By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
A large coalition of Notre Dame University-sponsored student groups has issued a stinging repudiation of University President Rev. John J. Jenkins, CSC, for inviting President Barack Obama to speak at the upcoming commencement ceremonies and receive an honorary law degree.
“Fr. Jenkins defends his invitation by saying that it does not honor or suggest support for the President’s views on abortion, but rather support for his leadership,” the students wrote. “Leadership that puts the lives of the most innocent at risk is leadership we must disdain. In the face of President Obama’s actions, Father Jenkins’ words ring hollow.”
The students say their objections do not concern political partisanship bu the fact that President Obama has shown consistent hostility toward the teachings of the Catholic Church regarding the sanctity of human life. “His recent dedication of federal funds to overseas abortions and to embryonic stem cell research will directly result in the deaths of thousands of innocent human beings. We cannot sit by idly while the University honors someone who believes that an entire class of human beings is undeserving of the most basic of all legal rights, the right to live.”
They are particularly offended by the awarding of an honorary law degree to the President, calling it “a great irony.” As the oldest Catholic law school in the country, the Notre Dame Law School states that its mission is “to facilitate greater understanding of and commitment to the relationship between law and social justice.”
“The social justice issue of our day is the deliberate, legal attack on the most vulnerable members of society, the unborn,” the students said. “To award a Notre Dame law degree to a lawyer and politician who has used the law to deny equality to the unborn diminishes the value of the degree itself.”
The students also accuse Fr. Jenkins of placing some of his students in a moral dilemma as to whether they should attend their own graduation or skip the event in protest as Bishop John D’Arcy has chosen to do.
“Many pro-life seniors, along with their families, are conflicted about whether to participate in the commencement ceremony. The lack of concern for these devoted sons and daughters of Notre Dame, who love this University and the Catholic principles on which it was built, is shameful.”
The students conclude their statement with the promise to “pledge ourselves to acts of witness that will be characterized by respect, prayerfulness, outspoken fidelity to the Church, and true concern for the good of our University.”
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