By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
In spite of a storm of national protest, University of Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins says he has no intention of rescinding his invitation to President Barack Obama to speak at this year’s commencement, claiming that the invitation is not an endorsement of the president’s anti-life positions.
“We have invited the president and he’s honored us by accepting,” Fr. Jenkins said during an interview with Notre Dame’s Observer newspaper.
Responding to the national outrage, he said the invitation “should in no way be taken as condoning or endorsing his positions” on life issues.
“We are not ignoring the critical issue of the protection of life. On the contrary, we invited him because we care so much about those issues, and we hope for this to be the basis of an engagement with him,” Jenkins said. “You cannot change the world if you shun the people you want to persuade, and if you cannot persuade them show respect for them and listen to them.”
Fr. Jenkins said that the school wants to recognize Obama’s “very real and significant accomplishments and his leadership,” while at the same time wanting to initiate “a positive engagement on the issues we care about.” “I think if he is going to reconsider his views, I think Notre Dame is the best possible place to begin that process,” he said.
He also addressed the USCCB’s 2004 directive that Catholic schools “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions,” arguing that the honorary degree that will be conferred upon Obama during his visit is not intended to condone or endorse his position on specific issues regarding life. “That’s not what we’re honoring,” Jenkins said.
Fr. Jenkins indicated that he had spoken with Bishop John M. D’Arcy, bishop of the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend about the affair, but did not speculate on how the bishop would respond.
Bishop D’Arcy has not yet issued a statement on the controversy.
To contact Notre Dame to voice your concern, call (574) 631-5000 or email: http://president.nd.edu/contact-us
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