Tuesday, March 31, 2009


President Obama has been invited to speak at the commencement ceremony at the Catholic University of Notre Dame. I will admit having the president speaking at a Catholic institution is pretty cool. But of course there is a huge outcry among Catholics who – well – shall we be blunt? – think you should not have the facade of everything being Okay, not even giving even the appearance that, “See, even Catholics are divided on the life issue.” We are not. There is no wiggle room here. To be anti-life and in particular, pro abortion, pro embryonic stem cell research is not just something that Catholics do not like, it is anti-Catholic. It goes against our core principles. He is not just neutral on the topic, he is actively working to make it a secured right. In a way the invitation is kind of embarrasing - like the lonely girl at the dance who just wants to fit in and so is willing to go against her morals and principles in order to become more popular - but maybe not for the right reasos

An argument could be made that he is just allowing others to be able to make their own decisions concerning matters of life. But if we see abortion and embryo destruction as the taking of a human life (and we do) this is no different than if the law were considering allowing the murder Louisianans. “It does not mean I personally believe that someone from Louisiana should be murdered and I wish that it were not necessary, and I know that people who murder Louisianans make the decision very seriously with much thought and anguish. But it should be an individual’s choice. Be that as it may we must work together to try to make the murder – or rather the free choice of alternative existence - unnecessary.”

But shouldn’t such a man be given a chance to talk on campus? If we never engage we will never move the topic forward. And where better to do it than on our own turf? The University is the place where debates are had so that civil people may debate important topics and come to an equitable conclusion. But should it be the commencement speech? Catholic theologian George Wiegel said of this, “Commencement is not an opportunity to set the foundations for dialogue. Commencement and the award of an honorary degree is a statement on the part of the university [that] this is a life worth emulating.”

Is it hard to understand why the university would want to look the other way in this matter? No. It is a honor to have the president of the United States speak at the school. Monetarily it is boon. Knowing that the president might give your commencement speech might attract a good number of students. But what if they gain the whole world and lose their soul (and more importantly the souls of the students entrusted to them) in the process?

Kudos to Bishop John D’Arcy for boycotting the commencement. I pray (I hope) that not having the local ordinary there will be of some concern for the school and students though I imagine the stars in the eyes toward our president will probably cause many to miss the empty chair. But it is a start.

Move. Counter move. What comes next?


Pat said...

Dear Father, You are absolutely correct regarding this invitation. President Obama is not being invited to hear the Catholic viewpoint, nor is he being invited to "diaglogue" about Catholic teaching on respect for life. He is being invited to tell THEM something. Such is the purpose of a commencement speaker. Someone made the point that he's only been in office a few months. What record of achievements has he accomplished as President to merit this honor? I'm so thankful to the Lord that our son graduated last year and my heart goes out to all those whose proudest moment at Notre Dame will be affected by this politicized and polarizing invitation.

Ted Varga said...

I agree with you Fr.V. The President should do the right thing and decline the invitation. Fr. Mitch Pacwa said that Obama accepting an honorary degree from ND would be the same as if he (Fr. Mitch) accepted an award from Planned Parenthood. I have heard the argument about "engaging the president" in a discussion. That's fine. Invite President Obama for a meeting of the minds in an academic setting where University scholars can present all of our Catholic positions backed up with centuries of dogmas, teachings and traditions. I fully support such debates. Obama would probably not attend a meeting of that sort. There would not be enough adulation for him. A commencement is simply the wrong setting. Do not give President Obama an honorary degree reported by a media circus that will be portrayed as Notre Dame rewriting the magisterium of the Church. It is completely irresponsible and unacceptable.

eileen said...

In agreement here. My brother, his wife and son have all graduated from Notre Dame. My brother informed me last week he was sending back his diploma! I was actually stunned at first, but said I was very proud of him! He added he would not recommend anyone attend Notre Dame if this invitation is not rescinded, as he is the head of his alumane association in his hometown! My brother said all of those in his association agreed. Notre Dame should be ready for a financial setback for this outrageous choice in commencement speakers!!

Anonymous said...

Dear Father,

I am afraid the local ordinary boycotting the ceremony will not make a bit of difference. If they had any respect for him and his office in the first place, they would never have done this. His views are well known. I thank God that the bishops are speaking out more.
The real problem is the tolerance of "dissident" views masquerading as legitimate on the majority of "Catholic" college campuses. The Notre Dame situation just exposes the wound already there. If you want to see the same attitudes, go no further than JCU, Notre Dame (Cleveland) and Ursuline.

eileen said...

As "anon" says, look no further than our local colleges, but also include many Catholic high schools here as well...my alma mater, to be sure is #1 in dissent, imo...

dave said...

I feel compelled to voice my disagreement with the 3/31 blog entry and the supposition that all good Catholics are of a like mind on the issue of Obama/Notre Dame or more importantly the appropriate responses personally and politically to abortion and family planning issues. I am not "pro-abortion". Respecting life is a very complex and wide ranging area of our faith and deserves thoughtful discussion. Nothing is so simple, nothing. I will make every effort to have that discussion personally. Blogging does not allow adequate dialog for so important an issue.