Catholics debate Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama
Fr. Thomas Reese / Carl Olson
Fr. Thomas Reese / Carl Olson
Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest Addthis

.- Debate over the University of Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama to be commencement speaker and to receive an honorary degree continues, with a prominent Jesuit priest arguing that the action is morally justifiable while a Catholic writer contends that the action shows indifference to the millions of unborn children killed under U.S. law.

Writing in a post on the Washington Post’s "On Faith" blog, Fr. Thomas J. Reese, SJ, former editor of America magazine, criticized the argument that the invitation to Obama violates the U.S. bishops’ statement "Catholics in Political Life."

The statement said that 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."

Fr. Reese argued that having President Obama as a commencement speaker and giving him an honorary degree would not violate this ethic. He said that President Obama has never violated the moral law against abortion "in his personal life."

"Publicly, Obama has never spoken out against the fundamental moral principle that abortion is wrong," he argued, noting that Obama supports some legal restrictions on abortion.

"Although he does not believe that other abortions can be made illegal, he supports programs to reduce the number of abortions," Fr. Reese added, claiming that Notre Dame is honoring Obama as president and not because of his views on abortion.

"Notre Dame is doing nothing more than what has already been done by Cardinal Edward Egan of New York," he argued. "If Cardinal Egan can invite Obama to speak at the Al Smith dinner in October of 2008 when he was only a presidential candidate, then there is certainly nothing wrong with Notre Dame having the President speak at a commencement."

"If Catholic universities are afraid to have people on campus who challenge our views, then we are not training students to listen and think critically," Fr. Reese charged. "We are admitting that our arguments are not convincing."

Carl Olson, a writer at Ignatius Press’ blog "Ignatius Insight," criticized Fr. Reese’s arguments in a Wednesday entry. He noted that "Catholics in Public Life" also stated that legalizing intrinsically evil actions like abortion is "itself wrong." It also asserted that "failing to protect the lives of innocent and defenseless members of the human race is to sin against justice" and said lawmakers are obligated to work towards correcting "morally defective laws."

Olson argued that President Obama has a well-documented record of support for abortion, including opposition to partial-birth abortion bans and legislation protecting infants who survive abortions. He said that Fr. Reese’s language is "rather misleading" in trying to narrowly define what the president has not done while the bishops’ document "clearly points to a broader moral arena."

Noting the President’s perfect ratings with pro-abortion rights groups, Olson remarked: "It's hard to see how anyone could say he has actively stood for the fundamental moral principle that abortion is wrong."

Olson also cited President Obama’s July 2007 speech to a Planned Parenthood group in which the President said Roe v. Wade was "at the center" of his lesson plan on "reproductive freedom" when he taught Constitutional law; and present "not simply as a case about privacy but as part of the broader struggle for women’s equality." Obama also voiced his support for "the freedom of choice."

He argued that Fr. Reese’s attempted distinction between respecting the office of the President and Obama himself does not hold, because the honorary doctor of laws degree is "being conferred upon a specific man" who holds beliefs about essential matters that are "in conflict with the fundamental moral principles of the Catholic Church and, it should follow, a Catholic university."

Defenses of Notre Dame’s invitation to the president "would make sense if abortion were not such a fundamental violation of human rights, such a fundamental contravention of the purpose of government, such a grave and widespread attack on the most vulnerable of human beings, and Barrack Obama were not so prominent a supporter of the pro-abortion rights position," Olson concluded. "By inviting him and honoring him, Notre Dame is simply saying that the right to life for unborn children and the evil of a million legal abortions every year are not that important. It is as simple as that."

Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages


Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google

Featured Videos

Cardinal Luis Tagle to Pope Francis
Cardinal Luis Tagle to Pope Francis
Pope Francis in the Philippines: Manila Welcomes the Pope
Pope Francis in Sri Lanka: Highlights
Pope Francis in Sri Lanka: Interview with Cardinal Ranjith
Pope Francis in SriLanka: Inter-religious Faith Meeting
Little Sisters of the Poor press conference in Denver
Family thrilled to see Pope Francis in Istanbul
Syrian Refugee, Sara, 14, Before Meeting Pope
Ebola orphans thousands of children in West Africa
One year after Haiyan: Philippines rebuilds homes, lives
An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Christ Cathedral CNA video Sept 2014
Alejandro Bermudez of CNA accepts ice bucket challenge
'The Real Albania,' remembering those who fled
Pope Francis in Albania, "one of the most important visits of the post-communist era in Albania"
Pope Francis greets paralyzed man who risked all to see him
Franciscans on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, working for the New Evangelization
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day

Liturgical Calendar

January 26, 2015

Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, Bishops

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mk 3:22-30


Daily Readings

Saint of the Day

St. Romuald »


Homily of the Day

Mk 3:22-30