Notre Dame President Again Defends Obama Award in New Letter to Graduates

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 14, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Notre Dame President Again Defends Obama Award in New Letter to Graduates

by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 14
, 2009

South Bend, IN ( — In a new letter to graduating seniors, Notre Dame president John Jenkins once again is defending his decision to invite pro-abortion President Barack Obama to give the commencement address. Jenkins also defends giving Obama an honorary degree, which has caused heartburn for Catholics nationwide.

The letter appeared to have been sent to all graduating seniors and graduate students on Monday.

Jenkins told the graduating class, "I have never been more proud than I have been watching the way you’ve conducted yourselves over the past several weeks" during the controversy over the Obama invitation.

"The decision to invite President Obama to Notre Dame to receive an honorary degree and deliver the commencement address has triggered debate," he explained. "In many cases, the debate has grown heated, even between people who agree completely on Church teaching regarding the sanctity of human life."

Jenkins appeared to wiggle his way out of appearing to support abortion by honoring and inviting Obama by claiming that pro-life advocates could support Obama and disagree on how to reduce abortions.

He said the debate came between people "who agree completely that we should work for change and differ only on how we should work for change."

"I am saddened that many friends of Notre Dame have suggested that our invitation to President Obama indicates ambiguity in our position on matters of Catholic teaching," Jenkins wrote.

"The University and I are unequivocally committed to the sanctity of human life and to its protection from conception to natural death," he claimed.

Jenkins also said the honorary degree did not represent "a political statement or an endorsement of policy" but is a "expression of respect for the leader of the nation and the Office of the President."

Jenkins reiterated his defense of inviting Obama as a means of dialogue, even though there will be no condemnation of or exchange about his extensive pro-abortion record.

"Ultimately, I hope that the conversations and the good will that come from this day will contribute to closer relations between Catholics and public officials who make decisions on matters of human life and human dignity," he wrote.

The Notre Dame president also applauded Obama for his views on other political issues such as immigration, health care, poverty, and foreign policy.

Nowhere in the letter did Jenkins offer any condemnation of Obama’s pro-abortion record, such as forcing taxpayers to fund groups that promote and perform abortions overseas or making Americans fund embryonic stem cell research that requires the destruction of human life.

Both actions run counter to the pro-life teachings of the Catholic Church.

Despite his defense of inviting and honoring Obama, a poll conducted earlier this month finds a majority of Catholics and the American public oppose the University of Notre Dame’s decision to give an honorary law degree to Obama.

The Rasmussen Reports telephone survey found that, by a 60-25 percent margin, Catholics say Notre Dame should obey guidelines issued by the U.S. bishops and refrain from awarding an honorary degree to the president.

Among all Americans, 52 percent oppose the honor and just 25 percent support it.

In 2004 the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement which reads, in part: “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.”

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