during their first dinner in Wisconsin , they discovered that they were all fishermen. And so he quickly readied a boat for a twilight trip out on the lake. They fished, and they talked, and they changed the course of history."
Obama implored the graduates to remember that lesson. "Remember that in the end, in some way we are all fisherman," he said. "If nothing else, that knowledge should give us faith that through our collective labor, and God’s providence, and our willingness to shoulder each other’s burdens, America will continue on its precious journey towards that more perfect union."
Somebody give the President an "Amen."
You can watch the entire speech on YouTube (in four parts) here.