by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
The first 300,000 names of concerned Catholics and their bishops who signed a petition in protest of Notre Dame’s decision to honor President Barack Obama at this year’s commencement were delivered yesterday to University president Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., the Board of Trustees and the Board of Fellows. The names of the petitioners is being delivered in time for meetings scheduled to take place on Friday, May 1, at Notre Dame.
“Only the Notre Dame Trustees and Fellows have direct authority over Father Jenkins, so their meetings on Friday are our best hope for an end to this scandal,” said Patrick J. Reilly, President of The Cardinal Newman Society, who organized the petition drive at NotreDameScandal.com.
The University of Notre Dame is governed by a 12-member Board of Fellows, including six Holy Cross priests, who are charged with ensuring “that the University maintains its essential character as a Catholic institution of higher learning.” The Fellows delegate most of their governing authority to the 38-member Board of Trustees, comprised mostly of lay people.
“It is critical for all of us to pray that the Trustees and Fellows charged with safeguarding Notre Dame’s Catholic identity will heed the 50 bishops and hundreds of thousands of faithful Catholics urging Notre Dame to withdraw its invitation to President Obama,” Mr. Reilly said.
The decision to withdraw the invitation would be in keeping with the university’s charter, which states: “The essential character of the University as a Catholic institution of higher learning shall at all times be maintained, it being the stated intention and desire of the present Fellows of the University that the University shall retain in perpetuity its identity as such an institution.”
Because of the overwhelming numbers of signatures, it took the Cardinal Newman Society more than 24 hours to print the names, which amounted to 64,000 sheets which were bound in notebooks and sent via FedEx to Fr. Jenkins and individual members of the Notre Dame Board of Trustees and Board of Fellows.
Another set of copies was rushed to Archbishop Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education; Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Apostolic Nuncio (Vatican ambassador) to the United States; Francis Cardinal George, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB); Bishop John D’Arcy, of Fort Wayne-South Bend, who presides over Notre Dame; and Bishop Robert McManus, Chairman of the USCCB Education Committee.
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