Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Abortion Wars Continue - Part 2: Notre Dame

The fight over the invitation to President Obama to speak at Notre Dame's commencement continues and is bordering on the ridiculous. On the anti-Obama side:

  • The American Life League wants Notre Dame removed from the Official Catholic Directory which would cut the university off from a lot of Catholic foundation funding. "We found a tragic attitude at the University of Notre Dame -- apathy, if not hostility, toward the faith," Judie Brown, ALL president, said in the statement. "The university is backing away from the Catholic Church."

  • Ten priests in the Congregation of the Holy Cross order that helps run the University of Notre Dame signed an open letter published Wednesday in the campus newspaper, asking Notre Dame's president — the Rev. John Jenkins, also a Holy Cross priest — and the university's board of fellows to reconsider having Obama speak at the May commencement and receive an honorary degree. "We prayerfully request that Fr. Jenkins and the Fellows of the University, who are entrusted with responsibility for maintaining its essential character as a Catholic institution of higher learning, revisit this matter immediately. Failure to do so will damage the integrity of the institution and detract from all the good work that occurs at Notre Dame and from the impressive labors of its many faithful students and professors."

  • Cardinal Francis George, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, weighed in on the matter, saying that Notre Dame's invitation to Obama had "brought extreme embarrassment to many, many people who are Catholic, including their own bishop." "Whatever else is clear, it's clear Notre Dame didn't understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation," he said.

  • As of April 7, over 250,000 people had signed a petition sponsored by the Cardinal Newman Society calling on Notre Dame to withdraw its invitation to President Obama to speak at the May 17 commencement.

  • has gathered statements from 24 bishops opposing Notre Dame's invitation and that doesn't even include the latest prelates in the opposition fold: Bishop Alexander Sample of Marquette, Michigan, and Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota. We regret to have to add that the highest ranking Hispanic bishop in the U.S., Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of San Antonio, Texas, is on the list.
And, of course, the illustrious Randall Terry has renewed his threat to make Notre Dame's commencement "a circus."

Personally, and while I think it would be absolutely wrong for Notre Dame to rescind the invitation, I wouldn't blame President Obama if he were to beg off this speaking engagement. This is not a lunch counter sit-in where there is anything lasting to be gained by standing one's ground. He has bestowed an honor on Notre Dame by making it one of the three schools where he plans to speak this year. He could have achieved the diversity he sought by addressing any private institution of higher education -- perhaps Earlham College, if he felt the need to address a religious school in Indiana, or maybe one of the traditional black colleges like Fisk. Instead he chose to walk into the lion's den that is Notre Dame.

President Obama has also reached out to Catholics in other ways, recently adding USCCB general counsel Anthony R. Picarello Jr. to his Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which currently also includes Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, and Arturo Chavez, president of Mexican American Catholic College in San Antonio.

But the right wing of the Catholic Church seems to want to build walls rather than bridges, to spit on President Obama's outstretched hand.

But, on the positive side, those who support Obama's presence at ND are starting to get organized. The Black Cultural Arts Council, aided by the College Democrats, the NAACP, the Black Students Association, La Alianza, the First Class Steppers and the Hispanic alumni group MEChA, have begun a petition campaign in support of him.

For BCAC member Matthew Tipton, Obama's Commencement speech will be an experience of personal fulfillment as well as an opportunity to think about abstract notions of Catholic identity."When I got word of it, I was almost in tears - it's my graduation," Tipton said. "It's the President of the United States and that is special in itself. For it to be the first black president, it adds another layer to it. He's a beacon of hope that we can come out of poverty and come out of these situations that we're in."

Stay tuned...

Photos: Randall Terry's anti-Obama banner; Notre Dame students sign BCAC petition in support of Obama

No comments:

Post a Comment