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Archbishop is ‘disappointed,’ ‘bewildered’ by honor to Obama

Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien said he is “disappointed and bewildered” by the decision of University of Notre Dame officials to honor President Barack Obama with an honorary doctorate at this year’s graduation ceremony.

In a March 26 letter, Archbishop O’Brien told Notre Dame President Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins he “fully supports” the March 24 statement of Bishop John M. D’Arcy of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., that raised concerns about the decision.  

President Obama supports legal abortion and embryonic stem-cell research.  

Bishop D’Arcy has not missed a graduation at Notre Dame in the 25 years he has been bishop of the diocese.

“Thank you for your strong and noble stand in your effort to uphold the reputation of the University of Notre Dame as a thoroughly Catholic institution,” Archbishop O’Brien said.  

U.S. Father Hugh W. Cleary, Holy Cross superior general in Rome, said that when President Obama receives an honorary degree from the Indiana university and delivers the commencement address, he should take to heart the objections of Catholics who have been scandalized by the invitation.  

The 13-page letter, dated March 22, was made available to Catholic News Service in Rome. Father Cleary also prepared an abridged version of the text as an “open letter” to the president, which was expected to be published on the Web site of America magazine.  

The visit should be a “teachable moment” for all involved, Father Cleary said.  

Father Cleary repeatedly quoted President Obama’s words at the National Prayer Breakfast in February: “There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being.” Sadly, the priest said, legalized abortion implies that a person’s choice for personal freedom supersedes this obligation to protect and nurture human life.

Father Cleary said the United States has a history of defining the parameters of human life “when it suits our self-interest.” One example was slavery, justified by denying that a black human being of African descent was fully human, he said.

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