Letters about the Obama visit

Author: Notre Dame Magazine

(Page one of letters to the editor about ND’s invitation to President Barack Obama to speak at the 2009 commencement.)

On May 17, 2009, on the campus of Notre Dame, my wife and I will be seated at the Joyce Center among thousands of students, faculty, parents and alumni, listening to the president of the United States address the graduating class of 2009.

Our daughter, Lauren Marie, would have received her diploma by then. However, two decades earlier, if President Obama’s “culture of death” philosophy had won over Notre Dame’s Catholic “culture of life” theology, our daughter would never have graduated. Simply because she would never have been born.

In 1987, we found out that my wife, Lucie, was pregnant. Previously, she had suffered a few miscarriages. I was a surgical fellow at the University of California San Diego at the time, and we sought the help of pediatricians at the university medical center. Well-respected professors in pediatrics and genetics recommended an amniocentesis. They felt that it was important to know if Lucie was carrying a defective embryo, and therefore at risk for yet another miscarriage.

We both were troubled. What if the amniocentesis confirmed the worse — that the fetus was defective? The answer from the experts was straightforward: a therapeutic abortion. Why carry a risky pregnancy to term, which would likely end in spontaneous abortion anyway? And if the fetus survived, did we really want to raise a mentally retarded baby, who would be a burden to carry for the duration of his or her unproductive life?

Our medical colleagues could not even understand why we were reluctant to have Lucie undergo an amniocentesis. What was there to think about?

Lucie as a pediatrician and I as a surgeon were familiar with the medical science on which the experts based their recommendations. We also were both practicing Catholics and aware of the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church on abortion and the protection of human life.

If we proceeded with an amniocentesis, there would be the minor risk of an induced abortion. If the study confirmed that the fetus was normal and healthy, that would be great news. However, if the fetus were shown to be defective, would we then have it aborted?

We thought long and hard. We prayed about it. The medical arguments for amniocentesis and potential abortion were compelling. The Catholic and ethical considerations were convincing. Even if the baby turned out to be physically disabled or mentally retarded, we ultimately decided that we would accept God’s gift of life in gratitude, even if the future did not look too bright.

To this day, we are glad we made the decision to “keep the baby.” The pregnancy went smoothly, and Lucie delivered a bouncing, robust and healthy baby girl. We have four children, and that baby is our only girl. What a bundle of joy she is!

Lauren Marie graduated in the top of her class in grade school and high school. She has been in the dean’s list at Notre Dame. Far from being the burden that medical experts had feared, she has been the jewel in our eyes and a delightful gift to our lives.

Yet, had we followed the promptings of the “culture of death” rather than the “culture of life,” we wonder what our lives would have been without her.

It is estimated that more than 3,000 abortions occur in the United States every day. The majority are not the rape or incest cases that pro-choice or pro-abortion advocates, the liberal media and Planned Parenthood are so concerned about. Most abortions are the result of lack of information regarding viable alternatives to abortion, such as adoption. Many are based on unfounded fears — will the baby be defective? How can I financially support the baby? How much of a burden will the baby be? What will my parents think? What will the future be like?

The controversy surrounding Obama’s commencement address at Notre Dame, from my viewpoint, is not so much about the university’s traditional invitation to a sitting president, which dates back to President Dwight Eisenhower. Rather, it is about Notre Dame’s awarding the president an honorary doctor of law degree. How can the foremost Catholic University in the world justify conferring such an honor on a politician whose major policies to date have trampled on Catholic ethics and principles?

Freedom of speech is guaranteed by the constitution of the United States, and the president should be allowed to speak his piece at Notre Dame. However, his record speaks for itself and should be more than sufficient to persuade Notre Dame not to confer an honorary degree, which exemplifies its recipient as the embodiment of the Catholic values of Notre Dame and the ethical and moral aspirations of its graduates and alumni.

Dr. Edgar A. Gamboa ( I attend Master of Theology Summer Sessions at Notre Dame.)

Imperial, California

Please cancel my subscription. I have no interest in news or opinion from this institution, which defiled the Virgin Mary by awarding an honorary degree on Barack Obama. His is the worst kind of murderer . . . he murders children in the womb who are completely defenseless. I can think of no greater dishonor to the mother of Jesus than her university awarding an honorary degree on this evil individual.
Robert Pasquarella ’67
Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania

From the Mission Statement: The University is committed to constructive and critical engagement with the whole of human culture.

Notre Dame is not bound to host only individuals that advocate legislation consistent with Catholic teaching, but it is bound to its mission statement. In offering President Obama our graduation platform and an honorary degree Notre Dame caused controversy because it proceeded off its mission statement. In a mission statement we find a University’s goals and the mentality by which the goals should be pursued. Quality of leadership may be evaluated against how effectively the university is in pursuing its mission. When acting as crossroads for the whole of social culture . . . when hosting those who vigorously pursue a course of action that is clearly recognized by Catholic teaching as fundamental evil, sound leadership is at its most essential.

The mission statement calls for social justice and critical engagement with the whole of human culture. The dictionary definition of critical includes: “characterized by careful, exact evaluation and judgment.” Critical thinking, according to the Washington State University Critical Thinking Project, involves identification of the problem, establishing a clear perspective on the issue, recognition of alternative perspectives, context identification, evidence identification and evaluation, recognition of fundamental assumptions implicit or stated by the representation of an issue, and assessment of implications and potential conclusions.

From these criteria we see how critical engagement may advance an argument, and possibly change minds. Instead of making a case for rights of the unborn, Jenkins chose to defend his decision to invite President Obama to Notre Dame. Did we see critical engagement on the abortion issue, or endorsement of the president, with only a muted agreement to disagree on this issue? As Father Pavone (president of Priests for Life) points out, it is not okay just to “agree to disagree” on the abortion issue. When we see violence against others . . . we naturally intervene to stop it. How well did Jenkins intervene for the unborn? Was this critical engagement or a capitulation to the culture of death?

From the Mission Statement: In all dimensions of the University, Notre Dame pursues its objectives through the formation of an authentic human community graced by the Spirit of Christ.

Now Notre Dame has a problem. Jenkins balked at posing to the Notre Dame community the stark choice between Christian morality and praise for someone whose beliefs and actions are so fundamentally unsound on this issue. Father Jenkins’ invitation was ill-advised, since critical engagement in this forum is essentially impossible, and Obama apparently stayed as blocked on the abortion issue in his speech as he promised he would remain in his candidacy. The bishops’ call to avoid honoring those opposed to fundamental teachings of the Church was right on.

We have now added credibility that Obama’s plan for “healthcare” may be seen as reasonable and acceptable to Catholics. I invite you to look at the true face of abortion on Father Pavone’s webpage (priestsforlife.org). Sometimes truth is ugly. The stakes are high. If passed, the Freedom of Choice Act intends to repeal all legal restrictions on abortion. We have failed to draw a clear line at ND, and I fear that we have become an embarrassing accomplice to the Obama administration’s abortion policy, with Jenkin’s only mentioning the disagreement briefly and weakly. Does Obama’s acknowledgement that our views on abortion are “irreconcilable,” sound like the start of productive dialogue? Time will tell.

We do need dialogue with others, but in an atmosphere of tender, strong, spirited truth. In the view of this alumnus, the Grotto graduation and the controversy in general may be viewed as what happens when the University has veered off-mission.

Vince Buonaccorsi ’93
Associate Professor of Biology
Juniata College, Pennsylvania

I was glad and indeed thrilled to know that Notre Dame went ahead and invited the 44th U.S. president on May 17. The invitation was no doubt not without controversy. And rightly so. I think that more than anything else perhaps, there have been, for various reasons, many misunderstandings and even misrepresentation of his views for months.

It seems important to give Barack H. Obama the opportunity, time and space to develop, sharpen and share his views and values. Following events from a distance since he took office, i imagine he has more in store to come.

I have never understood that Mr Obama simply and easily suggests that women with unintended and unwanted pregnancies should just to go out there and abort. Obama is fully aware of the preciousness of all human life. He knows so well that issues like abortion are very complex and therefore need very well-thought-out solutions. Finding the solutions in a manner that respects life and does justice is not going to be easy.

I think what the new president stands for is that once a woman who is struggling with an unintended pregnancy has had all the possible good support, care, necessary information and good pro-life opportunities, and once her conscience is clear, then she ought to have a say in the final choice. And that cannot be easy.

Although President Obama could have reminded us that no one becomes pregnant by herself, this is not the same as saying that he, and many others who share a similar views are against life. He brought into the complex discussion the questions of good and affordable health care and poverty, which can increase anxiety to people facing hard questions. He wants these to be addressed so that many more fragile lives are protected, and more pregnancies are brought to full term.

I think it is fair to say that at Notre Dame, Mr. Obama bravely made his mind clear and hopefully answered a section which has, for a good while, launched fierce attacks on his pro-choice view.

There was more in that Notre Dame speech, and I think that is why he touched many hearts and minds, particularly of the younger generation. There are many issues that need attention. He is aware of this. He spoke passionately from, and of his personal experiences. Coming down to their level, he wooed the students — encouraged and challenged them as he called them to serve their communities.

Almost like a new prophet suddenly appearing in the land, he called for respect for God’s creation and for a re-think of a world which paradoxically carries deadly weapons while looking for peace. He stressed the need for cooperation and understanding in order to achieve peace and the need to accept that we are in a world of diverse cultures, thought patterns and beliefs.

Mr Obama also genuinely and respectfully referred to the values that the Catholic Church has offered in areas of education and service. In an age of so much political correctness, I think he was greatly courageous in even naming some personalities in that tradition who touched his mind and heart and even brought him to Christ. It means that he wants to enter into dialogue, and learn, while also offering something in return. It also suggests that the man knows that faith and science can work together without being at odds with each other. The Catholic Church in the United States may therefore have a good opportunity for profound discussions now and in the future.

What I find even more exciting is his conviction that we are all created in God’s image, and that our fates and destinies are closely linked and interconnected. We share a common beginning and end, we are a single human family, and hence the urgent need to listen and speak to each other, and finally to open avenues for common ground.

What better message could a patriot of a president offer a graduating class in these uncertain times? Notre Dame University did well to conclude its academic year with a guest who has touched minds and hearts not only in the US, but also in many corners of the world—especially those that truly hunger and thirst for fairness, justice, liberation, democracy and indeed, engaging leadership.

Aloysius Beebwa, M. Afr.,
Afrika Center,

Reference is made to the editorial and subsequent series of letters published recently regarding President Obama’s controversial invitation to attend Notre Dame’s commencement exercises this year and address the audience as the event’s featured guest speaker. An honorary degree from the University also will be presented to the president.

It is my privilege to have graduated from Notre Dame, receiving both my undergraduate and law school degrees. As an active and supportive alumnus, I have remained connected to the University and very supportive of its academic and athletic programs for many years.

In addition to being a “double domer,” it has been my honor to have four of my children attend and graduate from the University of Notre Dame.

I am fervently pro-life, and on numerous occasions I have spoken to both teens and adults about the vice of abortion. I have contributed many hours of personal time to pro-life organizations, and I have made substantial donations of my professional services to groups advocating for the unborn.

Without any reservation or regret, as both an advocate of pro-life positions and a devoted alumnus of Notre Dame, I am most pleased that President Obama has been invited to attend the University’s commencement ceremony later this year.

It is an exceptional compliment to both the honor and prestige of the University that the president of the United States has accepted the invitation to participate in the commencement activities at Notre Dame.

It is irrelevant to the commencement invitation that President Obama differs with the Catholic Church on the issue of abortion. His respect for an individual’s right to choose an abortion is not an indication of his disrespect for human life. President Obama’s stated position on abortion reflects only that he believes abortion should not be criminalized in our religiously diverse and pluralistic society. He prefers for abortion to remain a matter of thoughtful consideration by exercise of the individual conscience of each citizen.

It is irresponsible of Church leaders to condemn a man for his views on a single “litmus test” subject when that person on many occasions has demonstrated his recognition of the sanctity and dignity of human life.

President Obama reveals his character not only by his use of eloquent speech but also his active advocacy in support of those who suffer from the destructive effects of financial inequality, economic despair and historical bigotry in our society. He is a most worthy and appropriate person to deliver the commencement address at Notre Dame.

Patrick K. Rocchio ’69, ‘72J.D.
Michigan City, Indiana

Just for general info; neither I nor any of my family will financially support our Lady’s University (Notre Dame) when these deciders of this selection remain at the University, and if it means Father Jenkins so be it.

This man (President Obama) stands for and advocates some of the most anti-Catholic principals of our faith: Abortion at any stage, Stem-cell research unchecked, etc. There are more, but after abortion does any more need to be discussed??

I and WE as Catholics need to let the University know our outrage, and I would hope that the Vatican would make there outrage known. Not only do we have congressional members who claim to be Catholic and continue to disgrace the faith, but now our own University??????

Dick Prinzivalli ’62
Kaneohe, Hawaii

My background is a proud and long one which has roots at Notre Dame and St. Mary’s College. My father graduated from Notre Dame twice, receiving his law degree back in the 1930s. Other relatives and close friends attended this beautiful University. I chose St. Mary’s when the time came for me to attend college. Now my daughter is a student. Another daughter will likely follow.

The news of this Catholic University extending an invitation to President Obama, the most pro-abortion President in the history of our nation made me stop cold in my tracks. Was this an internet joke? Sadly, I find the news posted on the front page of the Notre Dame website. Please explain the rationale behind this horrid decision. This is the first time I have ever felt shame regarding my connection to the University. I am beyond broken-hearted. The shame is palpable. As a regular reader of the magazine, I think many of your readers will be interested in hearing what lack of judgment occurred here and how something like this could have possibly happened. I (we) wait to hear.

Mary (Lanois) Kastelic (SMC ’77)

The Obama invitation would be entirely appropriate if the intent were to engage in a public debate in which his support for abortion (killing unborn babies to be precise) were challenged. But we all know this will not happen — there will be no free and open debate. It will all be PR, and all Catholics (including ND students) will be left to conclude that the leadership at ND thinks it is ok to abandon one’s soul in order to touch the cloak of the latest rock star.

I am ashamed of the leadership of the school I have loved all my life.

By the way, how can ND turn a blind eye to the fact that one of his first acts as president was to sign a ruling that results in our (my) tax dollars being used to pay for abortions (including partial birth abortions) in foreign countries.

Steve MacManus

How can the greatest Catholic University in this country invite a president to speak at graduation whose beliefs are so against Catholic teachings. Obama is pro- abortion, pro- stem cell research and pro-partial birth abortion. What has he to offer us? Would any other university, religious or secular offer such and engagement (and honorary degree) to someone who’s views are so diametrically opposed to its own?

Jack Barthel ’58
Cutchogue, New York

Where does the University stand on abortion and embryonic stem cell research? I know their stance on social and environmental concerns. But if Father Jenkins widely promoted the study of pro-life issues I wouldn’t be so upset that he invited President Obama to the graduation ceremonies. As it is, I consider it a slap in the face and nowhere did I see the University oppose President Obama’s endorsement of embryonic stem-cell research. Thank You.

Barbara Volmert ’91
St. Louis, Missouri

I just heard on the news today that President Obama is to be the commencement speaker at Notre Dame in May. How can he be the speaker at Our Lady’s University, given his pro-choice stand and his policy on stem-cell research? Isn’t Notre Dame a Catholic place of learning? Will Phil Donahue be the commencement speaker next year?

Kelly McCarthy

It is with great regret that for the first time in many years that I am unwilling to provide financial support for the ND Magazine. In light of the university’s decision to honor President Obama with an honorary law degree—the same degree that I earned with much sacrifice, having gone through law school with two babies — I cannot countenance any type of support for Notre Dame or its affiliates.

Should ND choose to rescind the invitation to the president and therefore honor what Our Lady stands for I will send in my check supporting your very fine and much enjoyed publication. Until that time I wish you the best of luck since I am sure I’m not the only alumnus writing to withdraw support.

Cindy Mangiaforte ’90J.D.
Schaumburg, Illinois

How do I cancel my subscription? As a Catholic, I object strongly to the sad and heretical decision by the university to invite and honor our anti-life president.. Prestige over truth is shameful.

Phil Smyczek

It is always interesting to see how people perversely sidestep obligations spelled out in the faith. Man’s intellect has vast energies and capacities — quodammodo fit omnia — which is why, when it is disordered, it is swayed by pride or clouded by error.

The invitation of Obama to you campus is a seriour error. This is an illustration wherein a Catholic university is unwilling to distinguish itself from any other university because it will not concede that the teaching Church has authority in intellectual life, and that it has any special ability to lead one to the truth or to protect one from error.

The present crisis in Catholic colleges and universities is primarily a crisis of faith. To keep a school Catholic its faculty and administration must be willing to risk its very existence rather than compromise its Catholic character.

Charles V. Scott
Saint Petersburg Florida

A recent poll showed that 75 percent of Notre Dame students and 90 percent of graduating seniors approve of the conference of an honorary degree to President Obama. The same poll indicated that 75 percent of the faculty was opposed to the idea. Apparently, no one asked the alumni.

Unfortunately, the fact is that Obama will most likely be honored at this year’s graduation ceremony.

As I see it, the battle now is over whether Notre Dame should teach and practice Catholic principles or become another secular institution. It is apparent that the current administration will give lip service to Catholicism but practice whatever is popular at the moment.

What can be done?

As I see it, the alumni are Notre Dame’s last hope. I think the alumni can play a similar role for Notre Dame as the U.S. Olympic hockey team did for the United States in 1980. We can turn it around!

Now is the time to throw down the gloves. An appeal to Jenkins is a waste of time. Our appeal must be to the Notre Dame trustees. Let them know that we will not contribute to Notre Dame under its current leadership.

Let them know that we expect Notre Dame to practice Catholic principles in all its affairs.
Make no mistake about it. Notre Dame needs the alumni. President Obama does not believe in private philanthropy and plans to reduce tax deductions for charitable contributions. All Catholic institutions will be devastated. My guess is that Obama’s tax policies will cause more damage to the Notre Dame Endowment Fund than the recent market activity. (Take note trustees!)

Obama has spit in the face of Catholicism with his executive orders related to abortion and stem-cell research. Jenkins has spit in the eye of Our Lady.

I intend to go to my 50th reunion this June. I’ll only get as far as the beer tent to visit with my classmates. Nuts to University-sponsored events! Nuts to a class gift!

It’s time to fight. Rally Sons of Notre Dame!

Jack Hughes ND ’59
Chicago, Illinois

Your selection of Barak Obama for a honorary degree is a slap in the face of Catholics like Phyllis Schlafly, Bill Bennet and countless others. I’m embarrassed for you.

Buddy Tamel

I thought your school was one of the best in this country, but to allow the visit of someone (Obama) who is against the important Catholic belief of a right to life is to allow him to spit on the ideology of the school.

Jennifer Stewart

All Catholic People, that we know, are shocked, sadden and in disbelief that Notre Dame University would have Obama as the Commencement Speaker and bestow a honorary degree — to a man from his very first order – was to dismantle all the progress that has been made against the killing of innocent unborn babies through abortion in the last 35 years.

Norte Dame slapped the Catholic Bishops of America in the face in their plea before the election … to examine their conscience about Obama and his stand on abortion and many other issues that have recently come to pass.

The great fundamentals of the Catholic Church are being torn apart. Notre Dame (our Lady) the precious name is being sinned and shamed upon by the president and the directors of the University.

It seems that the debate between one of the great archbishops of New York, Archbishop John J O"Connor and Gov. Cuomo…Was when O’Connor, very adequately, laid down the Catholic Churches stand on pro-life. It seems that Notre Dame has taken Cuomo’s side. “What do we ask of a Candidate seeking office or someone already in office? asked Archbishop O”Connor. “We ask nothing more than this . . . a statement opposing abortion on demand.”

Notre Dame has always leaned to the far left under the disguise of protecting the poor, downridden, underprivileged people — when in truth they are really ultra liberals. They live in a closed room where everybody has the same thoughts and ideas of what is right or wrong. No other opinions are allowed and all facts are ignored. But, this time Notre Dame went off the cliff.

You might as well follow the Hollywood Crowd of Left Wing Liberals and maybe you should put Martin Sheen on your board of directors.

Immediately discontinue sending Notre Dame Magazine to my home.

Ronald Carroll

My family of five believes deeply in our Catholic faith and we believe in following the teachings of the pope. When we learned that Notre Dame invited President Obama to give the graduation commencement address, we were very saddened and disappointed. President Obama has openly and blatantly communicated his intention to advance legislation that is contrary to the core beliefs of the Catholic Church. He adamantly supports women’s right to choose and he is an advocate of unlimited abortion rights. He advocates the Freedom of Conscience Act, which threatens the ongoing viability of most Catholic hospitals, and will likely force several faithful Catholic hospital employees to choose between retaining their jobs or parting from the beliefs of their Catholic Church and submit to performing abortions. He has reversed the longstanding ban on U.S. subsidized overseas abortion funding. President Obama supports unlimited embryonic stem-cell research, which also strikes at the heart of church beliefs.

How can the Notre Dame administration in good conscience rationalize this ill-conceived decision to invite President Obama when he has so blatantly communicated his desire and intention to change and destroy the basic foundation and beliefs of the Catholic Church?

I heartfully request that Notre Dame respectfully disinvite Mr. Obama from addressing the commencement exercises. For the University to do otherwise, will be for the University to send the exact wrong message to all practicing Catholics and especially to the young, easily influenced aspiring minds of the graduating class. I believe the outrage that your University is experiencing is God’s way of attempting to gently convince your administration that now is the ideal and opportunistic time to show leadership and make a statement to all practicing Catholics, that Notre Dame is serious in its intention to follow the direction and teachings of the pope. To do otherwise will forever “taint the image” of Notre Dame and be cause for many Catholic’s throughout the nation to be very disappointed and to likely discontinue their moral and financial support of the University. We can only hope that the administration of the university of Notre Dame chooses to do the right thing and chooses to disinvite President Barack Obama from addressing the Notre Dame commencement ceremony.

Tony Mayer
Twin Falls, Idaho

My wife and I have been blessed with 5 children, one day we had hoped to send them to Notre Dame. Due to the obvious discord with Catholic Doctrine ie inviting President Obama to speak at commencement. We will look elsewhere to educate our children.

Sorrowful Catholics. Ben and Rebecca Peck

It is inappropriate for Notre Dame to honor Obama. He is certainly not in accord with Catholic teaching on abortion or embryonic stem cell research. I protest!

Henry Veilleux
Bucksport, Maine

Please remove my name from your mailing list. I no longer wish to receive the Notre Dame Magazine or anything else from the university. In fact, I no longer consider myself a graduate of a university that gives honor to a man who believes in late-term abortion, abortion in general, or embryonic stem-cell research.

In my time at Notre Dame, anyone who gave public support to a sinner was guilty of “giving scandal” to the Church and its teaching. The university is currently “giving scandal” which means it is condoning bad behavior. That indicates a lack of moral strength and is a sad state of affairs. In fact, it’s a scandal, and I want no part of it because it violates everything I was taught as an undergraduate.

Ed Meell ’58
Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania

In answer to the question(s) posed by Kerry Temple in his editor’s blog: “If not, is it possible for Notre Dame people to acknowledge this inherent tension and live with its uneasy alliance?” my answer is NO. As one of the “Notre Dame people” of whom you speak, I have already withdrawn my financial support because of the decades-long march to secularism at the once-special place of Our Lady. It is time to end the pretense and remove the term “Catholic” from the charter and all advertising materials. It would certainly be more honest to do so.

Gerry Brinker ’63
Cincinnati, Ohio

As a member of Little Flower Catholic Church in Richmond Heights, Missouri, I find it totally outside the teachings of the church for President Obama to give the commencement address at Notre Dame. I would hope that you would do everything possible to influence the administration and students of Notre Dame to rescind the invitation, and if that’s not done for students to protest the speaker by turning their backs to him during the address.

Douglas Knutsen

Regarding the sacrilege of Chairman Obama giving the commencement address: Will he make a stop at the Grotto?

Breyman Schmelzle ’69
Tucson, Arizona

Obama at commencement. Can you support it? Try to defend it! I look forward to your response.
Sadly, in memory of my alma mater as she once was.

George F. Hewson, M.D., ’54
Telluride, Colorado

The University of Notre Dame (at least I think it’s still Catholic?) has invited to most pro-choice president in our history to speak at your school. You must be proud!! Barack’s policies have and will kill babies. Wonder what the pope would say?

Ley Borlo

Yesterday I read the article written by William McGurn in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Obama Gets Their Irish Up.” I am becoming more and more ashamed about being an ND grad. Thanks to the current administration, your magazine included, you are drifting further and further away from Catholic principles. You are becoming advocates of the culture of death. Are you all wanting to be cafeteria Catholics — just picking only the parts you like? When did you decide to become so very soft on principles?

Ashamed of ND,

Michael Maher ’63
Kokomo, Indiana

My daughter graduated from San Diego University. I am appalled that President Obama will be speaking at your “great” university. SHAME ON YOU . . . to have someone speak who is so opposed to the basic principles of the Catholic faith.
Chuck Campbell

Much to my dismay as a Catholic, I just read over an article that contained the following quote, “People are definitely entitled to their outrage, but I think the main thing is to see that it’s an honor to have the president of the United States come to speak here whether you agree with him or not,” said Katie Woodward, a political science junior from Philadelphia.

An honor? Just because he’s the leader of our country? Where is Ms. Woodward’s sense of ethics?

You, as a university are sadly an embarrassment to the Catholic Church and are perpetrating scandal, and Ms. Woodward shows how smitten some can become with celebrity, even with those who espouse acts which are offensive to God. Although he’s my president and I owe him respect, I wouldn’t walk half a block to meet Obama, much less ask him to address a group of my Catholic friends.

It is my hope that there will be a massive walkout when the president is introduced and my prayer that the fighting Irish begin to fight the good fight for the Lord, Jesus Christ, whom you are surely offending.

May God bless and guide all of you in the future and find your university a new leader so such mistakes will not be repeated.

Emil More

I have always been very proud of the University of Notre Dame. Because in a little place like Keavy, Laurel County, Kentucky, we don’t have as many Catholics in Southeastern Kentucky. We don’t even have many Catholic schools. I attended a local college and then a state-supported school. I finished my B.S. and masters, taught 28 years of public school and now I’m retired. I was always so proud of your college. When groups of your students would travel here at spring break and during summer breaks, my family were very happy to stop and make the trip down on the Rocastle River at the solar house to play music and entertain them. My mother was so proud of getting to do this for many years until she passed away in July of 1998. My husband and I keep up this same tradition. We knew that they came to help all the poor in our communities with their work and time. They gave up their vacations to help others just as Jesus asks all of us to do.

But when I heard that this same school was giving a degree and letting him give the commencement address to the Most Noted Advocate of Abortion. I thought it was a mistake. I thought my husband had heard it wrong until I read it for myself. Here in Kentucky, we have a saying if something is very shocking, that if my mother knew about this she would roll over in her grave. I’m sure she has but the sad thing is to look down from above and see what has become of a place that she was so proud of. Well, all I can say now is that I will keep you in my daily prayers. I hope one day you will see the error of your mistake.

Evelyn W. Hamblin, daughter of Dora Mae Wagers and spouse of Moses Hamblin

I read Mr Temple’s article in the Chicago Tribune today. I found it very interesting and I agree with much you said. A university, Catholic or not, should be open to discuss and debate other points of view. I remember my class in comparative religion at ND in the 1960s. The priest who taught the class told us something invaluable on the first day. He said, if we thought that the only way to get to heaven was through the Catholic Church, we should leave his class now as we would be too close-minded to learn. Several got up and left. That class opened my eyes and had a profound effect on my life. The class was full of debate and discussion.

That being said, what does what I said above and you wrote in your article have to do with justifying honoring someone with a degree that believes in partial birth abortion ? Unless I missed something, there will be NO discussion or debate with the president about his views. Based on your vague rationalization, we ought to give Osama bin Laden and David Duke an honorary degree to promote more discussion about their views.

Once again, Notre Dame is trying to advance its status by being politically correct, rather than standing above the crowd.

Richard Dittoe ’65
Mishawaka, Indiana

Beyond my heart’s sickness over Barack Obama’s being honored by Notre Dame and my sincere desire to see John Jenkins removed from his position and defrocked, is my deep and abiding concern for the lack of religious teaching within Notre Dame. I know this lack exists by the response of the graduating class not only to Obama’s presence but to his speech. Religion is the only hope left for America to survive, and to see an institution such as Notre Dame fall so far is beyond worrisome. Know that my prayers are for a more faith-filled future for your university.

Richard E. Hunsberger

Please do not forward ND Magazine to me going forward. I am a 1990 alumnus and am viscerally disgusted by Mr. Obama’s presence at commencement today and Jenkins’ ignorance of the Catholic faith.

Very simple — you don’t honor someone with views antithetical to what should be our beliefs and disregard our bishops’ teachings. Even Arizona State University — a secular institution — understands you don’t honor someone with a degree who has not accomplished anything of merit.

Jenkins stated in his address that he hopes all the graduates will always consider ND as home. I did up until this event today. That is truly sad as I had “indoctrinated” my 13-year-old son since he was a toddler of the wonder of ND. I had hoped to do the same with my toddler daughter.

Kerry Temple’s Chicago Tribune editorial today also shows his lack of understanding of our faith.

Jenkins’ actions have one positive result: it confirms the church is comprised of sinners, which gives us all hope.

Mark Korzenecki ’90
Minooka, Illinois

I am not a radical anything. I am a 67-year-old woman married to a wonderful man who was reared in South Bend, Indiana, and is a sincere and BIG Notre Dame fan. However, our consideration of Notre Dame as a beneficiary of our wills has come to a screeching halt. It is both mine and my husband’s opinion that the current president of Notre Dame should be fired for not only inviting, but endorsing Barrack Obama’s presence and speech at this year’s graduation ceremony. Obviously, the major reason for our love for and respect of Notre Dame is its Catholic heritage and beliefs which are now in question by us and I’m sure, many others. And that’s that. We wash our hands of Notre Dame and pray others will follow suit until this fine University returns to it’s roots and core beliefs.

L. Diane Hunsberger

Speaking on the need to find “common ground” regarding fundamental issues such as abortion and embryonic stem-cell research President Obama tempted students at Notre Dame Sunday that they can “doubt” their religious faith even as they “cling” to it. His call for “Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words” is, ultimately then, a plea to doubt the objective tenets of one’s faith. In such a world, doubt becomes the criterion for truth.

This doubt about God’s covenant and the accompanying invitation to human beings to free themselves from their limitations has appeared in various forms throughout history. It began in the Garden of Eden with the serpent who rather than deny God outright made an apparently completely reasonable request for information, which in reality, however, contained an insinuation that provoked the human being and lured him from trust to mistrust: Did God say, ‘you shall not eat of any tree of the garden’? (Genesis 3:1). The first thing is not the denial of God but rather doubt about his covenant, about the community of faith, prayer, the commandments — all of which are the context for living God’s covenant.

Once people begin to doubt God’s covenant they are well on the way to building their own worlds. Obama, though he speaks of “The Golden Rule — the call to treat one another as we wish to be treated” — does not practice the same conviction in regard to his own political policies (on abortion and embryonic stem-cell research). He instead treats the weak, powerless and defenseless as a subclass of human beings. May God preserve us from doubting our religious faith and from following his pragmatic example and agenda.

Paul Kokoski
Hamilton, Ontario. Canada
I have been seeing and reading with great distress the information that some Holy Cross fathers object to Obama speaking at commencement because of his abortion views. This is appalling with a capital “A.” I was at Saint Mary’s College in the 1960s and so was my husband (ND Class of ‘69, deceased in 2003). The essence of ND at that time with Hesburgh was leading the country against the war and toward social justice. ND has hosted the Bushes, who are the all-time violators of civil liberties in this country, big proponents of the death penalty, got us into two wars without end.

Perhaps that is why, when I am at my local Episcopal church this Sunday, I will see more and more 50+ Catholics on the altar, at the altar rail and after cvhurch. We are sick and tired of the abortion issue, which now is the sole defining issue of our former church, not social justice as the Episcopal Church has come to be identified with these past years. Abortion when a woman is raped, it is a child who is pregnant (under 12), the child is beyond hope of living any semblance of a normal life because of brain, heart, physical deformities, or the mother’s life is in danger physically and sometimes mentally, are all good reasons for abortion. My mother was pregnant in NY in the 1960s and was bleeding profusely at four months. She had to go to Connecticut by ambulance because no hospital would perform an abortion to save her life. She almost died in the ambulance. She lived another 35 years to do so much good in this world. My best friend died of a back-alley abortion in 1965 because she had no knowledge of birth control. This decision makes me sick to my stomach and is another reason I will never set foot in a Catholic church again.

Obama has led this country in three short months to end a war, restore civil liberties, restore the world’s view of our country, and bring us in concert with Islam. You would bash him and reward the Bushes? There is something seriously wrong with ND and the Catholic Church if they support the Bushes and not Obama. I’m thoroughly disgusted and oh, so happy my daughter went to Carnegie Mellon and on to Teach for America and not ND — her father and I were disgusted with the narrow views that ND has been espousing for years. Shame on you.

Gwen Caranchini

It has been to my dismay to read the various assaults this week on the University of Notre Dame. It seems that Catholics from all across the country have made Notre Dame to be a villain for inviting Mr. Obama to speak at the commencement ceremony this May. Comments suggesting that Notre Dame is “Catholic in name only” or that the University is breaking from the Church could be no further from the truth. Most of the critics seem to know very little about what is done on campus on a daily basis. Catholicism is lived and breathed in the Center for Social Concerns, the Peace Institute, the Urban Plunge and a myriad of other activities and institutes both organized and not. Students take what is imbued in them and apply it to lives of service and living as a Catholic.

One speech or honorary degree conferral does not undo the fabric of Notre Dame. Inviting the president of the United States who dissents with the Catholic Church on matters of abortion and stem-cell research does not imply active or passive agreement with his views. However, it has lit a fire in the pro-life movement in this country. The outpouring of sentiment surrounding this event has, unfortunately, been directed negatively towards the University.

It is my hope that the passion surrounding this visit will be focused in a positive fashion toward ending the scourge of abortion. Perhaps rather than signing an Internet petition with a click of the mouse one could donate money towards pro-Life candidates, picket at an abortion clinic or work to aid single pregnant women who have few reasonable options. Instead of decrying Notre Dame as a traitor to the Church, people could work for economic justice and create an environment in this country where abortion is less likely to be chosen. These things are done on campus every day.

The Spirit of Notre Dame will continue to go on long after President Obama has left the campus. It is even possible that some good may come of all of this. Wouldn’t that be something?

Stephen O’Neil, M.D., ’87
Indianapolis, Indiana

I never dreamed I would write this letter to you as president of the University of Notre Dame and share it with the magazine. Although I was a science major in pre-professional studies when I attended Notre Dame before I attended medical school, the theology and philosophy courses I was required to take at Notre Dame have shaped my life more importantly than all the other courses I took. The professors, some of whom were priests, will always have my utmost respect and gratitude. This letter would never have been written without them.

Your decision to invite Barack Obama to speak at commencement and be given an honorary degree shocks my soul. He has not only strongly and adamantly supported every type of abortion but he also has promoted infanticide. Perhaps you are not familiar with partial birth abortion. A viable baby is delivered feet first except for the head. The skull is then punctured and the brains are sucked out to kill the baby and facilitate the delivery. As a pediatrician, I have cared for premature babies given life by their mothers who could have been slaughtered by this method of abortion. Barack Obama has also supported legislation to kill babies who survive abortion. This is infanticide.

How can you honor a man who is the world leader of the holocaust of our time? Over 50 million souls who would have been born in the United States would like an answer to this question. Christ displayed intense anger and threw the money changers out of the house of His Father. How can you invite and honor a man who does not respect the most innocent and defenseless human life to the university that bears His mother’s name?

Father Hesburgh reportedly said invited speakers never changed Notre Dame but Notre Dame has changed them. I am not aware of anyone who supported satanic values who was converted to Christian belief after speaking at Notre Dame. I have always had great respect for Father Hesburgh, especially as a proponent of civil rights. Did Father Hesburgh invite an active member of the Ku Klux Klan to speak and be honored by the civil rights commission? Do unborn children have any God-given civil rights? Christ told the thief who repented when He was crucified that He would see him in paradise, not the one who mocked Him. There are speaking forums where academic freedom can be maintained at a university which does not bestow an honor on the speaker and provides the opportunity for dissenting opinions. The commencement address is not that forum.

A very large percentage of graduating students reportedly support Barack Obama being the commencement speaker. Do students dictate to the administration the character of a Catholic university? What criteria is used to select the students who attend Notre Dame? Are Notre Dame students still required to take theology and philosophy courses? I urge you to admit it was a mistake to invite Barack Obama to speak at commencement and rescind the invitation. Invite him to speak in a political forum at Notre Dame where his ideas would be challenged but does not honor him. Do you think he would still come?

If you allow Barack Obama to speak at the commencement, you are an enabler legitimizing a man who promotes the taking of innocent human life through abortion and infanticide. The character of the Catholic Church, especially in our country, has suffered in recent times especially because of the exposure of pedophilia in a small percentage of priests. I fear that your decision to honor Barack Obama will undermine the character of the Catholic Church in the United States even more than that scandal.

If Barack Obama speaks, I will forever be ashamed to be a graduate of Notre Dame. I will caution anyone not to send their child to Notre Dame and I will direct my future Notre Dame contributions as an added amount to the National Right to Life Committee. You are in my prayers.

H. Patrick Stern, M.D., ’70
Telford, Tennessee

The idea of boycotting President Obama’s speech at the University of Notre Dame is just plain crazy. Because, the president believes choosing abortion is a right given to you (women) by God and it is by your faith that decision is made.

President Obama meet Michelle, they fell in love, got married, and had children. Why? That is the way he believes it should be done.

God gave all of us, beginning with Adam and Eve, the right to make a choice.

Larry Little

Commenting on Kerry Temple’s well-written piece in the Chicago Tribune of last week (this is May 19) As you can see, after seeing and hearing the commencement ceremonies — all is well and good at Notre Dame and they are to be commended — especially Rev Jenkins for his “I will not back down stance” on his invitation to President Obama. His clear and calming addresses is just what this nation (and the Catholic Church) need at this time — “pouring oil on the fires” so to speak — enough of all this hysteria from all sides. What a wonderful job he did of doing just that and how “foolish” the people who prattled on about his coming, the award etc looked — small and insignificant.

If the Catholic Church wants to play ANY part in this nation’s part in the REAL world they are going to have to get their “act together” and start thinking — I mean real thinking. I am a Catholic, 74 years old, 7 kids, one of them a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and I would never think of aborting. But that really doesn’t address the problems of the Catholic church today in the United States. I know the Church is a theocracy, but not “thinking” referring to those in charge is just ludicrous and we are all the more less because of it. Abortion was with us when I was a kid, and we all knew about it and knew it was wrong — use to say a mortal sin — which the Church doesn’t mention much anymore because abortion now has become a political tool in the hands of radicals — of all ilks — it should just remain in the moral arena and not in the political.

Mary C. Rohde
Kenosha, Wisconsin

As a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, I have been waiting and waiting to tackle the huge controversy of President Obama speaking at the 164th Commencement Celebration of our alma mater. After watching both President Jenkins’s address and Obama’s speech I have never been more proud to call myself a Domer.

I love that Father Jenkins destroyed all arguments against the inconsistency of the invitation by voicing his disapproval of Obama’s abortion policies but also praising the good Obama has done for our country and the historical context of his election. Jenkins’s stance is that in inviting Obama to Notre Dame he is initiating dialogue, a true facet of change. He quotes our beloved Pope John Paul II by saying that a Catholic university should be, “a primary and privileged place for a fruitful dialogue between the Gospel and culture.” Father Jenkins and Provost Burish also celebrated the accomplishments of former Notre Dame President Father Theodore Hesburgh and his historical and famous involvement in the civil rights movement. Jenkins and Burish honored Obama with a copy of the famous image of Dr. King with Father Hesburgh, “the minister and the priest.”

Father Jenkins goes on to quote the Vatican Council, “Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.” That is a powerful, compelling defense.

Of course the opposition was vehement. Yes it is important that we recognize and voice our opinion that Obama’s pro-choice policies are wrong. Yet it is equally important that we recognize all the good that Obama has and will do for our country. And that dignity is paramount in our Catholic tradition.

I could go on to write about the hypocrisy of there having been no controversy surrounding President Bush’s reception of an honorary degree from Notre Dame, given the death toll of the Iraqi war he commissioned. We may not turn a blind eye to the babies that have died because of Obama’s policies but what about the 4,296 adult casualties that have occurred in Iraq? War, especially pre-emptive war, is also inconsistent with our Catholic pro-life doctrine.

The true victory here is that the University of Notre Dame, THE Catholic institution, engaged our pro-life President in a sincere dialogue about abortion and held him accountable for his thoughts and policies. In a sincere and gracious manner, the University of Notre Dame did in fact challenge President Obama. And we also established that we are all on the same team as Christian Americans. Obama stated, “So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions, let’s reduce unintended pregnancies. Let’s make adoption more available. Let’s provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term. Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women. Those are things we can do.” We may have yet to win the war, but clearly, today, we won a battle against abortion.

At the end of the day hopefully Father Jenkins and President Obama have taught us two important lessons. We cannot let a single ideological difference, no matter how fundamental, overshadow the reality of our similarities. And we cannot achieve a common ground without dialogue between opposing parties. The irony of this controversy is that the vigilante pro-lifers were in fact fighting against this monumental occasion that in fact brought Catholics one step closer to to ending abortion, in a truly dignified fashion. WE ARE ND! GOBAMA!

Paige Courtney Barnes ’06

Some Roman Catholic bishops, many priests and thousands of other outraged Catholics and non-Catholics have announced they will boycott President Barack Obama’s May 17 commencement speech at Notre Dame because of Obama’s policies supporting abortion rights and stem-cell research conflict with Catholic teaching.

Bishop John D’Arcy of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend followed by Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa have urged the boycott because of Obama’s recent decision to federally fund embryonic stem-cell research and his support of a women’s right to choose the birth or the death of a child. Obama’s stance on stem cell research has brought the U.S. government for the first time into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life. A core belief in Catholic theology is “all human life is precious.”

Therefore, is an invitation to a pro-choice president anti-Catholic? Is Notre Dame anti-Catholic? Should students, both current and future, also boycott Notre Dame? Notre Dame says it doesn’t support all of Obama’s positions but doesn’t plan to rescind the invitation. Obama says his policy will ease human suffering.

Is Obama anti-Catholic?

While the bishops have an unqualified right to express their positions, is a boycott of the president of the United States appropriate? In this instance, is a boycott a manifestation of intolerance?

When former President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton, now Secretary of State, invited Mother Teresa to the White House Presidential Prayer Breakfast in 1997, Mother Teresa accepted the invitation and did not boycott the event. Both the Clintons support abortion rights. At the breakfast, she laid out her case clearly: “What is taking place in America is a war against the child.” She said. … “If we accept that the mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?” Looking Hillary dead in the eye, she said, "If you don’t want your baby, give him to me. There is no unwanted child. Mother Teresa wants your child.” Her approach to the president and first lady, while uncompromising, was gentle and kind.

The bishops’ position is reminiscent of former republican Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater’s stance when he ran for president against Lyndon Johnson. Goldwater said, “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.” The bishops’ strategy infers that extremism against destruction of innocent human life is no vice.

Will the extremism that has fomented intolerance against Obama be like the intolerance that killed President Abe Lincoln? Opponents against abortion have been known to kill. Will that thought perish now that the bishops have spoken?

What about loving the sinner and hating the sin? Isn’t it better to be kind than right?

James O. Goodwin ’61
Tulsa, Oklahoma

I just received the angriest piece of mail in my life, from Randall Terry of StopObamaNotreDame.com, and I think a public reply from me is more appropriate than an individual response.

When I was a student, in 1969, Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan received the Laetare medal from Notre Dame. In 1973 Justice Brennan sided with the Supreme Court majority in Roe v. Wade. I can not recall any public reaction from the administration, students or alumni to the obvious disconnect.

This is the reason that the angry response to the invitation by the University to have President Obama speak at commencement is so puzzling to me. Where was the outrage 36 years ago, when Notre Dame must have known that it had given its most prestigious award to a Supreme Court justice who helped legalize abortion in this country?

W. Russell Byrne ’70
Frederick, Maryland

As a longstanding Domer family, we are writing in strong support of President Barack Obama’s commencement participation.

I have benefited from three Notre Dame degrees (BS ’64 B.S., ’66M.S., ‘70Ph.D.). My wife, Judy, earned her M.A. from Notre Dame in 1966. We were married at Sacred Heart Church, and while we were in graduate school we attended daily Mass in the crypt. Our two children (now parents themselves) were baptized in Sacred Heart Church. Patrick, now 42, father of two and marketing engineer for Intel, earned his MBA from Notre Dame in 1996. Erin, now 41, spent her first two years of medical school at Notre Dame, and is now a practicing pediatrician and mother of two. Last year she received a special award from the AMA for her service to the profession.

We have all benefited from the open-minded and open-hearted approach to learning that is at the core of the Notre Dame educational philosophy. We hope and pray that this spirit will continue to imbue the campus and that those who disagree with some of President Obama’s decisions can appreciate the importance of tolerance and respect for well-intentioned people with whom we may not agree.

Gene Lynch
Portland, Oregon

I have recently received what I can only describe a hate mail urging me to oppose President Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame.

As a Notre Dame alumnus (’86Ph.D., physics) I am extremely pleased that the University has invited President Barack Obama to Notre Dame.

No doubt you will receive very few notes like mine, but I urge you to not oppose the plan honor our president. Please do not give in to the extremists and one-issue zealots. On 90 percent of critical issues, President Obama’s views are more in line with Catholic teachings than are those of his opponents. He is:

- Against pre-emptive war - Against torture - Against usurious lending - For the dignity of workers - For caring for the poor and sick - For early child care and education - For preserving the environment

In my opinion, President Obama is an extremely worthy speaker and honoree, and the University will do itself credit to host him.

Michael J. DeWeert
Kailua Hawaii

The controversy over President Obama is another example of one-issue people. President Bush was supported by these same people because he was anti-abortion. Overlooked was the fact that he favored executing adults, including the mentally retarded, and did so as governor of Texas. He also brought us the most morally bankrupt administration in recent times.

In President Obama, we have a president who is willing to listen to what others are saying and sincerely give their positions consideration.

The position of anti-abortion supporters is that no abortion should take place under any circumstances. The pro-choice people say abortions should be available to all, regardless of reason.

Both sides say they have an interest in stopping abortions. Until both sides get off their “morally superior” positions and talk about their common interest we will never stop abortions.

John Houlihan ’67

See second page of letters to the editor about ND’s invitation to President Barack Obama to speak at the 2009 commencement.