By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
The White House and liberal Catholic groups appear to have been caught off guard by the furor over President Obama's forthcoming appearance at Notre Dame. Catholics United, a progressive Catholic group with close ties to the White House, has just released a defense of Notre Dame and Obama's appearance there.
What took so long? The controversy erupted shortly after the White House announced Obama's spring commencement schedule last Friday. That was 120 hours ago.
Compare this response to Catholic United's performance around the White House rollout of Kathleen Sebelius as the nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services a few weeks back. Tipped off by the White House—which knew Sebelius, a Catholic supporter of abortion rights, would irk conservative Catholics—Catholics United was up and running with its Catholics for Sebelius website on the Saturday night the Sebelius news broke. The group's tardy response on Notre Dame suggests that the White House skipped the pregame strategizing this time around.
Something else surprised me about Catholic United's press release today. It attacks leading critics of Notre Dame's invitation to Obama as "partisan operatives who routinely use a single-issue analysis to divorce the Catholic faith from its longstanding commitment to social justice and the sanctity of all human life."
Does that include the Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, who has blasted Notre Dame for hosting Obama?
Until now, the new breed of progressive Catholic groups has been careful to avoid attacking the Catholic hierarchy, lest it appear that they're at odds with their own church. On Notre Dame, it looks like they're coming into conflict with church officials. Another sign of an action plan developed hurriedly, at the last-minute?