Notre Dame-Obama Scandal Roundup

News spread fast with the announcement that the University of Notre Dame (ND) will have President Obama at its commencement speaker and receive an honorary degree.  Our very own Donald R. McClarey was johnny-on-the-spot with the breaking news last night.  Here is the official press release states as follows:

“Mr. Obama will be the ninth U.S. president to be awarded an honorary degree by the University and the sixth to be the Commencement speaker.”

Here’s a round up of the near-unanimous condemnation of this invitation to Pro-Abortion President Barack Obama:

1.  Bishop John D’Arcy has been very critical of ND in the past.  Bishop D’Arcy has also defended unborn children againstPresident Obama’s anti-life agenda in the past.  His Excellency will have quite a bit to say come Monday.

2.  The ND switchboard was overwhelmed late last night with all calls expressing their outrage at the invitation of a president with blood on his hands of innocent children.  The voice mailbox for the President, Fr. John Jenkins, Vice-President, Provost, assistant-provost and PR director of ND were all full by 9pm EST.

3.  Two ND alumni, Marc Brammer, Class of ’74 and MBA ’76 and Michael Voris ’83, both founders of, expressed their disbelief at what had occurred:

“It is beyond sinful that a University dedicated to the Mother of God, in whose womb the salvation of the world became incarnate, would give a platform to the biggest enemy of life in the womb this country has ever seen.”

“This is a direct slap in the face to all who venerate the Mother of God. To be honoring a man who continues to do everything in his power to destroy the fundamental essence of motherhood through abortion,” said Brammer, “shows just how far the University has lost its moral bearings.”

3.  A quiet insurrection is already beginningat the campus of ND to undermine the message of President Obama’s agenda of death.

4.  The Cardinal Newman Society was quick to put up a website,, opposing ND’s actions with an online petition:

“It is an outrage and a scandal that ‘Our Lady’s University,’ one of the premier Catholic universities in the United States, would bestow such an honor on President Obama given his clear support for policies and laws that directly contradict fundamental Catholic teachings on life and marriage,”

In addition to the Cardinal Newman Society that is decryingthis disgraceful act are prominent pro-life organizations and leading Catholic analysts such as the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), Deal Hudson, Thomas N. Peters of American Papist, Philip F. Lawler, Director of the Catholic Culture Project, and Fr. C. J. McCloskey III.

5.  The American Catholic would like to add its name to the growing chorus that will do what they can to mitigate the scandal that ND has unleashed.

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  1. So Barack Obama is claiming Irish descent, eh?

    Could be true – over here the bloggers are calling him Barry O’Blunda. 🙂

  2. Ha! When he was merely a problem for Illinois, I sometimes called him O’Bama because of the way the Chicago machine got behind him during his Senate run.

  3. As a current Notre Dame student, I can speak for many on campus who are genuinely conflicted about our university’s choice for commencement speaker. We hold a tremendous amount of respect for the office of President of the United States, but we hold an even greater belief in the sanctity of human life. Some of us have written and signed an open letter to Fr. John Jenkins, President of Notre Dame, asking him to make a public statement denouncing Pres. Obama’s views on abortion, embryonic stem cell research, etc. I invited you to read it on our student Web page here: With your help, we can raise awareness about the sizable portion of the student body who chose to to attend ND not only for its academic reputation and history on the gridiron, but its Catholic foundations and identity as well.

  4. Patrick,

    I think it’s a decent letter, and I hope your President rises to the challenge, but I have to take issue with this:

    Awarding him an honorary degree without making clear that the University disapproves of his stance on issues regarding the sanctity of human life would be a disrespect to those students who, like ourselves, chose to attend this University based not only on its status as one of the country’s premier institutions of higher learning, but a school that takes pride in its Catholic foundation and identity.

    Seriously — why award an honorary degree in the first place? I seem to recall the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ weighing in on the bestowing of such honors in Catholics in Political Life:

    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.

    In stating such, would the USCCB make exceptions for Presidents who zealously advocate Roe v. Wade?

  5. Christopher

    “which would suggest support for their actions.” That’s the key. It’s clear he is there because he is President. You ignore the key, because it would point out someone COULD be given awards, as long as it is not suggesting support for such actions.

  6. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.

    That’s a masterfully ambiguous sentence, as it allows for both Chris’ and Henry’s interpretation.

    (1) Awards, etc. should not be given at all, because that suggests support for their actions; or

    (2) Awards, etc. should not be given which suggest support for their actions.

    I have to wonder if it was a deliberately ambiguous construction to give cover to two opposing camps.

    In any event, even with Henry’s interpretation, this imposes a duty upon the university to state unequivocally that the platform and award in question are being given despite his defiance of fundamental Catholic moral principles, not because of them.

  7. Dale Price

    Perhaps ND will say something about President Obama’s lack of agreement with Catholic morals. But did anyone demand such statements from universities when other Presidents (or their staff), who were not Catholic and did not uphold Catholic morality, were at commencements? Again, it is not just the aspect I brought up; it is the whole moral code, which seems to be only brought into play for one issue, and not others.

    Moreover, here is another question: should such univiersities give scholarships to students, or even allow students to graduate, who do not uphold Catholic morality? I do not see that happening, nor anyone protesting “That student is too pro-death penalty, he can’t have his law degree from Notre Dame!” It’s again clear, that people are using this quote for one thing, but ignoring the consequences elsewhere. And the reason why is this quote is vague (I agree with Dale there) and I think its intent is to stop awards specifically to those whose work is primarily and univocally against Catholic moral positions. Obama, and Bush, and most Presidents, if not all, would not be seen as either primarily or univocally such.

  8. Yes, that comma would cinch it in favor of Chris’ view. To make it clearer, Henry’s interpretation is certainly legitimate and does no violence to the text.

    Then again, the sentence immediately prior to it has to be taken into account, as Chris notes.

    At the risk of belaboring my point, the text mandates, at a minimum, that Catholic schools cannot simply offer awards, platforms, etc., and leave it at that.

  9. Henry, given that the June 2004 conference document emphasizes abortion (while not excluding other life issues, obviously), your argument is with the Conference, not me. I’d be interested to see who has spoken where since it went into effect, even so.

    Moreover, it is directed at public officials and policymakers, which suggests that your law student analogy would not apply. Plus, there is the matter of simple justice not to deny someone a degree for which they have worked and paid a considerable sum of money, even if they are wrong on a fundamental moral issue. That’s different from conveying a purely honorary degree or award which has not been earned.

  10. Though I’d certainly agree that a Catholic college retains the right to discipline and even expel students who behave in a manner which violates the principles outlined in the document (and in other places).

  11. Dale

    Once again, while abortion is emphasized, I do not think its principles are meant to be limited to it. Context explains why abortion, but the principles should be beyond.

    Second, what about the use of scholarships? Should they be given or not given to those who do not uphold Catholic morals?

    Third, while a law student is not in the government, it is clear many will be actively involved with government life afterwards. And the degree, while it was “paid for” nonetheless is an honor and an award. And it is one which is given out despite one’s principles, or beliefs, and it is for this reason why one can’t ignore that aspect when an honorary degree is given out (personally, I don’t think honorary degrees should be given out so easily as they are, and only a few, like Tolkien at Oxford, deserved them when they got them; but once it is a part of the system, it follows the regulations of the system, which transcends an individual university).

    Now, let’s bring this to other issues, and one which is close to home. CUA. While I have been there, many speakers have been turned away and many have come, both of which have had questionable moral qualifications. One director, I know, had the students protesting the university when he was turned away from an award, because the director was primarily involved with pro-abortion work. I think the university was right, and this was the kind of thing which is meant by Christopher’s quote.

  12. Moreover, here is another question: should such univiersities give scholarships to students, or even allow students to graduate, who do not uphold Catholic morality?

    –I graduated from Notre Dame, was mainstream Protestant, and am pro-choice. Notre Dame has never required students to be Catholic to attend or to graduate. It only required students to abide by specified rules.

  13. Why is anyone surprised at this action by the administration at Notre Dame? It is just another collection of colleges with a catholic veneer. It is best known for , and derives much of its income from – football.

    And for thumbing its administrative and clerical nose at the Church. Somehow Fr. Hesburgh and his successors got the idea that they were episcopal, and untouchable. I mean, consider the silly Fr. McBrien. Pity rather his poor students who must put up with his nonsense or be flunked.

  14. The Church’s teaching must be available at Notre Dame. Notre Dame must also act as a Catholic university. Just because a Protestant, Hindu, Jew, or other non-Catholic doesn’t affect the character and teaching responsibility that is Notre Dame.

    Basically, your query is a non-sequitur.

  15. The fact that Fr Jenkins even considered President O’Bama to be the commencement speaker, even though he knows, or should know, about O’bama’s anti-Christian views on the sanctity of human life and marriage, speaks volumes on what Fr Jenkins believes.

    It is tragic that Catholic clergy unfit to be local parish priest, much less the president of most conspicuous, Catholic University in the US , is allowed to spit in the face of many Bishops and lay organizations when that person takes a view that is totally opposed to the Church’s teaching by inviting O’bama. Shame on Fr Jenkins. May the Lord rebuke him, we humbly pray!

    And how long will we, the beleagured faithful in the US, have to wait on Rome to take action and clean up the rampant heresy in the Catholic Church in America? It’s been a generation since the unholy winds of the world entered the Church after Vatican II, and now the Church undergoes its purification. On one hand, we have good faithful priests and on the other, we have sodomites and manifest heretics who betray their calling to the priesthood. Jesus says “beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly, are ravening wolves” (Matt 7:15) and “By their fruits shall you know them” (Matt 7:16).

    But Fr Jenkins, is a symptom of what is wrong with the laity and religious in America–they can no longer see the religious truth of the Church which they belong to. We should pray very hard for the conversion of wayward clergy. Satan especially targets priests, because it the is best way to drag as many souls to hell. (St Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle….) The Lord will judge Fr Jenkins more harshly than us because “to him whom much has been given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48)

    “Mary, Help of Christians, pray for us who have recourse to thee!”
    “St Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, come to our assistance”

  16. Concerning the President’s alleged “Anti-Christian views on the sancity of human life and marriage”, how do we reconcile this assertion with the Holy Father who receives various ecumencial guests as “brother Christians” who have the same (or even more extreme) views the President has?

  17. I think precious few of these “brother Christians” would have views quite as extreme as Obama in regard to the issue of abortion. In any case popes have met with representatives of murderous regimes countless times over the centuries in pursuance of their duties as the vicar of Christ. However they are not accorded honors such as would be given to Obama by Notre Dame. One has to deal with evil people on this earth, but one never has to accord them either honor or homage.

  18. Donald,

    Can you explain where the Episcopal Church, United Church and Presbyterian Church are less extreme than the President on abortion policy?

  19. Which branches of the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church? The United Church of Christ, 1.2 million and shrinking, down 6% from 2006-2007, are indeed as firm in their allegiance to the Culture of Death as President Obama.

  20. The Episcopal Church of the United States and the Presbyterian Church USA.

    Don, if it is okay for the highest Catholic authorities to accept the United Church as “brother Christians” because their membership is declining, then can Obama be accepted as such if his poll numbers start declining?

  21. Katherine,

    what is your point? That we should not call Obama’s views anti-Christian? That we should call those churches views anti-Christian?

    I think you’re missing the point that we’re calling Obama’s views anti-Christian, we’re not saying he is not a professed Christian, there is a substantial distinction there.

  22. Which branches of the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church? The United Church of Christ, 1.2 million and shrinking, down 6% from 2006-2007, are indeed as firm in their allegiance to the Culture of Death as President Obama.

    Outrageous statement. Sinful statement. And just before Holy Week.

  23. A completely accurate statement Catholic Anarchist. Truth is always called for, especially before Holy Week.

    Katherine, let me know when the Pope honors the leadership of the United Church of Christ. I will get back to you on the other two denominations, since I have a client waiting.

  24. In regard to the Presbyterian Church USA Katherine since 1992 they basically have been pro-abort, although their recent stance is better than Obama’s:

    “We affirm that the lives of viable unborn babies—those well-developed enough to survive outside the womb if delivered—ought to be preserved and cared for and not aborted. In cases where problems of life or health of the mother arise in a pregnancy, the church supports efforts to protect the life and health of both the mother and the baby. When late-term pregnancies must be terminated, we urge decisions intended to deliver the baby alive. We look to our churches to provide pastoral and tangible support to women in problem pregnancies and to surround these families with a community of care. We affirm adoption as a provision for women who deliver children they are not able to care for, and ask our churches to assist in seeking loving, Christian, adoptive families.(6)”

    They also have a strong pro-life movement that has been fighting to change the policy of their church:, and I salute them as I do members of any pro-abort church fighting for the right to life.

    A good recent article on the struggle within Protestant denominations on the abortion issue:

  25. The position of the dying Episcopal Church in the United States, 2,154,572 in 2007, which is a drop of 4.5% from the preceding year, is perhaps best summed up by Priestess Katherine Ragsdale who refers to abortion as a blessing.

    The good news is that there many breakaway branches of the Episcopalian Church which are strongly pro-life and of course many Episcopalians, including entire congregations, have joined the Catholic Church.

    A good site to observe the death throes of the Episcopalian Church is the Midwest Conservative Journal.

  26. So Don, other than making political and demographic claims about these denominations, you really can’t reconcile the accusation against Obama and the fact they are treated as Christian bodies by the Catholic church in her ecumencial relations?

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