23-March-2009 -- Catholic News Agency |

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Obama To Speak at Notre Dame Commencement, Protests Mounts

South Bend, Ind., Mar 21, 2009 (CNA).- On Friday Catholic and pro-life organizations responded to the announcement that the University of Notre Dame, one of the oldest and most prominent Catholic institution of higher education, will have President Barack Obama to deliver a commencement address on May 17.

The University of Notre Dame announced on Friday afternoon that President Barack Obama will be the main 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.

According to the Notre Dame press release, “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.”

In response to the announcement, the Cardinal Newman Society launched a website, www.NotreDameScandal.com, including an online petition to Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins, CSC.

“It is an outrage and a scandal that ‘Our Lady’s University,’ one of the premier Catholic universities in the United States, would bestow such an honor on President Obama given his clear support for policies and laws that directly contradict fundamental Catholic teachings on life and marriage,” the petition reads.

Less than an hour after the petition was posted, it already counted with the support of high-profile Catholics such as Philip F. Lawler, Director of the Catholic Culture Project, Fr. C. J. McCloskey III, and Thomas N. Peters, blogger for the American Papist.

Patrick J. Reilly, President of The Cardinal Newman Society, also faxed a letter to Bishop John D’Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend, requesting his intervention.

Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League's national director Joe Scheidler –himself a Notre Dame graduate- called on Fr. John Jenkins to withdraw the invitation to Obama.

“Over the first two months of his administration, Barack Obama has established himself as the most pro-abortion president in U.S. history,” Scheidler said. “My alma mater should not be providing a platform for this president.”

“Starting from his first week in office, President Obama has enacted a string of executive orders, appointments and policy decisions that contradict Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life –a teaching that Notre Dame is supposed to uphold,” he added.

Scheidler is also calling on concerned Catholics, especially Notre Dame alumni, to contact Fr. Jenkins and urge him to withdraw the Obama invitation.

“Father Jenkins cannot expect pro-life Catholics to stand back and allow the most pro-abortion president in U.S. history to make a mockery of Notre Dame's Catholic identity,” Scheidler said.

Austin Ruse, President of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) told CNA “the U.S. Bishops are very clear: pro-abortion speakers should not be given platforms or honors by Catholic institutions. Barack Obama is the most pro-abortion president in our history. One wishes that a venerable institution such as Notre Dame could remain stronger on important points of the faith.”

Obama's commencement at Notre Dame was confirmed by White House spokesman Robert Gibbs. The future address in South Bend was one of three Gibbs mentioned. Obama also plans to speak to graduates at Arizona State University on May 13 and at U.S. Naval Academy on May 22.

According to Catholic analyst Deal Hudson, “Notre Dame knows this is going to create a firestorm – why else issue a press release late on Friday afternoon? Perhaps they are imitating the example of their presidential honoree who has been bringing in the weekends with one pro-abortion announcement after another.”

“Need I list the reasons why this is a terrible idea? Need I state the obvious reasons why this will feel like a body-blow to millions of Catholics across the country and around the world?” Hudson asks; and recalls that the U.S. bishops’ document “Catholics in Political Life” (2004) 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.”

“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,” wrote National Review columnist Kathryn Jean Lopez.

“At Notre Dame, the administration there just made a choice. They took a giant step away from their identity as ‘Catholic.’ They rather be of this world than the one they supposedly exist to bring people toward,” she also wrote.

On May 17, Notre Dame will confer degrees on approximately 2,000 undergraduates, 420 MBA students and 200 Notre Dame Law School students.

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