South Bend Bishop on Obama and Notre Dame

Our Sunday Visitor reports this statement from Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop John D'Arcy whose diocese is home to the University of Notre Dame:

On Friday, March 21, Father John Jenkins, CSC, phoned to inform me that President Obama had accepted his invitation to speak to the graduating class at Notre Dame and receive an honorary degree. We spoke shortly before the announcement was made public at the White House press briefing. It was the first time that I had been informed that Notre Dame had issued this invitation.

President Obama has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred. 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.
This will be the 25th Notre Dame graduation during my time as bishop. After much prayer, I have decided not to attend the graduation. I wish no disrespect to our president, I pray for him and wish him well. 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.

My decision is not an attack on anyone, but is in defense of the truth about human life.

I have in mind also the statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops in 2004. “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.” Indeed, the measure of any Catholic institution is not only what it stands for, but also what it will not stand for.

I have spoken with Professor Mary Ann Glendon, who is to receive the Laetare Medal. I have known her for many years and hold her in high esteem. We are both teachers, but in different ways. I have encouraged her to accept this award and take the opportunity such an award gives her to teach.

Even as I continue to ponder in prayer these events, which many have found shocking, so must Notre Dame. Indeed, as a Catholic University, Notre Dame must ask itself, if by this decision it has chosen prestige over truth.

Tomorrow, we celebrate as Catholics the moment when our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, became a child in the womb of his most holy mother. 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.


  1. From NCR:
    "The invitation to President Obama to be our commencement speaker should not be taken as condoning or endorsing his positions on specific issues regarding the protection of human life, including abortion and embryonic stem-cell research," said Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame.
    "Yet, we see his visit as a basis for further positive engagement," he said in a March 23 statement.

  2. My comment would be this... and I do fear repeating myself, but I will proceed.

    Just how do we ever expect transformation if we don't continue to invite people to the table?

    Isn't that what real metanoia is? Was Jesus conversing with sinners, eating with them an endorsement of their actions?

    I do see all that is potentially wrong with this invite, but I also see what could potentially go right too.



  3. I do not understand how the cultivation of an atmosphere of hostility toward, and disrespect for, the President's views can in any way help to make him more open to the views of others. (I actually feel it may decrease what I think is the respect he now has for those views - even if he disagrees with them.) I also emphatically do not feel that an invitation by Fr. Jenkins to the President to speak implies an endorsement of all the President's positions. If Notre Dame had invited George W. Bush when he was President, would there have been Catholic objections? I think not, although I believe he holds some views that are not in agreement with Catholic teaching.

  4. All very good pointsand I too feel similar, but the bishop is obviously not sacraficing his principles and is clearly not afraid to be a leader...
    he teaches not only by his words — but by his actions.

    The statement "by this decision it has chosen prestige over truth." lends me wnating to hear more from Fr. Jenkins.

  5. I fully support the bishop in this case. Those of you who have already commented are completely missing the point. There is a time and a place to engage in dialogue and this is not the time or place. Those of you who support this decision please tell me how this is an opportunity for further positive engagement. Is there going to be a question and answer session? How does this encourage Obama to change his radical anti-life/anti-marriage views? As Catholics we absolutely must stay true to our convictions and our faith. Whether ND agrees with all of Obama's positions or not is irrelevant. His very presence will be perceived by many, whether accurate or not, as the Catholic University's acceptance of Obama and his views. There are several other honorable men and women the university could have speak that would have views much more in line with what the University is supposed to be all about. Any "disrespect" shown to Obama in this case is tiny when compared with the disrespect Obama has shown toward the unborn. Every person deserves respect, but not every person deserves to be honored. I applaud the bishop for making his voice heard, standing up for what is right, and doing so in a very respectful and meaningful way. I pray that many more will follow his leadership. The pro-life community continues to pray for the conversion of our president, and that God bless and guide all our civil and religious leaders as they have so much influence on the lives of so many.

  6. I agree with Fran, above. The bishop encouraged Professor Glendon to take the opportunity to teach. He should follow his own advice. Does he really think he is teaching by not attending?

    Is it now the bishop's policy to not speak with, associate with, or ignore, anyone who disagrees with any church teaching? If so, he's going to be a very lonely guy.

    Cardinal Egan invited Obama to address the Al Smith dinner last year during the presidential race. I wonder if the bishop is still speaking with him.

    He says he means no disrespect to the president by not attending. Right. Isn't that the whole point?

    Here's what Tom Reese has to say:

  7. I wonder what Mike means when he says President Obama has anti-marriage views. Last time I looked the president was very happily married to a lovely wife with two adorable daughters.

  8. Dialog? Conversation? Cultivating hostility? Hmmm, me thinks there is a perception gap among us.

    At some point, everyone has to make a choice, especially if you are President. There is no place to hide. Respecting a position and then agressively going the exact opposite direction is not respect, it is repudiation of the idea. The decision reveals the underlying truth of your opinion, not the speaches and spin. In this situation, is there a policy that he could have taken that was more antagonistic to the decisions made by the church?

    No matter your personal opinion of the entirety of Obama's persona, it is clear that on most of the hot button controversial issues of the church he has not chosen to be anywhere close to neutral. Quite the opposite, he has completely opposed them. He has done so immediately, without hesitation and without the "dialog" and "outreach" and "listening" that many now ask of the church. Within days of taking office, he played his cards, which is well within his right as President. It is also appropriate for all people to recognize that decisions reveal truth and that truth has consequences. We should not be shy as a faith or a community at large to openly and clearly state our agreement or disagreement with those decisions. Disagreement does not mean we are bad, right wing, religous nuts who cling to our bibles. Not wanting to hold him up for special recognition does not mean we are mean-spirited and antagonistic. We can be thoughful people of faith that honestly believe he is wrong. We can honestly think it is is more than appropriate for us to avoid situations that would confuse anyone about that disagreement.

    The President having a meeting with the CEO of AIG would be appropriate. I am quite sure if the President offered up the medal of freedom to the man, everyone would quickly recognize that as more than tacit approval of his actions, and the firestorm would ensue.

    Engagement and dialog and breaking bread are a far cry from publicly recognizing someone with your highest honor. I would think anyone of good faith would be able to understand the difference.


Please THINK before you write
and PRAY before you think!