Another bishop has declined to attend another graduation ceremony at another Catholic university because of plans to bestow an honorary degree on another pro-choice politician. This time it’s New Orleans Catholic Archbishop Alfred Hughes who says he will not attend next month’s graduation at Xavier University of Louisiana, which plans to award an honorary degree to Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist, Louisiana native, Roman Catholic and abortion rights supporter.
Hughes is joining in protest a dozen other Roman Catholic bishops who plan to boycott next month’s graduation at the University of Notre Dame, which plans to give an honorary degree to President Obama.
Are the bishops taking a moral and courageous stand or merely grandstanding? They’re not just playing politics. Obama and Brazile are Democrats, but back in 2005, for example, Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore boycotted graduation at Loyola College of Maryland when it bestowed an honorary degree on New York City Mayor and pro-choice Republican Rudy Giuliani. Last month, an Indiana bishop boycotted a speech by GOP leader Michael Steele.
In fact, according to the Cardinal Newman Society, bishops have boycotted dozens of graduation ceremonies since 2004 when they issued the document called “Catholics in Political Life.” In the document, they said Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. The should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”
Apparently, those “fundamental moral principles” apply only to the issue of abortion, and not to other “life” issues such as imposition of the death penalty, support for the war in Iraq, policies that imperil the environment, or the widening gap between the world’s rich and poor, all of which have been condemned by the Vatican and the bishops.
Timothy A. Dolan, Archbishop of New York, in a recent interview with the New York Post, explained that abortion is considered intrinsically evil while war and the death penalty are not. “There’s a big difference,” Dolan said. “There are some issues where the Church has weighed in, that one must be very sensitive to the morality of some issues, but they’re not intrinsically evil. An intrinsic evil (abortion) means that something is always and everywhere wrong.”
If you believe a woman has a right to an abortion, in some or all circumstances, you probably aren’t paying much attention to the grandstanding bishops. But if you believe abortion is an intrinsic evil, you probably think what the bishops are doing is courageous and righteous.
Should the bishops do more? If they genuinely believe that abortion is an intrinsic evil, why aren’t the bishops engaging in some good, old-fashioned, faith-based acts of civil disobedience, what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called non-violent resistance or “non-cooperation with evil” which attempts “to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent.”
Imagine what would happen, for example, if all American Catholic bishops were arrested for blocking the entrance to one abortion clinic after another, or to the Capitol or the White House.
Or if all bishops declared all their churches to be sanctuaries for unborn children, places where pregnant women could come and get whatever food, shelter, clothing, medical attention, counseling and job training they needed not only to carry their children to term but to raise them afterward.
Or if all bishops staged a mass hunger strike, refusing to eat until abortion is made illegal?
“We will wear you down by our capacity to suffer,” King said.
Who suffers when bishops don’t attend graduation ceremonies? If the bishops truly believe abortion is an intrinsic evil, what else can and should they do to resist it?