A protest by about 150 Notre Dame students occupied the area in front of the university's administration building on Sunday afternoon as they objected to the invitation of President Obama to speak at the university's commencement. The students said that refusing to honor Obama with a doctor of laws degree would be an acceptable compromise.
The Palm Sunday rally outside the famous building crowned by the iconic golden statue of the Virgin Mary was organized by ND Response, a coalition of student groups formed to offer a coordinated response from student organizations to the Obama invitation.
Organizers gave white carnations and pamphlets to the crowd as well as urging people to write letters to university's president, Fr. John Jenkins, asking that the honorary degree be withdrawn.
Emily Toates, a senior who is vice president of Notre Dame Right to Life, explained that following the stance of some Catholic bishops, "ND Response" was no longer calling for Fr. Jenkins to withdraw the invitation for Obama to speak at the May 17 graduation ceremony.
"Our big goal is to bring awareness that we are not OK with this," Toates said. "Our big goal is for Father Jenkins to rescind the honorary doctorate of laws degree because [Obama] goes so counter to the principles of the Catholic Church," she added.
ND Response chairman Chris Labadie called the decision honor Obama a "dark day" for the university.
"Since 1973, a plague has ravished our country. It's not AIDS, Ebola, or the Black Death. It's something far worse. It kills bodies and unborn souls. Now this plague has reached the gates of Notre Dame. It's been invited inside by those who shouldn't have let it," Labadie said.
The main speaker at Sunday's rally was pro-life attorney Harold Cassidy.
Cassidy argued that, "It is with the profoundly misguided assumption that abortion does not negatively impact the liberty, rights, interests, and health of women that we have taken issue.”
"Abortion is anti-women precisely because it is an institution that destroys their rights, their interests, and their health."
Following the rally, the students held a procession to the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes for prayer.