Friday, April 24, 2009

From Notre Dame to New Orleans...

Well, at least you can't accuse our Roman Catholic hierarchy of inconsistency. Catholic blogger David Gibson reports today that "Archbishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans has said he will boycott graduation at Xavier University because they are giving an honorary degree to Donna Brazile, the veteran Democratic political strategist and Catholic and New Orleans native who supports abortion rights. Brazile is also African-American, and Xavier is of course the preeminent historically black Catholic university in the United States."

Brazile responded: "As a life long devoted Catholic, I am sorry the archbishop will boycott this celebration of the class of 2009. I will remain faithful to the Catholic Church and my Christian faith which keeps me grounded."

Ironically, three years ago Hughes was present when Xavier awarded an honorary degree to Barack Obama, before he was a household name.

Gibson's reflection on this latest incident echoes my own thoughts: "I wonder if the hierarchy realizes the collective damage that this application of principle--and the blistering rhetoric against Obama et al--is doing to the church's standing in the black community." Indeed, according to the most recent American Religious Identification Survey, the number of African Americans (non-Hispanic) who identify themselves as Catholic has declined by one third from 9% in 1990 to 6% in 2008 while the number identifying themselves as generic (nondenominational) Christian or of no religious affiliation has increased. Do we really want to continue to drive wedges between the Catholic Church and minority communities by our relentless, single-minded focus on the abortion issue?

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