My Day at Notre Dame
Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director, Priests for Life
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There was an eerie stillness and silence across the Notre Dame campus as my
colleagues, a few of the seniors and I walked across the campus very early on
the morning of Commencement Day. It was the calm before the storm of what we
knew was an historic day.
I started with a national Foxnews interview along with Fr. Richard McBrien. We
were asked our views of the Commencement. My message was: Everyone can
imagine people they would protest speaking at a commencement: an avowed racist,
anti-Semite, or advocate of terrorism. So the failure to object to one who
is unwilling to call for an end to abortion is the failure to see that abortion
is as bad or worse than those other evils. We have to stop trivializing
Moreover, the university gave the President an honorary law
degree. Law exists to protect human rights; but this president has admitted that
he doesn’t know when a child receives human rights. How can he defend human
rights when he doesn’t know who has them?
After speaking to various media, I greeted people on campus who were coming from
all over the country to stand with the courageous students who boycotted their
own commencement and invited me to lead them in an alternate ceremony.
After I greeted and blessed the demonstrators who were at the campus entrance,
and concelebrated a special Mass for Life, I led the Class of 2009 Vigil for
Life. We meditated on the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary, on the victory of
life over death, and on the fact that Jesus is King over every nation, over the
courts, the Congress, and the White House. As I gave the students and their
families reflections on these truths, the current occupant of the White House
was calling the graduates to have “open minds, open hearts” and a spirit of
Now dialogue with our opponents on this issue is something we at Priests for
Life specialize in. I maintain friendships with abortion advocates and
practicing abortionists. The clarity of our own convictions never means we
despise, demonize, or shut out other people. And yes, we are willing to
collaborate with others in morally legitimate ways to reduce the numbers of
But the President’s remarks had a glaring omission. While willing to dialogue
and to promote adoption, he gave no indication of any willingness to
protect the children in the womb. And that’s the crux of the issue. In
his remarks, he referred to the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme
Court decision that outlawed segregation. Certainly, his call for open minds
does not include openness to reconsider the segregation issue. There’s a
right answer to it, period.
So it is with the protection of the unborn. And as quiet again descended on
campus at the end of the day, I reflected…Open minds, yes, but for the purpose
of eventually firmly closing upon the truth! And isn’t that
supposed to be the purpose of Catholic universities?