Sunday, May 17, 2009

Obama at Notre Dame II

A few reflections:

1.  One writer has pointed out that, of all the bishops who have spoken out against the honorary degree for Obama at Notre Dame (remember, this is the issue for them, not the fact that he's invited to be the commencement speaker), not one has shown up at the protests, preferring to hurl invective from the comfort of their chancery offices. 

In some ways I find this to be the most distressing outcome -- the realization that the bishops seem to be willing to outsource their voice on this issue to an angry and hectoring mob.  If this group does not represent them -- surely, it does not -- they need to say so, and loudly.

And, if the 70 or so bishops that have spoken out do not represent the 265 active bishops in the U.S., the 190-odd bishops that have not spoken out need to let us know that, and loudly.

2.  With regard to the Gallup poll mentioned in the update to my last post:  I'm not at all surprised to see the gain in those claiming the pro-life label, along with a rise in the rate of acceptance of same-sex unions -- I've been talking to college students about these issues since the early 90's, and have seen a marked increase in students who both a) claim the label "pro-life," and b) have either a positive acceptance of, or at least a strong tolerance for, gays and lesbians.  Finding these two attitudes in the same person is what seems new.  

Socially, this is a step forward, representing both a more thoughtful, and less ideological, approach to the question of abortion and "choice," AND a greater comfort with same-sex relations.  With regard to gays and lesbians, some of the more nuanced language I see my students using in this area is certainly due, in part, to the general message of tolerance they absorbed in high school.  More likely, this kind of sea-change, on both counts, probably owes more to the culture of acceptance among popular music and television figures.  

What bears notice is that there can be movement on these issues.

3.  Are the bishops, as Amy Sullivan claims HERE, in the curious position of being "more Catholic than the Pope?"  No, they're in the curious position of being American Catholics, as David Gibson explores in his recent reflection HERE.