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Statement on Notre Dame Controversy

Bishop Paul S. Loverde
Diocese of Arlington, VA

The Catholic bishops of the United States, in their 2004 statement on ‘Catholics in Political Life,’ directed that ‘The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.’ It is clear that the Church’s teachings with regard to abortion and the sanctity of human life are among the ‘fundamental moral principles’ referred to by the bishops.

While he has been in office only a few short months, President Obama’s actions with respect to life issues already have been a source of grave concern to Catholics. You can read my statements on these issues, including the lifting of the Mexico City policy, funding for embryonic stem cell research and the proposed removal of conscience protections for health care workers, at I share your dismay that Notre Dame, contrary to the direction provided by the bishops, has chosen to extend to him an invitation which – despite the University’s statements to the contrary – undoubtedly will be viewed by many as approbation of his policies.

If Notre Dame were hosting the President as a participant in a dialogue that included a full presentation of the Church’s position regarding the primacy of life, then the University’s action would be more understandable. However, given the unique national prominence of Notre Dame among Catholic universities, the decision by a few administrators to give him a platform and honor on Commencement Day will be damaging to the Church, to the pro-life cause and, ultimately, to the university itself.

This situation underscores the need for Catholics to be united and speak with one voice in our respect for all human life; otherwise, we project confusion and uncertainty on this most basic of issues.


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