Despite a national controversy it created the first time around with an invitation to pro-abortion President Barack Obama to give the University of Notre Dame’s commencement address and receive an honorary degree, the Catholic college wants him to return.
The university has invited both Obama and Mitt Romney to present speeches in the weeks leading up to the November presidential election.
As Notre Dame said in a press release:
The University of Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., and student body president Brett Rocheleau have joined in inviting both President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Gov. Mitt Romney to speak at the University during the fall election campaign.
Continuing a long-standing tradition, Father Jenkins and Rocheleau addressed letters to each of the presidential aspirants, offering Notre Dame as a “forum for serious political discussion” on important issues facing the nation. The intent of the invitations, which include the candidates’ running mates, is to provide the campus community a firsthand impression of the contenders and their messages.
The tradition of election-year invitations to presidential and vice presidential candidates was established 60 years ago by Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., in his first year as Notre Dame’s president. That year, both Dwight Eisenhower and his Democratic opponent, Adlai Stevenson, spoke at the University.
Other candidates who have accepted the invitation through the years include Richard Nixon, Henry Cabot Lodge, Warren Miller (a Notre Dame alumnus), Edmund Muskie, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Joe Lieberman.
The Cardinal Newman Society, a pro-life group that serves as a watchdog for Catholic colleges, noticed the invitation.
“More than 367,000 individuals signed The Cardinal Newman Society’s petition opposing President Obama’s 2009 commencement address and honorary degree from Notre Dame, and 83 Catholic bishops publicly criticized the honor,” it said. “But should President Obama and Governor Romney accept this year’s invitation, it is unlikely that a political debate will be viewed as conflicting with the U.S. bishops’ 2004 policy banning honors and platforms to pro-abortion politicians.”
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“Nevertheless, the invitation will seem inappropriate to many Catholics, as the Church struggles with the intransigence of the Obama administration on a Health and Human Services regulation forcing Catholic institutions to provide employee and student health insurance coverage for sterilization, abortion-causing drugs, and contraceptives,” CNS added. “The University of Notre Dame is in the awkward position of having invited to campus the target of the University’s pending lawsuit over the HHS contraceptive mandate. President Obama has supported legal abortion, funding for Planned Parenthood, homosexual ”marriage” and embryonic stem cell research — all considered by Catholics to be highly immoral.”