I was particularly proud of this piece, and decided to try and get it published somewhere rather than just post it, but no one seemed interested, largely because, I think the topic seemed tapped out. However, there is a deeper spiritual symbolism in the Notre Dame graduation fiasco that I don’t think anyone else has addressed.
Two thousand years ago, a governor stood before the people he ruled, faced with a difficult choice. He knew in his heart the right thing to do, but he knew that decision would be unpopular and would risk his power. He appealed to the people.
“But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’” (Mt 27:23)
We can imagine that not everyone in the crowd joined that cry. Surely, there were some in the crowd who called out, “Release Jesus!”
We like to imagine that, if we were there, we would have done differently.
In the beginning of Act II of Evita, right before “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” the crowds are cheering Juan and Eva Peron on the triumphal night of Peron’s inauguration as president. One voice offers a hint of dischord: “As a mere observer of this tasteless phenomenon–” observes the narrator “Che”. But he is stopped. Guards approach. He starts screaming with the crowd, to no avail, as he is carted off to jail. Throughout Act II, the crowds keep cheering as voices of opposition are quietly removed from the scene.
“Now, that Juan Peron,” said ‘Carl’ in a recent episode of The Simpsons, “When he disappeared you, you stayed disappeared.”
Sunday, May 17, 2009, saw perhaps the most significant encounter in the Culture Wars since the death of Terri Schiavo.
As President Barack Obama spoke at Notre Dame’s commencement, journalists report, one man in the audience called out, “Stop killing babies!”
As the man was removed by security in this Land of the Free, the crowd, much like that crowd during that first Good Friday, began chanting back the Obama campaign motto, “Yes, we can!”
“Yes we can kill babies,” the crowd of Catholics was saying. People who every year, presumably, reenact the Passion on Palm Sunday. People who sing “Were You There.” People who say, “ I don’t like having to yell ‘Crucify him.’ If I were there, I wouldn’t have said that.”
And there, on that afternoon, they had their moment and sided with Rome.
Meanwhile, unlike Juan Peron, Barack Obama did not need to “disappear” anyone: the media did it for him.
Reports say that the majority of graduates of this Catholic university were wearing Obama signs on their graduation caps; a few in the crowd wore pro-life symbols. There is no definite word on how many graduates simply boycotted, or attended the “alternative commencement,” but the news media did their best to misrepresent the number of protestors.
Articles in the “main stream media” are claiming that “only about 100” people showed up to protest, that the protest was practically non-existent. A column on Huffington Post contends that the event was a “victory for America,” insisting that the claims of protest were exaggerated.
Even ten years ago, had an event like this occurred, that would have been the official story. Those who watched EWTN, or subscribed to a magazine like Crisis or subscribed to some organization’s newsletter might have gotten more accurate numbers. However, back then, it was “he said/she said,” and the main stream media had the advantage. The New York Times was Gospel to some (and still is). Their wall of “credibility” in the popular psyche was impregnable.
If one dared offer evidence contrary to the official story, one was easily ignored or discredited as a “kook.”
Today, that’s not quite so easy. Thanks to blogs, and Twitter, and Facebook, people can communicate live on the scene. Many of the arrests that occurred this weekend at Notre Dame were documented almost instantly on the Internet—we’ve come a long way since Martin Luther King’s letter from the Birmingham Jail.
Online accounts from Jill Stanek, Eric Scheidler, Patrick Madrid and others say that over 1,000 people were gathered in the Notre Dame Grotto for the “alternative commencement” ceremony with Fr. Frank Pavone and Fr. John Corapi. Pictures show dozens of graduates gathered in cap and gown to hear Fr. Pavone. Jill Stanek took digital video to document the 2 miles of protestors lined up outside the university gates. Blogs claim perhaps another thousand gathered outside the grotto.
Yet, with all the protesting, there were relatively few arrests, and police were reportedly reluctant to arrest protestors (perhaps knowing the negative publicity that would ensue).
We study history, supposedly, to learn not to repeat the mistakes of the past. We read about the Nazis, and the Civil Rights Era, and slavery, and Rome. We watch films like Schindler’s List, Life is Beautiful and The Scarlet and the Black, and we wonder how people could be so blind to such a nefarious regime. We watch apocalyptic and science fiction films about scenarios where aliens, or robots, or our fellow humans manage to conquer the world by superficially doing good, offering a pleasant message, and having friendly newsmedia to propagandize. In each of these cases, we wonder “How could anyone be so blind?”
Yet, President Obama stood on the stage at Notre Dame and talked about “decency.” he talked about his alleged desire to “prevent” abortion. He managed to simultaneously preach about dialogue while silencing voices of opposition. The audience validated him. the media said, “See? He just wants everyone to get along.–Unlike the small number of anti-abortion extremists. . . .”
In spite of the words of approximately 80 bishops, including the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, and in spite of losing $14 million in alumni pledges, the administration of the University of Notre Dame feels it has won a great victory, validating 40 years of heterodoxy since Humanae Vitae and Land O’ Lakes. Barack Obama has gotten his message across to the people who wanted to hear it, anyway, but has entrenched his opposition even more. And pro-lifers have proven the power of the Internet in organizing a movement, and in getting a message out.
The question that remains is whether the truth about the protests on Sunday, May 17, will work its way out from grassroots Internet sources and filter into the popular mind or not. Indications are that, to some degree, it will. On that day, one of the top videos on YouTube was that of Fr. Norman Weslin being arrested.
Perhaps, decades from now, they will make a movie of this weekend (perhaps a musical?), and someone will ask, “How could they have ever allowed a Catholic priest to be arrested for saying the rosary at a Catholic university? If only I had been there. . . .”