By Jacqueline L. Salmon
As the days tick down to President Obama’s commencement appearance at the University of Notre Dame on Sunday, there is no sign of a truce between those opposing the visit and those supporting it. It could be a very ugly day.
In interviews, anti-abortion activists are hinting at disruptions of the speech. Given that some of the protests so far have featured fake blood-covered dolls–and that airplane with the giant photo of the aborted fetus–don’t expect polite hand raisings and simple red armbands.
In a full-throated defense of the decision to invite the president, Notre Dame president John Jenkins said in a letter this week to graduates, “there is much to admire and celebrate in the life and work of President Obama…He is a remarkable figure in American history, and I look forward to welcoming him to Notre Dame.”
Jenkins also acknowledged that the “University and I are unequivocally committed to the sanctity of human life and to its protection from conception to natural death.”
But that hasn’t mollified his critics.
An article on the conservative Web site, LifeSiteNews.com, said Jenkins does not “criticize Obama for the extreme pro-abortion record that has led U.S. pro-life advocates to label him the most ‘pro-abortion’ president in U.S. history.”
Some graduates won’t even be making an appearance at the commencement.
“Don’t show up,” says the Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, which is holding an alternative service, which he’s calling a “Vigil for Life,” for students who don’t want to attend the ceremony. In a statement to graduates on his Web site, he urges students: “Don’t participate in an event which will only serve to obscure rather than highlight the Church’s pro-life teaching and the true spirit of Notre Dame.”
It’s tough to tell how many students will stay away. Informal polls have suggested that most Notre Dame students back Obama’s appearance, but there certainly have been vocal groups, such as NDResponse, that have spoken out against the presidential appearance.
UPDATE: Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a progressive group, today released a statement signed by close to two dozen Catholic theologians defending Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame.
“As Catholics committed to civil dialogue, we are proud that President Barack Obama will give the Commencement Address at the University of Notre Dame on May 17,” says the statement, which will run as an ad Saturday’s edition of the South Bend Tribune, the hometown paper for Notre Dame.
Some of the signers:
*Douglas Kmiec, law professor at Pepperdine University (and a former law professor at Notre Dame), who made a name for himself during the presidential campaign by endorsing Obama despite his opposition to abortion.
*Nicholas Cafardi, former dean dean of the Duquesne University School of Law and a Catholic canon lawyer, who is a member of Obama’s Catholic advisory board. The Rev. Charles Curran, an advocate of liberalizing the Catholic church’s stance on birth control, was forced from the theology faculty at Catholic University of America in the 1980s. He is now a professor of human values at Southern Methodist University.
*The Rev. Thomas Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center, who resigned several years ago as editor of the Catholic weekly magazine America under pressure from the Vatican.
*Terrence Tilly, president of the Catholic Theological Society
Their ad says that “as Catholics committed to civil dialogue, we are proud that President Barack Obama will give the Commencement Address at the University of Notre Dame on May 17…We caution those who seek to disrupt these joyous proceedings or to divide the Church for narrow political advantage that history is not on your side.”