I am a graduate student at the University of Notre Dame. They recently announced that the school would be inviting President Obama to be a commencement speaker and to receive an honorary degree from the University. I am saddened to be put in the position of protest against my own institution, which pays my bills and gives me an education.
There are plenty of places where the Church, as the USCCB or the Vatican, has made it clear that those who are publicly repudiate absolute moral norms are not to be honored by Catholic Schools. John Paul II laid out some relevant canonical norms in the Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae (emphasis added):
Article 2. § 4. Catholic teaching and discipline are to influence all university activities, while the freedom of conscience of each person is to be fully respected(46). Any official action or commitment of the University is to be in accord with its Catholic identity.Honorary degrees are official honors. Should we give official honors to a President who has started to spend tax dollars to kill the unborn in other countries? What about one who has pushed forward the possibility of removing all conscience exemptions? What about the President who has decided to fund research involving the killing of the unborn, rather than more successful research with less ethical problems?
Article 5. § 2. Each Bishop has a responsibility to promote the welfare of the Catholic Universities in his diocese and has the right and duty to watch over the preservation and strengthening of their Catholic character. If problems should arise conceming this Catholic character, the local Bishop is to take the initiatives necessary to resolve the matter, working with the competent university authorities in accordance with established procedures(52) and, if necessary, with the help of the Holy See.
There is a part of me that wants to overturn tables, another part that would settle on letter writing, and a third that would prudently avoid making waves, at least for now.
Perhaps I will be supported by Bishop D'Arcy. He has written on Ex Corde Ecclesiae and academic freedom here. His closing paragraph is just as timely now:
Notre Dame, with its vast resources, can do better than this. I believe it will. Its responsibility to its students and to the position it has attained in Catholic higher education calls it to do better.Bishop D'Arcy was on campus to celebrate Mass only Thursday, the day before this news broke. I can only imagine that if he didn't know about it at the time, he will certainly be speaking on this soon.
I do believe that Our Lady watches over Notre Dame and I place this matter in her hands, the woman of faith so revered in this place. We need her prayers and the light of her Son, who is the Way, the Truth and the Light during these hours and always.