Notre Dame President: Pro-Abortion Obama "Honors" University With Speech

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 23, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Notre Dame President: Pro-Abortion Obama "Honors" University With Speech

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 23
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — Although tens of thousands of pro-life Catholics and Notre Dame students and alumni have expressed outrage at the news that pro-abortion President Barack Obama will give the commencement speech and receive an honorary degree, University President Fr. John Jenkins has no second thoughts.

Jenkins responded to the intense criticism by saying President Obama’s appearance doesn’t mean Notre Dame recognizes his pro-abortion views.

"The invitation of President Obama to be our Commencement speaker should in no way be taken as condoning or endorsing his positions on specific issues regarding the protection of life, such as abortion and embryonic stem cell research," Jenkins said.

He told The Observer, the Notre Dame student newspaper, he does not "foresee circumstances" that would cause the Catholic college to rescind its invitation to him.

"We have invited the president and he’s honored us by accepting," he said.

Jenkins said the university has a rich tradition of inviting presidents to address the student body.

"Presidents from both parties have come to Notre Dame for decades to speak to graduates about our nation and our world. They’ve given important addresses on international affairs, human rights, service, and we’re delighted that President Obama is continuing that tradition," Jenkins said.

Jenkins said Notre Dame is not ignoring the "crucial differences" on pro-life issues, but using the disagreement as a catalyst for dialogue.

"We are not ignoring the critical issue of the protection of life. On the contrary, we invited him because we care so much about those issues, and we hope … for this to be the basis of an engagement with him," Jenkins told the Observer. "You cannot change the world if you shun the people you want to persuade, and if you cannot persuade them … show respect for them and listen to them."

Jenkins said the invitation also had to do with the fact that Obama is the first black president in the nation’s history and that adds a different element to his invitation to offer the commencement address and receive an honorary degree.

Jenkins called the pro-abortion president "an inspiring leader" and praised Obama on other political issues, including health care — even though Obama purposefully left pro-life groups out of a recent health care summit.

Mary Daly, president of Notre Dame’s Right to Life club, isn’t as excited as Jenkins for the president to come to her campus.

"It is kind of a bummer for seniors, especially those who really don’t support or agree with Obama’s views," she said. "It’s kind of a slap in the face for them. They have been at Notre Dame for four years working for this diploma and here is someone speaking at your graduation who you fundamentally don’t agree with."

"To my understanding, most speakers we’ve had in the past have been in relative agreement with the University," she told the Observer.

ACTION: Contact Fr. John Jenkins, President of Notre Dame, at 574-631-5000, fax 574-631-2770, email [email protected], or mail to 317 Main Building, Notre Dame, IN 46556. You can call Notre Dame at (574) 631-5000 or use the email form at

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