Catholic Archbishop of New Orleans ‘Was Not Consulted’ and Won't Attend Obama’s Speech at Local Catholic College

August 23, 2010 - 6:47 PM
When President Barack Obama speaks at Xavier University in New Orleans on August 29 to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, one person who will not be in attendance is New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond.

New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Michael Aymond. (Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of New Orleans)

(CNSNews.com) – When President Barack Obama speaks at Xavier University of Louisiana on August 29 to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, one person who will not be in attendance is New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond.

In fact, according to a spokeswoman for the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans, the archbishop wasn’t consulted about the president’s visit to the Catholic university in New Orleans.

“I have spoken with Archbishop Aymond about this and he let me know that he was not consulted about the president's visit to Xavier nor will he attend,” spokeswoman Sarah Comiskey McDonald told CNSNews.com by e-mail.

McDonald did not specifically indicate that the archbishop was protesting Obama’s visit to the Xavier campus--but did indicate that Aymond would be busy that day.

“On August 29, the day President Obama will be at Xavier, Archbishop Aymond will first celebrate Mass and then will be participating in an Interfaith Prayer Service with other religious leaders in New Orleans at St. Louis Cathedral to pray for a sense of hope and rebuilding for the city and the region,” McDonald said.

“The archbishop did note however, that this is not a political speech, but one that is a gesture of compassion for and solidarity with the people of New Orleans and Xavier University of New Orleans is often used by the mayor and public officials for such events,” she added. 

Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, a lay Catholic educational organization, agreed that the president is less likely to focus on abortion politics at Xavier than he did in 2009 at Notre Dame, when he addressed students at commencement. 

“Certainly it is not an event, presumably, where President Obama will be presenting his views on embryonic stem-cell research and abortion, but the fact that he’s very open with those views makes it inappropriate for him to be given a platform,” Reilly told CNSNews.com.

“It was certainly a much more wide-open topic of discussion at Notre Dame--at a commencement ceremony--and he took the opportunity to pronounce his views once again on abortion and stem-cell research, at a Catholic university,” Reilly said. “We certainly don’t want to see that happen again.”

Reilly said the appearance of a pro-abortion president on a Catholic university campus is unwelcome news because the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has not changed its position.

“The U.S. bishops have clearly stated that Catholic institutions should not provide a platform or honor to an individual who is publicly opposed to Catholic teachings,” Reilly said. 

In 2009, the University of Notre Dame drew fire from Catholics around the world for asking the pro-abortion president to deliver the school's commencement address and receive an honorary law degree. Notre Dame’s president, Father John Jenkins, drew fire from 80 active Catholic bishops and over 350,000 Catholics who signed a petition asking him to withdraw the invitation, which Jenkins refused to do.

The president of Xavier, meanwhile, welcomed Obama--who has spoken at the university before--with open arms.

“We are pleased and grateful that the president has decided to include a visit to the Xavier University campus as part of his visit to New Orleans on August 29 to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina," said Xavier President Norman Francis.
 
“Mr. Obama will get to see firsthand why we are so proud of the progress we have made here at Xavier during the five years since Katrina, not only restoring our campus but expanding our facilities and services since then in order to fulfill our mission established 85 years ago," he added.
 
In 2006, one year after Katrina devastated parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) received an honorary doctorate from the university. 

The university describes itself as both a "Catholic and historically black" institution. "Xavier University of Louisiana, founded by Saint Katharine Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, is Catholic and historically Black," says the schools Web site. "The ultimate purpose of the University is to contribute to the promotion of a more just and humane society by preparing its students to assume roles of leadership and service in a global society.”

“Values don't change, whether it's an historically black university or not,” said Reilly. "I think the point that Catholic universities need to understand is that Catholic educators should be spending more time promoting Christian values in the public square rather than trying to pretend that a Catholic university is the public square.”

Reilly, meanwhile, also pointed out that the university is not under the legal control of the archbishop.

“But neither is any individual Catholic,” he added.