Notre Dame invites Obama to give commencement speech

posted at 5:45 pm on March 20, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Normally, a university would consider a presidential address a great honor, which explains why the one school that landed Barack Obama for its commencement speech this year has proudly announced it.  For a Catholic university, though, the choice of an abortion-rights absolutist has other Catholics wondering whether Notre Dame’s own president, Rev. John Jenkins, has taken leave of his senses:

President Barack Obama will be the principal speaker and the recipient of an honorary doctor of laws degree at the University of Notre Dame’s 164th University Commencement Ceremony at 2 p.m. May 17 (Sunday) in the Joyce Center on campus.

Mr. Obama will be the ninth U.S. president to be awarded an honorary degree by the University and the sixth to be the Commencement speaker.

The University will confer degrees on approximately 2,000 undergraduates, 420 MBA students and 200 Notre Dame Law School students.

Fellow Catholic Kathryn Jean Lopez calls it “shameful”:

Last week the president of the United States perpetrated an assault on human dignity. No statements or press releases will undo what Notre Dame’s position in the eyes of the world is in response: “Doesn’t matter.” We’ve got THE ONE. So much for the One to whom the school’s namesake gave birth. I’ve been optimistic that the radicalism of this administration on life could be a real catalyst for renewal in many churches. At Notre Dame, the administration there just made a choice. They took a giant step away from their identity as “Catholic.” They would rather be of this world than the one they supposedly exist to bring people toward.

I agree with Kathryn on this, and not because I don’t like Barack Obama.  Regardless of his politics, he would make a fine commencement speaker at most law schools, and such institutions would be fortunate to get him to appear.  Presidential addresses have less to do with the specific president and more to do with the nature of the office itself.

However, its seems that Rev. Jenkins has forgotten the mission of Catholic education.  They have just as much of an imperative to fully educate students as any other university, but they also hve a separate mandate to champion Christian and Catholic values.  That doesn’t restrict itself to abortion, but as I’ve reminded people many times on this blog, the sanctity of human life is at the core of those values and cannot be reconciled with the casual slaughter of unique human life.  In fact, The Anchoress and I wrote an extensive Catholic apologia for our opposition to Obama as a candidate that I published the day before the election.  We wrote:

[C]onsider why the Church supports social-justice issues.  Our faith does not emphasize fighting poverty and oppression as mere Boy Scout merit badges, or to give Catholics something to do on the weekends.  The emphasis on social justice springs from the foundational belief that all human life is sacred, anointed by God for His purposes, and not ours.  The need for social justice is for us to recognize the spark of divinity in all of us.

What does abortion says about human life?  It reduces it to commodity, and values it based on convenience.  If that is what we think about human life, then that rejects the entire idea that God created humankind at all, let alone for any divine purpose.  Without that fundamental understanding of the faith, then all kinds of horrors become possible — abortion, euthanasia, genocide on massive scales, war for acquisition, and the exploitation of the poor.

Why care about the poor if humans have no divine purpose?  If we can kill millions of our offspring without a second thought, why not leave the poor to their own devices?   Abortion represents the ultimate rejection of God and God’s plan.

And bear in mind that Barack Obama is no moderate on abortion.  The FOCA will federalize the question of abortion with the specific intent of striking down every moderating state law concerning abortion: parental notification, waiting periods, term limitations, and information requirements will end with its passage.  It will also re-impose federal subsidies of abortions by repealing the Hyde Amendment, forcing taxpayers — including Catholics — to pay for the abortions of others.

If they invited the President to participate in a debate with a Notre Dame theologian on the issue of life, that would be quite different, and certainly intriguing.  By giving President Obama a platform and honoring him with a degree, the university is tacitly endorsing Obama and these positions.  According to the church’s catechism — which Pope Benedict reminded Nancy Pelosi last month — Obama would have effectively excommunicated himself already had he been Catholic, but a Catholic university now welcomes him for their commencement with an honorary degree.

It seems to me that Kathryn has this right; Notre Dame has become far too focused on its temporal mission to the detriment of its spiritual mission if they think this is a good idea.  Rev. Jenkins should reconsider this invitation and honor for a politician who supports views antithetical to the Catholic faith.

Update: Obama will also give the commencement address at the Naval Academy, a much more appropriate venue — although I should be clear in that the question of Obama getting honored at Notre Dame is for the school, and not Obama himself.

Update II: There’s already a protest website (via American Catholic, which has more thoughts).  TOTUS also weighs in.  I have a sneaking suspicion that TOTUS will be a must read in the next four years.


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I don’t want to be critical but American Catholics do seem a bit bi-polar in the last few years.

petunia on March 20, 2009 at 7:56 PM

petunia on March 20, 2009 at 7:56 PM

I don’t think it’s only been the last few years. Catholicism is almost synonomous with the Democratic party. Even after Roe V Wade in which the democrats took up that mantle, very little has changed.
I’m from the east coast and being Catholic and Democrat is almost one in the same.

katy on March 20, 2009 at 8:20 PM

petunia on March 20, 2009 at 7:56 PM

America Catholics? How about America?

Conservative Voice on March 20, 2009 at 8:24 PM

unclesmrgol on March 20, 2009 at 7:55 PM

It amazes me how one can call themselves a member of a religion, and not believe in one of the pillars of that religion. Religion isn’t, or at least shouldn’t, be a democracy.

Conservative Voice on March 20, 2009 at 8:25 PM

Great site to petition the University regarding this decision. I am absolutely livid!

http://notredamescandal.com/SignthePetitiontoFrJenkins/tabid/454/Default.aspx

sheesh on March 20, 2009 at 8:38 PM

I think this illustrates how deeply the left have penetrated and gained control of our universities. It seem hypocritical that someone who belongs to a religion that condemns abortion can cater to a pro-abortion person, president or not.

A footnote: 40 percent of all Catholics voted for Obama and other pro-abortion candidates.

docdave on March 20, 2009 at 8:40 PM

Another reason for Copper Sundays in South Bend.

65droptop on March 20, 2009 at 8:43 PM

It amazes me how one can call themselves a member of a religion, and not believe in one of the pillars of that religion. Religion isn’t, or at least shouldn’t, be a democracy.

Conservative Voice on March 20, 2009 at 8:25 PM

And what’s even worse is when one of those nonbelievers condescends to lecture those who do believe. I was so happy when Pelosi tried to put forth the pro-abortion position as theologically consistent with Catholic faith and was shown her error by bishop after bishop, and, finally, by the Pope himself.

I was happy that Pelosi saw the Pope while in Rome — it resulted in a teachable moment. As I wasn’t happy when St. Mary’s College gave Hillary Clinton a speaking venue, I’m not happy that Notre Dame is doing the same, because neither of these is apt to result in a teachable moment unless the Catholic position is firmly and publicly stated. It didn’t happen at St. Mary’s for Hillary, and I certainly doubt it will happen for Barack at Notre Dame. The scales will be superglued to the audience’s eyes.

unclesmrgol on March 20, 2009 at 8:47 PM

Another great American institution in the drink… choosing KoolAid over fine Irish Whiskey.

TXUS on March 20, 2009 at 8:47 PM

I am a 1967 UND Alum and I am about ready to mail them my diploma. Jenkins has lost his mind,,never mind having the Vagina Monologues on campus, now they are going to have the “abortion president” give the commencement speech…..unbelievable. ND wants to bill itself as the leading Catholic university in the country,,,,they are smoking something. They do not stand for Catholic principles anymore,

retiredeagle on March 20, 2009 at 8:54 PM

I am a 1967 UND Alum and I am about ready to mail them my diploma.
retiredeagle on March 20, 2009 at 8:54 PM

I recommend that you contact the development office, even if you have never given before (but especially if you have previously been a donor). You’re the right age to be a planned giving prospect, so definitely contact the planned giving office (tell them that you were planning on leaving ND something in your will but now you are reconsidering those plans), in addition to writing to the VP for Advancement. You should be able to find the contact info here.

I see that ND is in a comprehensive fundraising campaign ($1.5 billion), so this is a good time to apply leverage as an alumnus and potential donor. I was a fundraiser at a university during it’s (similarly sized) campaign and I know for a fact that the VP for Advancement often informed the President and Board of Trustees about issues that upset alumni. It was not unheard of for policy decisions to be made accordingly.

In addition, if you have kids or relatives who went to ND, tell the school how upset they are, too. If you have ever referred a young person to ND, make sure to send a letter to the admissions department and tell them how disappointed you are. The dean of admissions should have considerable sway on the president’s cabinet.

If the VP for Advancement (Louis Nanni) receives enough feedback, he’ll make sure the Board and President get the message.

Of course, if you know anyone on the Board of Trustees, send him or her a note, too. Unfortunately, the list I found did not include info about their class year (or even if they are alumni), but if you can find someone from your class year, that would be the one I would contact.

Y-not on March 20, 2009 at 9:14 PM

Obama is a morally and intellectually bankrupt individual who has absolutely no business speaking at a Catholic University.

I truly hope the students take this into their own hands and refuse to attend.

Let the media, the guy who invited him and Obama’s teleprompter enjoy his canned speech.

NoDonkey on March 20, 2009 at 9:15 PM

***

Of course, if you know anyone on the Board of Trustees, send him or her a note, too. Unfortunately, the list I found did not include info about their class year (or even if they are alumni), but if you can find someone from your class year, that would be the one I would contact.

Y-not on March 20, 2009 at 9:14 PM

I saw the name Phil Rooney. Is he one of Rooney family that owns the Steelers and that supported Obama?

Notre Dame and Obama really do seem like oil and water.

BuckeyeSam on March 20, 2009 at 9:33 PM

Buckeye,
I don’t know if he’s connected to Art Rooney. Here’s his muckety map (I love those things).

Y-not on March 20, 2009 at 9:39 PM

I don’t want to be critical but American Catholics do seem a bit bi-polar in the last few years.

petunia on March 20, 2009 at 7:56 PM

If someone thinks that Catholics are expected to take a vote on issues of right and wrong, the above is exactly how they would seem.

Maybe some of them simply aren’t what they pretend to be. The ones who are, are scandalized by honoring a man who finds the murder of children acceptable, on the flimsy presence that they have yet to be born.

manwithblackhat on March 20, 2009 at 9:48 PM

And what’s even worse is when one of those nonbelievers condescends to lecture those who do believe.
unclesmrgol on March 20, 2009 at 8:47 PM

if you noticed, I said religion, not Catholic, but any religion. Religion is suppose to be a set of standard beliefs, not a pick and choose buffet. I can understand struggling with your testimony on some of the more minor aspects of your faith, thats pretty normal in any church…but abortion is pretty much a black and white issue.

Conservative Voice on March 20, 2009 at 9:54 PM

This is a disgrace.

And I hope the alumni speak up, especially those who contribute. Some may be CINOs and even have voted for Obama, but even if just some of them protest, I think it will have an impact.

I pray it does. Because this university in particular has an obligation in a public forum to uphold Catholic values and beliefs. Because of it’s name recognition with Americans and because of its namesake. They haven’t always done this in the past, but this is an abomination.

Elisa on March 20, 2009 at 9:56 PM

I don’t want to be critical but American Catholics do seem a bit bi-polar in the last few years.

I don’t want to be critical but American Jews do seem a bit bi-polar in the last few years.

Do you see a pattern? Those inclined to identify themselves with a religion vote with Democrats. But of course it is the right-wing Xianist fundies who want to make the US a theocracy. Yep.

drunyan8315 on March 20, 2009 at 10:02 PM

American Catholics seem to have fallen into a division between the traditional, pro-life Catholics who tend to vote conservative and the peace and social justice Catholics who are mostly liberals. Many liberal Catholics feel that being anti-war is more important than being pro-life and feel (incorrectly) that it also is a non-negotiable pillar. I have seen this in my own family’s liberal side justifying their votes for Obama because of Iraq. I’m sure there are many of these Catholics at Notre Dame who have no problem with the most pro-abortion, anti-life President ever speaking at their “Catholic” institution.

One interesting note (to the other Catholics here): my father is very involved in Serra, an organization dedicated to promoting the priesthood, and he says that the liberal seminaries have seen steady declines in new seminarians but many orthodox seminaries are seeing significant increases in enrollment.

inmypajamas on March 20, 2009 at 10:18 PM

This is an OUTRAGE!! I am not Catholic, but I stand with Catholic women outside Planned Parenthood to pray for the loss of innocent life. I admire the courage and committment of these women who stand up day after day. The most pro-abortion presiden we have ever had should never be given an honor by a Catholic University. I have sent an email to the president of the university and signed the online petition. This insanity must stop.

kringeesmom on March 20, 2009 at 10:19 PM

They took a giant step away from their identity as “Catholic.”

They have been doing that for a while. My dad, an ND grad, warned me of this and I thought he was overreacting or missing a bigger point. After Tariq Ramadan and this, he is spinning in his grave, I’m sure.

Ed and the Anchoress explain the true larger point quite well. It’s about the dignity of the individual. Benedict gets it–they should have asked him to speak instead.

PattyJ on March 20, 2009 at 10:23 PM

These f*ckin’ Catholics are nutz….seriously.

ex-Democrat on March 20, 2009 at 10:25 PM

Holy cow – what a bad idea for Notre Dame.

My job is coordinating commencement for a university and I don’t think our faculty – as liberal as they are – would have bit on this with a 10 foot pole. They don’t bite on donors either. They like meaty nominees with contributions to academics, research and our university.

How sad for the graduates too – their ceremony will be hijacked for political posturing by a President who stands against many of the religious principles they have been taught.

Time for a motar board decorating tea party.

Rockygold on March 20, 2009 at 10:33 PM

He is a sitting President usurper of the United States. He is due respect, just for being in the office a frog marching right out into the street.

SC.Charlie on March 20, 2009 at 6:42 PM

No charge.

ex-Democrat on March 20, 2009 at 10:39 PM

you are a nut job . i commented on why some catholics voted for a pro-abortion president. i think you are too nutty to comprehend. later. take some meds.

Jamson64 on March 20, 2009 at 7:19 PM

Who let in the DhimmiUnderground troll?

ex-Democrat on March 20, 2009 at 10:41 PM

The enemy prowls the earth, looking especially for the chance to hide behind good, so he can say: “look, see? I was invited to speak by a perfectly orthodox Catholic institution, so from now on if you criticize me, I get to say you’re extreme.”

That’s what Notre Dame just did to faithful Catholics.

Probably 2 or 3 individuals made it happen. Bastards, all of them.

jeff_from_mpls on March 20, 2009 at 10:56 PM

Notre Dame? All they care about is scoring touchdowns…the Catholic Church pays for the brochures…they obviously don’t direct anything else that goes on at that school.

It’s such a pity that they are so very bad at football now. Such a pity.

Asher on March 20, 2009 at 11:54 PM

This is disgusting. Any Catholic who doesn’t vehemently oppose the world’s biggest promoter of abortion is an idiot.

The belief that God creates life sets Catholics apart.

Basilsbest on March 21, 2009 at 12:30 AM

Notre Dame can do anything it wants, but there will be consequences, and anyone who attempts to belittle those consequences or the individuals who bring them about is in for a rude awakening.

I am a graduate of Boston College. Who knows? BC could do the same thing someday — they had Sec of State Rice speak a few years back. The backlash (because of the war) was minimal (despite media attempts to make it a big deal) and she was roundly cheered by the students and their guests. But if BC were to invite Obama someday (particularly while a sitting president), there would be ramifications. His blatant disregard for the most innocent human life among us is diametrically opposed to the fundamental formation of God’s love for us and Christian love of neighbor.

I was accepted for admission to the University of Notre Dame. I chose Boston College, and I’ve always relished that as the smartest decision I ever made… today even a little more so.

D2Boston on March 21, 2009 at 1:02 AM

What a wave of pompous self-righteousness. Abortion, abortion, abortion, yet not a whisper about the ongoing slaughter known as the Death Penalty. The hypocrisy is so deep here you need a shovel to see daylight. And don’t give me this crap about abortion being the killing of innocents, while the Death Penalty is about killing the “guilty.” Jesus spent his life breaking bread with the “guilty.” Now feel free to unleash your condescension and dismiss me as a pathetic, misguided “troll.”

pm123 on March 21, 2009 at 1:23 AM

Based on my observations of the Catholic Church of late, from a plethera of pedophile preists, to support for abortion advocates, to holocaust deniers, not to mention the outrageous behavior of the Catholic Church to-and-fro throughout history (with special attention to medieval times), I’m less than surprised.

In fact, all things and Catholic Church transgressions considered, past and present, I’m starting to wonder if the Catholic Church even truly actually believes in what they preach, themselves.

It’s all very amusing to say the least.

SilverStar830 on March 21, 2009 at 2:42 AM

pm 123,you are a pathetic,misguided troll.

Lincoln Cadillac on March 21, 2009 at 6:39 AM

I attended Notre Dame. THE JESUITS THERE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN RADICAL LOONS.

Perhaps they will get it when the alumni hold back their contributions.

The ALMIGHTY DOLLAR is the only thing these Jesuits revere more than their left wing radicalism.

Jayrae on March 21, 2009 at 6:48 AM

Wouldn’t Obama speaking at Notre Dame violate the leftists precious “separation of church and state” talking point?

William Teach on March 21, 2009 at 7:00 AM

Maybe Notre Dame is looking for a bailout, and figures giving Obama another speaking date will open the floodgates from Congress? Or maybe it’s a devious ploy. Make Obama think he’s on safe ground so he can go into full liberal abortion rights mode and that will cause another ‘gaffetastic’ stir up the republican and catholic bases which will then focus energetically to defeat FOCA.
Third possibility is that a university should be opened to legitimate speakers of diverse viewpoints, so as part of academic freedom, Barry would be as welcome as the current Pope at Notre Dame, correct?

eaglewingz08 on March 21, 2009 at 7:04 AM

Oh, as an aside, if I were the printer for the honarary degree, would I give Obama a Masters Degree in Abortion? Only if I had another job I could go to as it might not sit well with the current administration.

eaglewingz08 on March 21, 2009 at 7:07 AM

What a wave of pompous self-righteousness. Abortion, abortion, abortion, yet not a whisper about the ongoing slaughter known as the Death Penalty. The hypocrisy is so deep here you need a shovel to see daylight. And don’t give me this crap about abortion being the killing of innocents, while the Death Penalty is about killing the “guilty.” Jesus spent his life breaking bread with the “guilty.” Now feel free to unleash your condescension and dismiss me as a pathetic, misguided “troll.”

pm123 on March 21, 2009 at 1:23 AM

Have you ever actually read the Bible? The Catholic Church frowns on the death penalty but doesn’t outright oppose it, based on the tenets of the Bible. I’m opposed to it for other reasons.

Otherwise, that’s just a big, fat, non-sequitur in this discussion.

Ed Morrissey on March 21, 2009 at 8:28 AM

I thought this was a joke. This is unconscionable.

marklmail on March 21, 2009 at 8:32 AM

What a wave of pompous self-righteousness. Abortion, abortion, abortion, yet not a whisper about the ongoing slaughter known as the Death Penalty. The hypocrisy is so deep here you need a shovel to see daylight.
pm123 on March 21, 2009 at 1:23 AM

Isn’t your anger misplaced? If the death penalty is of such pressing concern to you, shouldn’t you be angry at the party in power, including Obama, for not making the elimination of the death penalty a priority?

The reason abortion is coming up on this thread is that Obama has made it a priority, expressed in both words and deeds, to increase the availability of abortion in this country. Since abortion is already legal, this seems weird… shouldn’t a higher priority for Obama and the democrats be the elimination of the death penalty? Or could it be that he’s just playing politics?

You’ve made an assumption that everyone who is opposed to abortion supports the death penalty, btw. I’m actually opposed to the death penalty, but I do not see it as murder (whereas I do see abortion as murder), so in terms of priorities, abortion is certainly higher. And, as Ed pointed out, the Church’s position on the death penalty is not nearly as rigid as its position on abortion.

Y-not on March 21, 2009 at 1:53 PM

ND is not a Jesuit school,,,,,so if you went there and think the Jesuits are there,,,you were doing something that put you in another dimension while matriculating.

retiredeagle on March 22, 2009 at 1:32 PM

As a resident of South Bend, Notre Dame is just about all we hear about. For several years now, the university has been pushing it’s Catholic heritage under the table and embracing secular humanist values. This latest action comes as no surprise to anyone who has paid any attention to their doublespeak about melding Catholic values with modern sensibilities. The only thing Catholic about Notre Dame anymore is the name. What’s next? Gay marriages in the chapel? It wouldn’t surprise me at all.

SKYFOX on March 23, 2009 at 4:44 AM

Conservative Voice on March 20, 2009 at 9:54 PM

I was agreeing with you. Sorry if it came out otherwise.

unclesmrgol on March 28, 2009 at 2:35 PM

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