By Kathleen Gilbert
NOTRE DAME, Indiana, April 20, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Nine more bishops have publicly acknowledged their disapproval of the University of Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama to speak and receive an honorary law degree at the school’s commencement exercises May 17.
Bishop Paul Coakley of the diocese of Salina, KS, told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) today that he has written a personal letter to Father Jenkins expressing his "deep disappointment" at the invitation.
Citing his grave concern over the President’s support for anti-life policies, Bishop Coakley told LSN that he reminded University president Fr. John Jenkins of the USCCB directive that forbids Catholic schools from honoring those whose positions contradict the teachings of the Church.
"The University’s invitation undermines the Catholic identity and mission of the institution," said Coakley.
When LSN requested comment on the Obama invitation from Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker, OR, the bishop responded simply: "This is just one more sign of the failure of Catholic Institutions to stand up for and support a higher ethical standard."
The Orlando Diocese, where Thomas G. Wenski is bishop, has announced a Mass of reparation for "the many shortcomings and transgressions committed against the dignity and sacredness of human life in our world," specifically for Notre Dame’s decision to honor pro-abortion President Obama at commencement. The Mass is taking place at the Cathedral of St. James on May 3, 2009.
In a column on the Orlando Diocese website, Bishop Wenski writes, "Notre-Dame (at least in its Administration and Board) has forgotten what it means to be Catholic."
"Last year, in Washington, D.C., Pope Benedict XVI addressed Catholic educators, including university presidents," wrote the bishop. "He said ‘to justify positions that contradict the faith and teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university’s identity and mission.’
"Father Jenkins, Notre-Dame’s president, must have nodded off during the Pope’s speech," he concluded.
Archdiocese of Cincinnati spokesman Dan Andriacco has confirmed to CNS that Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk"supports the strong comments of Bishop D’Arcy of South Bend, in whose diocese Notre Dame is located." Archbishop D’Arcy, who is boycotting Notre Dame’s commencement, has said that Notre Dame must ask itself whether by this decision it has chosen prestige over truth.
Mr. Andriacco also said the archbishop stands by the editorial ‘Prestige over Truth’, appearing in The Catholic Telegraph, on April 3, which is critical of Notre Dame’s decision to honor Obama.
On Saturday, Bishop Robert Finn of the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., addressed the scandal in the course of his keynote address for the 2009 Gospel of Life Convention at St. Thomas Aquinas High School.
"It doesn’t take another Bishops’ Conference statement to know this is wrong: scandalous, discouraging and confusing to many Catholics," said Finn of the Obama invitation. "God knows what all motivates such a decision.
"I suspect that, since Notre Dame will need a scapegoat for this debacle, and Fr. Jenkins will probably lose his job, at this point perhaps he ought to determine to lose it for doing something right instead of something wrong."
Finn suggested that Jenkins disinvite the President, and instead give the honorary degree to Notre Dame’s Bishop John D’Arcy, "who has supported and tried to guide the University, despite their too frequent waywardness, faithfully for 25 years."
In a column in the April 17 issue of the Catholic Times, Bishop George Lucas of Springfield, Ill., said that he was prompted to address the scandal after individuals expressed to him their disturbance at the invitation. "I am disturbed, too, at this decision by Notre Dame to sow confusion where there is clarity in Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life and the evil of abortion," wrote the bishop.
"For some this may be one political issue among many," the bishop continued. "For Catholics it is a matter of worshiping God by the proclamation of the truth. Many students and faculty at Notre Dame know this. The university’s administration thinks it knows better.
"It is hard to imagine the university honoring someone, no matter his office, who had consistently spoken against the value of football," wrote Bishop Lucas. "We are not being unreasonable when we expect the value of human life to be a central focus of a Catholic university."
Bishop Leonard Blair recently stated on Toledo’s diocesan website that, while dialogue with politicians on the protection of innocent life remains a "priority at every level" for the Catholic Church, the University’s decision to honor Obama was not justified.
Paraphrasing the U.S. Bishops Conference 2004 directive, Blair said: "It is not appropriate for Catholic institutions to give awards, honors or platforms to those who promote an abortion agenda. Doing so suggests that Catholics are not really serious about what the Church teaches regarding grave and immoral offenses against the life of the unborn."
Blair called for Catholics to respect the office of the President, and pray for Mr. Obama’s conversion, but added: "An invitation to speak and an honorary doctorate from a Catholic University go beyond the bounds of respect, and can only be a source of dismay."
On Friday, Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger of the Evansville, Ind. diocese said that President Obama "has pandered himself to the pro-choice movement," and thus by inviting him Notre Dame and its president "are by affinity also pandering to the pro-choice movement." The bishop agreed with Bishop D’Arcy, who criticized the school for apparently having "chosen prestige over truth."
The Evansville bishop called it ironic that Obama would be given an honorary law degree, as he said, "Clearly that degree will not include the moral law."
"If so, then the honor is shallow - indeed empty - as God is the source from which all law is derived," he continued.
"God is truth. God is the author and guardian of all human life. God does not allow for selective obedience. Do Father Jenkins and the Board of Trustees by their decision see any disconnect of themselves from the Infinite Truth?"
In a preview of his letter to Fr. Jenkins given to the Daily Journal, Bishop Joseph Latino of Jackson, Miss., wrote that he feels the university has sacrificed the church’s teaching concerning the sacredness of life for the distinction of having the nation’s first African-American president speak at its commencement.
The Notre Dame alumni watchdog group Project Sycamore is circulating a petition against the invitation which states in part: "The ineradicable facts that will stamp this occasion are the University’s decision to inscribe in the University roll of honorees the name of the most pro-abortion President in the nation’s history and its choice of him as the person to speak to the 2009 graduates about the values they should hold dear." (http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/oppose_obama/) (For more information on Project Sycamore, go to: http://www.sycamoretrust.org./)
Another petition, circulated by the Cardinal Newman Society, has been signed by over 320,000 individuals. (See: www.notredamescandal.com)
The bishops who have so far expressed disapproval of Notre Dame’s invitation to Obama (in alphabetical order) are:
1. Bishop John D’Arcy - Fort Wayne-South Bend, IN
2. Bishop Samuel Aquila - Fargo, ND
3. Bishop Gregory Aymond - Austin, TX
4. Bishop Gerald Barbarito - Palm Beach, FL
5. Bishop Leonard Blair - Toledo, OH
6. Archbishop Daniel Buechlein - Indianapolis, IN
7. Bishop Robert Baker - Birmingham, AL
8. Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz - Lincoln, NE
9. Archbishop Eusebius Beltran - Oklahoma City, OK
10. Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Cantú - San Antonio, TX
11. Bishop Paul Coakley - Salina, KS
12. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo - Houston, TX
13. Archbishop Timothy Dolan - New York, NY
14. Bishop Thomas Doran - Rockford, IL
15. Auxiliary Bishop John Dougherty - Scranton, PA
16. Bishop Robert Finn - Kansas City-St. Joseph, MO
17. Cardinal Francis George - Chicago, IL; President, USCCB
18. Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger - Evansville, IN
19. Archbishop José Gomez - San Antonio, TX
20. Bishop William Higi - Lafayette, IN
21. Archbishop Alfred Hughs - New Orleans, LA
22. Bishop Joseph Latino - Jackson, MS
23. Bishop Jerome Listecki - La Crosse, WI
24. Bishop William E. Lori - Bridgeport, CT
25. Bishop George Lucas - Springfield, IL
26. Bishop Robert Lynch - St. Petersburg, FL
27. Bishop Joseph Martino - Scranton, PA
28. Bishop Charles Morlino - Madison, WI
29. Bishop George Murry - Youngstown, OH
30. Archbishop John J. Myers - Newark, NJ
31. Bishop R. Walker Nickless - Sioux City, IA
32. Archbishop John C. Nienstedt - St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN
33. Archbishop Edwin O’Brien - Baltimore, MD
34. Bishop Thomas Olmsted - Phoenix, AZ
35. Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk - Cincinnati, OH
36. Bishop Kevin Rhoades - Harrisburg, PA
37. Bishop Alexander Sample - Marquette, MI
38. Bishop Edward J. Slattery - Tulsa, OK
39. Bishop Richard Stika - Knoxville, TN
40. Bishop Anthony Taylor - Little Rock, AR
41. Bishop Robert Vasa - Baker, OR
42. Bishop Thomas Wenski - Orlando, FL