The University of Notre Dame has invited the former junior senator from the State of Illinois to be its 2009 commencement speaker. The invitation has provoked and angered faithful Catholics all over the country. As of Noon today, over 122,000 people have signed an online petition sponsored by the Cardinal Newman Society*. The petition can be found at http://notredamescandal.com/. Lest there be any doubt that this invitation is scandalous to faithful Catholics, I refer you to the response of Bishop D’Arcy, ordinary for the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, where Notre Dame is located. The Bishop said:
President Obama has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred. While claiming to separate politics from science, he has in fact separated science from ethics and has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life.
This will be the 25th Notre Dame graduation during my time as bishop. After much prayer, I have decided not to attend the graduation. I wish no disrespect to our president, I pray for him and wish him well. I have always revered the Office of the Presidency. But a bishop must teach the Catholic faith “in season and out of season,” and he teaches not only by his words — but by his actions.
Bishop D’Arcy’s full statement can be found here: http://www.diocesefwsb.org/COMMUNICATIONS/statements.htm.
This invitation is in direct violation of “Catholics In Political Life,” the 2004 statement of the US Bishop’s Conference (http://www.usccb.org/bishops/catholicsinpoliticallife.shtml), which clearly states “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”
In response to the outrage, Notre Dame President, Fr. John Jenkins, stated:
“The invitation of President Obama to be our Commencement speaker should in no way be taken as condoning or endorsing his positions on specific issues regarding the protection of life, such as abortion and embryonic stem cell research,” Jenkins said.
These “crucial differences” in positions on the protection of life are not being ignored in extending the invitation to the president, Jenkins said, but rather can be used as a catalyst for dialogue.
“We are not ignoring the critical issue of the protection of life. On the contrary, we invited him because we care so much about those issues, and we hope … for this to be the basis of an engagement with him,” Jenkins said.
“You cannot change the world if you shun the people you want to persuade, and if you cannot persuade them … show respect for them and listen to them,” he said.
Fr. Jenkins thinks he can have dialogue with, engage and persuade the president on “critical issues” we “care so much about”. Well, Father, I can tell you what the One’s answer will be: I won.
In a symposium at National Review Online, Fr. George Rutler says it best:
This is a highly cynical act, contemptuous of the Church’s prophetic voice in civil society and wagering that there will be no retribution. If a midwestern school seeks attention by granting Mr. Obama an honorary doctorate in law, the next logical step would be to grant Judas Iscariot posthumously an honorary doctorate in business administration.
Let’s leave aside the moral issues for a moment. Aren’t honorary degrees supposed to be given to people who have actually done something with their lives, made some significant contribution to society and/or generally made the world a better place? How on Earth can Notre Dame justify rewarding the former junior senator from the State of Illinois in this fashion? If I were a past recipient of an honorary degree from Notre Dame, I would return it, probably folded into a paper airplane. Oh, yeah, I’d do the same thing based on the moral issues as well.
Last night Hannity reported that a Notre Dame spokesman said the protest response was “nothing beyond what we anticipated.” That is perhaps the saddest thing of all: they knew how faithful Catholics would react and they went ahead and did it any way.
Notre Dame has long given indications that it is no longer a Catholic university. It has now put the final nail in the coffin, or, rather, the Cross.
* The Cardinal Newman Society is “dedicated to renewing and strengthening Catholic identity at America’s 224 Catholic colleges and universities” (http://www.cardinalnewmansociety.org/AboutUs/tabid/53/Default.aspx).