Notre Dame Obama Commencement Speech Stirs Catholic Opposition
By Michael A. Fletcher
More than 87,000 names have been added to an online petition launched by a conservative Catholic group calling for the University of Notre Dame to rescind its invitation to President Obama to speak at its May 17 commencement ceremony.
The petition calls it "an outrage and a scandal" that Notre Dame, one of the nation's leading Catholic universities, would honor Obama. The petition says the president's pro-choice views and support for embryonic stem cell research "directly contradict fundamental Catholic teachings on life and marriage."
The petition drive was started by the Cardinal Newman Society, a Virginia-based group that promotes orthodoxy at Catholic colleges and universities. The group launched a website www.notredamescandal.com with the petition on Friday, shortly after the White House and Notre Dame announced that the president would be speaking at the graduation, where he also will be given an honorary degree.
"His abortion stance, his views on stem cell research, his threat to remove conscience protections for Catholic health care workers and his support of the Freedom of Choice Act (proposed legislation that would prevent local governments from interfering with a woman's right to choose) would essentially nullify pro-life protections that have been legislated" across the country, said Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society.
The petition drive has been joined by several Notre Dame campus organizations, as well as other groups, including Catholicvote.org, a group that promotes "a culture of life."
Notre Dame President the Rev. John I. Jenkins, seemed unmoved by the burgeoning protest. He issued a statement calling Obama "an inspiring leader" who is courageously grappling with the huge challenges confronting the country. Further, he called Obama and a "healer" who has "spoken eloquently and movingly about race in this nation."
"The invitation to President Obama to be our commencement speaker should not be taken as condoning or endorsing his positions on specific issues regarding the protection of human life, including abortion and embryonic stem cell research," Jenkins added. " Yet, we see his visit as a basis for further positive engagement."
Posted at 7:12 PM ET on Mar 24, 2009
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