The University of Notre Dame’s decision to invite President Barack Obama to deliver a commencement address is an “extreme embarrassment” to Catholics, the head of the U.S. Conference on Catholic Bishops said in a speech reported by The Chicago Sun-Times.
“It is clear that Notre Dame didn’t understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation,” Cardinal Francis George said Sunday while speaking at a conference hosted by the archdiocese’s Respect Life office in Rosemont.
George joins Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, and bishops from South Bend, Newark and Austin, among others, in speaking out against Obama’s commencement speech.
But George said in his weekend speech that the office of the U.S. president deserves “some respect, no matter who is holding it.” He also said the school shouldn’t rescind the invitation.
“You just don’t do that,” he said.
In a video of George’s speech posted Wednesday on lifesitenews.com, the cardinal calls Notre Dame “the flagship Catholic university” and said that it has “brought extreme embarrassment to many, many people who are Catholic.”
Obama’s scheduled speech follows a long-standing university tradition of inviting the sitting president to speak at graduation. Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush all spoke at Notre Dame commencement ceremonies.
But the Democrat’s positions on embryonic stem cell research and abortion have ignited a huge protest from devout Catholics nearly two months before the May 17 speech is scheduled.
George has no authority over the prestigious university in his role as archbishop or as head of the U.S. Conference on Catholic Bishops.
The Chicago archdiocese switchboards are lighting up with calls regarding the controversy. She said all callers are given contact information for the chairman of Notre Dame’s board of trustees, the provincial supervisor for the Holy Cross order of priests and for the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome.
Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins, previously said the university does not condone all of the president’s policies. Still, he said it’s valuable to engage in conversation and said there are no plans to rescind the invitation.
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