NOTRE DAME (Catholic Online) – The build up to the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame was more dramatic than the event itself. It was almost choreographed. The 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, is an amazing communicator. There is no doubt. The real question continues to be what he is really communicating? Beneath the well timed and elegant delivery, what is this man actually saying?
The President was one of eight recipients of Honorary Doctorates from the University of Notre Dame. However, he did not process in with the rest of the honorees. Rather, his entrance was timed to be the most dramatic, almost theatrical. And, he elicited the “Rock Star” response he so often does from most in that packed auditorium. The 164th graduating exercise of the University of Our Lady was underway and it was Obama’s day, once again.
Dr. Thomas Burish, the Chancellor of the University, explained the significance of the awarding of Honorary Doctorates. He noted that they are given to those who made the world a “better place.” The wording of the honor to the President, which had been leaked to the Press yesterday, applauded the Presidents “advocacy for the poor.” I was already sick to my stomach. I knew that he was going to deliver a solid speech and that his presence would fuel the effort to describe the choice by Notre Dame as somehow commendable and “enlightened” in this age of compromise disguised as tolerance.
I kept “clicking” between networks, thinking I might get a better view of this historic event. Instead I simply discovered what I already knew; news is advocacy these days, plain and simple. I must admit that one line from Fr. Jonathan Morris, a guest commentator for Fox (who was excoriated by Randall Terry in the FOX broadcast) raised an analogy which broke through the veneer of congeniality about all of this. He asked the viewers to consider this scene: “Imagine Planned Parenthood giving a degree to Pope Benedict?” The analogy worked, well done Father.
The University of Notre Dame is a part of the ecclesial community of the Catholic Church. So, it appeared to the world today that the Catholic Church conferred a Law Degree upon this President who is absolutely opposed to the fundamental ground of all Catholic Social Doctrine, the inviolable dignity of every human life from conception to natural death. In fact Fr. John Jenkins made it very clear in his introduction of the President that his vision of the nature of the Catholic Church was behind his decision to do so. He said that a Catholic University is a “part of the Church… a member of the mystical Body of Christ.” So, he believed it was appropriate for the Church to confer a Law Degree on a world leader who denies the fundamental Human Right to Life for our littlest neighbors.
Fr. Jenkins quoted the late Servant of God Pope John Paul II who, in any honest assessment of his great body of teaching, would have NEVER condoned this conferral of a Doctor of Law on a champion of what he rightly labeled the "Culture of Death." Such a misuse of the late Servant of God's name was wrong. Similarly, he quoted Pope Benedict whose teachings on this fundamental truth are equally as clear and the efforts to use them to support this action were also wrong. It appeared to this observer that Fr. Jenkins used both Pope's for some "borrowed" authority for his own questionable actions.
The Presidents’ speech, (except for a few unrecognizable outbursts from scattered Pro-Life opponents), was well received by most of the crowd. Oh, I know, the folks praying at the Grotto who refused to attend the commencement (hearing pro-Life hero Fr. Frank Pavone) ….as well as the arrests of Norma McCorvey (the “Jane Roe” of Roe v Wade who is now a Catholic and a Pro-Life champion) Dr. Alan Keyes and others sent an entirely different message.
Only, here is the real problem, that message was not broadcast to the world. Instead, the slick, well delivered address of this compelling orator who has stopped his ears to the cries of the children killed by abortion was broadcast globally. That well delivered speech, full of self deprecating humor, sophistry, appeals to tolerance and human rights and artful rhetorical devices, was vintage Obama. We have offered it in full to our readers. The President called for reaching some kind of “common ground.” He laced his presentation to this Christian group with Christian references to the reality of “original sin.” It all sounded so "good." That is why it was so bad.
He spoke of the “controversy over abortion” and presented his standard invitation to find a common ground and somehow “reduce” the number of abortions together. Now really, think about it, if every procured abortion is, in fact,the taking of an innocent human life, which it is. And, if the moral analysis concerning this intentional act of killing our youngest neighbor by surgical dismemberment, chemical weapons or suction is no different than the analysis involved in doing the same thing to a three week old born bay, which it is, how can any Catholic institution have even allowed this speech to be given?
Is this not exactly what the Bishops warned of in their 2004 document entitled “Catholics in Political Life?” Therein they wrote these clear words: “…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?” Today, the University of Notre Dame violated this injunction. Their blatant disregard of Episcopal authority must not go unanswered. They bestowed an honorary Doctor of Law upon our President knowing that he does not recognize the Fundamental Human Right upon which the entire infrastructure of human rights is built, the Right to Life.
President Obama used all of his rhetorical skills to conclude this well delivered address by calling all who were listening to follow the “Golden Rule.” It was incredulous that he offered the Golden Rule as a Natural Law premise which all cultures and religious traditions accept. His speech actually rejected its application to an entire class of persons. It is clearer today to this observer that to President Obama the “Golden Rule” simply does not apply to our youngest neighbors. They can be killed at any time throughout all nine months and the Police Power of the State will protect the perpetrator.
In fact he made it clear that he opposes the Right to Life. He is Anti-Life and bold about being so: “Now, understand -- understand, Class of 2009, I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away. Because no matter how much we may want to fudge it -- indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory -- the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable.” Yes Mr. President these views are irreconcilable. Your position is absolutely and unequivocally wrong.
The President noted that he was being given this Doctorate on the 55th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Brown v Board of Education. That decision was the beginning of the end of the evil of “separate but equal” jurisprudence and institutionalized racism. He spoke of “civil rights for all God’s children” as if he really believed in the cause. In fact, he denies any rights to our youngest neighbors. They are property, not persons,in a new form of slavery.
Once again, the inconsistency in his soaring rhetoric emerged. It begged to be exposed but it wasn’t. His introduction by Fr. Jenkins was sycophantic. Oh, he gave the obligatory mention of our Catholic disagreement with the President on the right to life and embryonic stem cell research. However, the bulk of Fr. Jenkins comments and his behavior said something very different. The US President was given the most prestigious platform offered by a Catholic University to espouse his errant views. He was also given a global media platform to assert that he believed in the “dignity possessed by all the children of God” when he does not.There is an entire class of persons which this President has left out of his claims of compassion; children who live in their mother’s womb, the first home of the whole human race.
So, Dr. Barack Obama is now an alumnus of Notre Dame. And, Our Lady Weeps for him and all who continue to be deceived by the siren song of the culture of death. The event is over but the work only begins. We need to pray for the grace of conversion for the President. Can you imagine what might happen if Dr. Barack Obama of Notre Dame was converted and recognized the truth concerning the inviolable dignity of every human life, which includes our smallest neighbors? It can happen. As I prayed the Holy Rosary today I prayed these words attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux:
“Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me”. The intercession of the Mother of God is extremely powerful!
I believe that the events which led up to this commencement will go down in history as the beginning of a New Catholic Action in America. Our Bishops must meet and deal with what just occurred. We need their immediate and decisive pastoral and corrective action concerning the very nature and obligations of all Catholic Colleges and Universities. The confusion arising out of the opportunistic use of piecemeal quotes from Catholic Social Doctrine to promote the Culture of Death and the use and abuse of Catholic platforms to promote this error has gone on for too long.
In the meantime, those “irreconcilable views” the President mentioned call for a new Catholic Action. The President wants a “fair minded debate.” Let’s give it to him. He promised in this speech that he would support a “sensible conscience clause” as he crafts a new health care system which, no doubt, will pay for the killing of innocent children as a “medical service”. Let’s hold him to it.
The Notre Dame story is not over, it has only just begun. Now it is our turn to speak with words and deeds.It is time for a New Catholic action.