The outcry over the invitation of President Obama to deliver the Notre Dame’s commencement address and receive an honorary law degree has now drawn Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix into the fray. In a strongly worded email to Fr. John Jenkins obtained by CNA, Bishop Olmsted accuses the university’s president of committing "a public act of disobedience to the Bishops of the United States." .-
"I am saddened and heavy of heart about your decision to invite President Obama to speak at Notre Dame University and even to receive an honorary degree," began Bishop Olmsted.
But the prelate went further, charging that Fr. John Jenkins, the university’s president, has committed "a public act of disobedience to the Bishops of the United States" by inviting Obama to the May 17 Commencement.
The grounds for the bishop’s charge are found in a 2004 statement from the U.S. bishops which calls on the Catholic community and Catholic institutions not to "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."
The Bishop of Phoenix also said that Fr. Jenkins could not have invited President Obama out of ignorance. "No one could not know of the public stands and actions of the president on key issues opposed to the most vulnerable human beings," he said in his email.
After quoting Pope John Paul II to say that all other human rights are meaningless if the right to life is not respected, Bishop Olmsted said he hoped that Fr. Jenkins would realize he has made an error.
"I pray that you come to see the grave mistake of your decision, and the way that it undercuts the Church’s proclamation of the Gospel of Life in our day."
The University of Notre Dame and Fr. Jenkins have also come under fire from Bishop John D’Arcy, in whose diocese they are located.
Bishop D’Arcy said on Tuesday that he will not be attending the commencement ceremony and suggested that Notre Dame "has chosen prestige over truth."
An online petition calling for Fr. Jenkins to cancel the invitation to President Obama had reached over 170,000 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.