Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Right Wing Catholics Hope To Embarass Notre Dame

A group of right wing Catholics based in Virginia has mounted a petition drive to have Notre Dame University revoke its invitation to have Pres. Barack Obama as commencement speaker.

The right wing press--Fox, WSJ, etc.--have all trumpeted the story this week, reporting that more than 65,000 people have signed the petition. Given that there are more than 75 million Catholics in the U.S., that number is a pittance, hardly worth reporting.

This is really about publicity for the Cardinal Newman Society, which evidently hopes to transform Catholic colleges in the U.S. into a bunch of narrow-minded fundamentalist schools like Liberty College. The Society claims that Obama should be disinvited because of his positions on abortion and stem cell research. We suspect there's more to it--these are hard core conservatives outraged at a popular African-American President. We'd be willing to bet that Notre Dame has had other commencement speakers whose views don't comport entirely with Catholic religious orthodoxy, without a peep from the Society.

Fortunately, the administrators of Notre Dame have better sense than to embarass their institution by dis-inviting a sitting President from giving the commencement address--a true honor for any great educational institution. Obama will give the address, and the seniors at Notre Dame will be proud that they were there to hear it.


Bluedog said...

I'm a Notre Dame grad and sent Father Jenkins an email this morning saying the Obama should be allowed to deliver the commencement address. ND is a world-renowned university and such places should seek diverse opinions; how else will their students learn if they cannot compare and contrast their opinions with those of others?

Anonymous said...

I'm a Notre Dame grad too, Bluedog. I think the rhetoric about seeking diverse opinions, comparing and contrasting student opinions with those of others, etc., is a bit of a red herring here.

Think about it: Obama is not going to offer much in the way of any contrasting opinion. He's almost certainly going to avoid the topics that have caused the controversy in the first place, and stick to topics where he thinks he thinks his opinions will resonate with those of most Catholics.

Moreover, let's be realistic. The personal delivery of this address is not going to shape many people's learning experiences at ND, since the vast majority of people present will be either non-students or new graduates who have already completed their studies.

Not that one needs the President to make a personal appearance in order to create exposure to his opinions; he already has a much bigger pulpit than ND. Even if that weren't true, why couldn't ND invite him or one of his proxies to participate in a symposium or debate, or some other more traditionally learning-oriented academic function? After all, you don't have to award someone some of the the University's highest honors in order to create the opportunity to learn from them.