Guest Post: President Obama Giving Commencement Speech for Notre Dame

The following guest post was originally published on March 24, 2009 for PonderPost. It was written by Tim Jones and is republished here with his permission to preserve it while PonderPost is renovated.

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The University of Notre Dame has invited President Obama to give the commencement speech at the spring graduation ceremony.  Additionally, the university will bestow an honorary doctor of laws degree upon the President.

This has the Catholic community in quite a stir, as parishioners from both sides of the discussion weigh in.  On one side, many are happy to have the President speak, including a growing Facebook group called, “We Will Be Honored to Have President Obama at Notre Dame.” On the other, you have ardent, pro-life groups that wholeheartedly oppose the President speaking at the premier Catholic university in the country.

While I try to see both sides of the coin, I believe Notre Dame has made an egregious error by inviting President Obama to give the commencement address at, if not the premier Catholic university in the US, the most well-known Catholic university.

The Catholic Church represents one of the most fervent supporters of the pro-life movement, while President Obama represents one of the most pro-abortion politicians, ever.  President Obama has gone so far as to repeatedly vote for so-called pro-choice legislation that really amounts to infanticide, in the case of refusing medical care to live babies born after botched abortions.  His current administration threatens to, at the very least, lessen the ability for Catholic hospitals to operate with the elimination of healthcare conscience rule and to increase abortions by 125,000 per year with his Freedom of Choice Act.

It would seem that Notre Dame would prefer a commencement speech given by someone that more closely represents the Church’s positions, not just with regard to abortion, but across the board.  Doesn’t the Church have enough difficulty promoting it’s staunchly pro-life position without endorsing the exact opposite activity with President Obama as the commencement speaker?

As a Catholic and pro-life advocate, I’m disappointed with the University of Notre Dame’s decision to invite President Obama to speak at commencement.  I believe President Obama fails to represent even the most minute areas of the Church’s fundamental beliefs and tenets.  Additionally, Notre Dame violates the U.S. bishops mandate of 2004 that forbids honoring (such as with an honorary degree) any person that “acts in defiance of the Church’s fundamental moral principles.”

While I have little hope that the University administration will rescind the invitation and they’ve indicated as much, a site has already sprung up with a petition to sign online.  I signed, more as a statement of my position than a true hope of changing the University’s decision.

The Notre Dame Scandal page with the petition does an excellent job of summing up my opinion of the whole situation,

Notre Dame has chosen prestige over principles, popularity over morality. Whatever may be President Obama’s admirable qualities, this honor comes on the heels of some of the most anti-life actions of any American president, including expanding federal funding for abortions and inviting taxpayer-funded research on stem cells from human embryos.

I do hope, in spite of my pessimism about rescinding the invitation, that this opens the door to a wider discussion about Obama’s anti-life and anti-marriage policies and legislation.  Additionally, I would hope that other Catholic universities across the country use this as an opportunity to re-examine their position with regard to their own mission juxtaposed with the figures they ask to visit and speak at the universities.

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