By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
The White House announcement on Friday that President Obama will deliver the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame has triggered a firestorm among conservative Catholics. They're miffed over the prestigious Catholic school's invitation to Obama because his stances on abortion rights, gay rights, and embryonic stem cell research are at odds with church teaching.
The Cardinal Newman Society, dedicated to promoting orthodoxy on Catholic campuses, has launched the website notredamescandal.com to protest the school's invitation. Its petition drive netted more than 13,000 signatures over the weekend. The school has apparently been flooded with phone calls from angry Catholics. And the conservative Catholic blogosphere is aflame with criticism of Notre Dame's administration.
It's striking that the protest is spearheaded by grass-roots Catholics, as opposed to the Roman Catholic hierarchy. It's in-the-pews conservatives who are pressuring U.S. bishops to speak out against an alleged injustice; typically, it's the other way around, with bishops imploring their flock to action.
The operation is also a sign that conservative Catholics are stepping up efforts to blunt Obama's strenuous outreach to social conservatives. The president has appealed to that crowd by vowing to reduce demand for abortion, rolling out an Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and regularly sitting down with high-profile religious leaders. The Notre Dame protests push back on that campaign.
From a political perspective, the big question for the coming days is who is more discredited by the protest: a president eager to promote the Democratic Party's faith-friendly ways or the Catholics who are looking to deny the leader of the free world—and a popular one, at that—a college commencement address.
Here's the condensed version of the Cardinal Newman Society's petition to Notre Dame's president:
It is an outrage and a scandal that "Our Lady's University," one of the premier Catholic universities in the United States, would bestow such an honor on President Obama given his clear support for policies and laws that directly contradict fundamental Catholic teachings on life and marriage.
...Notre Dame has chosen prestige over principles, popularity over morality. Whatever may be President Obama's admirable qualities, this honor comes on the heels of some of the most anti-life actions of any American president, including expanding federal funding for abortions and inviting taxpayer-funded research on stem cells from human embryos.
...This honor is clearly a direct violation of the U.S. bishops' 2004 mandate in "Catholics in Political Life": "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."
We prayerfully implore you to halt this travesty immediately....