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Obama to give commencement address at Notre Dame

This should get the Irish fighting, along with lots of other Catholics. Or am I wrong? Via The South Bend Tribune:

Obama will be the principal speaker and the recipient of an honorary doctor of laws degree at the universitys 164th commencement ceremony [on May 17], which will be in the Joyce Center, Notre Dame officials announced Friday.

Obama will be the ninth U.S. president to be awarded a Notre Dame honorary degree and the sixth to be the commencement speaker.

President George W. Bush spoke about faith-based and community initiatives when he was the commencement speaker in 2001. His father, President George H.W. Bush, gave the commencement address in 1992.

Hat tip to Amy Welborn (check out her Via Media blog at Beliefnet) who in her post opines thusly:

"Ithink it would be easier on everyone, frankly, if Catholic universities cut the cord with politicians completely. I don't care how prestigious you aim to be, how much you want your graduates to contribute to the fabric of American civic life, even a sitting president cannot help but associate you with a political ideology.I'm not arguing for the ghetto, at all, but we're not talking noble statesmen here. We're talking politicians who are divisive figures and who, Obama's case, are pursuing policies that directly threaten Catholic institutions.(Bush is a worthy object of criticism, too, IMHO, but remember his speech was 2001 - before the Iraq war was pursued. And I don't necessarily want to get mired in that conversation, but we might as well bring it up at the beginning.)"

Notre Dame certainly seems to be leading with its (her?) chin, but I think it's a fine choice for many reasons: One, they invited Bush after he was elected, so the invite is justified if not imperative. And two, it offers Obama a Catholic setting to talk some about issues of central importance to Catholic, which have not received the hearing (so far) that he promised.

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The Catholic Church is a Church, not a sect. Perhaps it is becoming a sect; Amy Wellborn's proposal to keep politicians away would certainly encourage that unfortunate tendency.

Amy writes: "Im not arguing for the ghetto, at all, but were not talking noble statesmen here. Were talking politicians who are divisive figures and who, Obamas case, are pursuing policies that directly threaten Catholic institutions."I would think its pretty early in his tenure as a statesman to judge whether he was noble or not as well as whether Obama was divisive or not. I understand that Obama is antithetical to the Church stance on abortion but he does hold the highest office in the land and Notre Dame is arguably one of the most prestigious Catholic universities in America. If he wasn't invited how would that NOT be seen as moving more to a ghetto mentality or as Margaret posits - sect like behavior.Other than abortion and supposed FOCA concerns, in what areas does Obama or his policies directly threaten Catholic institutions?If Obama's commencement address was overtly an attack on church teaching or Catholic sensibilities I could see a future barring from Notre Dame's stage but I can't imagine a sitting president doing that.Notre Dame is after all a university and one of its function both for the church and the wide body politic should be to give those in positions of leadership a vehicle for dialogue with graduates as future shapers of the body politic...Does one's abortion stance trump all else?

Respect Notre Dame for making this type of engagement. One of the high points of my life was listening to Cuomo at Notre Dame.Keeping in mind Ms. Welborn's concerns, part of the mission of the church and a catholic university is to engage, dialogue, and educate society as a whole.

Bill, I agree wholeheartedly...Wish I had been there to see Mario Cuomo!

T K: The proposed speaker is actively hostile to the Catholic Church on more than merely abortion. I believe Amy Welborn is referring to, even aside from the life issues, among other things, his antipathy to free exercise, parochial primary and secondary schools, and charitable contributions. I'm with Amy - I don't know that Notre Dame should be in the business of providing any active politician with a soft money contribution to their election or reelection campaign.

I realize Obama does support Catholic talking points of vouchers but I was unaware that he is against charitable contributions...can you point me to somewhere where his policy actually calls for their elimination or is it the elimination of the tax deduction for them? I am unaware of this.On balance, Obama's stimulus bill and 2009-10 budget proposal as well as heal care initiative is light years ahead of anything we seen in the last 25yrs in terms of helping those who are poor and disadvantaged.Our local Catholic Charities in my diocese gives the Obama administration an A for their policy actions in relation to economic and health issues.

Wjhat I want to know is this (speaking as the erstwhile chair of two honorary degree committees and two institutions: how did Notre Dame line him up? This sort of thing is not easy (just jealous, that's all). I just hope it wasn't some ND graduate who happened to be a senior VP of AIG who made the arrangements. For those who worry about this: I agree with T K that one of the functions of a Catholic university is to be open to the world, to seek both to learn from the world and to teach the world. Insofar as Obama takes certain stands that are, or at least seem, to be antithetical to various Christian stands, Catholic and other, he stands in need of education. And you don't educate people by laying down your own principles, saying they are not open to discussion, and condemning those who do not roll over and agree with you. There are times when, in order to proclaim its teachings, church leaders should pay a bit more attention to teaching as education rather than teaching as proclaiming.

I have no problem with inviting all sorts of people to come to Catholic colleges and universities to engage in dialogue. But since when did giving someone an honorary degree and letting them give a commencement address constitute dialogue? That's just putting your stamp of approval on them and giving them a platform.Maybe I'm just jaded and cynical, but as far as I can see the main criterion for commencement speakers seems to be: get the most famous person you can, so the largest possible number of parents and students will have heard of him or her (that way, parents and students will feel they have gotten their money's worth). According to this criterion, a sitting president is a no-brainer and it is quite a coup for any institution who can get him. But let's not cloak this in the lofty language of "engaging in dialogue" or "being open to discussion."

Thanks, TK and also comments by Mr. Clifford. Fr. F.C. - dialogue can happen in a number of ways. Guarantee you that if the President lays out ideas, challenges, etc. in an address, university professors, media, others will respond to what he says - that is the type of dialogue we have today. Not any different than what was engendered when Cuomo spoke.We are way past the days of inviting a speaker who has to meet our litmus test or thinking that any speaker we invite will be seen as endorsed by the church. Yes, you give them a platform but realize that whatever he says, he will be open to those who want to respond, opine, etc. Yes, getting a famous speaker helps in terms of PR, alumuni, etc. but you can look at this invitation from other points of view. My expectation as a Catholic is to hear a President address and speak to catholic concerns - poverty, health care, current economic situtation, ethical life issues, nuclear arms/peace/foreign policy - and then connect to the opportunties these catholic university graduates can bring to the challenges of today's world. I will not agree with everything he says - but that is also a life lesson. How do I choose to respond?Vatican II stressed the need for dialogue internally in the church and externally. Specifically, that is the role of a catholic university. Not sure that is only defined as sitting across each other at a table.

From Rocco Palmo - quite a list of significant presidential commencement addresses:"Earlier today, South Bend announced its 2009 Commencement Speaker....President Barack Obama will be the principal speaker and the recipient of an honorary doctor of laws degree at the University of Notre Dames 164th University Commencement Ceremony at 2 p.m. May 17 (Sunday) in the Joyce Center on campus.The University will confer degrees on approximately 2,000 undergraduates, 420 MBA students and 200 Notre Dame Law School students.Barack Obama will be the ninth U.S. president to be awarded an honorary degree by the University of Notre Dame and the sixth to be the Commencement speaker.On June 5, 1960, President Dwight Eisenhower delivered Notre Dames first presidential Commencement speech, interrupting the 45th reunion of his class at the U.S. Military Academy to make the trip. In his 20-minute address, Eisenhower foreshadowed a U.S. government on the verge of social and political change.President Jimmy Carter made what many regard as the key foreign policy address of his presidency at Notre Dames 1977 Commencement exercises. He spoke of a diminishing threat from the Soviet Union, a notion dismissed as naive at the time but which proved prophetic. He also advocated for the creation of new global alliances and championed human rights, policies built upon the new reality of a politically awakening world.In May 1981, President Ronald Reagan made his first public appearance after the attempt on his life in March of that year. Like Carter, Reagan proved prescient in his remarks on foreign policy, saying: The West will not contain communism, it will transcend communism. Well dismiss it as a sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written.President George H.W. Bush, was the Universitys principal Commencement speaker in 1992. The elder Bush used the occasion to focus on family values and service to society.Bushs son, President George W. Bush, delivered his first presidential commencement address at Notre Dame in May 2001, declaring that the nations faith-based organizations were central to the war on poverty.President John F. Kennedy the nations only Catholic president received the Laetare Medal, Notre Dames highest honor, in a White House ceremony in 1961, and as a U.S. senator in 1950 delivered the winter Commencement address and received an honorary degree.Notre Dame also awarded honorary degrees to Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Gerald Ford, but those were at special academic convocations, not at Commencement ceremonies....and, well, the protest is already afoot.Later this weekend, the university -- the crown jewel of American Catholic education -- will announce 2009's winner of the aforementioned Laetare Medal, the Stateside church's most prestigious homegrown honor.As Catholicism at its purest tends to favor the "great et et," any sound reaction to today's news might just want to wait until the other shoe drops.

F.C.,not only are you "jaded and cynical," but, if I read Mr. DeHaas rightly, you are also clerical: "Fr." Orrore!I tend to agree with you (no surprise). And. I can imagine that if some of the Notre Dame faculty were to react to the President's speech, the way some of my B.C. colleagues acted during Condi Rice's address a few years back, they would be excoriated as "disrespectful," "closed to dialogue" etc.Perhaps N.D. could get Jay Leno to MC the whole affair.

Et. .. . et. . . Bill. . .. very wise words.

I think (Fr.?) F.C. is right about the main criterion for commencement speakers. In light of that, I think I'd be OK with saying no to politicians in general, as Welborn suggests -- except, like TK, I'm wondering about the distinction she then makes between "politicians" and "noble statesmen." How does one tell the difference? Do you have to wait for them to retire?

Cathy,are you endorsing my proposal: et Obama et Leno?

Bob, you know my heart belongs to Stephen Colbert.

Getting rid of all honorary degree commencement speakers is a great idea! But then get rid of them all, AIG executives, Countrywide executives (I'll name no names), theologians, editors, writers, novelists, poets, journalists, chairmen of the University's board, donorsetc. Singling out politicans only reflects the contempt some people have for the very men and women we have elected to govern us. Thank God, UND is not giving an honorary degree to Stephen Colbert--or is it the Laetare Medal he's getting??!!!

Mmm. Stephen Colbert as the Laettare Medal recipient. You're giving me ideas.I was on the committee last year (which awarded it to Martin Sheen). This year, I'm not on the committee, so I can't say.

David McCullough's recent commencement address at Boston College was deemed, by a Jesuit who has been present at commencements for many years, indisputably the best he had heard.

ND has (as was pointed out) a long tradition now of inviting the President to give the commencement address. This appeasr to be a continuation of what's probably a good tradition.I find the "politician/noble statesman" distinction way too simplitic.I'd bet many ND students consider the president heroic though I'd also bet many would quarrel with him (as folk do here) on some value issues. Like many Catholics across the counytry, they do not, I suspect opt of the one issue approach. I agree with Bill D.'s take on this. So exclusion would strike me as indoctrinational not formational; the horse is out of the barn, the invite has been given and to take it back would make matters worse.

Instead of focusing on ND's selection of this or that politician as commencement speaker in a given year, I'd rather look at the larger picture: the forest rather than its trees.ND's selections mirror what were going on in our political and religious culture at the time. At this time, it reflects deep polarization among American Catholics, among other things. Fr. Imbelli's citation of protests among certain liberal circles against Condi Rice as speaker at BC is a recent case in point. It also reflects selective truth-seeking among American voters, esp. educated ones. See Nick Kristof's column the other day about this issue. If true, it shows a sad irony that has been going on for many years.http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/19/opinion/19kristof.html?_r=1&emOne 12-nation study found Americans the least likely to discuss politics with people of different views, and this was particularly true of the well educated. High school dropouts had the most diverse group of discussion-mates, while college graduates managed to shelter themselves from uncomfortable perspectives. The result is polarization and intolerance. Cass Sunstein, a Harvard law professor now working for President Obama, has conducted research showing that when liberals or conservatives discuss issues such as affirmative action or climate change with like-minded people, their views quickly become more homogeneous and more extreme than before the discussion. For example, some liberals in one study initially worried that action on climate change might hurt the poor, while some conservatives were sympathetic to affirmative action. But after discussing the issue with like-minded people for only 15 minutes, liberals became more liberal and conservatives more conservative.

Just to clarify for folks, if you want to use my proper ecclesiastic title, it would be "Deacon." In my diocese, "Rev. Mr." (or, as I suppose it would be in my case, the far more impressive "Rev. Dr.") is inexplicably (or, alas, all too explicably) reserved for those deacons destined for the presbyterate (also known as "transitional deacons"). But my friends call me "Fritz," and since we're all friends here (except those who don't like Stephen Colbert), you may call me Fritz.On the whole honorary degree thing, I would reiterate that there is, or should be, a difference between inviting someone to air their views on campus and honoring them with a degree. When my own institution gave an honorary degree to Rudolph Giuliani a few years ago, I protested, not because I didn't think that he should have an opportunity to speak to our students, but because I couldn't think of a single issue that has traditionally mattered to Catholics (and I don't just mean abortion) upon which he did not hold a position at odds with Church teaching. A few years back, if I recall correctly, Mt. St. Mary's College was planning on giving an honorary degree to Alberto Gonzales. The faculty protested and threatened to boycott (this was around the time of the torture memo), so the compromise was struck that he could speak at commencement, but would not receive an honorary degree. This, it seems to me, was a good move.Perhaps we should stop giving honorary degrees to commencement speakers. For me, this would make some of our commencement speakers (we've had Chris Matthews and Davey Johnson, at the time manager of the Oriels) far more palatable, and would restore some meaning to the word "honor."

Honorary degrees are a contemptible fraud. The only exception would be, say, the sort of degree given to Ludwig Wittgenstein (i.e., as a genuine recognition that he had performed academic work that was more than equivalent to an actual doctoral degree).

"Other than abortion and supposed FOCA concerns, in what areas does Obama or his policies directly threaten Catholic institutions?""Does ones abortion stance trump all else?"Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the show?The only way to answer your question is to say that if it is a big deal to you, it is a big deal.

Fritz: enlightening posts, thank you from a fellow deaconPS. is that you at Loyola of Maryland?Again, thanks for sharing.

What does NARAL know that Notre Dame doesnt? The former gains genuine substantive change while symbolism apparently satisfies the latter.Politico observes that when Obama ended Bushs ban on funding overseas groups that perform or promote abortion, he did it quietly, on a Friday afternoon, with no popping flashes or handshakes with the directors of womens groups. But the groups say that as long as he keeps pushing the policy his budget includes more funding for family planning programs, and cuts to abstinence-only programs, for instancethey have nothing to complain about. Were not into the symbolismwere into the policy change, said Nancy Keenan, the president of the abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0309/20306.html

Does anyone listen to commencement speakers? One remembers that Fr. Hesburgh was quite chummy with Mr. Nixon. I remember that the millionaire Arthur Houghton used to collect honorary degrees [you can imagine why they were given]. But he insisted that each had to be different: PhD, LL.D, J.D., etc.Kermit the Frog was awarded an honorary degree at SUNY Stonybrook. Considering the chaos in the academe these days, that seems to make sense. As to which catholic university is best [though comparisons are odious], St. John's University has over 20,000 students to ND's 11,600. And it is located in a big city and not in the farmlands of South Bend Indiana. It also has never been threatened with suspension of its degree granting rights as ND was in the mid 1970s.

AdeodatusAs I have said in previous posts, abortion, stem cell research et al is a "big deal" to me but so is adequate health care, not war mongering, being a positive force in the world instead of imperialistic and hated, having respect for the great panorama of life stages instead of jut caring about what's happening until birth and then good riddance etc.I do not see Obama as a great evil as opposed to the other choice we had.Further, we've got him for four yrs at least so we have to live with him.I think Notre Dame's invite is ok given that Obama is a sitting president and that there are at least some issues and policies he proposes that seem to be good, especially for those left out in our society.The honorary degree is probably another matter, although in the end I would guess the invite, the speech and the degree are more about PR than anything else. But shutting Obama out accomplishes less rather than more. At least until he demonstrates that he's not interested in listening to Catholic concerns and making an effort to do something about them.

Fritz - sorry but I will ordain if you want? Like the distinction between commencement speakers and awarding honorary degrees - can live with that.

Prof. Kaveny - mystery solved. Mary Ann Glendon will receive the Laetare Award .....so, looks like the university has covered all its bases.Really, liking a president giving a commencement address to Rice at BC really limps at best. Feel for Rice - back up secretary of state; speaking at the end of 8 years of failed foreign policy. Any way, BC is Jesuit; what do you expect? Notre Dame folks have more class.I only participated in one board choosing a speaker for a college commencement - we had Bishop Bernie Law (while he was still in Missouri); so my track record stinks.

et et.

On the topic of honorary degrees -- Stephen Colbert received one a couple years ago (I don't know what school it was from), and has been identified in the credits of his show as "Dr. Stephen Colbert, DFA" ever since.

Given the all knowing approach some of us are taking, we might consider whether some Catholic saints would pass the mustard as Notre Dame commencent speakers. Would St Athanasius be proper when we know he had his people (some say gangs) attack, torture and kill Arians and others who opposed him as bishop of Alexandria. We might consider his leaving town every time a Church Council was going to depose him. Further when he did get an emperor on his side he quickly urged such to expel and exile his opponents with force. Among other things.Also take St. Damasus whose rival's supporters (over a hundred of them) were found dead in the Cathedral by the henchmen of Damasus. For those who more details about Damasus there is more damaging news. Or how about St. Bernard urging the pope to be brave to undergo a crusade. Or St Augustine approving violence to bring the recalcitrant Donatists in. They will thank us later St. Augustine said.Next to them Obama might look, well, rather saintly, would you not agree?

"having respect for the great panorama of life stages instead of jut caring about whats happening until birth and then good riddance etc."Can we just put this canard aside? There are ways conservative people contribute to the care of people of all ages that do not involve government programs. I didn't mean to make any statement about your personal convictions about abortion and stem cell research, which seem to align with those of the Church. I merely meant to say that when people ask what conservative Catholics object to about Obama aside from his support of abortion rights and stem cell research, it has the rhetorical effect of minimizing these issues.

Dr. Stephen Colbert, DFAHonorary Doctor of Fine Arts, June 2006, from Knox College (founded by abolitionists)http://deptorg.knox.edu/newsarchive/news_events/2006/x12687.htmlThere was also Colbert's attempt last year to have the University of Massachusetts rescind an honorary law degree it had given to Robert Mugabe, and to award the rescinded degree to Colbert instead. I don't know what became of that, but since there's no mention of the degree in the closing credits of Colbert's show.... ;)

Barack Obama; Mary Ann Glendon. Good old ticket balancing; the last stand of Catholic politics? Recall that when Bush II was commencement speaker, Msgr. George Higgins was given the Laetare Medal. He took the opportunity to rescue Catholic Social Justic teaching from the president's effort to co-opt. Will the same scenario play out this year?

Speriamo!for a consistent ethic of life.

Many of the previous posts seem to be hypothesizing how current ND students or alumni should or should not be reacting to this announcement. Let me tell you: this decision is devastating, and many current and former students feel completely betrayed. I am a recent graduate of the law school, and my anger, dismay and disappointment are shared by lots and lots of people.

An article about how Notre Dame students actually voted in the election:http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/10/27/politics/uwire/main4546989.shtml

The discussion itself is to me almost proof of the wisdom of the Obama invitation, as this back-and-forth is what should be happening at universities, and elsewhere in the Catholic world. I think the tendency has to be as open as possible, for many reasons, including one I cited above, which is that this gives Obama (as it did Bush) an opportunity to dicsuss issues of particular concern to Catholics. There is precious little other chance for him or other politicians to interact with Catholics or Catholic leaders, given the stiff arm the church tends to lead with. The alternative does seem to be doing away with all commencement speakers and honorary degrees (I've always thought honorary degree were just that, honorary) or being open to most speakers. Certainly if you invited Bush, or Condi Rice, you can host Obama.If universities are not open to a variety of speakers, who would you get who would fit in with every codicile of the catechism? The local ordinary? That's a confirmation, not a commencement. BTW, Bob Imbelli, it seems David McCollough would not pass muster today either:

When asked to rate President Barack Obama, McCullough responded that Obama was the first president since Kennedy who has so exhilarated me. ... Hes most gifted, articulate and bright and I think the world of him. He personifies what weve long said we believe in ambition to excel. And he has excelled all the way, McCullough said.

And he helped Obama with his inaugrual address. Whoops. Peggy: More ticket balancing?

2003 Peter and Margaret OBrien Steinfels, editors of Commonweal, Lateare Medal recipients(Kidding. Really.)

Perhaps apropos of all this, Rocco adverts to Benedict's invocation of the great "et et" of Catholicism that Cathleen Kaveny raised above, which was in one of his generally fascinating Q&As with priests, this from summer 2007:An excerpt:

I would say - and it seems to me that I have already mentioned this earlier - that this aspect is also part of a good and truly Catholic pastoral care: living in the "et et"; living the humanity and humanism of the human being, all the gifts which the Lord has lavished upon us and which we have developed; and at the same time, not forgetting God, because ultimately, the great light comes from God and then it is only from him that comes the light which gives joy to all these aspects of the things that exist. Therefore, I would simply like to commit myself to the great Catholic synthesis, to this "et et"; to be truly human. And each person, in accordance with his or her own gifts and charism, should not only love the earth and the beautiful things the Lord has given us, but also be grateful because God's light shines on earth and bathes everything in splendour and beauty. In this regard, let us live catholicity joyfully. This would be my answer. (Applause)

Whole thing here: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2007/july/docume...

David: Our event was a love fest. Senator Richard Luger (R.-IN) was the commencement speaker and an honorary degree awardee. He spoke on controlling nuclear weapons--one of our favorite topics. Since he took the high ground, we took the low and told jokes, which seemed to go over with the UND audience.

David-This is not meant to be a leading question. Do you think that Jenkins cleared this with D'Arcy (the local bishop) or some other member(s) of the hierarchy? I ask this because the Deacon's Bench pointed out that the honoring of the President seems(?) to be in contradiction to the USCCB's "Catholics in Public Life" document, especially this part:"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."This is, of course, assuming that this prohibition refers to all people, not just Catholics.I raise because I can only imagine the firestorm that could happen if D'Arcy were to try and forbid this. Wouldn't this cause ND a whole lot of embarrassment? Could you imagine if they retracted the invitation? I guess my question simply is that do you think Jenkins did a little testing of the waters with his and/or other bishops.Thanks,Anthony

Excellent analysis, Mr. Gibson. To Anthony's point - here is an opinion piece by the NCR editor in terms of bishops and university's choice of speakers. Very interesting:http://ncronline.org/news/politics/catholic-academic-ayatollah-shows-tru... highlight from the piece: "Catholic college presidents feel the heat generated by the witch hunts. They are required to go explain the basics of academic freedom to their local bishop, and risk alienating conservative alumni (i.e. their donors) when Reilly vents outrage over the scandal of the day he has uncovered. All this, says the Society, is done in the name of preserving the Catholic identity which in Reillys view seems threatened anytime any liberal or any Democrat disagrees, however mildly, with church teaching on abortion and gays. Better to silence the critics, mischaracterize their views, and place fear in the hearts of academic administrators then actually engage someone with an opposing view. Meanwhile, for the head of an organization whose mission includes urging fidelity to the churchs magisterium, Reilly is keeping some strange company. He serves on the advisory board of another extremist group Catholic Citizens of Illinois which is currently publicizing an effort by whacky anti-abortion advocate Randall Terry to replace Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl and get Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde replaced. Terry was in Rome recently making the case to Vatican officials that Wuerl and Loverde are insufficiently zealous because they refuse to deny Communion to pro-choice politicians in their dioceses."

Anthony, it's a very good question--and I have no answers. Someone closer to the ground might know. I know that D'Arcy has not hidden his disagreement with ND on other decisions, such as the Vagina Monologues productions (see C. Kavney's current take on that). But you are right that if he objects it would create a stir, so I wonder if there were some consultation. At least a nihil obstat? I don't see how ND could or would back down on this. It would mark a real transformation in Catholic self-identity were a place like ND to invite george Bush and not Obama. One thing I think that is critical in the whole discussion is to remove political consideration from the equation as best we humanly can. Then I think the discussion becomes much more sober and fruitful. The teaching in Catholics in Public Life would seem to me to pertain in the main to Catholics--an irony of the whole debate. I think a better reference point would be the pope's address last April at CUA. What do you think? Should ND have invited Obama? Ether way, who knew what and when is an interesting question that remains to be answered.

My experience is that UND vets heavily. They checked with our pastor! that we were parishioners before we received the Laetare Medal; that was after they phoned the Archdiocese of New York. I, wicked dissident that I am, walked next to Bishop D'Arcy, who was perfectly amiable, apparently checking any impulse to admonish or burn me. Though sometimes we fail to acknowledge it, church and university officials are usually sane and rational people, whatever their politics. They too are part of the body of Christ, believe it or not!

Peggy-I wasn't involved, but I am morally certain that inviting you and Peter was not a hard call! I did hear your speech(es), sitting in the bleachers with the rest of the law profs, and they were great--I actually put down the People magazine I regularly hide in the commencement program book and paid my full attention to the talkThat's the highest compliment I can pay a speaker at graduation!

Latest: Archbishop Dolan has invited President Obama to his installation in NYC on April 15.

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About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.