Criticism over Obama invite mounts at Notre Dame

Jimmy Carter came to Notre Dame in 1977. So did Ronald Reagan in 1981 and George W. Bush in 2001.

The University of Notre Dame has a tradition of inviting new presidents to speak at graduation. But this year’s selection of President Barack Obama has been met by a barrage of criticism that has left some students fearing their commencement ceremony will turn into a circus.

Many Catholics are angered by Obama’s planned appearance at the May 17 ceremony because of his decisions to provide federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and international family planning groups that provide abortions or educate about the procedure.

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21 comments on “Criticism over Obama invite mounts at Notre Dame

  1. jkc1945 says:

    “Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins has said the university does not condone all of Obama’s policies but that it’s important to engage in conversation.”
    But that is the root of the problem, as many of us here close to Notre Dame view it. There will be no real opportunity for ‘conversation.’ No one can present the opposing views on the subjects of stem cell research, or abortion funding. And most important, the university will be presenting an honorary degree to President Obama, thus, in the eyes of many of us, conferring honor and symbolic support to the President, and his values in these areas.
    It is likely true that the university cannot “disinvite” the president; but if Obama were any kind of diplomat, he would suddenly discover a scheduling conflict that had been previously overlooked, and regretfully cancel the speech. He won’t; and the university will be the loser in this one.

  2. Bill C says:

    I believe that it was President Bush who, last year, faced great opposition when invited to give the commencement address at a number of universities. Ditto Barbara Bush at Wellesely College. Conservative speakers are often unwelcome at colleges, especially liberal colleges. On Phil Donahue’s blog, several people commented that a philosophical issue should not be a bar for Obama coming to Notre Dame. However, abortion and stem cell research are not philosophical issues to Christians but moral ones, rooted in the Christian belief that abortion is murder.
    Liberals fail to see this as a moral issue. Some students commented that despite their disagreement with Obama, it is an honour for him to be speaking at ND.
    Perhaps it is too late to ‘disinvite’ but a major Catholic university ought to stand for their beliefs -and that would include not inviting speakers whose beliefs and actions are antithetical to the beliefs of the University.

  3. ember says:

    Bill C, I would suggest “the Catholic belief that abortion is murder” rather than “the Christian belief that abortion is murder.” Many Christians—including many in the Southern Baptist church I grew up in—don’t consider it murder.

  4. ember says:

    On a bigger-picture note, I think Notre Dame should guiltlessly let Obama speak if his speech has nothing to do with stem-cell research or abortion. I fundamentally disagree with my parents’ views on homosexuality and any number of other so-called moral and philosophical issues—but those disagreements certainly don’t keep me from inviting them over for dinner.

  5. Chris Molter says:

    #4, this is not an invite to dinner. Obama is not family. It’s not a very apt comparison.

  6. Alice Linsley says:

    Let him come. This could be a great way to send him a message. Let all the faithful Catholics stay home! Imagine, if nobody came?

  7. ember says:

    #5, I would say that Obama is a brother in Christ to all Christians, and therefore family.

  8. Bill C says:

    Petition against Obama’s presence at N-D rocketing past 190,000.

  9. libraryjim says:

    Part of the problem is that they want to give him an honorary doctorate!!!

  10. Words Matter says:

    The real question is what Mary Ann Glendon will do and/or say.

  11. Sarah1 says:

    RE: “I would suggest “the Catholic belief that abortion is murder” rather than “the Christian belief that abortion is murder.””

    No — it’s the Christian belief that abortion is murder.

    Just because many Christians don’t believe lots of Christian doctrine and moral teaching doesn’t make it not Christian. It just means that the purported Christians have decided not to believe Christian doctrine or moral teaching.

  12. MCPLAW says:

    Unbelievable hypocrisy. I would bet not one of these people raised one moment of concern when Mr. Bush was invited to speak. Did they forget Mr. Bush lifted not one finger to prevent the execution of hundreds of prisoners while Governor of Texas. That he has steadfastly supported the death penalty. That he signed orders resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, over the express objection of Pope John Paul II. That he authorized torture. That he refused to allow Christian humanitarians to inspect Iraqi prisons and Guantanamo. How many of gods children will never be born, because Mr. Bush participated in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis?
    Exactly what Christian Doctrines allow you to so openly embrace Mr. Bush, while disparaging Mr. Obama who has (1) opposed the death penalty, (2) is seeking to end the war in Iraq, (3) ordered an end to torture, and (4) is actively trying to expand programs to help the poor and sick in our society (something Bush totally ignored). Maybe you disagree with stem cell research, but at least his goal is to alleviate the pain and suffering of hundreds of thousands afflicted with illness. I found little redeeming about Mr. Bush’s hypocritical Christian principals or those of anyone who protests Mr. Obama coming to Notre Dame but failed to protest Mr. Bush coming.

  13. libraryjim says:

    Mitchell, I see you have been listening to the ‘talking heads’ of the anti-Bush drive-by Mainstream media again. Do your self a favor and listen to the other side once in a while to get a balanced view point. 😉

  14. MCPLAW says:

    Libraryjim, Actually I listen to all media and read, a lot. Unlike the people who use the phrase “main stream media” as an excuse to only listen to Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and others with whom they agree, so as not to be forced to think. Nothing I have said is untrue.
    If you do not believe over a hundred thousand of people have died in the Iraq War, I suggest you get out of you do mission work in Iraq. If you believe prisoners were not executed in Texas while George Bush was Governor, I suggest you check the records. If you do not think people in Iraqi prisons and Guantanamo were tortured, I suggest you undergo “enhanced interrogation techniques” before you decide. And if you allowed these things to occur without speaking out and now you speak out regarding stem cell research because you hate the current President, I believe you to be a hypocrite. And If I am wrong, perhaps you will be so kind as to pray that Christ will bestow upon the rest of us the same information he seems to have bestowed upon you, the knowledge of which of his children we are approved to kill and torture.

  15. Katherine says:

    According to the first article I read about this, President Bush was invited to speak at the first ND commencement following his inauguration, as has been recent ND custom. Therefore none of the business about Iraq has anything to do with this, since the commencement speech would have been before 9/11 and the aftermath. Mitchell’s only point then would be about the death penalty in Texas, over which the Governor actually had minimum control. However, even granting the issue, opposition to the death penalty is not as clearly defined in Catholic social teaching as opposition to abortion, which has been a characteristic of Christian, not just Roman Catholic, moral teaching since the beginning two thousand years ago, and before that among the Jews from whom the first Christians sprang.

    Neither the Catholic bishops nor conservative Christians on this blog are opposed to embryonic stem cell research because they “hate the current President.” Do you actually think that is true, #14?

  16. MCPLAW says:

    Obviously you misunderstand my position. It has nothing to do with when Mr. Bush spoke at ND. So there is no doubt where I stand, I have not reached a decision on whether I favor research on stem cells where the embryo will be discarded regardless of the research; but I am opposed to abortion. This discussion is about the hypocrisy of those opposing Obama’s speaking at ND. Virtually no “conservative” Christians have raised their voice in complaint about George Bush, the war in Iraq, his treatment of prisoners in Texas or torture. Further, Catholic Bishops have taken a stance in this matter, with several saying it was a sin to vote for Kerry or Obama and thereby supporting the election of Bush. Both of these elections occurred after the Iraq war and after the torture. My proposition is quiet simple. Those who have not raised their voice in opposition to acts of mass killing and torture in the past, but now raise their voice over stem cell research are hypocrites.
    So once again I ask those granted the wisdom, which of Christ’s children are we allowed to kill, and which are we allowed to torture?
    I am well aware that historically the Catholic church has had no problem with killing and torturing those perceived as heretics. But I believe that through guidance from god that position has changed; and if so, how does the time period for which the sin has been recognized affect this argument.

  17. Katherine says:

    Mitchell #16, many people would disagree with your characterizations of Bush foreign policy decisions and with the morality of the death penalty. There are devout Catholics in good standing with their church who disagree with you on these. To say that your position must be the one and only correct opinion to be held by non-hypocritical Christians is hubris. On the subject of abortion on demand, however, there is no disagreement in the Christian tradition until very recently, and those who support the killing of innocent children are also very often in dissent from the essential Christian doctrines of the ages, although some are simply ignorant of the Christian history on this subject.

    I don’t think I agree with you, either, on the idea that only the morally pure (as any of us define it) can speak on any important issue of the day. When there is a death penalty discussion thread here, often people who oppose the death penalty but support abortion are invited to reconsider their abortion views since they’re inconsistent with the death penalty stand. Does this mean that they cannot speak against the death penalty? No, rather, it means they should reconsider their support for the taking of innocent life while they are protesting the taking of lives judged guilty of heinous crime.

    This protest against the Obama appearance at Notre Dame is fueled by principle far more than it is by electoral politics. The Catholic Church has principles on abortion which preclude its institutions from honoring or inviting pro-abortion public figures.

  18. MCPLAW says:

    Katherine, Christians disagree on many things, and one need not be pure to speak out against what one believes to be sin. However when one takes the attack from an attack on the sin to an attack on individual politicians they oppose, while ignoring the beam in there own eye and the eye of the politicians they support they become a hypocrite. The Bishops who supported the election of Bush in 2004 are, in my opinion, hypocrites. The people on this list who oppose Obama’s speaking at ND, but voted for Bush and did not speak out against the bombing of villages in Iraq and the torture of prisoners are, in my opinion, hypocrites. Hypocrisy is the unavoidable danger of entangling religion and politics, because once you focus your attack on an individual politician, the politicians you support must be pure.
    I am willing to remove the death penalty from this discussion, because obviously some on this weblog, not me, believe god has approved the killing of his children who have been convicted of a crime; despite the fact we know that throughout the history of this country many thousands of wrongly convicted people have been killed.
    However, I am unwilling to accept that god condones the starting of wars and the killing of tens or hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children in the process. I also do not believe god condones torture. If there is scripture that says otherwise I have not seen it. I think Matthew 25 makes it pretty clear that he who has the power to prevent evil acts, but fails to do so is as guilty in the eyes of god as the person committing the evil act. Obama does not have the power to prevent abortions, but Bush did have the power to prevent the slaughter of innocent villagers in Iraq, and the power to end the execution of prisoners in Texas during his term. He did neither, and if these are sin, he is unrepentant.

  19. Katherine says:

    Mitchell, if you are a pacifist in all circumstances then I can understand your argument, although not agree with it. If you oppose all wars without exception then opposing the Iraq war is consistent. However, the key word in your comment is “in my opinion.” People are not necessarily hypocrites because they disagree with your opinions.

  20. MCPLAW says:

    Are you antiabortion in all circumstances, including abortion necessary to save the life of the mother?

  21. Katherine says:

    No, where the mother is in imminent danger of death, as in an ectopic pregnancy, action can morally be taken to prevent two deaths — the mother and child. The child cannot be saved, but the mother’s life can be saved. The intention is the life of the mother, and not the death of the child, who will die in any case. There is not a direct correlation to your anti-Iraq condemnations. If you don’t disapprove of all wars on principle, then your moral disapproval of the Iraq war in particular is based upon reports and opinions which you have read about the Bush decisions. These reports and opinions are subject to investigation and disagreement among Christians. A blanket charge of hypocrisy doesn’t work against people who do not accept your definition of the morality of the situation. Also, I note you haven’t retracted your charge that people are complaining about Obama’s Notre Dame speech because they “hate” him; you’ve merely shifted ground.

    We seem to have exhausted the original subject, which was whether Obama should be invited to speak and receive an honorary degree at a Catholic university, so we will now leave this discussion off-topic behind.