Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, has blasted Notre Dame for inviting President Obama to give the university’s commencement address this year.
Donohue, who had Irish grandparents, told IrishCentral: “You’ve never had a more pro-abortion president. There’s never been an abortion that he didn’t like.”
“It’s not as if Obama is torn on this issue. It would be hard to find anybody more radical or extreme on this issue.”
Donohue made the claims in support of a Catholic group, the Cardinal Newman Society, which has organized a petition against Notre Dame for inviting Obama to speak. It says that Obama’s stance on abortion as well as his recent decision to reverse President’s Bush policies on stem-cell research goes against Catholic teachings.
The society, which campaigns for greater Catholic orthodoxy in Catholic universities, has called the invitation a “scandal and an outrage.” As of 10.00pm Tuesday, its petition had over 98,000 signatures.
“Notre Dame has chosen prestige over principles, popularity over morality,” the petition says. “This honor comes on the heels of some of the most anti-life actions of any American president.”
Notre Dame has said, however, that it will not rescind the invitation.
In a statement, Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins said that the invitation did not mean the university supports all of Obama's positions.
"The invitation to President Obama to be our commencement speaker should not be taken as condoning or endorsing his positions on specific issues regarding the protection of human life, including abortion and embryonic stem cell research," Jenkins said.
Bill Donohue told IrishCentral that Jenkins was being disingenuous when he says that he is not ignoring the issue of the protection of the rights of the unborn.
“Obama knows exactly where the Church stands on this,” said Donohue, who also warned that protests would follow. “It’s going to hurt Jenkins. There are two months to rally protests, not two weeks.”
David Constanzo, the communications director for the Cardinal Newman Society, which he estimates has around 20,000 members, said: “We are clearly opposed to this. It directly violated a statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2004, which says that Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.”
A Notre Dame alum from the class of 1983, Michael Voris, said he was “absolutely opposed” the invitation. “It’s an insult to everything that Notre Dame every stood for,” Vorris, a senior executive producer with RealCatholicTV.com, said.
Meanwhile, Bishop John D'Arcy, whose diocese includes Notre Dame, said today that he will boycott Obama’s commencement speech because of the President’s support for abortion rights and stem-cell research.
President Obama, the Bishop said, “has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life.”
“A bishop must teach the Catholic faith ‘in season and out of season,’ and he teaches not only by his words — but by his actions,” said D’Arcy, of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
At the commencement, President Obama is also to be awarded an honorary doctorate. He will be the ninth U.S. president to be awarded an honorary degree by the University and the sixth to be the commencement speaker.