Kenneth Woodward, who went to Notre Dame, writes:
Catholicism is not a sect that shuns the world as evil. As a body, the American hierarchy has usually been both principled and open to political engagement. The bishops have congratulated the new president on his victory and pledged to work with him on issues affecting social and economic justice. Do they now find him morally unfit to speak at a Catholic university?
Obama is not coming to Notre Dame to press a pro-choice agenda but to address issues that affect all American citizens, including Catholics. He will be speaking to students who, like other Americans, gave him a majority of their votes. He will receive an honorary degree because it is the custom, not as a blessing on any of his decisions.
American bishops should remember that it was only a few decades ago that a Catholic was considered unfit for the White House. Do they now believe that a sitting president is unfit to address a Catholic university? It’s time the bishops gave a clear and principled response.
It is precisely because Catholicism does not shun the world that it should have used its commencement address as a teachable moment. The school does not owe any given president an honorary degree and podium. The school does not owe this president the political cover that Joe Biden and Kathleen Sebelius and others have decided to lend him. The issue of life is of deepest importance and Notre Dame could have taught that lesson by withholding an invitation. That’s not shunning the world. It’s witnessing to it. (My further thoughts for a Catholic outlet here.)