Notre Dame President Is Focal Point for Conservative Outrage Over Obama Speech

The Rev. John Jenkins has been singled out for blame in Obama controversy.

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

Reporting on the new campaign by some Notre Dame alumni to withhold donations from the university over President Obama's forthcoming commencement appearance there, I spoke yesterday with Anthony Rea, a Michigan-based Notre Dame benefactor who has joined the effort. A developer and architect who has sent three children to Notre Dame, Rea says he has given more than $100,000 to the school.

But no more. Rea says he won't donate another penny until the university's president, the Rev. John Jenkins, is ousted. "I intend to contribute in the future as long as they support the Catholic values that the school is supposed to represent," he told me by phone. I asked him how serious he was about the goal of getting Jenkins removed. His response:

"I don't think it's symbolic. It's a grass-roots movement that many of my friends are joining because we've supported Notre Dame because of what they represent in Catholic education. And this latest Obama thing has basically shattered our confidence. It's not necessarily the administration, but the guy at the top [Jenkins]. The school's board had no decision to make in this thing."

Notre Dame's president—as opposed to Obama or the college's board or the broader administration—has clearly emerged as the focal point for Roman Catholic outrage over Obama's appearance at the school. Many of the bishops who've criticized Notre Dame's invitation to Obama have also singled out Jenkins for blame. It will be interesting to see if the school president becomes more vocal in defending himself.

For those of you following the controversy closely, especially those in the Notre Dame community, how active has Jenkins been so far in making his own case that he was right to invite Obama?