Bishop D’Arcy to boycott Obama at Notre Dame

Bishop John M. D’Arcy of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, which includes Notre Dame, has released a statement on the university’s invitation to President Obama to deliver the main commencement address and receieve an honorary degree on May 17. (Full text is in the post below.)

Bishop D’Arcy says ND president Father John Jenkins, CSC did not inform him of the invitation until shortly before Obama’s acceptance was announced, and that he will not attend the commencement, the first time he will boycott it in his 25 years as bishop. He also said he spoke with Mary Ann Glendon, who is to receive the Laetare Medal at the ceremony, and “encouraged her to accept this award and take the opportunity such an award gives her to teach.”


He concludes with a jab at Notre Dame, saying it must ask itself “if by this decision it has chosen prestige over truth.”

Peggy Steinfels pointed out that Archbishop Dolan has invited Obama to his installation in NYC, as indicated in this Newsday story. As Tom Reese points out, no one said anything much when Obama the Candidate was invited to the Al Smith Dinner by Cardinal Egan. But I wonder if that will change now. Maybe D’Arcy will boycott Dolan?


First, a couple other links to flesh out the story:

One is the CNS story in which Father Jenkins says he is standing firm on the invitation:

“The invitation to President Obama to be our commencement speaker should not be taken as condoning or endorsing his positions on specific issues regarding the protection of human life, including abortion and embryonic stem-cell research,” said Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame. “Yet, we see his visit as a basis for further positive engagement,” he said in a March 23 statement.

He adds:

“We will honor Mr. Obama as an inspiring leader who faces many challenges — the economy, two wars, and health care, immigration and education reform — and is addressing them with intelligence, courage and honesty,” he said. “It is of special significance that we will hear from our first African-American president, a person who has spoken eloquently and movingly about race in this nation. Racial prejudice has been a deep wound in America, and Mr. Obama has been a healer.” 


As the CNS story indicates, not everyone agrees. In a column at The Catholic Thing, Ralph McInerny, a philosophy professor at Notre Dame, writes: “For one whose 54-year career as a member of the Notre Dame faculty is coming to an end this June, it is a bitter thing to reflect on the 2009 commencement speaker.”

Deal Hudson is rather scathing towards Jenkins, and here, too. The Cardinal Newman Society (which NCR’s Joe Feuerherd was fairly scathing about, calling its leader Patrick Reilly an “academic ayatollah“–though his story was spot on) says it has collected 54,000 sigantures on its petition drive to disinvite Obama. And the blogosphere is rancid with all maner of anti-Obama and anti-Notre Dame invective.


Perhaps the worst is Operation Rescue’s Randall Terry (oh, beware us converts!), who has set up a special website with graphic photos and equally graphic language, such as saying Obama is worse than Herod. He titles it, “Our Lady of Guadalupe conquered Human Sacrifice. Notre Dame now Honors it”–sweet–and includes an odd locution: “…we will raze hell in this battle to keep Obama from speaking at Notre Dame.”

Lest you think Terry is a fringe player, he just announced that he was given an interview with Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, formerly of St. Louis and now Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, and that he will broadcast it tomorrow: “Everyone who has seen this interview is stunned at Archbishop Burke’s candor and clarity. His words thunder, and are without equivocation.”

Stay tuned.


Comments read comments(8)
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Cautious Man

posted March 24, 2009 at 6:58 pm

To your list, I would add Archbishop Wuerl of Washington, D.C., who participated in the ecumenical prayer service held in connection with President Obama’s inauguration.

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Clare Krishan

posted March 24, 2009 at 7:04 pm

[ Rancid smell warning for those who like their lipids hydrogenated ]
Not sure how Bishop D’Arcy has won for himself the tag “pop culture” by just doin’ his job: Terence Trent D’Arby comes close but I don’t think they’re related? Am I missing some hip, cool, contemporary angle here? I’m saddened to think that the priest didn’t think he needed to keep his spiritual father in the loop as a courtesy, leaving him stranded when the media embargo on the press release was unleashed to an anticipated ruckus (ie not an unintended consequence, but a quite easily foreseen crisis) – its like the Mayor of New York announcing he’s going to accept billions of “aid” from Saudi Arabia in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 without asking the governor — heck perhaps he ought check in wuth the president — if its a good idea (oops my bad, that never happened, right, Guiliani declined the gifts from the terrorists King right? The Governor and President never got to wipe egg off their faces, as it should be)

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posted March 24, 2009 at 8:42 pm

The bishop is a jack*ss. Were Catholics required by the US government to abort their babies and to receive injections of embryonic stem cells, yes, he would be justified in boycotting him. But he cannot offer his guidance to anyone he refuses to see.
Guidance to the bishop, of course, being lost.

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posted March 24, 2009 at 10:10 pm

David – thanks for being willing to continue the conversation. I suspect it will take millions of people (and perhaps millions of years) to bridge this divide.

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Gerard Nadal

posted March 24, 2009 at 11:27 pm

Fr. Jenkns:
“It is of special significance that we will hear from our first African-American president, a person who has spoken eloquently and movingly about race in this nation. Racial prejudice has been a deep wound in America, and Mr. Obama has been a healer.”
With all due respect, what has Obama done to heal racial prejudice? I know of Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evars, Rosa Parks and their generation in the Civil Rights Movement. They faced death and pushed on in spite of it. Many lost their lives.
Barak Obama has fattened himself on the table set by those noble leaders. Obama asked the American people for a job, the most powerful in the nation and arguably, the world. The American people chose to give him that chance. It is the American people who have done the healing by rising above our history’s dark side, not the job applicant. It is the blood and sacrifice of the Civil Rights Movement leaders that has helped to wash away the bigotry that too long existed here.
Jenkins got it wrong again. The nation wasn’t ready a generation ago with Jesse Jackson. It was ready this time around. It is the American people who deserve the credit. It is they who have done the heavy lifting. Jenkins is trying to bask in reflected glory.

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posted March 25, 2009 at 12:25 am

We can argue “academic freedom” vs “Catholic teaching” until the cows come home. But, I can’t for the life of me, understand why Fr. Jenkins would introduce such an easily anticipated controversy at this particular time in history. It almost seems antagonistic to me…or at the very least, insensitive and tone deaf.
Also, the president is not being honored at Dolan’s installation. He will be one (albeit a very important one) among many dignitaries.

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the truth

posted March 25, 2009 at 4:53 pm

what an insult — the outrage !!!
All Catholics must cease watching baseball for the next 1000 years !!! The baseball commissioner should not be allowed to take communion !!!! All the players/viewers should wear horse-hair shirts !!!

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Your Name

posted March 26, 2009 at 10:16 am

Who would Jesus boycott?

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