11 December 2008

More on Blair

LifeSiteNews has more info on the on-going brouhaha over the Angelicum's invitation to pro-abortion Catholic, Cherie Blair.

Below you will find a response from Sr. Helen Alford, OP, dean of the social sciences faculty here at the Angelicum. I have made my position on this invitation clear in the post below and in the comboxes: Blair would not be my first choice for a speaker; however, as a Dominican university engaged in the education of the Church's future lay and clerical leaders, I believe we are duty-bound to demonstrate to our students the Order's ancient tradition of disputationes, that is, the public airing of differences so that the Truth may be shown triumphant.

I am truly confused by the negative reaction to this invitation. The university is in no way honoring Blair. She's not receiving an honorary degree. She's not being asked to speak at commencement. She's not being asked to raise money. . .no buildings or rooms or hallways will be named after her. . .no momuments, plaques, gardens or gazebos will be dedicated to her. She is here to lecture on an academic topic of interest to social scientists, and she will be balanced with another international speaker, a pro-life Catholic woman from Norway. There will be time for questions & challenges. Student attendance at the event is not required. I don't understand the problem.

If those opposed to Blair speaking at the Angelicum are seeking to punish her for her pro-abortion views, then I suggest you focus your attention on her bishop in the U.K. The idea that a Catholic university cannot tackle the disputed questions of the day is bizarre. The University of Dallas is one of the most traditional Catholic liberal arts colleges I know of and on faculty there are Jews, Muslims, atheists, Buddhists, and even. . .GASP!!!. . .a Scotist or two (that's pushing the line, I'll concede.). Without a single negative comment from anyone I taught a senior/grad student seminar on "postmetaphysical theologies." We read Heidegger, Nietzsche, several deconstructionsist theologians, a few postmodernists-liberals, one postmetaphysical Catholic, and one or two so-called "death of god" theologians. The university survived the trauma.

And the Church will survive Cherie Blair's pro-abortion presence at the Angelicum.


  1. Fr Philip,

    I quite agree with you. An invitation to speak at an academic conference is not a catre blanche endorsement of all or any of Cherie Blair's opinions. Catholic universities need to be scrupulous about whom they honour, but the total exclusion of an engagement with the disputed questions of the age does the university no favours.

  2. The greater threat to the health of your students was the 8am class time! Loony "death of god" theologians? We're all adults and ought to know what BS is circulating out there. To not even know what's being said, and therefore be unable to respond terribly well? As my Greek professor wrote on my mid-term exam: "not good."

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Anonymous10:44 AM

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  5. Anonymous10:47 AM

    Fr. Powell, if Mrs. Blair even implies that she's pro-abortion while speaking tomorrow, I will be truly surprised. I believe she will come out with some wishy-washy sentiments about religion protecting the rights of women that it currently recognises: equal treatment in the workplace, not having to put up with domestic violence etc. I doubt that on the stage she has been given we will get a chance to dispute what she truly believes: she will not mention it in this arena because, no doubt, of the audience reaction.

    I too have studied philosophy (though not in the depths that you will have) and I too see no threat from discussing opposing ideas, this is NOT my objection. What I am saying is that Mrs. Blair and her husband are using religion for their own ends (see Mr. Blair's so-called Faith Foundation and its emphasis on the UNs Millennium Development Goals, which were interpreted under Mr. Blair's government to mean a universal right to abortion on demand)

    Remember, I do not consider myself to be a particularly religious Catholic (and I would say people like this make up a large volume of Catholics around the world) and I am telling you what it looks like to me.

    I too believe the Church will survive tomorrow, but not without damage.

    May I ask if you plan to attend tomorrow?

    Best Wishes


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  7. Dear Fr Powell,

    Since when were abortion, contraception etc (i.e. what Mrs Blair endorses) disputed questions for Catholics? The Church's teachings on these matters have been clear since Apostolic times.

    Simply inviting Mrs Blair to speak is to honour her. I would feel highly honoured to be invited to speak at the Angelicum!

    Mrs Blair's bishop is Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor. Considering that he:

    (a) will be joining the Tony Blair Faith Foundation after he retires;
    (b) received Tony Blair into the Church despite Mr Blair making no reported repudiation of his anti-life/anti-family record; and
    (c) has caused "grave scandal" regarding abortion at a Catholic hospital in his own diocese,

    I don't think he is likely to take any action regarding Mrs Blair.

    The invitation to Mrs Blair has caused, and continues to cause, scandal. Hundreds of Catholics have protested to the Angelicum, and these protests have reached millions across the world via a report on the BBC World Service, as well as in the Mail on Sunday and the Daily Mail. Is not the Angelicum forgotting the Catholic duty to avoid giving scandal?

  8. Anthony,

    As far as I am concerned abortion, etc. are not disputed questions in the Church. I never said that they were. The job of this university is to train faithful Catholics for internal and external ministry. Abortion, etc. most certainly are disputed question outside the Church.

    I have no interest in how Blair feels about the invitation to speak. She may or may not feel honored. All I can say is that she was not invited so that she might be honored.

    Disagreement is not scandal. Nor is it evidence of scandal. For an act to be scandalous it must actually CAUSE someone to stumble in their faith. Not merely aggravate them or make them upset. Avoiding potential scandal is also the responsibility of those most likely to be scandalized. IOW, by getting the proper info, listening to the reasons for the Blair invitation, reading my defense, watching the Holy Father receive Blair at the Vatican, etc. one cannot come away from this experience scandalized unless one simply decides to be scandalized. And that's not scandal. That's just taking offense.

  9. Father,

    If the venue were a public, head to head disputation, I would agree with you; but it is not, and that is not it's purpose. CB will be speaking on a topic she has demonstratated that she is actually an enemy of. I find that choice of speaker, well, confusing.

    As for not honoring? that doesn't square with the description of the program:

    "The conference "Women and Human Rights" is therefore a celebration..."

    What's to celebrate about working for great evil and maybe acheiving a minimal good through a poorly formed conscience?

    I would also suggest that while offense is offered to those who have a zeal for God and His Church, the confusion sown by so many such events, obliterates the clarity which should surround the issue(s) in question, resulting an a large number of Catholics actually loosing their faith (by rejecting an article of faith), or by failing to correct that existing rejection and confirming them in it.

    Consider the historical words of Ted Kennedy and many politicians against abortion, prior to their sell-out; Events such as this unwittingly confirm them, and lead others down that dark path.

    What I'm suggesting is that Rm 14:15-22 applies here; therefore I do not condemn this invitation, but I also suggest it lacks charity to the faithful who are disedified by it, even if wrongly.

  10. Anonymous3:40 PM

    In any war, a general needs to know the enemy, its tactics, and any probable assaults it might make on an army. We are in a spiritual war, so it's an advantage to us to get acquainted with our opponents and their MOs. Heck, we might even try (gasp!) praying for them. That's the most powerful weapon we have.

  11. Anonymous10:14 PM

    Father Powell

    I enjoy your blog because it really pushes me. That said, I am fascinated with subject of Catholic Higher Education. I'm not looking to debate just want to get your opinion. If you're to tired or stressed don't worry about answering.

    You raise good points and I see the other side as well. I guess my question is where do Catholic universities "draw the line" - case in point – The University of Notre Dame and the “Vagina Monologues.“ The University, against the Bishop's staunch council, allowed the play to proceed but only in a classroom setting with a forum and Q/A following. What are your thoughts on this? I completely agree with your scandal definition on the other hand even though ND did not honor this play with an "official" performance should universities give filth like this the honor of “disputations?”

    My lay, partially well read, uniformed “gut” tends to think the following: 1. Every professor, regardless of department, should sign some sort of oath/mandatum promising fidelity to the Bishop and willingness to pass on Catholic Principles through their chosen field be it chemistry or theology, 2. With this accomplished, anything in the classroom is free game in order to seek the truth and 3. Any commencement, honorarium, etc must be in accordance with the faith or rather not contrarian.

    Your thoughts?

    God Bless and Thanks. My family prays for vocations every night.


  12. Chrisacs,

    I think your three requirements strike the right balance btw fidelity to the truth of the faith and the need to engage. I have always preached that faith must come first...everything we see, do, hear, think must be filtered in and out by the truth of the faith. For me, this means that I have no fear of science, dissent, etc. b/c what the faith is is always reasonable. One source for the truth: God. We can learn that truth thru science, philosophy, theology, politics, etc. Truth is truth. I have little patience for what I think of as the "Catholic Bob Jones University" model of education. The "catechism in Latin, memorized, recited, lived like a military field handbook." That Catholicism have never existed and never should.

    There is no contradiction btw clearly, firmly articulating the truth of the faith and at the same time listening to those who disagree. Most of my close friends are not Christians. Some are sexually active gay men and women. Some are rather loud and proud pro-abortion folks. One of my fav people in the world is a Buddhist...and sometimes a better Christian than I will be! My point? The road we're on is narrow but clearly defined, long and absolutely straight. That's the promise of Christ. However, he never promised us a pothole-free road. He never promised us a road with no wrecks.

  13. Anonymous7:25 AM

    Well, Father ,
    did you see what happened? you said:"The university is in no way honoring Blair." and "She is here to lecture on an academic topic of interest to social scientists, and she will be balanced with another international speaker, a pro-life Catholic woman from Norway. There will be time for questions & challenges. Student attendance at the event is not required. I don't understand the problem.". This is exactly what happened - Angelicum cleaned up her long record of pro-choice activity and proclaimed her "right", and even her opponent , whose lecture i really enjoyed joined in that. Either Mrs Blair is the "good Catholic girl" as she calls her self in some interviews and all the info out there on websites and periodicals is a meanful lie or the wolf put on the skin of a ship and tried to fool all of us. May be she is not having "horns and a tail" i would think she is rather an ordinary human being who has liberal views on many subjects ,some good intentions and many bad choices and convictions. Like many of us. But the difference is that she is a public figure , famous and influential, and when she stands on the platform labeling her-self as a "good catholic girl"she does not represent herself only , but the Church as well.
    and second the question -answer part was held in almost totalitarian fraims and no one really understood what was her position eventually. We understood though what Fr. Williams thought of her position or profesoresa Rossi . Anyway. I am rather disappointed.

  14. Bistra,

    The only thing here I can agree with is the Q&A. I raised my hand several times to ask a very pointed question. Sr. Helen was looking the other way. I doubt very seriously that this was intentional.

    You will need to provide evidence of C.B.'s "pro-choice activities." Otherwise, in charity, I must believe her self-description.