On to the story at hand. A local news outlet has interviewed Bishop D'Arcy of Ft. Wayne/South Bend regarding the decision to invite President Obama to speak and to receive an honorary degree. The interview can be found here (it is quite a large download). Unfortunately they have not provided a transcript, but I will discuss some of the salient points. Lifesite also has a summary of the interview.
I shall include some salient points here with emphasis and [commentary], and hopefully produce a full transcript for posting later without commentary.
Were you anticipating this, because of the tradition of inviting new Presidents?
No. I probably should have been. [Unfortunately.] I got a call at a funeral in Decatur. I was driving forth a few weeks ago, and the call came that Fr. Jenkins wanted to talk to me. It was 3:00 PM [This is about the same time I found out as well] by the time we connected, and, I was trying to find out when the White House press briefing is, and maybe you know that?
I don’t, 10 AM or something.
If it was 10:00 AM, then I wasn’t called until after it was announced. That, I didn’t think was very respectful. I did not anticipate it, I did not know why he was calling, we do have contact from time to time, and I probably should have been. I do recall that President Clinton did not speak for whatever reason. Someone told me recently that he was invited, but couldn’t make it or something. I did not anticipate this, I did not, and I was kind of stunned. [Glad I'm not alone.]
Yeah, what was your initial reaction?
Well my initial reaction was, well, on the one hand to get the President is a feat for any University, but I told Fr. Jenkins right away I probably won’t come, I think I remember saying I’m about 60/40 that I won’t come. I said I’m a Bishop I have to teach. He said he was going to put out a statement indicating that this did not mean that they supported the President’s positions on embryonic stem cells or on the Life issues that he would put out a statement illustrating that. And, he also told me that Mary Ann Glendon was going to get the Laetare Medal, which is an award given to a Catholic, and considered by Notre Dame its highest honor. So I said she might pull out. [Yep] And he said, well, he had communicated with her by e-mail and she did say to him, I’ll have to rewrite my talk. [Good! She may have some great stuff to say!] She and I conferred a few days later, we spoke and I urged her to come.
And so that kind of gets to my next question: Were you hoping to influence anyone else, or was this just a personal decision for you?
I did not expect to influence Notre Dame. I remember speaking to them at the time of the Moynihan appointment, and Fr. Malloy was most understanding of my position, but he said they could not withdraw the invitation. I was thinking more what was the right thing as a Bishop. I did know that there would be a tremendous outpouring, and I told that to John, I said this is going to be wild, [WILD!] to Fr. Jenkins. I was trying to search my own heart for the right thing to do.
What is the one message that you would like to convey with this decision not to attend? What is the one thing you want people to understand about your decision?
To be at those graduations, the Mass the day before, all the young people that are there, all the parents that are there, and their friends who are there, and they are graduating from this splendid University. How beautiful is life? [Really beautiful, probably the greatest gift we received from God] You’re a parent. How beautiful is life? And they’ll go out to world, and fall in love, they’ll have children, they’ll have grandchildren, they’ll have families. No one is allowed to say who’s going to sit at the table of life, and more important, who’s not going to sit at the table of life. God didn’t give us that privilege, he gave us many other privileges, who we choose for a spouse, whether to become a priest. He gave us a lot of freedom. He didn’t give us that freedom. That belongs to him alone. That’s what I want to somehow convey. This is so central. There’s no other right unless you have the right to life, and a Catholic University should support that 100%. It doesn’t mean you couldn’t have a discussion of it on campus, but the University should always support it.
He also asked twice if they chose Prestige before Truth.