On the Road to Jerusalem
Bishop George V. Murry, S.J.
Bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown, OH
Published in the Catholic Exponent, Diocese of Youngstown, OH
April 3, 2009
The recent announcement by Notre Dame University that
President Barack Obama would be this year’s commencement speaker and receive an
honorary degree has generated a substantial amount of comment. At root is the
request made by the American Catholic bishops some years ago to the presidents
of Catholic colleges and universities that they not give a platform to or honor
those persons who took public positions contrary to the teaching of the Church.
The protection and defense of all human life from conception to natural death is
both a fundamental and essential tenet of our faith. As Pope John Paul II wrote
in his encyclical, The Gospel of Life, because of the teachings found in
the Scriptures and the example of Jesus Christ, we as Catholics have an
“inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.”
While I greatly respect the office of President of the United
States and the historic achievement of Mr. Obama, his polices to date have not
recognized the intrinsic value of the life of the unborn. In politics, one
cannot functionally separate a politician from his polices. Mr. Obama’s policies
of expanding the availability of abortion at home and exporting that
availability overseas have demonstrated that he does not believe that the life
of the unborn is very important. As a result, I cannot but be deeply disturbed
by the decision made by the president and board of Notre Dame.
Notre Dame is a Catholic university. Universities are places where there
is a free exchange of ideas for the purpose of learning. Notre Dame is also a
Catholic university, which means that its intellectual foundation is built
on fundamental moral principles. Remove those moral principles and you remove
the word “Catholic” from an organization’s self-definition.
As a Catholic university and the premier Catholic university in the nation,
Notre Dame should be in the forefront of protecting all human life in word and
deed. It is not sufficient for the university’s administration to issue a
statement that they do not agree with President Obama’s positions on life issues
while at the same time giving him an opportunity to stand before the graduates
and receive a prestigious honorary degree. That is the contradiction Notre Dame
has failed to resolve and what, I believe, is at the heart of this controversy.
Notre Dame is a great university. Mr. Obama has done much to be commended,
especially in his genuine concern for the poor and needy among us. Since Mr.
Obama probably will be the graduation speaker, I hope and pray that the
leadership of the university, its president and chair of the board, will seize
this opportunity to help the President to see the inalienable right to life of
every human being and invite him to courageously defend that right along with us
as we journey On the Road to Jerusalem.
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