Phoenix Bishop Blasts Notre Dame’s President for ‘Public Act of Disobedience to the Bishops of the United States’

By Staff | March 26, 2009 | 11:25 PM EDT

( - Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, Ariz., sent a scorching letter Wednesday to Fr. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame University, directly accusing Fr. Jenkins of committing an act of disobedience to the Catholic bishops of the United States by inviting pro-abortion President Barack Obama to deliver Notre Dame’s commencement address and receive an honorary law degree.
Bishop Olmsted delivered the letter to Fr. Jenkins via email.
The rebuke from the Phoenix bishop came one day after Bishop John D’Arcy of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend--the diocese that includes Notre Dame--released a statement announcing that he was boycotting Notre Dame’s graduation ceremony for the first time in his 25 years as bishop in order to make clear his disapproval of Fr. Jenkins’s decision to honor a pro-abortion president.
Bishop Olmsted’s official biography says that he lived for sixteen years in Rome, where he earned a masters degree in theology and a doctorate in Canon Law. He also worked for nine years in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.
“I am saddened and heavy of heart about your decision to invite President Obama to speak at Notre Dame University and even to receive an honorary degree,” Bishop Olmsted wrote to Fr. Jenkins. “It is a public act of disobedience to the Bishops of the United States.”
Both Bishop Olmsted in his Wednesday letter and Bishop D’Arcy in his Tuesday statement pointed out that Fr. Jenkins’s decision to honor President Obama violated a June 2004 declaration by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that states: “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.”
Bishop Olmsted told Fr. Jenkins it was impossible for him not to know of President Obama’s positions in favor of government policies that violate the right to life.
“No one could not know the public stands and actions of the president on key issues opposed to the most vulnerable human beings,” Olmsted said in his letter to the Notre Dame president.
Bishop Olmsted also quoted a statement from Pope John Paul II, who said, “Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights—for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with the maximum determination.”
The Phoenix bishop closed his letter by telling Fr. Jenkins that he would pray that the Notre Dame president would come to understand he had made a serious error.
“I pray that you come to see the grave mistake of your decision, and the way that it undercuts the Church’s proclamation of the Gospel of Life in our day,” wrote Olmsted.
Similarly, Bishop D’Arcy had called on Catholics to pray to Our Lady to help Notre Dame mend its ways.
“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,” said Bishop D’Arcy in his Tuesday statement. “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.”
Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown told the Associated Press on Thursday that Notre Dame does not plan to repudiate its invitation to President Obama.

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