Notre Dame Inquisition: Obama Commencement Flap and a Fading Catholic Church

Notre Dame's commencement invitation to Obama draws criticism from closed-minded Catholic ideologues.

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By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog.

The controversy over Notre Dame University's invitation to President Obama to deliver this year's commencement address is too tempting for me not to join, so here goes. My colleague Dan Gilgoff has been doing a stunning job of recounting the battle, blow by blow.

Yesterday he reported that Operation Rescue's Randall Terry, one of the scariest zealots among public figures on the American scene, is helping to lead the charge against President Obama's graduation speech. First, let me say that just about anything Randall Terry's for, I'm against, as is true of most free-thinking people. Second, Notre Dame made a brilliant decision to invite the president and scored a knockout blow in terms of free publicity for landing his appearance. Third, open-minded Catholics, who way outweigh the closed-minded, atavistic types, are also thrilled about Mr. Obama's appearance.

Gilgoff writes:

Operation Rescue's Randall Terry, who's been helping lead the charge against Notre Dame University for inviting President Obama to deliver this year's commencement address, is himself in hot water with a highly placed Roman Catholic bishop. Yesterday, Terry held a press conference in Washington to promote his campaign to pressure more U.S. Catholic bishops to deny Communion to politicians who support abortion rights. The effort centers on strict adherence to Canon 915, the Catholic Church law stating that "those . . . who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to holy communion."

The Catholic Church is losing adherents in this country and in Europe. Its growth areas are Africa and South America. It's losing the educated and gaining the uneducated. But the globe is quickly becoming more and more educated. So its future is in wooing educated, progressive adherents. The Church is at its best when it advocates for the poor and positions itself as a big tent. It's at its worst when it tries to reinvigorate the Spanish Inquisition and fight against such things as women's reproductive rights and gay rights. It only took the Church from 1633 to 1992, when Pope John Paul II praised Galileo's brilliance, to admit Galileo's theory of heliocentrism was correct and the Church was wrong to condemn him for it.

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