A Catholic Obamination: Notre Dame’s Commencement Address

Bishop John D’Arcy should be commended for his recent decision to forgo attendance at the Notre Dame graduation ceremony. It is heartening to know that there are still individuals that are willing to stand up and make a statement for basic human rights; arguably the right to life being the most basic of them all.

So what prompted bishop D’Arcy not to attend the ceremony? After all, his diocese encompasses Fort Wayne and South Bend Indiana, home of the Fighting Irish. After all, Notre Dame is a Catholic institution. And after all, some of his parishioners will probably be in attendance.

But bishop D’Arcy, after prayerful consideration, has opted to refrain from attending the graduation on account of President Obama giving the commencement address.

I applaud the bishop.

I find it irreconcilably hypocritical that Obama is giving the commencement address at Notre Dame. It’s disgraceful that a purportedly Catholic university is giving open forum to a president that is among the most anti-life in the United States. And to top it off, he is expected to receive an honorary degree.

Even worse are the justifications by Christians defending his appearance, especially university president, John I. Jenkins. Let’s not make bones about it – there is a serious, fundamental disconnect when a purportedly private religious institution leader believes it’s acceptable to cater to an individual that advances policies diametrically opposed to the institution’s core religious values. An elected president Obama is, a respecter of life Obama isn’t.

There would be a serious issue if a notorious figure such as defrocked televangelist Jim Bakker were requested deliver a sermon on fiscal accountability – or Ted Haggard were to preach on chastity.

Yet somehow, we are able to manipulate ourselves into believing that it’s okay for a speaker to disagree with foundational principles of an institution but be in accord with less essential tenets. Said Jenkins, “[Obama is] an inspiring leader who faces many challenges. . . and [he] is addressing them with intelligence, courage and honesty.” Jim Bakker was a charismatic businessman that could market the Gospel and preach prosperity. Ted Haggard headed the National Association of Evangelicals. Should those speakers address the congregation as well? By Jenkins’ logic, they should even be given a special award.

It never ceases to amaze me how such educated individuals have intellectualized themselves out of the simplicity of the gospel. As is evident here, degrees in divinity do not confer godly judgment. I don’t know what frightens me more – that men like Jenkins can be ordained priests, or that such ordained priests can serve as spiritual leaders. Both are reprehensible.

That being said, I commend bishop D’Arcy for choosing not to be in tacit accord with the pro-choice President. Obama should not speak at Notre Dame, even despite the credentials lauded by Jenkins, “the economy, two wars, and health care, immigration and education reform.” Notably absent: any mention of the most basic credential – life. Shameful.

Update: For those interested, I am linking to the petition protesting the decision to honor Obama at the commencement ceremony. http://notredamescandal.com/

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2 thoughts on “A Catholic Obamination: Notre Dame’s Commencement Address

  1. See http://www.creativeminorityreport.com for a good ongoing discussion of this issue. Also, National Review Online has a symposium discussion in their Phi Beta Con blog with various Catholics weighing in–worth the read.Fr. Jenkins, along with others at ND, have fallen into the error of equivocating the many issues involved in a decision to invite Obama. He says it is to initiate dialogue, but there is no planned debate or forum for such dialogue. Jenkins says Obama is trying to do a lot about other issues that interest Catholics–social services, poverty, etc.–but he fails to address what Obama is doing to bring down what we call the “non-negotiables” of the Faith, things like being pro-life.Sadly, Fr. Jenkins is just one visible representative of a general trend in the Church of a watered-down, know-nothing approach to the world. Catholics cannot engage the world without knowing their own Faith and proclaiming it in its fullness. Bishop D’Arcy is doing that and Fr. Jenkins is not.

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