In just a few weeks, President Obama will deliver a commencement address at America’s most prominent Catholic university. That is, unless Notre Dame rescinds the invitation or the president cancels his appearance. Neither is likely.
Aside from the obvious scandal of having the most pro-abortion president in history speaking at a Catholic institution, it’s readily apparent that the president has a Catholic problem. When he was elected last November, he drew 54% of the Catholic vote. But between February and March of this year, Obama’s approval rating among white Catholics dropped from 80% to 59%, according to a Pew poll. It’s not hard to conclude that the negative reaction to his announced Notre Dame speech — in addition to a number of anti-life measures he’s introduced — contributed to his plummeting approval rating.
Nearly 70 bishops — including the local prelate, Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop John D’Arcy — have condemned Notre Dame’s decision to award the president an honorary degree and have him speak at its May 17 commencement. More than 350,000 have signed an online petition organized by the Cardinal Newman Society expressing outrage at the decision. Adding fuel to Notre Dame’s fire, former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican Mary Ann Glendon announced on April 28 that she won’t accept the school’s Laetare Medal at commencement because of the university’s decision to honor the President.
Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the university’s invitation caused “extreme embarrassment” to Catholics. “Notre Dame didn’t understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation.”
The invitation by Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkins is in clear violation of the USCCB’s 2004 statement “Catholics in Political Life,” which says, “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.”
Some have called for Notre Dame to be removed from Kenedy’s Official Catholic Directory, and some have lobbied Bishop D’Arcy to rescind Notre Dame’s status as a Catholic university. The truth is, Notre Dame’s leadership has been out of step with the Church for years.
More than 40 years ago the leaders of several major Catholic universities and colleges — including those at Notre Dame — joined the Land O’Lakes rebellion, proclaiming that teaching and research at Catholic colleges and universities should be independent of the Church’s teaching authority in order to be “effective.”
Notre Dame’s administration has never repudiated the Land O’Lakes statement, nor does it require its theology faculty to submit to the Mandatum set forth in Ex Corde Ecclesia. It has clearly abandoned any claim to be a Catholic institution. If Bishop D’Arcy decides to withdraw Notre Dame’s Catholic status, he wouldn’t be changing anything. He’d simply be recognizing this fact.
Here’s another fact the president may want to take into account: The Catholic vote put him over the top in 2008. If he’s considering a second term, he must rethink many of his positions, which are in clear violation of Catholic teaching. If not, his time at the White House could be short-lived.
— by Patrick Novecosky. Editorial, Legatus Magazine, May 2008.
Note: Content has been updated since publication.