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Notre Dame Scandal: Obama to
Be Honored at Commencement
:What They Are Saying


Who's Involved
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2004 USCCB Statement
"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."
Catholics in Political Life
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
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Insider Commentary

“A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice… It is with great sadness, therefore, that I have concluded that I cannot accept the Laetare Medal or participate in the May 17 graduation ceremony.”
Mary Ann Glendon – Former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican
Link: Entire Letter to Fr. Jenkins 

“Professor Glendon will not collect her Laetare Medal. In doing so she has proved worthy of the honor; please God, her courageous decision will make Notre Dame more worthy of the honors it seeks to give.”
Father Raymond de Souza – Register Correspondent
National Catholic Register

“The invitation should be withdrawn. It implies no personal animosity to suggest that Fr. Jenkins and the other Fellows and Trustees responsible for this fiasco should resign or be removed.”
Charles Rice – University of Notre Dame
The Observer

“But what Notre Dame is saying with this invitation is that Obama's 100 percent support for policies and programs that bring death to more than a million unborn children every year is no disqualification to being honored by a university dedicated to Our Lady who carried to term the Son of God.”
Patrick J. Buchanan – syndicated columnist
Human Events

“I cannot think of a single act—one so simple, so innocent, so effective—that serves to do exactly what he [Obama] needs to have done, namely, plunge an arrow into the heart of Catholicism’s opposition to him, what there is of it… From now on, all he has to say is: ‘But, my dear fellow, I was invited to Notre Dame.’”
Father James Schall, S.J. – Georgetown University
Catholic World Report

“By inviting Barack Obama to be the 2009 commencement speaker, Notre Dame has forfeited its right to call itself a Catholic university. It invites an official rebuke. May it come.”
Ralph McInerny – University of Notre Dame

The Catholic Thing

"And with the announcement that Notre Dame will be honoring President Barack Obama with an honorary degree and stage as their commencement speaker this May, the school has succumbed to temptation and abdicated the unique leadership role it has as the premier Catholic institution of higher education in the United States.”
Kathryn Jean Lopez – National Review Online
National Catholic Register


“That is the sad state to which things have descended under the Golden Dome: moral argument seems to be unavailing with the leaders of an institution dedicated to developing the arts of moral reason.”
George Weigel – Ethics and Public Policy Center

National Review Online

“For Notre Dame to give President Obama its highest honor is blatantly to break faith and trust with all the Catholic faithful, the U.S. bishops who have expressly spoken against such Catholic institutional awards, and generations of Catholic parents and students who have relied on the university to stand by its hallowed purpose.”
Candace de Russy – “Phi Beta Cons” Blog

National Review Online


“There is no reason that Catholics should believe that we can look to Notre Dame for leadership on the most controversial issues of the day, issues that involve the yearly killing of millions of the innocent.”

Janet E. Smith – Sacred Heart Major Seminary
American Papist

“Parents intending to send their children to a university that used to be a fortress of orthodoxy, should be informed that it is no longer the case. Lies are always poisonous.”
Alice von Hildebrand – Catholic theologian, philosopher and author

“When we offer our respect, we are expressing our reverence for that law, or principle, of which a person would be an example. That point, so elementary, seems to have eluded the deep-dish minds among some professors and their wards at Notre Dame. For some reason they cannot quite understand that when they 'honor' Barack Obama, they are honoring the law of which he has made himself an example.”
Hadley Arkes – Amherst College
The Catholic Thing

“Under Father Jenkins's leadership, Notre Dame has had an ‘intellectually rigorous engagement with the world,’ and the world has won.”
Deal Hudson – Inside Catholic
Inside Catholic

“Notre Dame can't see the forest for the trees -- all those donor-plaqued trees and the Americanist compromise that they and the Obama invitation so tellingly represent.”
Russell Shaw – Author
Inside Catholic

“We have come to the point that the most significant contribution Georgetown or Notre Dame could make to society’s diversity would be to become, once again, Catholic — and not be embarrassed about it.”
Father Robert A. Sirico – President of the Acton Institute
National Review

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The Bishops' Response

“Indeed, as a Catholic University, Notre Dame must ask itself, if by this decision it has chosen prestige over truth… Let us ask Our Lady to intercede for the university named in her honor, that it may recommit itself to the primacy of truth over prestige.”
Most Rev. John D’Arcy – Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend
Also Read 'Statement to the faithful'

“So whatever else is clear, it is clear that Notre Dame didn't understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation, and didn't anticipate the kind of uproar that would be consequent to the decision, at least not to the extent that it has happened.”
Most Rev. Francis Cardinal George – Archbishop of Chicago and USCCB President

“I find the invitation very disappointing. . . Particularly troubling is the Honorary Law Degree since it recognizes that the person is a ‘Teacher,’ in this case of the Law. I think that this decision requires charitable but vigorous critique.”
Most Rev. Daniel Cardinal DiNardo – Archbishop of Galveston - Houston

“This is a stand in regard to something that is so vital, it is so important for the civilization of today ... that we simply cannot be ambiguous… To honor somebody [who is pro-abortion] ... whatever his or her merits may be, whatever splendid things this person may do, whatever position he or she occupies ... makes no sense whatsoever.”
Most Rev. Justin Cardinal Rigali – Archdiocese of Philadelphia

“The profound granting of an honorary doctorate at Notre Dame University to our President who is aggressively advancing an anti-life and anti-family agenda is a source of the gravest scandal.”
Most Rev. Raymond Burke – Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura

“[Fr. Jenkins, I] regret that [Bishop D’Arcy] must bear this personal affront from a university which he has so consistently and ardently supported this last quarter century.”
Most Rev. Edwin O’Brien – Archbishop of Baltimore

“They made a big mistake.”
Most Rev. Timothy Dolan – Archbishop of New York

“Notre Dame didn't need to do this to show its openness to 'dialogue.’ And candidly, very few Notre Dame faculty members would accept from their students the kind of creative reasoning now being used to defend the invitation.”
Most Rev. Charles Chaput – Archbishop of Denver

"It is a travesty that the University of Notre Dame, considered by many to be a Catholic University, should give its public support to such an anti-Catholic politician. I hope that you [Fr. Jenkins] are able to reconsider this decision. If not, please do not expect me to support your University in the future.”
Most Rev. John Nienstedt – Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

“President Obama, by word and action, has approved of abortion and other atrocities against human life. Therefore he deserves no recognition at a Catholic institution.”
Most Rev. Eusebius Beltran – Archbishop of Oklahoma City

“It pained me to hear that one of the symbols of Catholic education in our nation, Notre Dame University, had extended an invitation to President Obama to speak at its commencement.”
Most Rev. John Myers – Archbishop of Newark

“The University of Notre Dame used to be the flagship Catholic university of the United States. I regret that we are not experiencing that leadership and integrity.”
Most Rev. Alfred Hughes – Archbishop of New Orleans

“The unfortunate message sent to the nation by the university’s invitation to President Barack Obama to speak at their graduation ceremony is compounded by their decision to provide him an honorary law degree.”
Most Rev. José Gomez and Most Rev. Oscar Cantú – Archbishop and Aux. Bishop of San Antonio

“You [Fr. Jenkins] dishonor the reputation of the University of Notre Dame and, in effect, abdicate your prestigious reputation among Catholic universities everywhere.”
Most Rev. Daniel Buechlein – Archbishop of Indianapolis

“[Archbishop Pilarczyk] supports the strong comments of Bishop D’Arcy of South Bend, in whose diocese Notre Dame is located.”
Mr. Dan Andriacco on behalf of Most Rev. Daniel Pilarczyk – Archbishop of Cincinnati

“When asked about the Notre Dame event, which has spurred a small but intense movement of angry Catholics, Wuerl said the school should not have honored Obama but that he was not in favor of rescinding the invite.”
The Washington Post on the response of Most Rev. Donald Wuerl – Archbishop of Washington

“Given her Catholic identity, the University of Notre Dame’s receiving the President as the 2009 commencement speaker and her bestowing on him an honorary doctorate are truly shameful, a scandal to the Church and a major blow to hundreds of thousands who have sacrificed to bring forth a culture of life in our midst.”
Most Rev. Joseph Martino and Most Rev. John Dougherty – Bishop and Aux. Bishop of Scranton

Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin told the annual Illinois Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Chicago that he would have not invited Obama had he been making the decision about a commencement speaker.
Life News reporting on Most Rev. Robert Morlino – Bishop of Madison

“I would ask that you rescind this unfortunate decision and so avoid dishonoring the practicing Catholics of the United States, including those of this Diocese. Failing that, please have the decency to change the name of the University to something like, ‘The Fighting Irish College’ or ‘Northwestern Indiana Humanist University.’”
Most Rev. Thomas Doran – Bishop of Rockford

“It is a public act of disobedience to the Bishops of the United States.”
Most Rev. Thomas Olmsted – Bishop of Phoenix

“I support Bishop Thomas Olmsted's public stance on this matter, in calling this situation ‘a public act of disobedience to the Bishops of the United States.’”
Most Rev. Robert Baker – Bishop of Birmingham

“In my opinion, it is very clear that in this case the University of Notre Dame does not live up to its Catholic identity in giving this award and their leadership needs our prayerful support.”
Most Rev. Gregory Aymond – Bishop of Austin

“It is a very prestigious platform to offer a President who is leading the battle for an expansion of abortion rights which may ultimately end up being unparalleled in recent history.”
Most Rev. Robert Lynch – Bishop of St. Petersburg

“For President Obama to be honored by Notre Dame is more than a disappointment, it is a scandal – especially to young adults. His being honored by Notre Dame will make it easier for a woman who contemplates abortion to actually submit herself to this cruel and deadly procedure.”
Most Rev. Edward Slattery – Bishop of Tulsa

“Catholic institutions of higher learning must always be places where the Catholic values we hold so dearly will always be supported and promoted – not where the culture of death is allowed to be honored or valued.”
Most Rev. R. Walker Nickless – Bishop of Sioux City

“It is disheartening and distressing when an institution that is regarded as Catholic, such as Notre Dame, fails to follow the guidelines set forth by the Bishops of the Catholic Church, especially in these vital moral matters.”
Dr. Paul Schenck on behalf of Most Rev. Kevin Rhoades – Bishop of Harrisburg

“Notre Dame extended this invitation unilaterally, seemingly without regard for the consequences for the mission of the Catholic Church in the United States. It is contrary to the efforts of bishops, parish priests, and laity to resist the anti-life decisions, policies, and legislation promoted by the Obama administration.”
Most Rev. William Lori – Bishop of Bridgeport

“Mr. Obama’s policies … have demonstrated that he does not believe that the life of the unborn is very important. As a result, I cannot but be deeply disturbed by the decision made by the president and board of Notre Dame.”
Most Rev. George Murry – Bishop of Youngstown

“Many people, including myself, who consider the University of Notre Dame the prestigious Catholic university in the United States, are most upset that the university has extended an invitation to President Obama to give its commencement address and receive an honorary degree.”
Most Rev. William Higi – Bishop of Lafayette

“I, along with other bishops throughout the country, fully support Bishop D’Arcy in this matter.”
Most Rev. Anthony Taylor – Bishop of Little Rock

“The decision of the President of Notre Dame to ignore the Bishops and to give both a platform and an honor to President Obama is indefensible. And so I raise my voice along with many of my brother Bishops, as well as the faithful who have been deeply scandalized.”
Most Rev. Jerome Listecki – Bishop of La Crosse

“…it is unconscionable to me that a Catholic university would bestow such an honor upon an individual who is so completely out of step with the Catholic Church’s teaching on the need to protect innocent human life in its most vulnerable forms, even if that individual holds the highest office in the land.”
Most Rev. Alexander Sample – Bishop of Marquette

“[Fr. Jenkins,] Your actions and that of the Board of Trustees of Notre Dame do real harm to the mission of Catholic education in this country and further splinters Catholic witness in the public square.”
Most Rev. Samuel Aquila – Bishop of Fargo

“[Fr. Jenkins,] I can assure you of my prayers for your conversion, and for the conversion of your formerly Catholic University.”
Most. Rev. Fabian Bruskewitz – Bishop of Lincoln

“It seems that the University of Notre Dame has abandoned its Catholic identity in this matter. I feel that it is embarrassing and shameful.”
Most Rev. Richard Stika – Bishop of Knoxville

“If Notre Dame does not alter its present course, it will be difficult for me to offer support for the University on any level.”
Most Rev. Gerald Barbarito – Bishop of Palm Beach

“I suspect that, since Notre Dame will need a scapegoat for this debacle, and Fr. Jenkins will probably lose his job, at this point perhaps he ought to determine to lose it for doing something right instead of something wrong. He ought to disinvite the President, who I believe would graciously accept the decision.”
Most Rev.Robert W. Finn – Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph

“[Pope Benedict] said ‘to justify positions that contradict the faith and teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university's identity and mission.’ Father Jenkins, Notre-Dame’s president, must have nodded off during the Pope’s speech”
Most Rev. Thomas Wenski – Bishop of Orlando
Homily during Mass of Reparation on May 3

"The University's invitation undermines the Catholic identity and mission of the institution."
Most Rev. Paul Coakley – Bishop of Salina

“For some this may be one political issue among many. For Catholics it is a matter of worshiping God by the proclamation of the truth. Many students and faculty at Notre Dame know this. The university's administration thinks it knows better.”
Most Rev. George Lucas – Bishop of Springfield

"This is just one more sign of the failure of Catholic Institutions to stand up for and support a higher ethical standard."
Most Rev. Robert Vasa – Bishop of Baker

“[T]he decision by a few administrators to give him a platform and honor on Commencement Day will be damaging to the Church, to the pro-life cause and, ultimately, to the university itself.”
Most Rev. Paul Loverde – Bishop of Arlington

“The decision of the University of Notre Dame makes it much more difficult for the Church to carry out her vital mission to transform our culture into a culture of life and love.”
Most Rev. John Le Voir – Bishop of New Ulm

“Coupled with the performance of… 'The Vagina Monologues'… this most recent decision raises serious doubts about Fr. Jenkins' qualifications for continuing to serve as president of one of the foremost Catholic universities in the nation.”
Most Rev. Victor Galeone – Bishop of St. Augustine

“This is Our Lady’s university choosing to give an honorary degree to the single most outspoken pro-abortion president since the issue was foisted upon the country by the Supreme Court. It must, indeed, embarrass Our Lady.”
Most Rev. David Zubik – Diocese of Pittsburgh

“In reality, Notre Dame’s invitation signals to President Obama that there is no need to dialogue. Why should the president feel a need to dialogue when he is honored by our nation’s most prestigious Catholic university no matter how extreme his policies and actions supporting legalized abortion?”
Most Rev. Joseph Naumann – Archdiocese of Kansas City

“I share the consternation of my brother bishops and of many Notre Dame alumni who have already voiced their objections. I am in complete agreement with them. Appeals to “academic freedom” or engagement should not prompt an indifference to what our actions imply.”
Most Rev. Glen Provost – Diocese of Lake Charles

“Public outcry over Notre Dame's decision must be accompanied by ongoing catechesis in our parishes, public witness by the entire Catholic Church and involvement in the political process in order to promote a culture that protects the sanctity of unborn human life.”
Most Rev. Peter Jugis – Diocese of Charlotte

“[I]t would appear to me to be inappropriate specifically to honor an individual, particularly a prominent public official, who intentionally holds and deliberately advocates positions contrary to fundamental moral principles.”
Most Rev. Joseph Galante – Diocese of Camden

“Bishop McCormack has expressed his support for Bishop John M. D’Arcy in connection with his position on the decision by the University of Notre Dame to honor President Barack Obama.”
Position of Most Rev. John McCormack – Diocese of Manchester, reported by diocesan website

“The university's stance is similar to that of Catholic politicians who say that they are pro-life and then support legislation and vote for programs that foster abortion. It is hard to believe that the University of Notre Dame has chosen 'political rightness' over principle and truth.”
Most Rev. Bernard Harrington – Bishop of Winona

“Even at this late date, such a reversal would be a credit to Notre Dame's leadership, and would restore the near-universal goodwill that Notre Dame is now almost assured of losing.”
Most Rev. James Johnston – Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau

“It is my intent not to support Catholic formation programs offered at Notre Dame until its leadership discontinues making decisions that are inconsistent with the promotion of the Catholic Church's teachings on the sacredness of human life.”
Most Rev. Michael Warfel – Bishop of Great Falls-Billings

“The prestige that the president will lend to your commencement is not sufficient reason to disregard these principles. There are numerous prominent public figures distinguished for their moral rectitude and record of public service from which you could have drawn.”
Most Rev. Reymundo Pena – Bishop of Brownsville

"As does he [Bishop D’Arcy], I regret that this situation has taken place and call on the leadership at Notre Dame to face the issue squarely."
Most Rev. Edward Cullen – Bishop of Allentown

“I am quite confident that if there is a change of direction on the part of the board, Father Jenkins will quickly change or leave.”
Most Rev. Robert Hermann – Aux. Bishop of St. Louis

“Many other U.S. bishops - including our own Bishop David Ricken - have publicly condemned Obama's selection as speaker and honorary degree recipient.”
Sam Lucero, a diocesan reporter, writing about Most Rev. David Ricken – Bishop of Green Bay

“I am particularly disappointed in your leadership, Father Jenkins. By allowing the university to confer this degree, you have failed to exercise your prophetic voice and teach the American people that the only change we can count on is ‘founded on truth, built on justice, and animated by love’ – love for the least, the last, and the lowliest in our midst.”
Most Rev. George Thomas – Bishop of Helena

“There is a serious dichotomy between what the University says it believes and what it does. When a university confers honorary degrees and the honor of being selected as a commencement speaker, it is always perceived as a sign of approval and support.”
Most Rev. Lawrence Brandt - Bishop of Greensburg

“Father Jenkins made a serious error in inviting President Obama to be the commencement speaker at Notre Dame, and even more so in conferring upon him an honorary degree.”
Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio – Bishop of Brooklyn

“Perhaps, the degree was a condition for the President’s speaking at the commencement, as was the
covering up of the cross at Georgetown University when he spoke there. If so, we are seeing an unprecedented intrusion into the practice of our Faith in this nation, and it is being aided by educational institutions claiming to be Catholic.”
Most Rev. Joseph Adamec – Bishop of Altoona-Johnstown

“[As American citizens] we have a right to deny any person a forum to promote his own agenda, when these are in contradiction to the teachings of the church. And if we are going to deny them a forum, we should certainly not honor them with any recognition or award.”
Most Rev. Sam Jacobs – Bishop of Houma-Thibodaux

“I don't believe that a Catholic institution should give a platform to a person who is probably the most anti-life candidate, and holding the place that he holds. And giving him an honorary degree besides? It doesn't speak highly for those of us who want to protect life."
Most Rev. Robert Gries – Aux. Bishop of Cleveland

“Bishop Smith has written to Bishop John M. D'Arcy ... to express his support for the strong positions he has taken in defense of Church teaching, and the way that he has handled the matter concerning the Notre Dame commencement issue,"
said Diocesan Communications Director Rayanne Bennett on behalf of Most Rev. John Smith – Bishop of Trenton

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