Concerning President Barack Obama speaking at Notre Dame graduation, receiving honorary law degree
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.
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.
This will be the 25th Notre Dame graduation during my time as bishop. 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.
My decision is not an attack on anyone, but is in defense of the truth about
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.
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.
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