University of Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins said in a letter to trustees that the university's invitation to President Obama to deliver its commencement speech and receive an honorary degree is in keeping with "both the letter and the spirit" of a 2004 statement by U.S. bishops known as "Catholics in Public Life," the AP/WSBT reports. Jenkins said that the university's decision was based on an interpretation of the statement "supported by canon lawyers we consulted, who advised us that, by definition, only Catholics who implicitly recognize the authority of church teaching can act in 'defiance' of it." Under this interpretation, "Catholics in Public Life" would not apply to Obama, who is Protestant. Jenkins also wrote that he has "repeatedly and clearly" stated that the university does not support Obama's policies on abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research.

Some Roman Catholics who are protesting the university's invitation to Obama because of his support for abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research have cited the statement as a reason that the president should not be the commencement speaker, according to the AP/WSBT. The statement says, "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."

At least 32 bishops have opposed the university's decision, and more than 400 demonstrators protested at the university on Palm Sunday earlier this month. Protesters also plan to hold a March for Life on Friday. However, Bishop John D'Arcy, who leads the diocese that includes the university, is encouraging Catholics not to engage in demonstrations against the school or Obama, although he has said he does not plan to attend the commencement because of Obama's presence. Students who support the decision to invite Obama have gathered hundreds of signatures on petitions, according to the AP/WSBT (Coyne, AP/WSBT, 4/13).

Reprinted with kind permission from nationalpartnership. You can view the entire Daily Women's Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery here. The Daily Women's Health Policy Report is a free service of the National Partnership for Women & Families, published by The Advisory Board Company.

© 2009 The Advisory Board Company. All rights reserved.

Tag Cloud