Once more on Notre Dame
Opinion is somewhat divided at Vox Nova on the University of Notre Dame’s plan to have President Obama give the university’s spring commencement address. M.Z., Blackadder (who attended Notre Dame Law), Katerina, and Morning’s Minion have written posts on the matter, looking at it from varying angles. I initially had no qualms whatsoever with President Obama giving the commencement address, for he is, after all, the President of the United States and, well, Notre Dame likes to have U.S. presidents–with their attendant sins–give commencement speeches. There is much to President Obama’s life and career worth emulating (as there is to the lives and careers of the other presidents who spoke at Notre Dame commencements). Given the fact that he would not be campaigning or promoting abortion rights, I did not see his presence at Notre Dame as problematic.
I do think Notre Dame plans to make an egregious error, however, in awarding Obama an honorary doctor of laws degree. This award signals to me that Obama’s career as a laywer, legal scholar, and legislater is being singled out as especially praiseworthy by a Catholic university. I find this completely unacceptable and morally offensive in light of the fact that Obama has worked through legal means to strike down restrictions on abortions at state and federal levels. In this, I agree with the prevailing opinion of the several U.S. bishops who have spoken out against the award, and I take a stand with both Katerina and Michael Iafrate in supporting the opinions of those bishops.
I read tonight that 10 priests from the Congregation of the Holy Cross (the order that runs Notre Dame) have petitioned Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkins and the university board to reconsider the invitation. All things considered, I now object to the invitation itself and not only to the award. Why the change of heart? In light of the statements made by Bishop John D’Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend and USCCB President Francis Cardinal George of Chicago, and the inner turmoil of the Holy Cross Fathers, Notre Dame ought to rescind the invitation. At stake is the authority of the Church (especially of the U.S. hierarchy) and peace within the religious order that runs the university. Indeed, I think it is now a matter of obedience and prudence. At this point, I think there is a lot to be lost for both Notre Dame and the Church in the U.S. Now that we are heading into the Triduum, some immediate humility from Notre Dame officials would not be out of place.