Holy Cross Fathers Break Silence: Notre Dame Risks ‘True Soul’ by Inviting Obama

April 9, 2009 - 5:31 PM
Ten members of the order of priests that runs Notre Dame—calling themselves "proud graduates" of the university--broke their silence yesterday on whether President Obama should be allowed to speak at their alma mater.

Statue in the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes at the University of Notre Dame.

(CNSNews.com) - Ten members of the order of priests that runs Notre Dame—calling themselves “proud graduates” of the university--broke silence yesterday on whether President Obama should be allowed to speak at their alma mater, publishing a letter to the editor in a student newspaper declaring that the invitation to Obama “puts at risk the true soul of Notre Dame."

At the same time, the priests applauded the position taken by South Bend Bishop John D’Arcy—in whose diocese Notre Dame is located—who previously announced he was boycotting Notre Dame’s graduation for the first time in his 25 years as bishop so long as Obama was going to be allowed to speak there.

“We especially regret the fissure that the invitation to President Obama has opened between Notre Dame and its local ordinary and many of his fellow bishops,” wrote the ten Holy Cross fathers. “We express our deep gratitude to Bishop John D'Arcy for his leadership and moral clarity. We ask that the University give renewed consideration to Bishop D'Arcy's thoughtful counsel which always has Notre Dame's best interests at heart.

“The University pursues a dangerous course when it allows itself to decide for and by itself what part of being a Catholic institution it will choose to embrace,” said the ten priests. “Although undoubtedly unintended, the University administration's decision portends a distancing of Notre Dame from the Church which is its lifeblood and the source of its identity and real strength. Such a distancing puts at risk the true soul of Notre Dame.”

At least 20 Roman Catholic bishops have come forward to condemn Notre Dame’s decision to invite Obama to speak at its graduation ceremony and to award him an honorary doctorate in law. Many of the bishops have cited a 2004 document produced by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that says Catholic institutions should not honor or provide a platform for public figures who defy church moral teachings. The document especially singles out public figures who defy church teachings on the sanctity of human life.
 
The ten Holy Cross fathers also pointed to this document published by the bishops.

“It is our deep conviction that Notre Dame should lead by word and deed in upholding the Church's fundamental teaching that human life must be respected and protected from the moment of conception,” wrote the priests. ‘In so doing the University must take seriously the 2004 instruction of the U.S. Catholic Bishops that ‘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.’”
 
The priests said they regretted having to take a public position at odds with the fellow member of their order who is the president of Notre Dame, but said it would damage the “integrity” of Notre Dame if the school did not revisit its invitation to Obama.

“We regret that our position on this issue puts us at odds with our brother priest in Holy Cross, Fr. John Jenkins, C.S.C.,” said the priests. “Yet, in this instance, for the good of Notre Dame and the Congregation of Holy Cross, we cannot remain silent. Notre Dame's decision has caused moral confusion and given many reason to believe that the University's stance against the terrible evil of abortion is weak and easily trumped by other considerations.

“We prayerfully request that Fr. Jenkins and the Fellows of the University, who are entrusted with responsibility for maintaining its essential character as a Catholic institution of higher learning, revisit this matter immediately,” said the priests. “Failure to do so will damage the integrity of the institution and detract from all the good work that occurs at Notre Dame and from the impressive labors of its many faithful students and professors.”

Notre Dame’s commencement exercise will take place on May 17.  The letter—signed by Fathers Wilson D. Miscamble, Stephen M. Koeth,Gregory P. Haake, Daniel J. Parrish, Michael B. Wurtz, Mark R. Ghyselink, Terrence P. Ehrman, John A. Herman, Ronald J. Wasowski, Vincent A. Kuna—was published in the Notre Dame Observer yesterday.
 
President Obama favors legalized abortion on demand, government funding of abortion, government funding of stem cell research that kills human embryos, and legal recognition of same-sex unions that are equal to marriage, including the right to adopt children. All of these positions run contrary to Catholic teaching. Obama has also said that he wants to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, federal legislation that would roll back virtually all existing state restrictions on abortion.

The Obama administration is now reconsidering regulations put in place by the Bush Administration that protect health-care workers from being compelled to participate in abortions or distribute birth control drugs in institutions that receive federal funding if participating in such activities is against the health-care workers’ conscience.