David Constanzo, communications director for the Cardinal Newman Society, said Notre Dame’s tradition of inviting sitting U.S. presidents to its commencement should be rethought.
“There is a time when policies need to be reconsidered in light of the fact that the individual invited may have a history of standing in direct opposition to some of the most prominent aspects of our faith — the biggest case in point is that of the pro-life agenda,” Constanzo said. “The obligation of Notre Dame as a Catholic institution is to follow the directives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who clearly stated in 2004 that Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.”
Meanwhile, the Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend has indicated he will not attend the commencement ceremony.
“President Obama has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred,” Bishop John D’Arcy said in a statement issued Tuesday. “While claiming to separate politics from science, he has in fact separated science from ethics and has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life.”
D’Arcy said he learned that Obama had accepted Notre Dame’s invitation just before White House officials announced the move on Friday.
“I wish no disrespect to our president, I pray for him and wish him well,” the statement continued. “I have always revered the Office of the Presidency. But a bishop must teach the Catholic faith ‘in season and out of season,’ and he teaches not only by his words — but by his actions.”
George Weigel, a Catholic theologian and distinguished senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said the invitation is not a “neutral act” and will significantly damage Notre Dame’s reputation in Catholic circles following Obama’s decision to reverse restrictions on embryonic stem cell research and for family planning groups that provide abortions.
“I think Notre Dame should not have issued the invitation,” Weigel told FOXNews.com. “This is a colossal mess. This is their mess to fix right now, but they should know that they have forfeited an enormous amount of credibility as an institution that takes moral reasoning seriously.”
Weigel said he was not surprised by the outpouring of criticism following the university’s announcement on Friday that Obama would become sixth U.S. president to speak at its commencement. Obama will also become the ninth U.S. president to receive an honorary degree from the university.
“Major donors have the most effective leverage in situations like this,” Weigel said. “I hope the donors are paying attention.”
University spokesman Dennis Brown, when asked if Notre Dame was considering rescinding its invitation, said: “I can’t foresee that occurring. We made an invitation to the president and he’s accepted. We expected criticism and it’s nothing beyond what we expected.”
You can sign the petition, here.
Also see the WSJ for a good oped by William McGurn.