Local Catholic Bishop Will Boycott Obama’s Appearance at Notre Dame's Graduation

March 24, 2009 - 2:52 PM
Bishop John D'Arcy of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend says he is boycotting Notre Dame's May 17 commencement because the primary speaker is President Obama who will be awarded an honorary doctorate in law.

The Rt. Rev. John D'Arcy, bishop of Ft Wayne-Soth Bend, Ind. (AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) -- Bishop John M. D’Arcy, who presides over the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend that includes the University of Notre Dame, says he will not attend the university’s May 17 graduation because the commencement speaker will be President Obama whom the university intends to award an honorary doctorate in law.
 
“This will be the 25th Notre Dame graduation during my time as bishop,” D’Arcy announced Tuesday afternoon. “After much prayer, I have decided not to attend the graduation.”
 
“I wish no disrespect to our president, I pray for him and wish him well," said D'Arcy. "I have always revered the Office of the Presidency. But a bishop must teach the Catholic faith ‘in season and out of season,’ and he teaches not only by his words--but by his actions.”
 
The bishop pointed out that his decision to skip the commencement is “not an attack on anyone, but is in defense of the truth about human life.”
 
D’Arcy said Obama’s support for embryonic stem-cell research, which results in the destruction of human embryos, and his support for legalized abortion, disqualify him from being honored by a Catholic institution of higher learning.
 
“President Obama has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred, and has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life,” said D'Arcy.
 
In explaining his boycott, D’Arcy cited a document published by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops titled "Catholics in Political Life."
 
“The Catholic community and 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 document states.
 
The 2004 document was developed under the direction of Cardinal Francis George, now the president of the U.S.C.C.B., Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver and then-Bishop Donald Wuerl, who is now the archbishop of Washington, D.C. 

Bishop D'Arcy called on Notre Dame to remember the principles it was founded on. 

“Even as I continue to ponder in prayer these events, which many have found shocking, so must Notre Dame,” he said. “Indeed, as a Catholic university, Notre Dame must ask itself, if by this decision it has chosen prestige over truth.” 

This is not the first time that the Indiana bishop has voiced his disagreement with Obama's stance on issues such as embryonic stem-cell research. 

Earlier in March, the bishop condemned the president's executive order to allow federal funding for what D"Arcy called “the destruction of embryonic human beings for stem-cell research.” 

“This decision by the president is an imposition of a utilitarian ideology, which allows a group of human beings that some believe do not share human dignity, to be used and exploited,” the bishop said at the time.
 
He added: “Human history, of course, is rife with examples of the strong dominating the weak and defenseless. Doesn’t the promise of a democratic America--of respect for the dignity of all--hold us to a higher standard?”
 
In the same statement, he also said the president “left the door open to human cloning for the purposes of experimentation.”
 
“In other words, while human beings could be cloned with taxpayer money in order to be exploited and killed for scientific research,” added Bishop D’Arcy “they could not be cloned and implanted in the womb of a woman in order to be born. This is science at its very worst.”
 
The bishop also revealed that the president of Notre Dame, Fr. John Jenkins, did not inform him that Obama would be speaking at Notre Dame’s 2009 commencement until moments before the invitation was made public at the White House Press briefing on March 20.

This is also not the first time that the bishop and Notre Dame’s president have been at odds. In an April 2006 statement, D’Arcy called on Jenkins to stop performances at Notre Dame of an explicit play promoting promiscuity, “The Vagina Monologues." 

“I have had visits from students who feel betrayed by this decision and the rationale that accompanied it… They rightly look to us and to our institutions to live by faith.” 

Jenkins allowed the performances, and continues to defend his decision to allow them. 

By Tuesday afternoon, meanwhile, more than 81,000 people had signed a petition sponsored by the Cardinal Newman Society, asking Notre Dame's president to reverse the university's decision to invite pro-abortion President Barack Obama to speak at the school's commencement and receive an honorary doctor of law degree there. 
 
Here is the full text of Bishop D'Arcy's statement:

STATEMENT

Concerning President Barack Obama speaking at Notre Dame’s graduation, receiving honorary law degree
 
March 24, 2009
 
On Friday, March 21, Father John Jenkins, CSC, phoned to inform me that President Obama had accepted his invitation to speak to the graduating class at Notre Dame and receive an honorary degree. We spoke shortly before the announcement was made public at the White House press briefing. It was the first time that I had been informed that Notre Dame had issued this invitation.
 
President Obama has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred. While claiming to separate politics from science, he has in fact separated science from ethics and has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life.
 
This will be the 25th Notre Dame graduation during my time as bishop. After much prayer, I have decided not to attend the graduation. I wish no disrespect to our president, I pray for him and wish him well. I have always revered the Office of the Presidency. But a bishop must teach the Catholic faith “in season and out of season,” and he teaches not only by his words -- but by his actions.
 
My decision is not an attack on anyone, but is in defense of the truth about human life.
 
I have in mind also the statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops in 2004. “The Catholic community and 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.” Indeed, the measure of any Catholic institution is not only what it stands for, but also what it will not stand for.
 
I have spoken with Professor Mary Ann Glendon, who is to receive the Laetare Medal. I have known her for many years and hold her in high esteem. We are both teachers, but in different ways. I have encouraged her to accept this award and take the opportunity such an award gives her to teach.
 
Even as I continue to ponder in prayer these events, which many have found shocking, so must Notre Dame. Indeed, as a Catholic University, Notre Dame must ask itself, if by this decision it has chosen prestige over truth.
 
Tomorrow, we celebrate as Catholics the moment when our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, became a child in the womb of his most holy mother. Let us ask Our Lady to intercede for the university named in her honor, that it may recommit itself to the primacy of truth over prestige.