Text of Bishop D’Arcy’s statement on Obama at Notre Dame

Here is the text of Bishop John M. D’Arcy’s has released a statement on Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama to deliver the main commencement address and receive an honorary degree on May 17:

Concerning President Barack Obama speaking at Notre Dame 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.

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posted March 24, 2009 at 4:14 pm

I wonder what the Bishop would have thought if ND had invited George W. Bush to speak? After all, he started two wars and think of all the innocent life lost in those little “adventures.” (Including I might add many children in the womb.)
The Bishop also stated that Obama “has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life.” Again I ask, did the Bishop miss the wars we started in Afghanistan and Iraq? Not to mention all the other wars we were involved in. If that is not supporting the direct destruction of innocent human life I don’t know what is.

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posted March 25, 2009 at 3:05 am

I fully support his statement. Those who fight in wars aren’t necessarily there to “kill”, but to bring peace to a nation in turmoil. Soldiers and insurgents also have weapons and techniques and other soldiers to protect them.
The unborn have noone to protect them but us, if the mother won’t take the responsibility to protect a precious child.
This is my comparison on his opening stem cell research to include embryos. There have already been so many medical advances that this is not even necessary. But, most important, how many of you would gladly give up your child’s very life to save the life of a stranger? This is exactly the same comparison.

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Katie Angel

posted March 25, 2009 at 11:26 am

I am troubled by the bishop’s decision to boycott the graduation and also by the giving of an honorary degree. I think it is entirely appropriate for the President to speak at Notre Dame as he is our elected President. It also gives us, as Catholics, an opportunity to interact with him and provide him with a perspective on our concerns. Interactive dialog is almost always more effective than invective and disengagement.
President Obama has declared his intention to make abortion irrelevant by changing the conditions where it is considered the only solution and I think we should give him the chance to prove he means it. The current paradigm of trying to make it illegal doesn’t seem to have worked – despite one of the most fervent anti-abortion Presidents ever – so we need to change the discussion.
First of all, the Church needs to get out of politics and get back to moral teaching. Second, we need to clean our own house before we can start speaking to others about theirs. As long as we keep making excuses for priests who abuse the children in their care, as long as we do not speak out forcefully for the rights of the poor and the disenfranchised, as long as we sit by and allow greed and corruption, we are in no position to chastise anyone else. Lastly, we need to speak out from a moral point of view to convince others that abortion is wrong and why. We need to support organizations that alleviate poverty, those that provide housing and medical care for pregnant women and those that encourage a comprehensive approach to healthy sexuality – abstinence plus information about pregnancy prevention.
However, I am concerned about giving a very pro-choice president an honorary degree. This conveys an acceptance of his position and an endorsement of his policy. Since we do not know that what he has implemented is indeed going to reduce the number of abortions, we should be skeptical of appearing to applaud his position until we find that it is successful.
As with so many of the issues facing us as American Catholics, this is not an easily cut-and-dry situation. We must acknowledge that not everyone in this country shares our beliefs and, since we are not a theocracy, we cannot impose our beliefs on them through the law. We can only work to convince them by our lives, our actions and our words. Perhaps as we live out our faith – truly being pro-life in all its manifestations (poverty, war, death penalty, child and spousal abuse as well as protecting the unborn) – we can change the culture that we live in to be one that really respects life, rather than one where humans decide which lives are worth saving.

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Tally Brillembourg

posted March 25, 2009 at 4:46 pm

My humble gratitude to you, Bishop, for supporting the beliefs of our church.God bless you many times over for standing for the Truth.

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Tarheel Rambler

posted March 25, 2009 at 8:11 pm

I can help but wonder how many times the good Bishop had no problem appearing at graduation when the commencement speaker was a proponent of the death penalty. To be consistent, I hope that he becomes aware of the double message sent when all speakers are not judged by the same standards. The Church cannot take such strong positions on select areas of moral teaching if they are going to be effective in spreading the message of the Gospel in the world.

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