Notre Dame ‘Betrayed’ Catholic Identity with Obama Speech, Says Vatican Leader
June 16, 2009 - 3:36 PMNotre Dame University betrayed its Catholic identity by inviting President Barack Obama to give the commencement speech and receive an honorary degree from the school in May, said Archbishop Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest court at the Vatican.
“We all have witnessed the compromise and, indeed, betrayal of the Catholic identity of Notre Dame University,” said Burke in Rome, during a recent interview with Australian ITV reporter Andrew Rabel. “Thoughtful Catholics cannot help but reflect upon the great danger for a Catholic institution in pursuing a kind of prestige in the secular world, which leads to a betrayal of the sacred aspect of its work, namely the fidelity to Christ and His teaching.”
Obama gave the Notre Dame commencement speech on May 17. The invitation and honorary doctor of laws degree extended to Obama were opposed, publicly, by 83 Catholic bishops in the United States -- largely because of Obama’s long and consistent pro-abortion record.
In addition, more than 367,000 people signed a petition protesting Notre Dame’s invitation to Obama, citing the president’s anti-life record and a 2004 directive from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The directive, Catholics in Political Life, states: “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors, or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”
Burke also told Rabel: “I think everybody now realizes the gravity of the situation. Also I believe that the whole situation has sensitized more people with regard to the gravity of the practice of procured abortion in our nation, that is, they realize even more how far we have gone away from God’s will for human life.”
“That the premiere Catholic university in the United States would give an honorary doctorate of law to one of the most aggressive pro-abortion politicians in our history is profoundly shocking,” said Burke.
”Now, we cannot forget what has happened at Notre Dame,” he said. “We need to take the measures that are necessary so that this is not repeated in other places. If it could happen at Notre Dame, where else could it happen?”
In defending the invitation to Obama, Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, CSC, said in a May 11 letter: “[A] Catholic university has a special obligation not just to honor the leader, but to engage the culture. … The President’s visit to Notre Dame can help lead to broader engagement on issues of importance to the country and of deep significance to Catholics. Ultimately, I hope that the conversations and the good will that will come from this day will contribute to closer relations between Catholics and public officials who make decision on matters of human life and human dignity.”
On May 8, Archbishop Burke, speaking at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., condemned Notre Dame’s decision, saying, “Dialogue and respect for differences are not promoted by the compromise and even violation of the natural moral law. The profound granting of an honorary doctorate at Notre Dame University to our President who is as aggressively advancing an anti-life and anti-family agenda is a source of the gravest scandal. Catholic institutions cannot offer any platform to, let alone honor, those who teach and act publicly against the moral law.”