Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A judgment that comes out of Notre Dame

The following is a judgment written by members of the Notre Dame community who belong to Communion and Liberation. It concerns the controversy surrounding the university's invitation of President Barack Obama to receive an honorary Doctorate of Laws and to give the 2009 Commencement address.

A New Commencement

Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama to deliver the Commencement address and to receive an honorary degree unleashed a wide controversy and provoked violently opposed reactions among all who look upon this University as a sign of the ideal of Catholic higher education. The community finds itself divided and confused, and the integrity of the University’s educational mission is being challenged. On such an occasion, with great urgency we feel the need to take hold of the reasons for which such an institution exists.

What is the meaning of Christian education, and even more fundamentally what is Christian life today? How do we live today the fruitful faith that led a handful of French missionaries a century and a half ago to found a tiny college on the shore of Saint Mary’s Lake—where before there was nothing—with the firm conviction that that the school “will be one of the most powerful means for doing good in this country”? How is that connection between faith and life present as the impetus for our work in the university and in society?

For us faith is not an ethical code nor an ideology but an experience: an encounter with Christ present here and now in the Christian community. Christian faith gives us a freedom and a passion for living that express themselves above all in the form of questions as we face reality, and an inexhaustible openness to everything human. Political and ethical categories do not define us; our life springs from belonging to a fact, to a story begun and carried forward by an exceptional Presence in human history. Over the course of two millennia, that Presence has inspired innumerable initiatives that have educated men and women, including the University of Notre Dame. We cannot limit our thirst for truth and our desire to enter into a genuine relationship with reality; we want certainty about its meaning in its totality. We need a place where faith and reason are not enemies, where their unity launches us on a path of knowledge that is fearless, open, and free.

An invitation to a Catholic university – an invitation to anyone, especially to the President of the United States of America – should be an invitation to encounter that history, that method of relating to reality, and that experience of life and freedom.

What then is at stake in this Commencement Day? Much more than merely defending values — even the most sacred — or affirming a Catholic institution’s “openness” to the world. At stake is our hope for the future of the university and the future of society.

For us hope begins from the recognition that with Christ we discover a new way to live life, to study, to do research, to be involved in politics and economics, to work in the world. In commencing from that Presence, we live hope not merely as a sentiment, a dream, or a project of power but as a certainty for the future that springs forth from an experience happening now.

With the certainty of faith that Father Sorin had after Notre Dame burned to the ground in 1879, let us recognize at the end of each day that we “built it too small … so, tomorrow, as soon as the bricks cool, we will rebuild it, bigger and better than ever”.

- Communion and Liberation

5 comments:

Dcn Scott Dodge said...

So, are they fer it or ag'in it? Just kidding, I like the avoidance of polarities very much. A lovely response.

Suzanne said...

Looks to me like they're against the controversy. For my part, I would like to know how Obama can have an encounter with Christ in a place where no one seems to be looking in Christ's direction?

Dcn Scott Dodge said...

I think we all came down against the divisivness of the controversy. We know that our fellow celini are looking in Christ's direction and that Christ's gaze is an ever-present reality. Even now, the president can hardly be deaf to the furor.

Suzanne said...

Well, it's precisely the furor that makes one deaf, no?

Dcn Scott Dodge said...

It is precisely that.

Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."