Thanks for the response. There are a number of good things on the web about this. The best is by Jim Otteson over at NRO (in the Phi Beta Cons section). The link I was trying (but failed!) to post was a letter from the bishop of Fort Wayne/South Bend excusing himself from the ND Commencement Ceremonies.
Here’s the letter, written by Bishop John D’Arcy and dated March 24, 2009:
March 24, 2009
On Friday, March 21, Father John Jenkins, CSC, phoned to inform me that President Obama had accepted his invitation to speak to the graduating class at Notre Dame and receive an honorary degree. We spoke shortly before the announcement was made public at the White House press briefing. It was the first time that I had been informed that Notre Dame had issued this invitation.
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.
My decision is not an attack on anyone, but is in defense of the truth about human life.
I have in mind also the statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops in 2004. “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.” Indeed, the measure of any Catholic institution is not only what it stands for, but also what it will not stand for.
I have spoken with Professor Mary Ann Glendon, who is to receive the Laetare Medal. I have known her for many years and hold her in high esteem. We are both teachers, but in different ways. I have encouraged her to accept this award and take the opportunity such an award gives her to teach.
Even as I continue to ponder in prayer these events, which many have found shocking, so must Notre Dame. Indeed, as a Catholic University, Notre Dame must ask itself, if by this decision it has chosen prestige over truth.
Tomorrow, we celebrate as Catholics the moment when our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, became a child in the womb of his most holy mother. Let us ask Our Lady to intercede for the university named in her honor, that it may recommit itself to the primacy of truth over prestige.
Obama and Notre Dame [James R. Otteson]
Whether Notre Dame should host President Obama as its commencement speaker and honor him with a conferred degree is more straightforward than much recent discussion would suggest.
The president is a public advocate of abortion rights, including late-term and federally funded abortions. But abortion is against the long-standing fundamental moral principles of the Catholic Church. The Church in fact considers abortion a mortal sin and an “unspeakable crime,” incurring the Church’s gravest penalty of excommunication; she considers support of abortion morally equivalent to support of infanticide, both being heresies. Therefore by honoring President Obama and giving him this special platform, Notre Dame violates the 2004 injunction of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which stated: “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.” Q.E.D.
The issues of whether there should be “dialogue” about the Church’s stance on abortion, or whether indeed the Church’s stance is the correct one, are beside the point. The fact is that this is the Church’s stance.
If President Obama were an invited speaker of, say, Notre Dame’s College Democrats, there would be no issue: He would be part of the “marketplace of ideas,” which all universities, including Catholic universities, should protect and encourage; he would be receiving no special platform or honor from the university suggesting its support for his policies.
But Notre Dame proposes instead to give him this special platform and to honor him with a conferred degree. Thus Notre Dame seems to have this choice: Either rescind its invitation to President Obama (without prejudice, wishing him well and praying for him), or reconsider the extent to which it is indeed a Catholic institution.
— James R. Otteson is professor of philosophy and economics at Yeshiva University, visiting professor of government at Georgetown University, and a member of the 1990 class of Notre Dame.
Brad, this is incredibly interesting. What do you think is behind the Notre Dame invitation to Obama?
I ask knowing full well the difficulty involved with keeping institutions of high education confined within the ecclesiastical boundaries of supporting institutions. I attended an Augustinian Law School and the old professors used to wax on about the horrors of leftist Jesuit “indoctrination.”
As an member of the Reformed Presbyterian Synod, I have watched while the faculty and administration of Geneva College chaff against the yoke of ecclesiastical oversight.
So what gives? Why is this a always a nagging problem?