by Ronald P. Salzberger | April 2, 2009 • On March 26, Archbishop John Nienstedt wrote to Fr. John Jenkins, President of the University of Notre Dame to protest the University’s invitation to President Obama to speak at its commencement ceremonies.
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Nienstedt said, “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.”
Though at least two other Bishops agree with Nienstedt, along with other anti-abortion Catholic groups on the Obama visit to Notre Dame, the opinion at Notre Dame itself isn’t quite so negative.
Writing about the episode, a writer for the student daily at Cornell University (Ithaca, NY) observed, “During my search for varying opinions on the subject, I came across something interesting. Of the letters sent to The Observer, the University of Notre Dame student newspaper, 70 percent of the alumni letters opposed having Obama giving the speech. However, 73 percent of letters received from students supported his appearance. Among the 95 seniors who wrote letters, 97 percent supported the president’s invitation. Furthermore, in a mock election held by Notre Dame’s student government last October, Obama won 52.6 percent of the vote compared to McCain’s 41.1 percent. It appears as though the greatest opposition is actually from alumni and those outside of the university, not from the students themselves.”
Nienstedt has received a great deal of attention in the more traditional Catholic press, online and print, for his stand. The move to ban Obama from Notre Dame is likely to pick up more speed in these circles in days to come.
On the other hand, progressive Catholics are once again embarrassed. In her blog Enlightened Catholicism, Colleen Kochivar-Baker says, “There is absolutely no way this insanity would have occurred thirty years ago. None. That it is happening today is nothing short of embarrassing for American Catholicism. In my opinion our political battles surrounding abortion have made the American Catholic Church a cancerous node in the global Catholic union. The vast majority of abortions are the result of other social problems which President Obama is willing to address. That doesn’t make him a baby killer.”
The Ban Obama campaign comes just days after Pope Benedict was forced to “clarify” his reinstatement of holocaust-denying, misogynist bishops to good standing in the Catholic Church.