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Time to end an unnecessary tradition

| Friday, November 4, 2016

Eminent Catholic thinker George Weigel recently argued that the Al Smith Dinner, an event that brings warring presidential candidates together to raise money for charity, has become outdated, a relic of “tribal Catholicism.” The dinner proudly proclaims, “[Catholics are] here; we’ve made it; see, we can deliver the two most important people in the country, a few weeks before the election.” Weigel sees this “moth-eaten, even somewhat sad” event as very problematic for the Church today, given that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump hold positions contrary to Catholic moral teaching.

In 1960, Notre Dame invited President Dwight Eisenhower to give the commencement address. Ever since, newly elected presidents have been invited to speak at graduation and have received an honorary degree. Having the president at commencement helped to raise the university’s profile beyond that of a football power to a preeminent academic institution.

But like the Al Smith Dinner, this tradition has run stale. The University, like Catholics in general, has arrived. Notre Dame students and alumni can be proud that our university is regularly in the top 20 of the U.S. News & World Report’s college rankings and employs many eminent scholars.

Unfortunately, as became clear with President Barack Obama’s 2009 commencement address, this tradition put the nation’s most important Catholic university in the terrible position of giving an award to a politician terribly out of step with basic Catholic beliefs about the sanctity of all life.

Clinton and Trump, as church leaders like Archbishop Charles Chaput have pointed out, are fundamentally opposed to such Catholic moral positions as the right to life and immigration policies. As Archbishop Chaput’s friend put it so well, 2016’s choice is between “a vulgar, boorish lout and disrespecter of women, with a serious impulse control problem; or a scheming, robotic liar with a lifelong appetite for power and an entourage riddled with anti-Catholic bigots.”

To avoid associating itself with either of these awful candidates, the University’s leaders should prayerfully consider ending, ideally before the general election on Nov. 8, its now worn-out tradition of inviting newly elected presidents to campus.


William Kurtz

Class of 2006

Nov. 3

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • João Pedro Santos

    Why is Hillary “anti-Catholic”? Last time I checked she wasn’t the one wanting to ban an entire religion…

    • conway0516

      Read carefully. The writer said she surrounds herself with anti-Catholics. You are the company you keep. And those people have stated via Wikileaks hacked emails that they were looking to infiltrate the Catholic church in order to make the religion more adherent to liberal beliefs.

      • RandallPoopenmeyer

        Even Jesus surrounded himself with undesirables.

      • João Pedro Santos

        Anti-Catholics like the KKK? Oh wait, they endorsed Trump.

        • conway0516

          I didn’t mention anything about Trump. You mentioned Hillary, so I responded. Stick to one thought related to the article. Troll.

          • João Pedro Santos

            I know you didn’t mention Trump. However, the OP mentioned correctly some of Trump’s flaws but forgot to also mention that Trump has the endorsement of an anti-Catholic group while calling Hillary anti-Catholic just because she doesn’t agree with extremist Catholics.
            By the way, are people trolls just because they don’t agree with you?

          • conway0516

            No. not at all. The OP wrote about how neither candidate should be revered by a Catholic university. He doesn’t live according to Catholic or Christian ideals and she has staffers looking to undermine the religion which is basically unconstitutional. That’s fine.

            You brought up the statement that Hillary is not anti-Catholic when the OP made the argument she is. If you disagree that’s fine. But then you mentioned the other candidate, Trump, wants to abolish a religion, presumably Islam. That’s why you’re a troll. You brought up a point that had nothing to do with the original article.

    • Matthew O’Brien

      Hillary’s lack of Islamophobia certainly isn’t an argument against her not being anti-Catholic. One should look to her staffer’s emails asserting that socially-conservative Catholics are “an extreme bastardization of the faith” as proof of her campaign’s opposition to Catholic ideals.

      • João Pedro Santos

        That’s not any lie. Several conservative Catholics are indeed religious extremists. Luckily most Catholics don’t think the same way the extremists do, but the problem is that the extremists have too much influence. The same way the Muslim extremists (for example, Daesh or the Saudi or the Iranian regimes) have too much influence on the Middle East even though most Muslims don’t think the same way as them.

        • Matthew O’Brien

          The point of this article is that both candidates hold beliefs that are opposed to Catholic teaching. Clinton’s stance on unrestricted abortion is unquestionably opposed to the Church’s moral position of the sanctity of life.
          Regarding your claim that the Catholic church is too heavily influenced by so-called extremists, I really don’t think you can equivocate that influence to the influence Isis has on the Middle East.