The Corner

re: A Public Fight

I’ve been travelling this week and meeting with some wonderfully good people here in Los Angeles so I haven’t kept up with every step of the back and forth Danielle got rolling. But, having read some of it, and firmly believing this Notre Dame story is a significant one for the nation and the Catholic Church and human dignity, I want to say something as a Catholic, a conservative, a pro-lifer, a citizen of the United States of America, where Barack Obama is my president.

I feel nothing beleaguered in me. I am not isolated. To be frank, I know that my Redeemer lives. So that’s that.

That’s simplified, or shorthand, at least. But it’s why Mary Ann did what she did and why I love her for it. She’s operating very much in this world, but knowing she owes her ultimate trust and service to another. She loves her country, whoever the president is, and knows the importance of the processes and the institutions. Notre Dame, though, is one of those important institutions. And what is its reason for being? That question needs to be answered within, or they’re just not going to be prepared for their supposed dialogues with the most powerful and influential and arguably persuasive personality of the present moment.

I love a story Rush Limbaugh tells of being at National Review’s 50th anniversary party. I may butcher the story, but the gist of it is a beautiful young soul of a man approached him, an obviously wounded warrior in his dress best, and expressed his admiration for Rush. Rush was so moved and humbled and when he expressed an unworthiness, our young hero said, Mr. Limbaugh, we all have our roles.

That’s it. And that’s why Mary Ann did what she did. And that’s what Notre Dame needs to be meditating on (every day, and everyone). That’s what conservatives need to be doing as a movement and as individuals and individual parts. Otherwise it’s all a crapshoot.  It might be any way, to some extent, but if you at least walk into every new door knowing your role there – walk in knowing what you’re about — you’ve got something to work with.

Notre Dame is a tremendous institution. But if it loses its mission, it’s for naught. That’s why Mary Ann did the right thing. As that young mom wrote Friday, addressing Notre Dame’s president:

Who draws support from your decision to honor President Obama—the young, pregnant Notre Dame woman sitting in that graduating class who wants desperately to keep her baby, or the Notre Dame man who believes that the Catholic teaching on the intrinsic evil of abortion is just dining-room talk?

Mary Ann joined no one in any way in questioning or demeaning the moral legitimacy of the office of the presidency or the president himself. It is precisely because Notre Dame and the president have such great responsibilities that she had to stand athwart and say thank you for the opportunity to highlight some fundamentals. I believe she couldn’t have done that on Commencement Day without doing some damage (ironically in the way Danielle suggests she has).

Mary Ann Glendon’s move had nothing to do with self-destruction, but renewal. Public fights can not be engaged in successfully without constant private work, too.


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