By Kathleen Gilbert
NOTRE DAME, Indiana, March 31, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, has said that the University of Notre Dame’s decision to host and honor President Obama at their commencement ceremony this year was an "extreme embarrassment" to Catholics.
"Whatever else is clear, it is clear that Notre Dame didn’t understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation," George told the crowd at a conference Saturday on the Vatican document Dignitatis Personae. The conference was hosted by the Chicago archdiocese’s Respect Life office and Office for Evangelization at the Marriott O’Hare hotel.
In a video obtained by LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) today, Cardinal George prefaced his remarks by noting that although he is the president of the USCCB, he does not have jurisdiction or authority over other bishops. His role, he indicated, nonetheless has "some moral authority, without any kind of jurisdiction or any sort of real authority." (Download the brief video to view in Windows Media format - http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/video/CardinalGeorge.wmv - or QuickTime format - http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/video/CardinalGeorge.mov - allow time for the download to complete.)
"As president of the U.S. bishops’ conference I have to precisely speak for the bishops and not in my own name, as I could as Archbishop of Chicago," he added.
George said he had spoken with the administrative committee of the bishops’ conference and corresponded with University president Fr. John Jenkins several times on the issue.
"That conversation will continue .... whether or not it will have some kind of consequence that will bring, I think, the University of Notre Dame to its [the USCCB’s] understanding of what it means to be Catholic," said the Cardinal. "That is, when you’re Catholic, everything you do changes the life of everybody else who calls himself a personal Catholic - it’s a network of relationships.
"So quite apart from the president’s own positions, which are well known, the problem is in that you have a Catholic university - the flagship Catholic university - do something that brought extreme embarrassment to many, many people who are Catholic," said the cardinal.
"So whatever else is clear, it is clear that Notre Dame didn’t understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation, and didn’t anticipate the kind of uproar that would be consequent to the decision, at least not to the extent that it has happened," said George.
The Cardinal urged concerned Catholics "to do what you are supposed to be doing: to call, to email, to write letters, to express what’s in your heart about this: the embarrassment, the difficulties."
However, Cardinal George emphasized that the U.S. presidency "is an office that deserves some respect, no matter who is holding it," and said that Notre Dame would not disinvite the president, since "you just don’t do that (disinvite the president of the United States)." According to the cardinal requests to revoke the invitation would fall on deaf ears, but he also observed that there is legitimate potential to organize some form of protest at the ceremony.
"You have to sit back and get past the immediate moral outrage and say, ‘Now what’s the best thing to do in these circumstances?’" said the Cardinal.
"I can assure you the bishops are doing that."
Cardinal George is the ninth U.S. bishop to speak out against the scandal.
To sign the Cardinal Newman Society’s petition protesting the Notre Dame scandal: http://www.notredamescandal.com
For a list of contact information regarding the Notre Dame scandal, go to: http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/mar/09032706.html
See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Newly Appointed Archbishop of New York on ND Scandal: "They Made a Big Mistake"
Houston Cardinal Becomes Highest Ranking Official, 4th Bishop to Condemn Notre Dame Scandal
Notre Dame’s Bishop Will Not Attend Obama-Honoring Graduation, Criticizes University’s Decision
Notre Dame Faces Groundswell of Outrage after Announcing Plan to Honor Obama
Notre Dame President: School "Honored" by Obama’s Acceptance to Speak and Receive Honorary Degree
Catholic Notre Dame University to Give Obama Honorary Degree on May 17, Against USCCB Policy