By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
A new Rasmussen poll has found that 60 percent of U.S. Catholics think Notre Dame should obey guidelines issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and should refrain from awarding an honorary degree to President Barack Obama at this weekend’s commencement ceremonies.
The Rasmussen Reports telephone survey found that only 25 percent of the Catholics polled approved of the invite. Among all Americans, a surprising 52 percent oppose what Notre Dame is doing and only 25 percent are in favor of the move.
“Faithful Catholics are sick to the heart over this scandal, which reflects decades of such scandals in our Catholic institutions,” said Patrick J. Reilly, President of The Cardinal Newman Society.
“The Rasmussen poll confirms that this is not about politics; it’s not primarily about President Obama, Rudolph Giuliani, Hillary Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, and other pro-abortion politicians who have been honored at Catholic college and university commencement ceremonies over the past decade.
“It’s about Catholics who are fed up with Catholic institutions betraying their bishops and putting secular prestige ahead of principle, thereby undermining their own Church on the most serious moral issues of the day.”
In the same poll, nearly two-thirds (63%) of Americans said they believe it’s important for speakers at graduation ceremonies of religious universities to share the views of the university. Although a majority (56 percent) of Catholics agree with this statement, even higher numbers of Evangelical Christians (87%) and other Protestants (63%) also subscribed to it.
In 2004 the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement which reads, in part: “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.”
Knowledge of that policy is key to Americans’ views on the Notre Dame honor. For instance, when asked if President Obama should cancel his appearance at Notre Dame because of pro-life opposition, 52 percent of Americans say “no” and 30 percent say “yes.”
A poll released last week by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life first asked respondents how much they had heard about “criticism of Notre Dame by abortion opponents,” then asked whether it was right or wrong for Notre Dame to honor Obama. Although Mass-attending, White non-Hispanic Catholics opposed the award 45% to 37%, support for the honor was strong among all self-identified Catholics (50%) and all Americans (48%).
“Clearly people are respectful of the Presidency and probably don’t want politics to interfere with commencement ceremonies,” Reilly said. “But when the context changes to principle over politics, and Americans are made aware that a Catholic university is violating a directive of the Catholic bishops based on moral teaching, public opinion swings against Notre Dame’s action.”
Rasmussen Reports confirms in its poll summary that “the discomfort on the issue is focused on the university decision rather than on the president,” and “the response is tied more closely to the violation of the bishops’ guidelines than to the policy issue concerning abortion.” While pro-life Americans strongly oppose the Notre Dame honor, even “pro-choice” respondents are evenly split as to whether Notre Dame should snub the Catholic bishops.
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