As promised, the text of the interview of Bishop D'Arcy is now completed. I comment on it in a previous post, and the actual interview can be found here.
What, Bishop, is your role at the Notre Dame graduation?
I always go and I’m going this year to the Mass, which is the day ahead, Saturday, and the only other time that I didn’t go to a Notre Dame Graduation was when senator Moynihan received the Laetare medal, because of his pro-choice position, and even then I went to the mass. When I attend the mass, the President is the celebrant, but I attend, and then I speak at the end of mass, a little bit about a Catholic University devoted to Faith and Reason, kind of an informal talk, and I will do that. But at the graduation, as such, I usually just sit there in my robes, the choir robes that a Bishop wears, and I go to the Lunch and I’m on the platform, so those are the things I won’t do.
Okay, were you anticipating this, because of the tradition of inviting new Presidents?
No. I probably should have been. I got a call at a funeral in Decatur. I was driving forth a few weeks ago, and the call came that Fr. Jenkins wanted to talk to me. It was 3:00 PM by the time we connected, and I was trying to find out when the White House press briefing is, and maybe you know that?
I don’t, 10 AM or something.
If it was 10:00 AM, then I wasn’t called until after it was announced. That, I didn’t think was very respectful. I did not anticipate it, I did not know why he was calling, we do have contact from time to time, and I probably should have been. I do recall that President Clinton did not speak for whatever reason. Someone told me recently that he was invited, but couldn’t make it or something. I did not anticipate this, I did not, and I was kind of stunned.
Yeah, what was your initial reaction?
Well my initial reaction was, well, on the one hand to get the President is a feat for any University, but I told Fr. Jenkins right away I probably won’t come, I think I remember saying I’m about 60/40 that I won’t come. I said I’m a Bishop I have to teach. He said he was going to put out a statement indicating that this did not mean that they supported the President’s positions on embryonic stem cells or on the Life issues that he would put out a statement illustrating that. And, he also told me that Mary Ann Glendon was going to get the Laetare Medal, which is an award given to a Catholic, and considered by Notre Dame its highest honor. So I said she might pull out. And he said, well, he had communicated with her by e-mail and she did say to him, I’ll have to rewrite my talk. She and I conferred a few days later, we spoke and I urged her to come.
And so that kind of gets to my next question: Were you hoping to influence anyone else, or was this just a personal decision for you?
I did not expect to influence Notre Dame. I remember speaking to them at the time of the Moynihan appointment, and Fr. Malloy was most understanding of my position, but he said they could not withdraw the invitation. I was thinking more what was the right thing as a Bishop. I did know that there would be a tremendous outpouring, and I told that to John, I said this is going to be wild, to Fr. Jenkins. I was trying to search my own heart for the right thing to do.
And what are some of the things you thought about?
I think, as Pope John Paul II said, if you speak about the right to a job, the right to human rights, the right to be treated with dignity, none of those rights exist without the right to life. And the President, who I respect and everything, there were three or four things in a row: The Mexico City policy, there was also the promise in the campaign, at least in the primary campaign, to push FOCA, the freedom of choice act, which would do away with so many of the limitations that were put against attacking unborn life, also the embryonic stem cells and then the freedom of conscience. All four things, and a week later Notre Dame invites him, so I just felt that my position, if I’m up there, on the platform, it must be okay. It’s saying to the young people “well it’s okay, it really doesn’t matter.” And so there was no way I could. I had that decision within a half hour. Then the question was should I wait, which I did with Moynihan, should I wait until near the graduation, but then I sensed pretty quickly that I better get this out there right away. My anxiety now is for Notre Dame, that they are sort of a Catholic Icon, well, you might say for many religious people, other Christians, they’re kind of an icon. Dean Wenthe of Concordia got his doctorate at Notre Dame, a congressman got his Master’s at Notre Dame, and so forth, Condaleeza Rice, so many people who are not Catholics have great affection for the place. So, I just felt that my position was to teach; that a Bishop teaches by his words, but also by his actions, and I didn’t want to say anything else. And then, we’ve gotten over 3000 emails and letters here, and my assistant tells me they’re coming in every day. My fear is that Notre Dame has alienated itself from the Catholic Community, from the Bishops, many Bishops are writing, from ordinary Catholic people, with so many people that are parents or alumni, and that’s what troubles me. I don’t think most people would have a problem if he was invited to speak at the university in a symposium on health hare, a national issue, foreign affairs, the question of Iraq, and those things. The university should do those things, there needs to be diverse opinions, but this is giving a Doctor of Laws to a person who’s only experience with laws in the state legislature and here, has been anti-life laws. And Notre Dame is honoring him with a Doctor of Laws, and speaking to the graduates, so to give him that honor, that’s why I said, “Have they chosen Prestige over Truth?”
And he’s not just a person who’s beliefs run contrary, he’s actually, as you said, actually made laws, made US Policy. He’s in that position to make a difference.
Now the US Council of Catholic Bishops, I believe, did make a statement with regard to Catholic institutions honoring people, do you think there should be any consequence to Notre Dame for this, or would you rather not see that?
I think that issue has to be discussed with Notre Dame. They are saying in their correspondence, that that only applied to Catholics, and that it was only a provisionary document. The person who can interpret when there is a difference on a Canonical matter is the local Bishop, but they never asked my opinion as to whether this document applied or did not apply. I’m not in favor of overreacting, of any penalty or anything like that. No, I think dialog is the way to talk about it here. I will be meeting with Fr. Jenkins. Cardinal George, who is the president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop of Chicago, I think he intends to meet with him. Many are calling for that sort of thing, but I don’t think that helps, no.
What about your relationship with Fr. Jenkins? Does he understand your position? Has he been understanding about this?
Uh, we’ll see. I’ll be seeing him soon. I think he…I don’t know if he understands my position. I told him when he called, that we must continue our relationship, that that’s important between a Bishop. Ex Corde Ecclesiae, which is a document on Catholic Universities and the bishops, calls for that, for mutual respect. I think he minds it, but I think he’s troubled by it, and I don’t think he’s really eager to talk about it too much.
That will be an interesting conversation I’m sure.
Some of our viewers have wondered about your attendance at the ceremony when George W. Bush was there, and to the issue of Capital Punishment, and have said how is this different?
Well, So that must refer to George W. Bush when he was Governor of Texas.
Yes, because he authorized several death sentences.
Many, yes. The Catholic Church’s position is that the taking of a life in the womb is an intrinsically evil act. It doesn’t say that about the death penalty. A good Catholic could disagree with the Church on the death penalty. Now Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae, which is the Gospel of Life, and later it’s in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, said today we should protect society by bloodless means because we can do that with the penal system. We can keep people out of society who are dangerous, so we should do that. But, you could differ on that and still be a good Catholic. But the direct attack on life in the womb is intrinsically evil, can never be accepted, can never be permitted, or anything of that nature. And so, I agree with Pope John Paul II and present church thrust that we should protect life by lifetime imprisonment and things like that. But there’s a difference between those two issues, as there is a difference between the Iraq war, I did not agree with the Iraq war, but a person of good will, a good Catholic, could disagree on that, and reach a different conclusion. This is something that always binds, a direct attack on an unborn child.
Innocent life, right? Isn’t that how you put it in your statement?
And the other question everyone has been asking as they write in: what was Notre Dame thinking? Any guesses?
[Laughter] Well, you’d have to ask Father Jenkins. He hasn’t been available has he? Have you tried?
Did Father Jenkins make the decision? Is it his decision?
I think so, from what I hear, I’m sure, I would think, some members of the board of trustees might have been sought for their opinion, probably others. I don’t know whether or not he took into account the position of the Church, but I was not consulted. As far as I know no Bishops were consulted. Nor did he have to consult us, but I think it would have been better had he done this. I think what I put in my statement was for them to ask the question: have they put prestige over Truth, prestige over the Truth about human life, and that’s the question for a Catholic University. As I said before, if he’d came for a seminar even on this issue, or on health care or something like that, that’s what a University should be doing. But to honor someone Doctorate of Laws and the only laws he’s made are laws which are against innocent life. So, I think Notre Dame wishes to be a very significant University in the public order, and it is, and I think that’s what must have driven the decision.
What is the one message that you would like to convey with this decision not to attend? What is the one thing you want people to understand about your decision?
To be at those graduations, the Mass the day before, all the young people that are there, all the parents that are there, and their friends who are there, and they are graduating from this splendid University. How beautiful is life? You’re a parent. How beautiful is life? And they’ll go out to world, and fall in love, they’ll have children, they’ll have grandchildren, they’ll have families. No one is allowed to say who’s going to sit at the table of life, and more important, who’s not going to sit at the table of life. God didn’t give us that privilege, he gave us many other privileges, who we choose for a spouse, whether to become a priest. He gave us a lot of freedom. He didn’t give us that freedom. That belongs to him alone. That’s what I want to somehow convey. This is so central. There’s no other right unless you have the right to life, and a Catholic University should support that 100%. It doesn’t mean you couldn’t have a discussion of it on campus, but the University should always support it.