Obama’s Own Words Bring Abortion Dialogue to “Screeching Halt,” Says Bishop

Thu May 21, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST

By Kathleen Gilbert

KANSAS CITY, Missouri, May 21, 2009 ( - Although the University of Notre Dame has defended its invitation of President Obama for the sake of dialogue on abortion, Obama’s own remark Sunday that the opposing views were "irreconcilable" brought dialogue to a "screeching halt," said Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, MO.

"I think the message of the day was this - that the President of Notre Dame said that they had invited the President of the United States and decided to honor him for the sake of dialogue," said Bishop Finn in an interview with the diocesan newspaper the Catholic Key earlier this week.

"The President got up and said that the differences that we have on abortion - namely the Catholic Church’s staunch opposition to abortion and his staunch support of abortion were ‘irreconcilable,’" he continued.  "And at that moment, it would seem to me that the dialogue came to a screeching halt.

"Father Jenkins’ expressed desire for dialogue, whether it was well-founded or justified, at that point got thrown back in his face. The President shut the door on dialogue by saying that there was not going to be any change in his position on abortion and he understood that there was not going to be any change in the Church’s position on abortion.

"I am glad that Mr. Obama was so clear."

Asked whether the Church could join with the Obama administration "in common effort," Finn replied that while the two share many goals, "We’re fighting for our lives - literally. We are attempting to protect real unborn children by the thousands.  We’re fighting for the right to exercise a rightly-formed conscientious difference with public policy."

Bishop Finn warned against "taking a ‘wait and see’ approach" to advancing the pro-life and pro-family cause.  "I think the rug is already being pulled out from under us," he said.  "If we sit back and allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of peace and cooperation in regards to these things, then we will lose these battles and, later, wonder why."

The bishop also defended the outcry of over 80 fellow U.S. bishops who have condemned the invitation of Obama to speak and receive an honorary law degree at Notre Dame.  University president Fr. John Jenkins condemned "demonizing" the opposition, while President Obama counseled Notre Dame graduates not to reduce opposing views on the life issues to "caricature."

"Is that what these bishops have done with regard to the President’s actions on life?" said Finn.

"The bishops realize the very destructive decisions that President Obama promised to make concerning the life issues, and now has been making in connection with abortion and human embryonic stem cell research. This is serious business; it is about life and death.

"If in speaking out on these things, we are characterized as being angry or condemnatory - then so be it. Such actions are worthy of condemnation."

Finn also said he feared the President’s advocacy of "reducing unintended pregnancies" would mean doing so "through the promotion of Planned Parenthood and contraceptive services.

"The President has supported the Prevention First Act bill that’s going forward," said Finn.  "This is not about abstinence education. This is about promoting contraception and giving Planned Parenthood a huge blank check. If Catholics don’t see a problem with this then I don’t think they understand the threat it represents to the meaning of marriage, to fidelity, to chastity, to the very sanctity of human life and intimate love."

(To see Bishop Finn’s full interview:

See related coverage:

Bishops Chaput, Finn Slam Fr. Jenkins Speech at ND Commencement: "Intellectual Vanity"

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