The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has called President Obama an “anti-Catholic politician” and has condemned the University of Notre Dame for inviting Obama to speak at the school’s graduation in May. Archbishop John Nienstedt wrote to protest the invitation because of the president’s support for women’s abortion rights, embryonic stem cell research and civil unions for same-sex couples.
“I have just learned that you, as President of the University of Notre Dame, have invited President Barack Obama to be the graduation commencement speaker,” Nienstedt wrote in a letter to the Rev. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame. “I write to protest this egregious decision on your part. It is a travesty that the University of Notre Dame, considered by many to be a Catholic University, should give its public support to such an anti-Catholic politician.”
The letter, dated March 26, comes as conservative Roman Catholic groups press Notre Dame to cancel the president’s appearance over his positions on abortion and gay marriage. Nienstedt says that if Obama speaks at the school, Notre Dame will get no support from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Jenkins said the school is honored to have Obama speak after the president accepted the school’s invitation last week.
“The invitation of President Obama to be our Commencement speaker should in no way be taken as condoning or endorsing his positions on specific issues regarding the protection of life, such as abortion and embryonic stem cell research,” Jenkins told the Notre Dame Observer.
“We are not ignoring the critical issue of the protection of life,” said Jenkins. “On the contrary, we invited him because we care so much about those issues, and we hope … for this to be the basis of an engagement with him.
“You cannot change the world if you shun the people you want to persuade, and if you cannot persuade them … show respect for them and listen to them.”
Nienstedt’s full letter:
Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
President, University of Notre Dame
400 Main Building
Notre Dame, IN 46556
Dear Father Jenkins:
I have just learned that you, as President of the University of Notre Dame, have invited President Barack Obama to be the graduation commencement speaker at the University’s exercises on May 17, 2009. I was also informed that you will confer on the president an honorary doctor of laws degree, one of the highest honors bestowed by your institution.
I write to protest this egregious decision on your part. President Obama has been a pro-abortion legislator. He has indicated, especially since he took office, his deliberate disregard of the unborn by lifting the ban on embryonic stem cell research, by promoting the FOCA agenda and by his open support for gay rights throughout this country.
It is a travesty that the University of Notre Dame, considered by many to be a Catholic University, should give its public support to such an anti-Catholic politician.
I hope that you are able to reconsider this decision. If not, please do not expect me to support your University in the future.
The Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt
Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis