Recalling Notre Dame: Catholic Bishop Explains Decision to Boycott Obama

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 25, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Recalling Notre Dame: Catholic Bishop Explains Decision to Boycott Obama

by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 25
, 2009

South Bend, IN ( — Notre Dame University’s decision to allow pro-abortion President Barack Obama to give its commencement address and to give him an honorary degree was one of the most controversial developments in the pro-life Catholic community in recent years.

Now, the Catholic bishop, John M. D’Arcy, who led the fight against the decision by boycotting the event and helping pro-life students lead the response.

In a new editorial in the Catholic publication America, which is seen as a liberal one that didn’t have much of a problem with Obama’s speech and award, D’Arcy lays out the case for the boycott and what pro-life Catholics should do now.

"In its decision to give its highest honor to a president who has repeatedly opposed even the smallest legal protection of the child in the womb, did Notre Dame surrender the responsibility that Pope Benedict believes Catholic universities have to give public witness to the truths revealed by God and taught by the church?" D’Arcy asks.

D’Arcy talked about ND president John Jenkins’ defense of the Obama invite and award as saying it presented an opportunity to dialogue with the pro-abortion president. The bishop says he doesn’t see any evidence of that happening and criticized Jenkins for not discussing it with him.

"Although he spoke eloquently about the importance of dialogue with the president of the United States, the president of Notre Dame chose not to dialogue with his bishop on these two matters," he writes.

The Catholic leader also criticized the ND board of directors for essentially ignoring the scandal.

"In the midst of the crisis at Notre Dame, the board of trustees came to campus in April for their long-scheduled spring meeting. They said nothing," he writes. "In an age when transparency is urged as a way of life on and off campus, they chose not to enter the conversation going on all around them and shaking the university to its roots."

"I firmly believe that the board of trustees must take up its responsibility afresh," he writes. "They also must understand the seriousness of the present moment."

D’Arcy also explained his decision to boycott the graduation ceremony and, instead, spend his time with pro-life students who also chose not to participate.

"As graduation drew near, I knew I should be with the students. It was only right that the bishop be with them, for they were on the side of truth, and their demonstration was disciplined, rooted in prayer and substantive," he recalls.

"I told the pro-life rally, several thousand people on a lovely May day, that they were the true heroes. Despite the personal costs to themselves and their families, they chose to give public witness to the Catholic faith contrary to the example of a powerful, international university, against which they were respectfully but firmly in disagreement," he said.

For D’Arcy, the Notre Dame scandal brings to light serious questions about the relationship between Catholic colleges and universities and the Catholic Church.

When so many Catholic educational institutions are forsaking the pro-life teachings of the Catholic Church, the questions become more important.

"What is your relationship to the church and, specifically, to the local bishop and his pastoral authority," he asks. "Where will the great Catholic universities search for a guiding light in the years ahead?"

"On these three questions, I respectfully submit, rests the future of Catholic higher education in this country and so much else," he concludes.

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