Although the subject of President Obama being honored by Notre Dame has quickly cooled in the fast-paced blogging universe- I wanted to weigh in with some comments because I think it is important to hold the President to account on some of the promises he made in his speech, and to offer some ideas for how Catholic universities should approach such political intersections in the future.
Professor Douglas Kmiec recently gave a “reflection” over President Obama’s speech at the University of Notre Dame last week. No surprises there. It appears that Kmiec is still campaigning to be Ambassador to the Holy See. But this was not his point here. We might call that a “background fact.”
Still obsessed with statistics and raw data, he noted that the President received the vote of 54% of self-identified Catholics on November 4, 2008 in the presidential election and that more than two-thirds of Catholics supports the Obama Administration. Why? Social justice–which includes a litany of issues that we terribly are far behind on because of “conservative partisans” who wish to keep Catholics in a “one-issue pocket,” which, in turn explains the “neglect” of social justice matters in “far too many parishes.”
Obama at Notre Dame: Incomplete Eloquence by Prof. Douglas Kmiec
The presidents were there in splendid form; the bishops were not.
Three presidents stood upon the stage: Father Jenkins, the embodiment of academic integrity informed by faith; Father Hesburgh, Notre Dame’s president emeritus and civil rights champion, and Barack Obama, whose inauguration just months earlier was greeted with virtual national euphoria, but whose visit to campus was claimed to be “in defiance of church teaching.”
And the bishops? Sadly absent. Some, no doubt, honestly believed the President to be their antagonist. Most were silent. Notwithstanding repeated entreaties, the pastoral shepherds of the Church chose not to extend a simple pastoral blessing upon the graduates of the flagship Catholic university in America and their families.
Father Z gives Jenkins’ paean to Obama a memorable fisking here.
Archbishop Chaput on Notre Dame and the issues that remain
“I have found that even among those who did not go to Notre Dame, even among those who do not share the Catholic faith, there is a special expectation, a special hope, for what Notre Dame can accomplish in the world.”
~ Reverend John Jenkins, C.S.C., May 17, 2009
Most graduation speeches are a mix of piety and optimism designed to ease students smoothly into real life. The best have humor. Some genuinely inspire. But only a rare few manage to be pious, optimistic, evasive, sad and damaging all at the same time. Father John Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president, is a man of substantial intellect and ability. This makes his introductory comments to President Obama’s Notre Dame commencement speech on May 17 all the more embarrassing.
Here is the text of the speech that Jenkins gave before he introduced Obama at Notre Dame on Sunday. My comments are interspersed:
“President Obama, Fr. Hesburgh, Judge Noonan, Members of the Board of Trustees, Members of the faculty, staff, alumni, friends, parents, and most of all – the Notre Dame Class of 2009:
Several autumns ago, you came to Notre Dame from home….now Notre Dame has become home. And it always will be. For home is not where you live. Home is where you belong. You will always belong – and I pray you will always feel you belong – here at Notre Dame. Fairly odd sentiment. I never confused my college with home. I believe that the students at Notre Dame also pay 50k a year to be part of this “home”.
A letter written by John W. Yanta, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Amarillo, to President Jenkins of Notre Dame on Good Friday. The text of the letter was released last week.
Father John Jenkins, CSC, President
Notre Dame University
Notre Dame, Indiana
I am writing this letter to you early Good Friday morning, April 10. I am trying to make holy this Holy Week by immersing myself completely into the agony, sufferings and disappointments endured by Jesus my Lord and Redeemer for me and for all mankind.
Bishop Donald Trautman of the Diocese of Erie has spoken out against Obama Day this coming Monday at Notre Dame:
“The Golden Dome of Notre Dame, the long revered symbol of a Catholic university, will be disgraced and dishonored on this coming May 17th, the commencement day of the university. On that day the leaders of the university are giving a platform and honorary degree to an individual who is a relentless advocate of unrestricted abortion: President Obama.