.- Organizers of a group asking alumni and donors to withhold donations to the University of Notre Dame following its controversial commencement invitation to President Barack Obama claim to have confirmed nearly $14 million in donations have been withheld by those concerned about the universityâs Catholic identity.
The group, ReplaceJenkins.com, said it had received over 1,400 pledges from alumni and donors promising to withhold future donations.
ReplaceJenkins.com was launched by alumni and financial supporters of the university who said they would withhold their contributions until Rev. Jenkins is replaced by someone who "is committed to the authentic identity of Notre Dame, grounded in the teachings of the Catholic Church."
Group spokesman David DiFranco, a 1995 graduate of Notre Dame, said the donors were "at least loosely aware" of what he called the universityâs "trend away from its Catholic identity."
"But the invitation of President Obama to speak and to receive an honorary degree, combined with the weak responses presented by Father Jenkins as a defense to those who have criticized the decision, is what drives most alumni to our site," he said.
Fr. Jenkinsâ action brought national attention to a problem "decades in the making," DiFranco said.
"A shrinking percentage of Catholic faculty and the efforts of secular-minded board members has long been eroding the Catholic heritage and foundation that makes Notre Dame great. President Obamaâs invitation represents the culminating scandal in this trend."
DiFranco said nearly all alumni who had contacted ReplaceJenkins.com had already decided to cease supporting the school.
"Our website merely tallies the sum of their collective decision," he said.