Disgrace in South Bend

The University of Notre Dame describes itself as a Catholic institution of higher learning. They consider themselves to be a great university, and something of an exemplar of Catholic higher education. The school is, it must be noted, named in honor of the Mother of Our Savior.

Well, now we all know something else about the university. They are a disgrace to their purported Catholicism.

On Friday afternoon, the traditional day to drop controversial news stories in hopes that people won’t be paying attention, the university announced that they have invited the President of the United States to give its commencement address, and to receive an honorary doctor of law degree. Yes, you read that right. The same man who produced a 100% anti-life voting record in the United States Senate, has spoken of his ardent support for legalized abortion, and is glowingly endorsed by all the pro-abortion groups. The same man who co-sponsored and promised to sign the infamous Freedom of Choice Act, the most radical pro-abortion bill in our history, and a bill that would endanger the religious liberty of the Church. The same man who is in favor of same-sex marriage. The same man who just opened the floodgates of federal funding for the destruction of human embryos, and who left the door open for human cloning so long as the cloned human beings are destroyed. The same man who made it possible for American tax dollars to pay for the promotion of abortion around the world. The same man who said he didn’t want his daughter “punished with a baby” if she became pregnant out of wedlock.

So that it’s clear — a university named after the Mother of God will give a “doctor of law degree” to a man who advocates for a legal regime that permits the wholesale killing of unborn children. If nothing else, this is an infamous insult to Our Lady, who, as you recall, had to flee from the original slaughter or the innocents.

In the words of Prof. Ralph McInerny, who has labored in South Bend for half a century to teach Catholic philosophy, “It is an unequivocal abandonment of any pretense at being a Catholic university.”

I can’t think of anything remotely charitable to say about the people who issued this invitation, or those who defend it, so I’ll just offer you the relevant statement from the US Bishops: “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.” You’ll notice that there’s no “but he’s the President” exception to that principle.

I know we have to respect the man, who is a child of God. We also must show due honor to the office that he temporarily holds. But as disciples of Christ, we are duty bound to speak the truth about the objectively grave moral evil of his actions. We cannot pretend that advocacy for abortion is an extraneous matter, that it’s something we can set aside for the moment or “dialogue” about.

Our faith demands that we make choices — for God or against him, for his law or against it. In St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, he includes a meditation on “The Two Standards” — the flag of Christ and that of the Devil — and he confronts us with the stark choice. Which will we choose? Which has the President chosen? Which has Notre Dame chosen?

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