Bishop Aquila on Fox News about the Notre Dame Controversy
Transcript published on foxnews.com
This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 14,
2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Everyone at Notre Dame is sure talking
about the commencement controversy. And FOX's Griff Jenkins is right in the
middle of it.
Three days from now, President Obama will take the stage at the Notre Dame's
graduation, giving a commencement address and receiving an honorary degree. Some
people are happy about it, and many are not.
FOX's Griff Jenkins joins us live from Notre Dame. Griff, take it away. What is
going on there?
GRIFF JENKINS, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Greta.
I tell you, nowhere is this debate over the president's visit more intense and
thoughtful than here on campus. The students are divided. I think more than 80
percent in my unofficial poll in talking to more than 50 of them today, said
they approve of it. But many of them strongly disapprove of the visit.
But when I said "thoughtful," Greta -- I just had a dozen students walk by with
candles in their hands. They disagree with each other, I'm sure. They have
heated debates on it. But let me tell you, the ones student I talked to today is
a very special student. Her name is Brennan Bollman from St. Joseph, Michigan.
And she is going to share that stage with President Obama because she is the
valedictorian. Here's what she had to say about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENKINS: So, is President Obama a good speaker to have?
BRENNAN BOLLMAN, NOTRE DAME VALEDICTORIAN: I think he is an important
speaker to have at Notre Dame, because Notre Dame is a place where will really
inculcate the idea of service and of living a commitment to our values, which is
what he's done.
After college, he worked as a community organizer. And now as president he is
working to implement policies to reduce inequality and poverty.
And so I think he lives out a lot of the traditions that Notre Dame holds very
JENKINS: I spoke to a few students, the Notre Dame response group
student. And one of them told me he felt like President Obama's visit betrayed
his choice to come to a Catholic university.
What do you think about that?
BOLLMAN: I think the word "Catholic" means universal. And I think as a
Catholic university, we have to engage all ideas at all levels in a very
thoughtful and constructive way, which is what we're doing by inviting this
He is someone who aligns with Catholic teaching on a number of positions --
immigration, healthcare, poverty -- all things that are very close to the
Catholic social tradition that is really a big force at the university --
disagrees with catholic teaching on a number of other positions, but I think
does so in a respectful way and is aware of the weightiness of these issues.
So it is of the utmost importance that at a university we engage all of these
JENKINS: Who speaks first, you are President Obama?
BOLLMAN: I do, thank goodness. It would be impossible to follow President
JENKINS: Are you nervous being on stage with him?
BOLLMAN: I think I will just be excited. I want to walk up to the podium
and think, "This is cool. I'm having fun. This is important. I'm speaking on
behalf of my class," and just enjoy the moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JENKINS: Greta, what a remarkable young lady Brennan is. And she is
headed to medical school at Harvard. And she will continue some of the work she
did as an undergrad doing a service in Cambodia, in Haiti, and who knows where
she will end up.
And I will tell you one thing, a little tidbit that no one has talked about --
100 percent of the students I talked to, Greta, are tired of that plane that has
been buzzing over. And that is going away on Saturday and Sunday when the
VAN SUSTEREN: I am sure we have not seen the last of that student with
that resume. Griff, thank you.
Bishop Samuel Aquila, who serves the Catholic Diocese in Fargo, North Dakota,
wrote a letter to Notre Dame's president harshly criticizing the university's
invitation to President Obama.
Bishop Aquila joins us live. Good evening, sir.
BISHOP SAMUEL AQUILA, DIOCESE OF FARGO: Good evening.
VAN SUSTEREN: So you wrote the president of the university. Have you
heard back from him?
AQUILA: No, I have not, Greta. I have received no response from him.
VAN SUSTEREN: You are all the way out in Fargo -- the Fargo, North Dakota
area. Why are you sort of stretching all the way to Indiana? It must be an
important issue to you, sir.
AQUILA: Well, the very real issue is the giving an honor to President
Obama. And that is what it is really about, is the honorary degree that he will
I have a number of graduates and alumni in the diocese of Fargo who are
contacting me who are very concerned about the actions of Notre Dame, and an
alma mater that they truly love.
And, certainly, Notre Dame is a wonderful Catholic institution. It is one that
has a Catholic character and a Catholic identity.
And to extend an honorary degree to someone who is so opposed to a basic,
fundamental right as the right and the dignity of human life, and from the
moment of conception until natural death, that it sends a very mixed message and
certainly is perceived by the average layperson as condoning or giving an
appearance of supporting his ideas on human life and the unborn child.
VAN SUSTEREN: We only of 30 seconds left. Do you expect the Vatican to
weigh in on this, or not?
AQUILA: I do not think they will. I think that the local bishops, serving
as teachers, need to extend their teaching and help people to see. Because,
certainly, NARAL, or the Planned Parenthood would never invite Benedict the
16th, much less extend an award to him.
And essentially, Notre Dame is ignoring their Catholic identity and who they
are, their Catholic character by giving an award to him.
VAN SUSTEREN: Bishop, thank you. We have got to go. Thank you.
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