President Obama is speaking and receiving an honorary degree at the University of Notre Dame’s graduation ceremony on Sunday. The university has been moving to the left for years but had managed not to isolate its conservative Midwestern alumni and the Catholic Church’s hierarchy. That luck has run out for the Irish.
The Obama invitation is in direct violation of a 2004 statement issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In “Catholics in Political Life,” the bishops stated unequivocally 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.” If that is not clear enough, the document lists political support for abortion as the most obvious offense against the moral teachings of the church.
At least 70 U.S. bishops have condemned the platform Notre Dame has given to Mr. Obama because of the president’s extremist abortion position. Fort Wayne, Ind., Bishop John D’Arcy, whose diocese is home to the university, is taking the unusual step of skipping the graduation and said “there’s no other right unless you have the right to life, and a Catholic university should support that 100 percent.” Archbishop Raymond Burke, head of the Vatican’s supreme court, said Notre Dame needs to 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.”
The Rev. John I. Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, remains defiant about honoring Mr. Obama and said last month, “We’re just so proud to have him.” The priest’s own associations place him further at odds with his church. Father Jenkins is a member of the board of directors of Millennium Promise, an organization ostensibly organized to fight poverty. A closer look exposes a darker agenda. One of Millennium Promise’s major initiatives is Millennium Villages, a joint project with the United Nations Development Program and Columbia University’s Earth Institute that promotes “reproductive rights” as a solution to poverty in the Third World, especially in Africa.
In a chapter on “Maternal and Child Health” in the June 2008 Millennium Villages Handbook, one of the organization’s “core interventions” is listed as “abortion services.” The handbook states: “In countries where abortion is legal, safe abortion services in controlled settings by skilled practitioners should be established.” To make abortion more accessible in remote areas, the action plan advises that abortion services need to be expanded to the village level. In a subsection of the handbook titled “Quick Impact Initiatives for Gender,” one of the “strategic priorities” is to “expand access to family planning and contraceptive information and services.” Father Jenkins refused to comment to The Washington Times, but surely he knows that abortion and artificial contraceptives are prohibited by the Catholic Church.
As William A. Donohue explains in an Op-Ed column on the facing page, Catholics across America feel like they have a stake in Notre Dame. For decades, millions of working-class immigrants took special pride that its football team was among the best in the nation. Victory on the gridiron proved that hard work brought success, even for those recently off the boat. Notre Dame’s prominence symbolized that the Catholic minority had established itself in a majority Protestant country.
The Fighting Irish fight song beckons the faithful to “Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame.” By honoring Mr. Obama, the school has broken with its religious identity and given us all a reason to boo Old Notre Dame.