As many people thought, Bishop D'Arcy has responded by stating that he will not attend Commencement. The statement was not harsh, but was extremely pointed: "[A]s a Catholic University, Notre Dame must ask itself, if by this decision it has chosen prestige over truth." Given that this president has "separated science from ethics and has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life," the decision by ND to confer an honorary degree can't be reconciled with the Catholic mission of the university. The bishop has asked for prayers for the university to recommit itself to the "primacy of truth." I'm glad he has taken a strong stand and hope it has an impact on the administration.
The alumni association, though, isn't handling it that well yet, judging by its statement yesterday. Thomas Peters posted this letter sent out to ND Club presidents yesterday. A key point:
Here are a few University observations about the selection of the President as the Commencement speaker: The University does not support President Obama’s positions on specific issues regarding the protection of human life, including abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Notre Dame’s positions on these issues are firm and unwavering. The invitation to the President to be the Commencement speaker shouldn’t be taken as condoning or endorsing his positions that contradict the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Rather, the University has invited the President to campus for what he’s done for racial equality, and for his stands on poverty, health care, immigration, education, infectious disease, and seeking peace. These are causes dear to the heart of Notre Dame, and he has elevated these causes and made them his own.
I fully concede that my reaction to the claims of the second paragraph are mostly political (i.e., how exactly is the push for socialized medicine a praiseworthy thing? How is eliminating voucher programs for disadvantaged minorities a great thing for racial equality and education?) Regardless, however, the fact is that human life issues trump all of these in importance, according to the Church (and one would hope, according to the conscience of most citizens). Active support and furtherance of a legal regime that's resulted in forty million innocent deaths in America alone since Roe v. Wade -- itself a legal abomination that Obama the law prof supports and would codify into law -- has to trump, and does trump, a stand on immigration in any moral calculus. (Unless, for instance, the existing immigration policy was the legalized mass slaughter of immigrants.) Very notably, the Alumni Association letter doesn't say anything about the USCCB policy that was specifically intended to address moral equivalence between (or inversion of priority of) life issues and abortion, on the one hand, and "justice" issues like immigration and education on the other. Any "University observations" that miss this key point are severely flawed. (The Alumni Association letter also makes more points about dialogue and discussion being the point of the invitation.)
I still think that if the University can't back away from having Obama as Commencement speaker, they should at the very least not confer an honorary law degree on him. But I hope they do more than that. If Fr. Jenkins thinks people should be satisfied on Commencement day with a generic, "We have our differences on life issues, but we have *so much* in common on these other points and we're honored and thrilled to have you here," he is sorely mistaken. I am waiting to see what the next steps will be.