.- Notre Dameâs commencement invitation to President Barack Obama has become more controversial with the university's president, Fr. John Jenkins CSC, saying that he doesn't plan to withdraw the invite.
On Sunday, Jenkins told The Observer he did not âforesee circumstancesâ in which the University would withdraw President Obamaâs invitation.
Referring to Notre Dameâs decades-old tradition of inviting presidents, Fr. Jenkins said, âPresidents from both parties have come to Notre Dame.â Theyâve spoken on important issues like âinternational affairs, human rights, service, and weâre delighted that President Obama is continuing that tradition.â
On the issue of President Obamaâs extreme pro-abortion stance, Jenkins said, âWe are not ignoring the critical issue of the protection of life. On the contrary, we invited him because we care so much about those issues, and we hopeâ¦for this to be the basis of an engagement with him.â He argued that you âcannot change the worldâ if you ostracize people you want to influence.
As of press time, Notre Dame had not returned a request for comment, and it remained unclear as to how they plan to engage Obama on abortion.
In 2004, the US Catholic Bishops spoke clearly on this issue in âCatholics in Political Life,â âCatholic 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.â
Controversy around giving pro-abortion Catholic politicians a platform is nothing new to Notre Dame. In1984, Notre Dame was also the site for the now famous speech, âReligious Belief and Public Morality: A Catholic Governorâs Perspective,â given by then New York Governor Mario Cuomo. In his speech, Cuomo laid out an argument now used by Catholic politicians to rationalize their support for abortion based upon living in a pluralist society.
It is unclear how Notre Dame engaged Governor Cuomo on the issue of abortion after his speech.
Some Catholics, however, have expressed support for Notre Dameâs decision to honor Obama. America Magazineâs Michael Sean Winters, discussed his support in his blog post, âThree Cheers for Notre Dame.â
He expressed frustrations with the âright wingâ of the Church and wonders why Catholics are so upset about this invitation, âWhat is it about President Obama that makes the right wing so crazy, so uncharitable, so frothing-at-the-mouth unreasonable?â
Winters also celebrated that the âcrowd of conservativesâ and âPharisees,â who want to uphold the Bishopâs teaching, â[do] not own the Catholic Church. They certainly do not own Notre Dame.â
When approached for a phone interview, Winters declined and asked to converse over email. He reluctantly agreed to answer questions, noting CNAâs Under the Glass column, Lessons from Michael Sean Winters on how NOT to blog, which he called âa nasty thingâ that âincluded a falsehood among many idiocies.â
On the topic of Notre Dame, Winters cited a report that Denverâs Archbishop Charles Chaput had âurged a letter writing campaign to the universityâs president.â Winters dismissed the suggestion, saying that the archbishop âhas no ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the matter.â
CNA was able to acquire an audio recording of the event in question and found that rather than calling for a letter writing campaign, the archbishop suggested it as a response to the situation.
Responding to a question about how âfaithful Catholics should respond to [general] situations like [Notre Dameâs invitation to Obama], Chaput suggested, âProtest, write letters, express your concern, do it charitably.â He further reminded the audience that âJesus said we need to be like sheep among wolvesâ and to âact like Christians when we disagree: to be bold, courageous, and clear, but charitable.â
When presented with this information and asked if he believes that a bishop is stepping outside his âecclesiastical jurisdictionâ by asking people to be engaged in the public sphere by writing letters, Winters responded by saying he would reply when CNA drops its accusatory tone.
After the email interview Winters updated his blog, stating, âArchbishop Chaput has my email and if he objects to the characterization on the blog referenced above, I will be happy to change it.â