Notre Dame bishop to boy­cott Obama

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY JU­LIA DUIN

The Catholic bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind. an­nounced March 24 he will boy­cott Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s May 17 com­mence­ment speech at the Uni­ver­sity of Notre Dame, join­ing an es­ti­mated 80,000 peo­ple who have pe­ti­tioned the uni­ver­sity to re­scind its plans.

For the first time in his 25-year ten­ure as bishop of the re­gion that en­com­passes the fa­mous Catholic uni­ver­sity, Fort WayneSouth Bend Bishop John M. D’Arcy said he will not be on the main stage dur­ing the uni­ver­sity’s com­mence­ment cer­e­monies be­cause of Pres­i­dent Obama’s “long-stated un­will­ing­ness to hold hu­man life as sa­cred.”

“I wish no dis­re­spect to our pres­i­dent, I pray for him and wish him well,” the bishop said in a state­ment re­leased last week. “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.”

The U.S. Con­fer­ence of Catholic Bish­ops in 2004, he added, specif­i­cally for­bade giv­ing “awards, hon­ors or plat­forms” to “those who act in de­fi­ance of our fun­da­men­tal moral prin­ci­ples.”

Uni­ver­sity spokesman Den­nis Brown said col­lege of­fi­cials were “not sur­prised.”

“We’re sorry he’s not go­ing to be in at­ten­dance,” he said. “We fully an­tic­i­pated crit­i­cism and sup­port for the an­nounce­ment and we’ve re­ceived both.”

The uni­ver­sity’s an­nounce­ment on March 20 that Pres­i­dent Obama would be its prin­ci­pal grad­u­a­tion speaker has en­gaged Catholic ac­tivists na­tion­wide. A Web pe­ti­tion against the speech posted on notredames­can­dal.com — a new site es­tab­lished by the Manas­sas-based Car­di­nal New­man So­ci­ety — had gath­ered more than 80,000 sig­na­tures as of March 24.

“Pres­i­dent Obama has lifted abor­tion re­stric­tions and threat­ened the con­science pro­tec­tions of Catholic health care work­ers,” So­ci­ety Pres­i­dent Pa­trick Reilly said. “He is in ev­ery sense an en­emy of what a Catholic uni­ver­sity holds dear.

“I think Pres­i­dent Obama has an in­ter­est in di­vid­ing the church. This speaks well for the Demo­cratic agenda for seek­ing a larger share of the Catholic vote.”

The cam­pus ap­pears split over the in­vi­ta­tion, and sev­eral com­pet­ing Face­book groups on the mat­ter have been set up. Spencer Howard, a se­nior and pres­i­dent of the school’s Col­lege Democrats club, said the vast ma­jor­ity of stu­dents want the pres­i­dent to speak.

“Only a very few are pas­sion­ate about him not com­ing,” he added. “To have the pres­i­dent speak is a great op­por­tu­nity.” Se­nior Mark We­ber, who iden­ti­fies him­self as a pro-life Repub­li­can, also said protest is muted on cam­pus.

“The stu­dent vibe is very pos­i­tive,” he said. “The uni­ver­sity is stand­ing be­hind [col­lege Pres­i­dent the Rev. John I.] Jenk­ins on this one. The protests are com­ing from the out­side pro-life com­mu­nity.”

Other stu­dents op­posed to the speech planned a coun­cil of war on March 24. The stu­dents in­cluded Mary Daly, a ju­nior who is pres­i­dent of Notre Dame Right To Life. About five to 20 se­niors she has in­for­mally polled are con­sid­er­ing boy­cotting their grad­u­a­tion.

“The cam­pus is 50-50 on this,” she said. “Many of us rec­og­nize it’s a great honor to have the pres­i­dent here but Notre Dame has had a bad rep­u­ta­tion lately in slack­ing on its Catholi­cism.”

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