Carlson assails school’s plan to honor Obama
By Tim Townsend
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
SAGINAW, MICH. — St. Louis Archbishop-elect Robert Carlson said the University of Notre Dame’s decision to honor President Barack Obama this weekend puts it at odds with church teaching and calls into question its future as a Catholic institution.
“Notre Dame has to figure out who they are — are they of the culture, or are they of the church?” Carlson said in his first interview since Pope Benedict XVI assigned him to St. Louis last month. Carlson said the university’s actions will likely spark serious discussions with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Dozens of bishops and thousands of lay Catholics have protested Notre Dame’s decision to bestow an honorary degree on Obama — an abortion-rights supporter — at its commencement. Dozens of St. Louis Catholics are planning to drive together to South Bend this weekend to protest the commencement.
Former St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke, who is now the head of the Vatican’s Supreme Apostolic Signatura, its highest court, said in a speech at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington last week that the honor is “a source of the gravest scandal.”
“Catholic institutions cannot offer any platform to, let alone honor, those who teach and act publicly against the moral law,” Burke said.
Carlson, scheduled to be installed as St. Louis’ archbishop on June 10, said Thursday he hoped Notre Dame officials were listening to his predecessor. “As the head of the Apostolic Signatura, (Burke’s) words carry great weight,” he said. “And that’s something that if I were at Notre Dame I’d pay very close attention to.”
“Whatever process they used was flawed” based on Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Carlson said. “I would say the university really has to sit down — its board, its administration — and reflect on what its role is, and what they’re going to be.”
The archbishop-elect said he didn’t believe the Notre Dame situation had progressed to a point where the school should give up the title “Catholic,” “but I think we are at the point that when this is finally over, that we’re going to have to sit down and have a heart-to-heart discussion about what is (Notre Dame’s) future.”
That conversation, Carlson said, “will be very helpful for the church and I think it’ll be very helpful for Notre Dame.”