Dozens of St. Louis Catholics are planning to travel to South Bend, Indiana to take part in May 17 protests against the University of Notre Dame’s decision to host President Barack Obama as commencement speaker and to award him an honorary law degree.
The protesters from the St. Louis area are being organized by John Ryan, a 56-year-old member of Most Sacred Heart Parish in Eureka, Missouri. An announcement from Ryan says the group aims to confront the "scandal" caused by University of Notre Dame President Fr. John I. Jenkins’ decision "to honor the most pro-abortion President in history." The group also intends to "make amends for the damage this scandal has caused the Church."
Describing its motives, the announcement cites President Obama’s decision to overturn the Mexico City Policy and to expand federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research.
"The minute I heard about this, I knew I had to find every Catholic I could and be on that campus that day," Ryan said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Similar scandals have been going on at Catholic universities for decades, but you can’t really get any worse than this."
He has reportedly organized at least 65 St. Louis-area Catholics to drive the 6.5 hours to the campus and back to participate in a "prayerful protest" on the Notre Dame campus.
"In my dreams, when we first started this, I thought if we could have Eucharistic adoration, a Mass on campus with bishops saying that Mass, some graduates who would go into the commencement ceremony and find a prayerful way to witness to the president directly - which Jenkins has not been willing to do - we could bring some good from a terribly evil situation," Ryan said, the Post-Dispatch reports.
He said he had invited Bishop Robert Hermann, administrator of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, to join the group.
Protesters from across the United States are planning to converge on the campus. Their activities are being coordinated by ND Response, a coalition of Notre Dame student groups opposed to the invitation of the U.S. president.