Notre Dame: Tragedy and Hope: The Storied Catholic University May Have Honored Pro-Abortion-"Rights" President Barack Obama, but This "Honor" Gave Catholic and Non-Catholic Pro-Lifers an Opportunity to Champion Principle over Expediency

By Kenny, Jack | The New American, June 8, 2009 | Go to article overview

Notre Dame: Tragedy and Hope: The Storied Catholic University May Have Honored Pro-Abortion-"Rights" President Barack Obama, but This "Honor" Gave Catholic and Non-Catholic Pro-Lifers an Opportunity to Champion Principle over Expediency


Kenny, Jack, The New American


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At the University of Notre Dame, opposition to the granting of an honorary Doctor of Laws degree to commencement speaker Barack Obama, president of the United States and the nation's most prominent proponent of abortion "rights" and embryonic stem-cell research, was intense, both within and beyond the borders of the impressive South Bend campus. The invitation sparked a nationwide controversy that resembled, in some ways, a family quarrel.

"My father said he felt like a member of the family had died," said Mary Daly, a junior at the university this year and president of the 1,000-member Notre Dame Right to Life group. Her brother, John, graduated from the university last year, and both their parents are Notre Dame alumni. One of their grandparents also attended the storied Catholic university, and a large number of aunts and uncles are proud alumni. "I never wanted to go anywhere else but Notre Dame," said Daly. "Before I even knew or understood the concept of college, I wanted to go to Notre Dame."

But as this year's senior class was preparing for its graduation ceremony, Daly was lending her active, moral, and prayerful support to the graduates, somewhere between 30 and 40, who chose to skip the commencement ceremonies to protest the honor bestowed on Obama. Other seniors decorated their graduation caps with a depiction of a cross and a pair of baby feet to protest the abortion policies Obama champions. Daly cited the statement of Bishop John D'Arcy of the Fort WayneSouth Bend diocese to explain how Notre Dame's mission and Catholic identity were being undermined by the honor paid to Obama. "In the words of Bishop D'Arcy, the administration is seeking prestige over truth," she said. "I think that statement still resounds."

The Dalys were part of ND Response, an ad hoc coalition of 11 student organizations including the Knights of Columbus, the College Republicans, and the Saint Thomas More Society. On the night before the May 17 commencement, Bishop D'Arcy led a candlelight prayer vigil for the graduating seniors and their families. On the following day, as the graduates were gathering for the 2 p.m. commencement, ND Response held a rally at the main quad of the campus. The speakers included Chris Godfrey, a Notre Dame Law School graduate and former offensive guard for the New York Giants.

There were also protests outside the main gate, led by nationally known abortion foes Alan Keyes and Randall Terry. Also protesting was Norma McCorvey, "Jane Roe" of the infamous Roe v. Wade case that overturned anti-abortion laws throughout the country. (She has since become a fervent foe of abortion.) She was arrested with about 40 other people for criminal trespass, when they entered the campus to protest. And they were only part of the storm of controversy that has surrounded the university since the announcement in March that Obama would be the commencement speaker and recipient of an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Hundreds of thousands signed online petitions of protest. Bishop D'Arcy was quick to say he would break with custom by not attending the graduation. Since then, at least 70 Catholic bishops across the country have criticized the decision.

In an interview with the National Catholic Register, Archbishop Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Vatican's highest court, the Apostolic Signatura, said that Notre Dame should "come clean. Is it Catholic or isn't it? A Catholic institution, a Catholic university, cannot give honors to someone who is a promoter of things that are opposed to the most fundamental beliefs of Catholics."

Harvard Law Professor and former ambassador to the Vatican Mary Ann Glendon, who was to receive the university's highest honor, the Laetare Medal, during the commencement ceremonies for her work in the pro-life cause, announced in April that she was turning down the honor. Glendon cited, as have many others, a policy statement adopted by the U. …

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