Notre Dame Scandal Paved Way to HHS Mandate, Suggests University President
Sister Margaret Carney, OSF, president of St. Bonaventure University, reportedly told a meeting of Franciscan Friars that the 2009 controversy over the University of Notre Dame’s honors to President Barack Obama may have encouraged him to pursue the HHS contraceptive mandate.
But rather than lay the blame on Notre Dame for causing division in the Church, she appears to blame the bishops and The Cardinal Newman Society for opposing scandal.
Sister Carney spoke on June 11 in Techny, Illinois, to a plenary council of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province, which belongs to the Order of Franciscan Friars Minor. Notes of what Sister Carney said are posted online at the Friars’ website:
Notre Dame invited Obama to speak. To be sure, every American president has been offered that honorary degree by Notre Dame, so they were following precedent in some sense. But the Cardinal Newman Society was the major actor in fueling the anger against Notre Dame.
Instead of the bishops searching for a way to talk this through, they decided to take the president of their most prominent university to the whipping post and divided their own conference in the process.
Catholics proved themselves to be a house divided—it makes Obama’s decision to anger the bishops with the contraception mandate a little more understandable, because he could see how divided they were anyway.
In Catholics [sic] colleges, we’re in the horribly awkward position of being unable to invite non-Catholics to speak, simply because they don’t adhere to doctrines of churches that aren’t their own, and the range of issues on which potential speakers are unwelcome to differ are rather narrow.
Sister Carney may be onto something regarding the HHS contraception mandate, but she misplaces the blame. Surely, the failure of too many Catholics to give assent to the Church teaching on contraception lulled the Obama administration into believing that Catholics would roll over and play dead when confronted by the HHS contraception mandate.
And aside from the heroic efforts of faithful Catholic colleges in The Newman Guide and (encouragingly) Notre Dame, many other Catholic colleges and universities seem to have done exactly what they were expected to do.
Sister Carney also reportedly engaged in a curious exchange with the Friars, surely representing a near-unique moment in the annals of Eucharistic theology:
[Speaker]: Is it possible for young people to be Eucharist without receiving Eucharist?
Margaret: Instinctively, I think the answer is “yes,” based on watching my fallen-away family. But also, I can see people who live out of a profound sense of Christian values, people who are attuned to the principles of the Gospel, who have found themselves outside the institution. The leader of Franciscan servant learning on our campus is a business professor—he sees this as a calling, even though he’s not Catholic! Spoken with a Mississippi accent, “Sister, I get it! We can’t have Francis-lite—it’s got to be the whole thing!”