By Kathleen Gilbert

NOTRE DAME, Indiana, April 9, 2009 ( – The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, a national association of 600 priests and deacons, has issued a statement urging the University of Notre Dame to rescind the invitation to President Obama to be the commencement speaker for this year’s graduation and receive an honorary law degree May 17.

The invitation has drawn criticism from Catholics across America, including 31 bishops and over a quarter million Americans who have signed a petition launched by the Cardinal Newman Society against the scandal (

The Confraternity today called upon Notre Dame to honor the late Pope John Paul II’s papal letter, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, which requires Catholic colleges and universities to conform to and defend Magisterial teaching.

“If need be, a Catholic University must have the courage to speak uncomfortable truths which do not please public opinion, but which are necessary to safeguard the authentic good of society,” the Pope wrote in the 1990 document, going on to cite the “responsibility to try to communicate to society … principles which give full meaning to human life” as “a specific priority” of Catholic schools.

“The decision … to afford an openly pro-abortion politician the privilege of speaking to graduating seniors at the commencement violates every principle of Catholic education insofar as it violates both Divine and Natural Law,” said the Confraternity. “We are therefore saddened and outraged that any Catholic institution, let alone a prestigious university like Notre Dame, would afford a public gesture of acceptance and endorsement to a politician who openly supports the so-called legal ‘right’ to ‘choose death’, i.e., the direct killing of an unborn human being.”

The Confraternity called the reasoning that the invitation would foster “dialogue” with the President on life issues “a non sequitur.” “Speaking at Commencement is not an open debate, it is a monologue,” said the clergymen. “Parents did not pay tuition for celebrities to speak at their son or daughter’s graduation, they paid it to ensure a Catholic education.”

Noting that they welcome respectful debate on life issues, the group states, “It is an oxymoron at best and an outrageous insult at worst to ask a politician, even a president, who is openly pro-abortion to be Commencement Speaker at a graduation from a Catholic school.

“President Obama is not only ideologically but also legislatively and administratively proactive in perpetuating and proliferating abortion,” affirmed the Confraternity. “Honor the office and respect the man but repudiate and denounce his policies and appointments which endorse and promote the injustice of abortion.”