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Obama at Notre Dame: Catholics' Take

President Obama heads to South Bend, Indiana this Sunday to deliver the commencement address at Notre Dame University, and while his arrival in town may be met with strongly anti-abortion protesters, the broader Catholic community is more accepting of the president, and his position on legal abortion.

In a Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday, a third of Catholics (34 percent, 33 percent among white Catholics) said Notre Dame should rescind its invitation to Obama to deliver the commencement address at the storied school because his views on embryonic stem cell research and abortion diverge from the Church's positions.

But even among those Catholics who say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, views on Obama's visit to the university are about evenly split. Among Catholics with more restrictive views on abortion, 44 percent said the invitation should be pulled back, 48 percent felt it should stand, while among those with more liberal views, three-quarters said Obama should speak (74 percent).

Catholics who attend services at least weekly are also more apt to say the school should take back its invitation, 43 percent, than those who attend less frequently. But those frequent churchgoers are far more likely than other Catholics to say abortion should be illegal in mot cases - 66 percent vs. 24 percent among Catholics who attend mass less frequently. Overall, Catholics are about evenly divided on abortion: 50 percent said it should be legal in all or most cases, 44 percent feel it should be illegal in most situations. Just over half of Catholics in a new Gallup poll described themselves as "pro-life."

More broadly, Catholics give President Obama generally favorable reviews on his first few months in office. In the most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, white Catholics largely approve of the job Obama is doing as president (63 percent said they approve, 36 percent strongly so), and nearly six in 10 (58 percent) said his views on most issues are about right ideologically. About four in 10 called him too liberal, the same level as among whites overall. Views on this question among white Catholics have held steady since just before Obama's inauguration in January.

According to network exit polls, 2008 marked the end of white Catholics' long-standing streak of going with the winner in presidential elections; exit polls showed them giving Sen. John McCain a five-point edge over Obama.

White Catholics who regularly attend religious services were a bit more apt to support McCain -- 59 percent among those who celebrate mass at least weekly voted for the Republican candidate -- while those who attend occasionally (52 percent Obama, 48 percent McCain) or never (49 percent Obama, 51 percent McCain) were more evenly split.

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  May 15, 2009; 1:39 PM ET
Categories:  Crosstabs  
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It's a shame that a Catholic University in any era, or historical context, would celebrate one who holds views diametrically opposed to Catholic Doctrine.
Political views are not to be limited, by the national community, in The United States of America, constitutionally speaking.
However, that the University of Notre Dame is asking an open and unapologetic opponent of Church Doctrine to speak to graduates, and the larger Catholic community, and bestowing on him the respect of an honorary degree, is beyond my comprehension.
Should he be asked to give his opinions at a philosophy seminar? Yes. In that context he would be free to express his views, and be questioned rigorously by those who may not share his views. There would be no tacit approval from the Church.
Being asked to speak at commencement, and receive honors, however, by Notre Dame University is akin to granting some legitimacy to all his views. Any of his views, uttered or not, will go unopposed.
Where has the Church gone?
Why is this happening?

Posted by: whitneymsr | May 15, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

As alumni of Notre Dame (1974) and regular church goers, my wife and I are both proud that Notre Dame invited President Obama to speak at this year's commencement, that he accepted that invitation, and when the university stood up to the pressure from the right to withdraw its invitation.

For too long, pro-life has meant only anti-abortion. We are pro-life. We taught our daughters that abortion is wrong even though it is legal. We also taught them that capital punishment is immoral though it too is legal. We also taught them that unnecessary wars that cost tens of thousands of lives are immoral and wrong, even though some leaders have committed us to them. We also taught them that it is wrong for authorities to cover up the acts of child molesters. We regard these as pro-life positions, and we see them as being consistent and linked. At the same time, we see teaching these positions to our children as more important than demanding that a government or church do it for us.

Posted by: drjoe | May 15, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse


You didn't answer my questions.

You and I are on the same page regarding teaching our children to not abort.
Obama announced he was glad he had the societal flexibility to recommend abortion to his daughters, if the unfortunate "need" presented.
We disagree.

Obama and I are on the same page regarding the Iraq war. I am unhappy he's delaying the troop redeployment.
We somewhat agree.

You and I are on the same page regarding homosexual pediphile priests and the Church intentionally ignoring their child abuse for decades!
Obama openly solicits support of the homosexual lobby, though he continued 'don't ask don't tell', when he had the opportunity to change it. He proclaims himself against gay marriage. So far it's OK for him politically, playing both sides of this fence, but a non-issue for most.
We don't see enough action to agree or disagree.

Executing criminals who intentionally kill for gain is a worthwhile endeavor. In my work life I have discovered that evil people are amoung us.
The evil to whom I refer are not simply misguided, or unfortunate, or societally disadvantaged, or unintelligent. But evil. If left to their chosen occupation, mayhem and destruction, these evil people would destroy society. Capital punishment is societies' self defense, simply. It's imperfect unfortunately. Even in prison many of these evil ones kill others.
I believe Obama is against all capital punishment.
We don't agree.

I'm against our impositions in the Middle East, generally. Allow the Arabian/Muslim contries to sort out their own problems, establish their own borders, and governments. Buy their oil if we have to, but don't kill for it. Help them if they request it. So far we await Obamas' actions regarding this issue.
We can't yet agree or disagree.

Get out of Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
Obama is increasing the war, and drawing others into it.
We disagree.
Killing in Iraq is immoral but killing in Pakistan and Afghanistan is an acceptable American endeavor? I need clarification.

All in all I don't think the Church thought out the invitation. For some reason they went for the glitz, pomp, and popular culture, and ignored their teachings. And the result sullies Notre Dame University, and weakens their philosophical position.

Posted by: whitneymsr | May 15, 2009 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Tom Coyne, Associated Press Writer

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Former Republican presidential hopeful Alan Keyes, a Roman Catholic priest and 19 others were arrested Friday after marching onto the University of Notre Dame campus to protest President Barack Obama's planned commencement speech.

The arrests marked the third straight Friday that protesters have been detained. They are angry about the school's decision to give Obama, who supports abortion rights and embryonic stem-cell research, an honorary degree and have him speak at Sunday's commencement.

"Notre Dame is arresting a priest," the Rev. Norman Weslin, founder of the Lambs of Christ abortion protest group, said as Notre Dame security personnel put plastic restraints on his wrists Friday. "Why are you arresting a priest for trying to stop the killing of a baby? You've got it all backward."

Posted by: JakeD | May 15, 2009 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like everything is looking up for obama. watch and upload funny videos

Posted by: roverfind | May 16, 2009 7:04 AM | Report abuse

Whitneymsr asks in her post: "Where has the Church gone?" I attended parochial school for 12 years and a Jesuit college for 4, and ask myself this question all the time. I personally do not know anyone who is anti-life. Abortion is always a sad and tragic decision for any woman to make - but I will never support the government's right to become involved in the most intimate and personal decison made by an individual. Never. The church's stand on birth control and its derogatory attitude toward women in general is NOT pro-life. Pro-life means supporting life in all ways: opposing torture, war, the death penalty, extending love and respect to homosexuals, and yes, rejecting abortion on moral grounds. It also extends to supporting social justice in all its manifestations: support for social programs that help the poor, equality for all individuals, proper education of our children, forgiveness and support to people who are divorced, opposing racisim, and welcoming back into the Catholic community the hundreds of thousands of Catholics who have been alientated by the rigidness of antiquated doctrine. Like a language that does not evolve, Catholic doctrine will become more and more meaningless to, and out of touch with the lives of Catholics everywhere. As many shunned Catholics will tell you: "I did not leave my Church, my Church left me." For the first time in many, many years I see a President who exemplifies, in his actions and through his principles, the moral teachings of all Christian religions, including those of the Catholic church that shaped my life. As a Catholic who has been excoriated by the decades of the Church's myopic focus on abortion to the detriment of all other moral teachings, the invitation by Notre Dame to President Obama, and the Pope's silence regarding the "controversy," is a breath of fresh air, and the first sign of vitality, from an otherwise stale and rigid religion. This event gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, we will see the change in the Church that is long overdue.

Posted by: TSTrainor1 | May 16, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

When a woman is raped or child, it is discribed as "killing of ones soul". Rape victims will certainly tell you this. For years Cathelic preist raped young boys in their parish's, and it was covered up. Some today, still has not been punished for their sins of rape of young children put in their care. Some were just let go by the cathelic church an has no where to go but into the community among your children. The cathelic church lost what ever crediablity they had when they hid away these sinful preist. But, a university is a place of education. Not religeon! Childrens minds are to be educated in the world view, and to look at all sides of view! At that age they are ready to listen and choose what they want to follow/and what path they want to go down. The cathelic preist who raped children stole from a lot of those kids the right to live a normal child hood, let alone be able to choose their own path or walk of life, and they lost the priviledge of being able to choose a path for any child. No amount of complaining from cathelics and their followers can wipe away the Billion Tear stained face's of the kids,moms,dad,uncles,aunts,cousins and family and friends who suffered right along with these children., or repair the ruined lifes those cathelic preist left behind. Now, the cathelic church and it's followers want the right to tell the community what is abuse,death, an what is a sin or not. They lost that right!

Posted by: abbytreadway2 | May 17, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse


It wasn't until 1966 that a MARRIED couple (let alone a single person) could legally buy a condom in Connecticut - and it took a Supreme Court decision to accomplish it. I was already married three years and had to buy condoms in NYC>

Mother Church opposed condoms (remember Vatican roulette?) - and then birth control pills and all other forms of birth control.

Sherri Finkbein had to travel to Sweden for abortion of a Thalidomide fetus - with one arm and no legs and who knows what else wrong with it.

I support choice - but I also support birth control education including abstinence, easier adoption and financial/medical assistance for those women who decide to go forward with their pregnancies. I would pay increased taxes to support such a program - would you?

Posted by: toritto | May 18, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

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