I must say, I can't see how this is a "basis for further positive engagement." It is a basis for President Obama to speak to some impressionable youths, many of which have been caught up in the excitement of his charismatic rhetoric. They won't be there to tell him what it is that Catholics believe. This is what Cardinal George did not so long ago. His words will be all honey, and surely there won't be any direct dialogue.
“Presidents from both parties have come to Notre Dame for decades to speak to our graduates – and to our nation and world – about a wide range of pressing issues – from foreign policy to poverty, from societal transformation to social service. We are delighted that President Obama will follow in this long tradition of speaking from Notre Dame on issues of substance and significance. [Doesn't is sound like he is trying to make this a political thing? It is true that being a Democrat doesn't disqualify you from honors by a Catholic institution, just as being a Republican doesn't qualify you, but it is actions, which Bishop D'Arcy has spoken to.]
We will honor Mr. Obama as an inspiring leader who faces many challenges [Germany once had an inspiring leader, does that automatically qualify him to be a commencement speaker to be honored?] – the economy, two wars, and health care, immigration and education reform – and is addressing them with intelligence, courage and honesty. It is of special significance that we will hear from our first African-American president, a person who has spoken eloquently and movingly about race in this nation. Racial prejudice has been a deep wound in America, and Mr. Obama has been a healer. [Tell that to the unborn of his race.]
Of course, this does not mean we support all of his positions. 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, [This is the old Faithful Citizenship dodge. This German leader I spoke of cleaned up the economy, and made the trains run on time, just because we disagree with some of his policies regarding human lives...] including abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Yet, we see his visit as a basis for further positive engagement."
It turns out that my suspicions about the foreknowledge of Bishop D'Arcy were correct. His statement follows.
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. [Shouldn't such a decision be made in consultaiton with the local ordinary? Perhaps I am wrong. As an aside comment, might I note that Bishop D'Arcy celebrated Mass on campus the evening before, on the patronal feast of the CSC brothers, the feast of St. Joseph. I may be wrong, but I bet they had dinner together and everything.]Amen. I don't think the Bishop will be exercising any more veto power, however; there will likely be no formal sanctions. Let us not forget that he is already nearly two years past his mandatory retirement. This may be (we can hope) his last major fight with the University. I hope and pray that the Nuncio and the Pope are listening, perhaps the Congregation of Catholic Education is also paying attention. I hope whoever they put in will love the University enough to tell them when they have gone wrong.
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. [The bishop has previously written on this.]
This will be the 25th Notre Dame graduation during my time as bishop. [He was installed in 1985, and is 76 years old.] 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. [So must a University.]
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. [He puts it better than I could have.]
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.
Please join me in praying for Bishop D'Arcy.