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Updated: 2016-01-14T12:31:24.035-05:00


What profit a man


Watching the ND Commencement on television Sunday, my first thoughts were that Fr. Jenkins and President Obama were going to come off very well in most subsequent reviews. They were clearly a hit with the students, and they did very well in seizing their moment. That, of course, made it all the worse for Notre Dame, the pro-life movement, and the Catholic Church.Jenkins sounded confident in his speech, but I wondered as I was listening in the beginning, as he kept talking about dialogue, reason and faith, truth in the abstract, dialogue again, and debate -- would he ever actually name the things we were meant to dialoguing about with the president? Jenkins kept going, and cited Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II on dialogue and debate. Finally, in a single sentence he named the issue: "President Obama has come to Notre Dame, though he knows well that we are fully supportive of Church teaching on the sanctity of human life, and we oppose his policies on abortion and embryonic stem cell research." That's good, and direct. But Fr. Jenkins then immediately went on to cite more Church teachings on dialogue, respect for differing views, and dialogue again -- and finally he started into the glowing portrait of President Obama that I was expecting. Indeed the whole talk was more or less as expected: a single sentence confirming that ND disagreed with Obama on life issues, with the bulk of the enthusiastic remarks celebrating both Notre Dame's own openness and Obama's great list of admirable qualities. Throughout his own talk and Obama's, Fr. Jenkins was pretty much beaming the whole time.Obama's speech also celebrated the value of dialogue, and he named the issue of abortion. In characteristic fashion, however, he said a lot of nice-sounding words that have no relation to his actual actions or (apparently) beliefs. He made the customary gestures toward abortion being "a heart-wrenching decision" with "moral and spiritual dimensions," without ever engaging any of those. He talked about finding common ground and dialogue, but while his language suggested he thought abortion was at least regrettable, he neatly avoided mentioning that he has never once supported a single legal restriction or qualification on abortion rights through all nine months of pregnancy. He talked about respecting even irreconcilable differences and rights of conscience, but he supports taxpayer (so forced) funding of abortion and ESCR, and he is actually repealing Bush-era conscience protections for physicians. The president said, "I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away." What is his argument for abortion, though? He didn't actually say. Ultimately, his best anecdote on being open-minded and fair-minded was that he once agreed to stop calling pro-lifers "right-wing ideologues." So generous! But in the meantime he, like Fr. Jenkins, agreed debate and dialogue were great things.The net result of both talks was that both parties celebrated their openmindedness and tolerance, while neither engaged the actual issues. Listening to Fr. Jenkins, one would think that dialogue was a higher virtue in the Catholic Church than protecting innocent life. Listening to President Obama, one would think he was a reasonable moderate on abortion and other life issues, when in fact he's been remarkably extreme in his support of unlimited abortion rights. There's no doubt the president emerged triumphant from this visit, because most observers would think, again, that he sounded perfectly moderate -- and by all lights he had the endorsement of the nation's premier Catholic university in addressing these issues. One line from Fr. Jenkins was hardly enough to save Notre Dame's credibility here, no matter how sincerely he believed it. Looking hard, there may be some good things to come out of this. The fact that the Catholic Church stands for life was prominently disseminated, and maybe in the course of the national debate some people have become more aware of what Obama actually stands for on life issues. ND Response's ef[...]

On campus this morning


(image) Cool and calm on campus this morning, but with a bit of an edge in the air. It looked like ND Response was going to get a good turnout as people were streaming in hours early, though not yet collected on South Quad. I saw Bill Kirk driving around in his golf cart to check on arrangements.

(image) Now the ceremony is being broadcast live on the cable news networks. Fox is doing a good job with its coverage. I'm disappointed but hardly surprised to see the wildly enthusiastic reception for the president from faculty and staff, as well as big smiles from Fr. Jenkins. Fox is reporting that Obama is going to speak "at length" on abortion based on a leaked copy of the speech. I hope, but without any real cause, that he won't insult our intelligence by pretending the controversy on abortion and embryonic stem cell research is all some minor policy disagreement he has with the Catholic Church. Well, not much else to do now but watch, and pray.

UPDATE: CNN is reporting Obama is going to use all the "social justice" codewords. Great. Well, as someone just said to me, he can't do worse than Cuomo on giving cover to pro-choice Catholics because he's not Catholic. Still, looks like there will be plenty for administrators to feel pleased over, and not a lot for pro-lifers to respect.

Center of the storm


This afternoon at the St. Mary's commencement ceremony (which was lovely, by the way) a huge military plane flew in low over the campus -- advance agents and materials for the president's visit tomorrow. Since getting into town yesterday, I've seen a lot of protesters on ND Avenue and Angela/Edison and heard a lot of people talking about the controversy. It looked like platforms for the NDResponse demonstration were being set up on South Quad tonight - I've read they're expecting thousands of people, which I hope is true. Hopefully this peaceful witness being shown by so many will make it harder for the media to misrepresent the objections to ND honoring Obama. (I have noticed that the South Bend tv stations have been mentioning Bishop D'Arcy and the bishops' statements more than some other outlets.)

One thing I forgot, for whatever reason, until today's commencement, was that the honorary degree recipients have glowing statements about their lives and achievements read aloud before the degrees are conferred. They don't publish the biographies in the Notre Dame commencement program like they do at some schools (like St. Mary's), so we don't know what the introductory statement on the president as he's presented for a doctor of laws, honoris causa, tomorrow will be, but we can be fairly certain it won't involve dialogue or nuance, both because of course that's not customary for these things, and because we've become pretty familiar with Fr. Jenkins's enthusiastic plaudits of the president over the past two months. So I fear we can expect a nice, unqualified hagiography, with smiles all around.

Some people don't think any of this matters. But walking around campus tonight, by the Grotto, in the Basilica, even in LaFortune, and feeling that whole special sense of place that Notre Dame always conveys, I felt again how keenly it does matter -- because Notre Dame matters to the Church in America. It's a special place, and betrayals of Catholic values like we expect to be seeing tomorrow only diminish it.




No news isn't good news


I haven't heard or seen anything at all regarding last Friday's Board meeting for Notre Dame, which I think is disappointing. Presumably if the trustees had decided to take action or make a public statement censuring Fr. Jenkins, they would have done so by now. As it is, graduation is a week from Sunday and it seems that, despite hundreds of thousands of signatures in opposition, public outcry, division (and not a little disillusionment) sown among the alumni, and public opposition from no less than one-third of the U.S. bishops, including Bishop D'Arcy, Fr. Jenkins hasn't been moved a whit.

The good news is that the student-led prayerful protest movement has organized and will be peacefully demonstrating during the commencement exercises. Bishop D'Arcy will be participating in this, and I know the organizers are hoping to have a huge turnout. I am keeping them in my prayers and hope to be able to participate somewhat, at least on Saturday.



Father Jenkins has used a variety of talking points and defenses to counter criticisms of his decision on President Obama, including employing poor Biblical citations. I don't appreciate his attempts to spin those of us who are seriously concerned about his actions, but I feel worse for Notre Dame Club officers who are getting spun by him as well at the same time as these officers are hearing lots of criticism and concern themselves. According to a source who attended this weekend's Alumni Senate gathering at ND and heard Fr. Jenkins speak, he not only isn't backing down (as we know), he thinks alumni officers should be "on the front lines" defending the University's positions. Apparently he also made light of Bishop D'Arcy's Thursday letter chiding him for not consulting the bishop ahead of time and for propogating incorrect statements on the USCCB document; he said that he didn't consult the bishop, but then again he doesn't consult him on most decisions regarding the university.

Now granted, there are alumni who have no problem with the Obama invitation and honorary degree (a few even approved of his response to the bishop, unfortunately). But there are quite a few who are very upset, and they didn't sign on (in being involved in their local clubs) to defend a position that they completely disagree with and that seems to directly contradict Church teaching.

Again, what is the Board of Trustees going to do here?

Compounding the embarrassment


Breaking: Mary Ann Glendon, in a public letter to Father Jenkins, has declined to receive the Laetare Medal this year. In her letter, posted at First Things where she is on their editorial board I believe, she says she was originally honored to receive the award, but then realized she would have to change her speech once President Obama was announced. Finally, she decided that she couldn't accept for several reasons: first, granting him an honorary law degree was (as Bishop D'Arcy pointedly noted on Thursday) in violation of USCCB directives and Catholic teaching (and I would add, cheapens the value of her own much-deserved honorary law degree). Second, she realized she was being used by Fr. Jenkins (in his "talking points") to be the university's counter to President Obama, and apparently as the primary means of "engaging" the President on life issues -- at commencement exercises that shouldn't be focused on those issues in the first place. I commend Professor Glendon for taking this stand -- but feel continued embarrassment for the university -- *our* university -- that would honor a pro-abortion, pro-embryo-destructive-research leader over one of our nation's foremost Catholic legal scholars.

I understand that the Board of Trustees is going to meet this coming Friday. I would encourage people to write (politely, of course) to members of the Board to express their opinions. I know some of them are already upset by Fr. Jenkins's course of action here, but the question is, what will they do about it? Is this issue something the university is prepared to suffer loss of its good Catholic character and division of its alumni over?

ETA: David Freddoso (an alum) at NRO reports that Fr. Jenkins's reply to this is that he's disappointed but intends to find "another deserving recipient." Says Freddoso, rather snarkily: "Joe Biden, perhaps?" Perfect.

More in reply to Fr. Jenkins, though: Really? No reply *at all* to the reasoning given by Professor Glendon? Doesn't she merit more respect than such a curt "move on" statement in response?

This is getting out of hand.

Poor excuses


I am hearing from a few relatively high-placed sources that Father Jenkins is continuing to change/extend his justifications to donors for conferring the honorary degree on President Obama. While he consistently states that the University is pro-life, and does not and will not support the President's positions (and actions, one should add) on abortion and embryonic stem cell research, among other things, Fr. Jenkins does not think the honorary degree controverts Notre Dame's mission. In fact, he is now employing biblical analogies to affirmatively justify the degree -- he is citing 1 Peter 2:17 to say that while we honor God above all, we must also "honor the king" since we live in this world.

I'm pretty sure this passage does not apply at all in this situation, and I'm hardly the biblical scholar Fr. Jenkins should be. Honoring the king (even in spite of persecution, which is the context St. Peter was writing in) means that "for the Lord's sake" we "accept the authority of every human institution," accept Caesar's authority to rule, and do not revolt against him -- it does not, by any reading, mean fêting him, especially if he is not using his authority wisely. In Values in a Time of Upheaval, Pope Benedict reads this passage in concert with Romans 13 ("There is no authority except from God") to discuss how Christians should relate to the state. (Hint: it doesn't involve honoring those who support use of the law to kill the innocent.)

The task of the state is . . . [to] ensure peace at home and abroad. As I have said, this may sound somewhat banal, and yet it articulates an essential moral demand: peace at home and abroad is possible only when the fundamental legal rights of the individual and of society are guaranteed.

Our constitutional and federal statutory law -- as actively supported by the President -- does not respect the fundamental legal right to life of the unborn. We can respect the office of the president -- be polite, offer prayers -- without at all being able to justify celebrating or honoring the officeholder who doesn't understand that most fundamental obligation of the state. I just finished reading Archbishop Chaput's Render Unto Caesar the other day, and he is very much on point in this question of what the Bible really teaches us our responsibilities are as Christians living in this world:

What belongs to Caesar, and what belongs to God? To Caesar we owe respect and prayers for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:2); respect for the law; obedience to proper authority; and service to the common good. It's a rather modest list. And note that respect is not subservience, or silence, or inaction, or excuse making, or acquiescence to grave evil in the public life we all share.

I'm pretty sure St. Peter never meant for us to affirmatively and freely grant honors to leaders who advocate, vote for and enact laws that destroy innocent human life. Because before that "Honor the king" directive comes the more important one: "Fear God."

Ironically, ASU apologizes . . .


... for not doing enough to properly honor President Obama during his commencement speech at Arizona State. In fact, after they said that they were not conferring an honorary degree because, they said, the president did not yet have a body of work sufficient to merit it, they heard howls of outrage from people who thought this was an insult and completely inappropriate. It now turns out that ASU's policy is simply to not give honorary degrees to sitting politicians (hey, that would solve some of our problems right there), but they already backpedaled hard to show the proper amount of deference to Obama. Their president assures that Arizona State "will honor President Obama in every way" (!) and they even created a "Barack Obama Scholars" scholarship program in his honor. ASU has no institutional or moral reason to oppose the president's policies, of course, while ND does. The contrast between the two schools and who has been outraged by each is (or should be) instructive, however.

I'm sure others have suggested this, but can't ASU and ND just switch? They can give the honorary degree, and we can decline to confer one. Then all the right people should be happy.

Getting the (canon) law wrong


Canon lawyer Ed Peters is harsh in his reply to Fr. Jenkins's interpretation of the USCCB statement "Catholics in Political Life." Fr. Jenkins said, in a letter to the ND Board of Trustees, that he consulted with canon lawyers who confirmed his reading that the bishops' statement only applied to Catholics who acted against Catholic teaching. On the face of it, this might sound plausible, but a moment's thought (which one hopes the Board of Trustees would give it) reveals it is ludicrous. As Peters says:

Is the man serious?

Does Jenkins really think that Catholic bishops would countenance a Catholic institution honoring a philanthropic murderer, or a free-speech crusading pornographer, or a right-to-privacy pimp, provided merely that the awardee was not a Catholic? Really, that's too bizarre for words.

Fr. Jenkins also says that conferring the honorary degree does not connote support for the President's positions on life issues. "In every statement I have made about the invitation of President Obama and in every statement I will make, I express our disagreement with him on issues surrounding the protection of life, such as abortion and embryonic stem cell research," he said. "If we repeatedly and clearly state that we do not support the President on these issues, we cannot be understood to 'suggest support'."

If one needs to clarify repeatedly and in every instance that conferring the degree does not "suggest support," doesn't that indicate that yes, the degree itself does suggest support? Otherwise there wouldn't be a need to be constantly clarifying. And how prominent are ND's disavowals of support of the President likely to be in the public eye, and how long are they likely to last in the public perception? Answers: Not that prominent, and not that long. I hope the Board doesn't buy into this.



Over the past two weeks, the University has only been digging in with its defense of inviting the president and giving him an honorary degree. 32 bishops around the country have spoken up to condemn the decision to honor the President in contravention of Catholic principles and the 2004 USCCB statement. But I've heard the dismissal from University backers that that's only a small fraction of the total number of US bishops, so it's insignificant. I've also been told by a University spokesman directly that they are bothered by the "lack of consistency" in the bishops opposing ND's decision but not speaking out against Obama at the Al Smith dinner in New York last year. My points would be: first, the importance of any number of bishops speaking out in this context is that they, as authors of the USCCB statement, certainly have some authority in clarifying what it meant. (Fr. Jenkins has claimed it was ambiguous and intended only to apply to Catholic pro-choice politicians, but the bishops are rebutting that interpretation.) Second, whether or not there was opposition to the Al Smith dinner last year, it doesn't speak to whether the bishops are right in this instance with regard to Notre Dame. As a response to my question about whether ND was affected by Bishop D'Arcy's statement and declining to attend commencement, this administration official's reply was disappointing. I've also talked to a few high-level donors who are receiving the same standard responses as everyone else. Extending invitations to new presidents is "customary"; they aren't honoring Obama's pro-choice or anti-Catholic positions; they're disappointed by Bishop D'Arcy's response but it won't affect their decision; and of course they understand concerns from the alumni but they want this to be an "opportunity for dialogue," and who knows? Maybe the President will be changed by the encounter. Finally, they are being told, Laetare Medal honoree Mary Ann Glendon may well take the opportunity for her speech to directly challenge the President's positions on life issues. I don't think the alumni are too reassured by this, but rather continue to be distressed. (I've also talked to "regular" alumni who, like me, aren't any kind of high level donors but just love the school, and are so upset by the University's decision and seeming lack of response to alumni concerns, that it's coloring their whole perception of the school.) The latest news ought to be as publicly embarrassing as three dozen bishops censuring the school: Arizona State, which is also having the President speak at its commencement, is not conferring an honorary degree, because, according to its spokesman, "It's our practice to recognize an individual for his body of work, somebody who's been in their position for a long time. His body of work is yet to come." Ouch. Well, it's yet to come except in the key bits of policy he's managed to find time for in the first few months, like taxpayer funding of international abortion advocacy groups, federal funding for newly destructive embryonic stem cell research, appointment of pro-choice Catholics to key positions, and so forth. ND's spokesman officer seems as bland in his response to this as to the story overall: University spokesman Dennis Brown said it's customary at Notre Dame to confer a degree on every guest speaker. The university tries to select speakers who have made significant contributions to society or can give a compelling message.Those statements don't follow, and I wonder if Brown made them in sequence. It's clearly possible, as ASU demonstrates, to invite a speaker to come without conferring an honorary degree. And whether or not it's "customary" to give the degree, perhaps there should have been an examination of the particular circumstances in this case[...]

More fallout


The Obama invitation and honorary degree has attracted more widespread attention and criticism than I would have expected since the White House broke the news on Friday, but while I wish the criticism weren't necessary in the first place (if Obama weren't invited), it's certainly warranted now. The way the university has handled it (no press release until the White House said anything, no featured stories on the ND homepage, not even a courtesy call to the bishop until just before the news broke) has something to do with it. Most of their actions suggest they knew it would be an objectionable choice not in line with Church teaching and specific guidelines. In other words, I think the decision can't be attributed to cluelessness as to how alumni and the wider American Catholic community would respond. The administration knew, they attempted to downplay it, and while they are trying to make an affirmative case for why the honors are valid, they're really on the defensive now as people are severely disappointed and upset by the whole affair. Then again, maybe they knew but didn't expect the scope of the blowback?As many people thought, Bishop D'Arcy has responded by stating that he will not attend Commencement. The statement was not harsh, but was extremely pointed: "[A]s a Catholic University, Notre Dame must ask itself, if by this decision it has chosen prestige over truth." Given that this president has "separated science from ethics and has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life," the decision by ND to confer an honorary degree can't be reconciled with the Catholic mission of the university. The bishop has asked for prayers for the university to recommit itself to the "primacy of truth." I'm glad he has taken a strong stand and hope it has an impact on the administration.The alumni association, though, isn't handling it that well yet, judging by its statement yesterday. Thomas Peters posted this letter sent out to ND Club presidents yesterday. A key point:Here are a few University observations about the selection of the President as the Commencement speaker: The University does not support President Obama’s positions on specific issues regarding the protection of human life, including abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Notre Dame’s positions on these issues are firm and unwavering. The invitation to the President to be the Commencement speaker shouldn’t be taken as condoning or endorsing his positions that contradict the teachings of the Catholic Church.Rather, the University has invited the President to campus for what he’s done for racial equality, and for his stands on poverty, health care, immigration, education, infectious disease, and seeking peace. These are causes dear to the heart of Notre Dame, and he has elevated these causes and made them his own.I fully concede that my reaction to the claims of the second paragraph are mostly political (i.e., how exactly is the push for socialized medicine a praiseworthy thing? How is eliminating voucher programs for disadvantaged minorities a great thing for racial equality and education?) Regardless, however, the fact is that human life issues trump all of these in importance, according to the Church (and one would hope, according to the conscience of most citizens). Active support and furtherance of a legal regime that's resulted in forty million innocent deaths in America alone since Roe v. Wade -- itself a legal abomination that Obama the law prof supports and would codify into law -- has to trump, and does trump, a stand on immigration in any moral calculus. (Unless, for instance, the existing immigration policy was the legalized mass slaughter of immigrants.) [...]

Scandalous invitation


The news broke late Friday that President Obama will be Notre Dame's commencement speaker this year. That the nation's preeminent Catholic university would invite the most pro-abortion president we've ever had to give such a prominent address and receive an honorary law degree is astonishing and unjustifiable. After a weekend with little to no comment from the university -- they must realize how objectionable this whole affair is -- Fr. Jenkins commented yesterday in an interview with the Observer. My take: I'm still as upset as I was on Friday when I heard about it, and a lot of other people are too. I bet Bishop D'Arcy won't even attend the ceremony.In its 2004 statement "Catholics in Political Life," the USCCB advised, "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." This should be a no-brainer, but the frequency with which Catholic institutions host such speakers means it needed to be said. Unfortunately, Fr. Jenkins seems to be ignoring the clear meaning and context of this directive in favor of hair-splitting interpretations: The president's honorary degree, he said, "does not, it is not intended to condone or endorse his position on specific issues regarding life. That's not what we're honoring."So how is he going to make that clear? As the USCCB statement implied, it's hard to separate public honors and accolades of a person from censure of his positions. That's assuming censure even occurs, which I doubt it would here. Fr. Jenkins can tell the alumni and students in the student newspaper that of course we disagree with the President on life issues, but is it likely he's going to say even that much on stage? - much less give any sort of harsh rebuke to the President for causing taxpayers to fund international abortions or destruction of human embryos? Of course not. (You can already tell from Jenkins's comments that he is looking forward to honoring Obama as a "powerful and eloquent" speaker who is "an inspiring leader." Um, sure.) Even if Catholics could delude themselves, a la Doug Kmiec, before the election that Obama was somehow, despite all evidence to the contrary, really pro-life in practice, there is no way they could think so now. The President has gone out of his way, during a time of economic distress, to allow taxpayer funding for embryonic stem cell research and abortions. He routinely selects pro-choice Catholics (Biden, Daschle, Sebelius) for key positions, including ones that will affect health care in America. And regardless of whether it's likely to end up on his desk, he has said he will sign the Freedom of Choice Act to eliminate all legislative restrictions on abortion. This is morally and ethically wrong, especially to Catholics. Fr. Jenkins doesn't pretend otherwise (I don't doubt he adheres to Catholic teaching on life issues; of course he does); he just thinks hosting Obama will allow us to have a dialogue and engagement with Obama on these issues.I think this is unlikely, to say the least. I think, instead, the media and public at large will miss any nuanced "dialoguing" that happens on campus in connection with the event, leaving the main narrative perception of the commencement events to be that Notre Dame hosted Obama, and so abortion just must not be that big of issue for the American church today. (Everyone today remembers Mario Cuomo's "personally opposed" debacle in the 80s happened at Notre Dame. Was there "dialogue" on campus at the time? Who knows?) It gives cover to the Pelosis and Bidens of the world who promulgate ludicrous misreadings of Church teach[...]

Change to believe in?


Among President Obama's first official acts scheduled perhaps as soon as today, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, will be ones destructive of human life. He will sign an executive order overturning the Mexico City policy, which was implemented by President Reagan to stop federal funding of international abortions. President Clinton overturned it his first few days in office, but President Bush had reinstated it. Now, American taxpayer dollars will once again be used to fund abortions and abortion advocacy abroad. Anyone who values the rights of the unborn has to feel grieved that we have changed from a president who understands what the culture of life is all about -- who knows that protecting the lives of the innocent and voiceless includes protecting the lives of the unborn -- to one who, far from recognizing the sanctity of human life, by his own account would work actively to entrench and expand abortion rights.Relatedly, President Obama is also planning to reverse Bush's executive order banning federal (taxpayer) funds for embryonic stem cell research, which involves the creation and destruction of human embryos. Nevermind that such research is immoral, ineffective and unnecessary (adult stem cell research is far more promising and already effective, with no moral issues), as I've written about many times before, or that (for instance) in this economic climate federal money might better be spent elsewhere.Finally, and again, Obama told Planned Parenthood last year that the first thing he'd do as president would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which supposedly would codify Roe, but would actually go far beyond that to wipe out all abortion laws in the country: parental notification laws, waiting periods, counseling laws, bans on partial-birth abortion, and so forth (all laws "interfering" with the right to abortion). It would allow taxpayer money to directly fund abortions through Medicaid by eliminating the Hyde Amendment. And it could threaten the right of conscience for Catholic hospitals and pro-life physicians not to perform abortions. In short, it's pretty much the most radical pro-abortion legislation we could have, and with a Democratic majority and a committed president, it's going to take tremendous effort on the part of Catholics and other pro-life supporters to fight it.It's a terrible shame that, even in a year in which the bishops spoke out more than ever about the Church's clear teaching on abortion, around 54% of Catholic voters picked likely the most pro-abortion president we've ever had. Please pray for the marchers in the annual March for Life in Washington today, for the defeat of FOCA, and for the conversion of this president to recognize the value of unborn human life.You can follow events from today's march at Blogs 4 Life or EWTN. (I just saw the Notre Dame right-to-life club go by in the crowd. Go Irish!) For media coverage of the march, which is usually quite lacking, keep an eye on Get Religion. Looks like the Post has an article for tomorrow planned, though nothing ran today. I should hope in this year the march gets more attention -- if nothing else, the arrival of the new administration, as the Post seems to have noted, provides a good hook.[...]

Another bad feeling about this


After the field goal kicker finds his mojo, the quarterback loses it . . . and we start turning the ball over and piling up penalties again on the road.

Oh, Irish, you're killing me.

Policy preferences


I'm disappointed that Obama won last night, not least because I think if Mr. Hope'n'change has any vision at all for this country besides promoting vacuous feel-goodism, it's probably a severely leftist vision with which I'll almost entirely disagree. Obama spent a lot of his Illinois and U.S. Senate career studiously avoiding taking a position on issues by voting "present" or not voting, which was convenient for his later political career as it meant there was less of a record hindering him. Yet when he did stake out positions through his votes - and since then occasionally in his speeches, or inadvertently - it often revealed an ideological-left orientation.For one thing, Obama is the most pro-abortion candidate the country has ever elected to high office. (Kerry would have been, but of course he stayed in the Senate in 2004.) Where even the most hardened pro-choicers in the U.S. Senate voted for the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, Obama went out of his way to vote against an identical act in the Illinois Senate. That means he voted against legal protections - basic attempts at medical care - for babies who happen to be born alive following botched abortions. He heard testimony from nurses who had personally witnessed live babies being left alone to die - and still voted against an act that would guarantee at least an attempt to save the lives of such innocents. He's promised Planned Parenthood that his first act in office would be to push to pass the Freedom of Choice Act, eliminating every existing federal and state limitation on abortion that states and Congress itself have managed to pass since Roe - including, for instance, parental notification laws, waiting periods, and bans on partial birth abortion. This would also almost certainly reinstate federal funding for abortions, and Obama would also allow federal funding of abortions abroad, meaning our tax dollars will directly support unfettered rights to abortion on demand. I believe no pro-life person can fail to be horrified at the possibility of such sweeping support for abortion becoming even more entrenched in the law than it already is - even the Supreme Court, which started the whole problem, has allowed many small but meaningful restrictions to stand. Obama's stated policy preference is, simply, abortion on demand. I think 45 million plus is enough already.For another area I disagree with Obama on, I think his comment to Joe the Plumber about how he really doesn't want to punish success, he just wants to spread the wealth around, was quite telling. That vaunted "top 1%" of taxpayers that everyone thinks it's fine to target for more taxes? They already pay FORTY PERCENT of all income taxes in the country. The top 5% pay 60% of the taxes. The top 50% pay 97% of all taxes in the country. In other words: the top earners in the country pay way more than their fair share of all taxes in the country already. How can Obama give a tax "cut" to 95% of Americans if at least 45% don't pay any taxes at all? (I'll tell you - it's not a cut, it's free money, just like the "rebate" earlier this year that sent checks to millions of people who hadn't paid any taxes at all in the first place, and gave no rebate at all to anyone in the top 10% that had actually paid out those taxes.) Moreover, how it is not punishment of success to further tax the top earners that are already funding most of the federal government? Throughout the campaign, Obama and Biden progressively (heh) shrank the number at which they consider people to be "rich" and thus due for tax increases. $250,000 - $200,000 - $100,000 - well, eventually the "rich" will include everyone wh[...]

Musical follies


The music situation at our new parish has, if anything, become even harder to bear over the last few weeks than when we first started attending. I usually love singing at Mass, but I can’t bring myself to sing most of this stuff at all, much less with any enthusiasm, simply because it is so bland and/or even inappropriate for Mass. Two weeks ago there was a choir-only song at communion, with the first line “This iiiiiiis, the moment of graaaaaace,” which sounded for all the world like a Broadway number. Standard sweeping piano intro, soft start, rousing chorus, etc. A pure performance piece. In fact, when I googled it later, it sounded quite a lot like Jekyll and Hyde’s “This is the moment.” (Or Spamalot’s “The song that goes like this” - heh.) I like Broadway quite a lot. I don’t find it particularly liturgical, though.Last week, in addition to the standard Gloria and Sanctus that involve multiple gratuitous repetitions of, for instance, “blessed is he, blessed is he, blessed is heeee” and “hosanna (ho-sa-ha-na), hosanna (ho-sa-ha-na), hosanna,” we had the regular children’s liturgy song for children to process out. (”Children, listen to the word of God!” - complete with “Children’s!” ™ type happy piano music.) We also had two hymns that were so awful liturgically that I was still shaking my head for days afterward. The first was called “As a fire is meant for burning,” text by Ruth Duck, arrangement by Marty Haugen. Misleadingly, the tune was actually a traditional one, but the lyrics involved such choice lines as how we go out into the world “not to preach our creeds or customs / but to build a bridge of care.” Gee, I thought the Catholic Church actually cared quite a bit about our creed. Right? We do recite it every week. And “bridge of care”?? The hymn also contained a feel-good reference to being “seekers” and creating oneness “'mid earth’s peoples, many hued.” Yeah, diversity! (I only get this, oh, everywhere on a weekly basis since school ended, thanks to academic and legal profession publications, etc.) You could not come up with a better collection of hippie-type platitudes in this hymn if you were trying hard to parody it. A bit of research determined that Ruth Duck is exactly who you might come up with if you were trying to create a parody of a hippie-type “womyn’s” liturgist. Duck, who very unfortunately actually has an M.A. from Notre Dame, is an ordained UCC minister (hence the no-creed stuff - fits right in with the UCC, which honestly is great for her, but not the Catholic Church!) who lives with her “partner” (at least he’s a guy) in a liberal Chicago suburb, has written a book about revising the names of the persons of the Trinity to not be so male, and has made part of her approach to hymns to be to “revise old hymns that would provide an alternative to traditions showing God as exclusively male.” I could not roll my eyes any more than I am right now. Her music is used in many denominations, which - again, honestly - is great for her, but her theology is clearly not Catholic. I simply have no idea how this has worked its way into Catholic hymnody.The second awful hymn last week, liturgically speaking, was called, “Let us be bread.” This starts off with “Let us be bread . . . life for the world / Let us be wine, love freely poured.” Okay. Well, while we are part of the Body of Christ, I’m pretty sure we aren’t the bread or wine ourselves. I’m pretty sure that’s just Christ. But move on to the first verse: we switch from at least singing in our own per[...]

Alaska moose rap


I think Sarah Palin showed herself to be a great sport on SNL last night. Amy Poehler's Alaska moose rap was pretty entertaining, but just watch the Governor dancing along. Heh.

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This blogger has more analysis and the first "press conference" skit as well.

Getting it


Surprisingly nice video from MSNBC on how Sarah Palin has connected with other parents of special needs children around the country. I keep thinking she must be overwhelmed by the response to her (since she's only six months into being such a parent herself) but the joyful way she reacts to and engages with such other families indicates rather that she's probably encouraged herself by this community of parents.

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Here's the transcript of her speech in Johnstown, Pa. (that the excerpt is taken from in the video) where she spoke more at length about how she reacted to news about her son's Down syndrome and why abortion is the wrong answer.

Not Murphy's Law


There must be some other name for the football law that says, pretty simply, the team with the fewest turnovers wins. The Irish were able to escape that situation against SDSU this year, but otherwise, you can pretty much be assured that if you turn the ball over five times in a game (while not taking it away the same amount), you're going to lose. Which is what happened Saturday, as the normally extremely accurate Clausen made a couple of common mistakes and threw some ill-advised passes. The most devastating was the first pass of the second half, and out route that should never have been thrown unless the lane was completely clear, because it's far too easy for an LB or safety to step right in the lane and return it straight back for a touchdown, which is what happened. That ended up being the difference in the final score. Argh!!

One offensive note this week. Even with the interceptions, Clausen had yet another career passing day, with 383 yards and a pair of beautiful touchdown passes. Among the regular completions were a 47-yard completion to Tate. I know rushing is absolutely essential for a team to be successful over the long term (especially given what it says about the offensive line's effectiveness), but an effective passing game is so much fun to watch. It did lead to a solid halftime lead on the road in this case, before the turnovers did the Irish in in the second half - though even then, Clausen was cool enough to direct one last long drive down the field in the final 1:45 before coming up short in the (crazy) finish.

For the record, on the crazy finish, I thought Floyd was trying to flip the ball up to the refs so it could be spotted, my husband thought Floyd fumbled, and lots of other people, including the players, thought Floyd was trying to lateral to a teammate to keep the play going. If it was that unclear to all of us, there's no way this was an indisputable call! The refs may have blown it in how they handled the replay because of when the whistle blew, whether the Irish had snapped the next play, etc., but in the end - you just don't win with four turnovers in the second half, so no sour grapes here. The Irish just need to go out and beat Washington 50-0. I'm pretty sure we have a good chance of that.


Showing up an aspirational peer


A few thoughts on Stanford:- It didn't take long for Clausen to have another career day. The run game receded a bit this week from the showing against Purdue, forcing us to rely more on the passing game, but - we have an increasingly effective passing game, and it's outstanding to watch. Spreading the ball around to seven different receivers - WRs, RBs and the tight end - show Clausen is seeing the field well. (Weis said he was happiest about a check-down short pass to Allen that Allen then turned into the game's first Irish touchdown.) The audibled bomb to Floyd was perfect. I even saw Clausen shrug off a pass rusher this week like Quinn made a habit of doing so well by his senior year. In short, while the offense has not yet been consistent throughout an entire game - causing the lackluster and shaky efforts I noted in the SDSU and MSU games earlier this season - Clausen is looking every bit as sharp and composed as anyone could have hoped he would this year.- One point I thought, after watching the Purdue game in particular (with that fantastic fourth-and-seven TD reception) but also the other ones this season, is that Grimes has stepped up his game a bit with the emergence of Floyd and Tate (and also now Rudolph). Having solid receivers on the outside allows him to play the middle a bit more and get open himself. His seven receptions Saturday for a solid 60 yards fit him comfortably in the mix of this newly-effective offense. - Special teams overall has been improved this year. (In particular, it has been great to watch walk-on Anello being the first guy to the return man on almost every kickoff, and even when the coverage isn't great he's still impressively determined. On one fourth quarter Stanford punt, Anello missed the first shot, but jumped up and ended up in on the tackle most of the way back across the field. Not a great result for the Irish, but I can certainly admire the pursuit.) Nonetheless, Saturday wasn't the best game of the season for this unit. Walker's unfortunate mental block on field goals will inevitably cost the team again this season if no solution is found, and kickoff coverage was not as strong as it has been to date.- The defense has also been a bit confusing. Sometimes we're better defending the run, other times the pass. The opportunism in creating/taking advantage of turnovers has been exciting to watch, but the tackling often leaves a lot to be desired. Weis tried putting this in perspective during his press conference Sunday:You know, defense yesterday in the first quarter, our run defense was bad. I mean, they had a bunch of long runs. They rushed for over a hundred yards. I mean, they were gashing us pretty good. We didn't handle the shifts and unbalanced very well. But you realize after the first quarter, they averaged two yards a carry in the run game. So you say, Well, how can we be getting gashed like this? Okay, but for the rest of the game, they had one long run in the fourth quarter, 27-yard run at the start of that drive. But including that one long run, it was two yards a carry for the rest of the game after the first quarter. So I think he's concerned, but there's still some good results to be found. UNC will be one of the tougher rushing opponents we face this year (like MSU), and on the road (also like MSU), so the team has to find an effective way to shut down the run.- Finally, 4-1 after five games? You betcha I'll take that! :)[...]

And we're back


This past weekend provided a MUCH better experience in South Bend than last year's sole trip, which was (sadly) to the USC game. Saturday, we had the best offensive showing in two years. After a slow start, the defense (led by true freshman Blanton's interception return for a TD) kept us enough in the game that when the offense finally started to click, it was a great thing to behold. In particular, Armando Allen finally showed the speed we had been promised since his first appearance, with over a hundred yards rushing and even more all-purpose yards. Clausen had a career day (although I'm sure there will be more to come) - he rarely misfired and a few of his tougher passes were so perfectly thrown, they couldn't have been done any better. His third quarter touchdown pass to Grimes on fourth-and-seven was dropped in perfectly in stride. I think even Quinn didn't have that same touch on long passes. Finally, Kyle Rudolph marked our return to having a good blocking/receiving tight end, which I'm always happy to see, and the offensive line did a quite creditable job of giving Clausen time to see the field and move around. The defense did follow a bend-and-don't-break strategy (intentionally or not), but Purdue always seems to rack up passing yards against us. Scoring defense and a few big plays along the way did the job. So, a beautiful day in South Bend! (And best seats I have gotten to be in, also. Check out the view!) Go Irish.



Well, after an exciting day with Michigan last week, where everything seemed to come together great - offensive effectiveness, solid and opportunistic defense, and great special teams work, especially from Mike Anello - nothing's working that well at Michigan State. I'll change my tune if we break a few big plays here in the fourth, but in a game where we're only down two scores but we keep shooting ourselves in the foot with turnovers, the offense is decidedly blah today. Clausen has made some uncharacteristically bad throws, and despite the protection not being too bad - the spread worked to beat the pressure several times up till now - he's been pressured far more than in the first two games and not done a great job of evading it. Two intentional grounding penalties and a couple of sacks shows that. He's still mostly accurate, and the spread is working well enough, but it's got to kick into gear here. We don't look like a team that should be shut out here. Come on, Irish!

Sloppy, sloppy


Well, Saturday's game wasn't much fun to watch, and the end feeling was not so much of confidence but of uncertain relief. In retrospect, I feel a bit better about things, but of course it will all be contingent upon fixing the easy errors that so managed to kill our momentum that we scraped by with an 8-point win instead of skating with a 22-point win. An easy 15 points were left on the field by two red zone turnovers and one botched hold. So - what I didn't like is obvious:- Turnovers and penalties. I'll grant that I thought this was one of the more poorly officiated games I've ever seen (put me in mind of the infamous Grimes catch at Stanford last year). Replay standards mean nothing if the refs won't implement them correctly, but when you can see, Phelps-winning-the-gold-like, in freeze frame, Hughes's knee down at the goal line while the ball is still in his hand, how is that not indisputable video evidence he's down? That was at the end of a solid, extended drive that would have changed the tone of the game for good. But setting that (and some phantom penalties - on both sides, I admit) aside, there's no doubt our other three turnovers were of the plain-stupid variety - bouncing a missed catch high up in the air, total miscommunication on an out route, and not wrapping up the ball before a hit. The botched hold also ruined another trip to the red zone. Combined with a relatively high number of penalties, this game was too sloppily played to have allowed us to emerge with a win against any other team. It made me afraid that even against wholly-depleted opponents with no quarterbacks, lots of injuries, new coaches, etc. (see, e.g., Michigan), we could still manage to make them look like geniuses.But - there were many things to be pleased about in the game as well. A few, briefly:- We have a quarterback. He may look like a Viking or some Euro-thug from a standard-issue action movie (i.e., he needs a haircut), but Clausen can play and seems to be validating the positive signs we were starting to see last year. (It helps to have no sacks - a definite plus.) I only counted two or three passes where I would say he was really flat off on, including a miss to a pretty wide open Tate in the end zone in the second quarter, but other than that he had a good touch on threading-the-needle type slants, fades, long balls, and sideline routes. He apparently audibled the first touchdown to Floyd. (Go Floyd!) He stares down his receivers too much still, but moves around pretty well and I saw him look off receivers a few times as well. He led the team on a couple of long drives, and as Charlie pointed out:Jimmy finished that 8 of 9 stretch for about 100 yards, a couple touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and he completed over 60 percent of his passes. . . . I think that with a game under duress or with him being under duress, for him to calmly march us down the field in six plays for 80 yards for a touchdown and then come and follow right back with a 14-play drive for another touchdown I think showed a lot about the ability of the kid to lead the team when things aren't looking so good.- Receivers were hit or miss. Golden Tate looked much improved over last year in his ability to run routes, and he made some great catches down the stretch. It was nice (great!) to see Michael Floyd make that fantastic touchdown reception in his first game as a freshman. Kamara made one or two good catches in the begi[...]

Hope springs eternal


For everyone else the college football season kicked off last weekend, but the Irish have had to wait one more week. I've seen some of the practice videos and read the press conference transcripts from the past month and believe there is plenty of reason to be optimistic that this season will be a definite improvement over last season - maybe even a success by the Irish faithfuls' exacting, always-high standards :) We certainly have the talent, and now a lot of it should be seasoned by, basically, a year of getting pounded into the ground. The biggest keys to improvement this year will be the offensive line - creating some push off the line to allow the running game to get established, and giving protection to Clausen so he can continue to develop as the sharp passer we saw flashes of last fall.

The Irish don't usually play softer openers along the lines of Kent State or Louisiana-Lafayette, which I usually take some pride in, but I can't help thinking if we ever needed a year with a confidence-booster as the first game, this one's it. We should be able to beat San Diego State no problem with the talent and coaching we have - even NDN, which with clear-eyed assessments last year accurately predicted us losing most games, thinks this one should be straightforward. That's not to say there isn't a lot to be looking for in this game - we need to see all that improvement in the offensive and defensive lines, running game, receiving game, etc. and also, ideally, see some consistency in the performance of all these units. But hopefully having this team as a softer opponent, opening at home, will give the Irish a chance to come out and show everything they've learned from the tough times of last season. (If they don't, my husband is already worried the severe distress would induce early labor. So come on, Irish - help me hold out till the Boston College due date!)

Heading out to the Dallas club game watch soon. GO IRISH.