Obama, the Eucharist, and Steelers’ Owner Dan Rooney

Here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, also known as “Steelers’ Country,” we were a bit shaken by comments made by Steelers’ running back Rashard Mendenhall. “We’ll never know what really happened,” tweeted Mendenhall in reference to Osama Bin Laden’s attack on America on 9/11. “I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.” As to Osama Bin Laden specifically, Mendenhall added: “It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We’ve only heard one side.”

Steelers’ fans and politicos alike are upset by Mendenhall’s comments, which got play even overseas in British tabloids. Likewise, the Steelers’ organization isn’t pleased. Steelers’ president, Art Rooney II, issued a statement noting that the star running back’s comments were not representative of the team: “I have not spoken with Rashard, so it is hard to explain or even comprehend what he meant with his recent Twitter comments.”

Actually, Mendenhall’s comments, and the Rooney reaction, made me think of something else, likewise quite relevant to current policy—though not on Osama Bin Laden. I find it hard to explain or even comprehend the continued remarks and actions by longtime Steelers’ owner Dan Rooney (Art’s father) when it comes to Barack Obama, which, like Mendenhall’s statement, speaks to a much larger issue.

For those unfamiliar with Rooney and Obama, I’ll sum up: Dan Rooney is a lifelong Republican and pro-life Catholic. I’ve been told that he’s a daily communicant. In 2008, this committed pro-life Catholic endorsed as president and campaigned for Senator Barack Obama, who, far and away, had the worst pro-life record of any major party presidential nominee in the history of America. Obama had a perfectly awful 100% “pro-choice” ranking from NARAL and 0% pro-life ranking from National Right to Life. As a senator in the Illinois legislature, he voted against or blocked legislation requiring medical care for babies that accidentally survived abortion procedures. As a U.S. senator, he was no less than a co-sponsor of the Freedom of Choice Act, the most horrendous piece of anti-life legislation ever introduced in the U.S. Senate. In a 2007 speech, Senator Obama told Planned Parenthood that he considered abortion to be part of the “safety net” of government services to American citizens. Here in Western Pennsylvania, not far from Dan Rooney’s home, Obama made his infamous campaign-trail observation that he’d hate to see his daughters get pregnant out-of-wedlock and be “punished” with a baby.

This, of course, was just the tip of the iceberg on Obama’s actions and statements. How could a serious pro-life Catholic consider voting for, let alone publicly campaigning for, a man with these credentials? And yet, Dan Rooney, Steelers’ owner, did just that, and more, in a swing state as politically crucial as Pennsylvania. (Click here and here.)

When it was all over, with Obama winning the presidency, the new president rewarded Rooney with a plum assignment as U.S. ambassador to Ireland. Of course, since then, Obama has had three years of a presidency under his belt, which he kicked off with an executive order reversing the Mexico City Policy, allowing taxpayers dollars to go to Planned Parenthood International. Obama did this in the very first days of his presidency, immediately after the annual March for Life. That was quickly followed by Obama authorizing taxpayer funding of embryonic research. He soon thereafter secured two Supreme Court picks that will ensure decades more of Roe v. Wade. In recent weeks, he refused Speaker of the House John Boehner’s attempts to defund Planned Parenthood.

This, of course, is an abbreviated list. So voluminous are Obama’s abortion actions that I could fill this website with detail. In fact, worthy of careful inspection is an on-going, ever-growing list of over 100 Obama anti-life actions compiled by the superb LifeNews.com. (Click here.)

And so, after all of that, is Dan Rooney having second thoughts about stumping for Obama in 2008? Not at all. The Pittsburgh media has reported that the lifelong Roman Catholic, pro-lifer, and daily communicant has pledged from Ireland not only to again endorse Obama as president but to again campaign for him.

“I was asked what I could do to help President Obama in the next election,” said Rooney last week from Ireland, “and I responded that the best thing I could do would be to help him campaign.”

Rooney is redoubling his efforts for Obama.

This got me to thinking about something I haven’t seen in the Pittsburgh media, but which surely is being considered behind the scenes, namely: Has Dan Rooney been in discussion with his bishop, David Zubik, over this?

Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh

It’s an obvious question. I’d be shocked if he weren’t. As every Catholic knows, these are serious actions by Mr. Rooney, clearly contravening core Church teachings on “grave” matters of human life. Politicians nationwide have been denied the Eucharist for their advocacy of so-called “pro-choice” positions, from Kathleen Sibelius to John Kerry to Rudy Giuliani. At the least, their priests and bishops generally meet with them, or consider meeting with them, to discuss their actions. The policy of the Church, articulated by no less than our current pope back when he was Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, is for bishops to do just that.

In fact, the former bishop of Pittsburgh, Donald Wuerl, is now in Washington, where he’s grappling with these questions constantly.

So, what’s being discussed between Dan Rooney and Bishop Zubik? I’ve seen nothing in the Pittsburgh media, but I can’t imagine that this isn’t an issue in the offices of the Pittsburgh diocese. It’s only a matter of time before the shoe drops and the story hits the press.

Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College. His books include The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius) and Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.



  • vmanning

    Rooney is an Obama collaborator of the ilk of former Ambassador to Malta Kmiec. Wuerl is grappling? What do you call wha Zubik is doing ? The only grapplers I can think of are Cardinal Burke and Bishop Chaput. Why would anyone expect Rooney to do anything other than what he’s done already when his bishop and the rest of the USCCB does nothing-as usual. Is Canon 915 as empty of meaning as it appears?

  • Ben Anderson

    very well said, Dr. Kengor!

  • Rick S.

    Very good point. I would love to see Bishop Zubick do something about Rooney. The other odd thing is that he has a nephew who is a pro-life Republican in the House.

  • heway

    I am shocked at the comments about Dan Rooney! Look up his uncle, the original Dan Rooney, or Father Silas Rooney as he was known in the Franciscans of Holy Name Province. he was a great athelete, celebrated Mass for the GI’s before the Battle of the Bulge, missioned in China, as the Red chinese approached.
    I met him when he was at Arch Street, Boston in the 50’s.
    Maybe someone should remind his nephew of who he is named after!

  • Bill

    Great article, but it comes to the same dead end as all the others; which has nothing to do with Mr. Kengor! I recently read two long articles on St. Jean Vianney and St. Augustine by separate authors. These two saints prayed every day that God would give them any suffering He wished that day “BUT PLEASE do not allow me to be condemned to HELL”. That’s my point-Hell has become irrelevant today so the modern Catholic reasons “Why bother?” This is the real result of the failure of catechesis. Daily Communion becomes merely a pattern. Being a Catholic becomes almost the same as being a Rotarian or a Democrat. It is a matter of taste. Remember Lazarus in Hell?
    Warn my brothers! To what avail? They would not believe the messenger even if He rose from the dead!

  • Dave

    If Dan Rooney intends to continue supporting and campaigning for Obama, then it can only mean that he’s too prideful to admit his mistake and is instead trying to rationalize his actions.



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