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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 dear.

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 speaker.

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 perspectives.

JENKINS: Who speaks first, you are President Obama?

BOLLMAN: I do, thank goodness. It would be impossible to follow President Obama.

(LAUGHTER)

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 president arrives.

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 be receiving.

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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