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On Notre Dame's Choice Of A Commencement Speaker

Bishop Robert J. Baker, S.T.D.

Nationwide astounded and upset Catholics have reacted critically to the news that Notre Dame University will host and honor President Barack Obama at its May Commencement. I also feel the need to express my deep disappointment over such an invitation, extended by one of our nation's Catholic Universities.

That a Catholic school should publicly recognize a man who unashamedly promotes values clearly opposed to the Church's teaching on the Gospel of Life is a travesty to the legacy of Catholic education. In his address at Catholic University almost one year ago, Pope Benedict XVI pointed out that the identity of Catholic universities cannot be "equated simply with orthodoxy of course content. It demands and inspires much more: namely that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith." To educate students in fundamental moral principles cannot be reconciled with subsequent bestowal of tribute to a public official who supports and promotes the values contrary to those principles.

I support Bishop Thomas Olmsted's public stance on this matter, in calling this situation "a public act of disobedience to the Bishops of the United States."

Finally, I endorse the response suggested by Professor Charles E. Rice, and I continue to encourage all in the Birmingham Diocese to vigorously react to this situation through prayer. Especially on May 17, the day of the Commencement, those who can go to the Grotto on the University grounds, should, as Professor Rice suggested, assemble and pray there. Those who live far away should also join in prayer. We should not make public demonstrations on that day that would be counterproductive, but we will firmly refuse to compromise our Catholic and pro-life identity.

I encourage Catholics in the Diocese of Birmingham to continue praying the prayer I composed for our president and public officials, even after Lent. There is great need for prayer, not only for those in public office, but also for the entire Catholic community. We have elected many men and women who are opposed to the culture of life. We Catholics need also a deeper conversion in our own lives before a change in our country will take place.

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