|April 14, 2009|
|Notre Dame Stands Tall in Flap Over Obama Invitation|
|By Kevin McCauley|
|Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins faces tremendous pressure to pull the invitation extended to President Barack Obama to give the commencement address at next month’s graduation. |
He should not bend.
The Associated Press reported April 8 that ten priests of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, founding order of the South Bend, IN.-based college, want Jenkins to reconsider the invitation due to Obama’s support of abortion rights, which goes against Catholic doctrine. The powerful Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, calls the invitation an “extreme embarrassment” and urges Catholics to make their views known to Father Jenkins.
Bishop John D’Arcy, head of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, plans to boycott the May 17 graduation because of the President’s position on abortion and decision to support federally funded embryonic stem cell research. Anti-abortion zealot Randall Terry is running a campaign at StopObamaNotreDame.com that trashes Obama as worse than King Herod. The site features photos of Father Jenkins and Obama between images of a crucified Christ and an aborted fetus.
Father Jenkins should stand tall. Obama is invited not because of his view of abortion but because he is President of the U.S.
Notre Dame is honoring the Office of the President just as it did when Ronald Reagan gave the commencement, though many in the audience roundly criticized Reagan for his wars in Central America and failures on the social justice front.
Father Jenkins has called Obama an “inspiring leader” who faces challenges from a poor economy, two wars, healthcare and immigration reform. Those are American and Catholic issues. Obama, who took more than half of the Catholic vote, will receive their political support in those areas.
By reaching out to Obama, Father Jenkins shows Norte Dame is a strong backer of free speech and robust discourse. The invitation to non-Catholic Obama does not in any way signal support for abortion. It recognizes America as a dynamic and pluralistic society, where everyone has the right to be heard.
Rather than walling itself from society, Norte Dame has stepped into the middle of that national conversation. Stiffing the President would have been a very easy move for Father Jenkins. Catholics should be proud of their university.
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