By Kathleen Gilbert

SOUTH BEND, Indiana, March 4, 2009 ( – A total of 62 bishops have publicly condemned the Notre Dame scandal, with three more bishops expressing solidarity with Notre Dame’s Bishop John D’Arcy and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) policy against honoring pro-abortion politicians. The University of Notre Dame has invited President Obama to give the commencement address and receive an honorary law degree May 17.

Bishop Reymundo Pena of Brownsville, TX has published an April 24 letter addressed to both President Obama and University President Fr. John Jenkins condemning the scandal. (

Citing USCCB policy, Pena told Fr. Jenkins: “The prestige that the president will lend to your commencement is not sufficient reason to disregard these principles. There are numerous prominent public figures distinguished for their moral rectitude and record of public service from which you could have drawn.”

Bishop Pena pointed to the dozens of bishops and over 350,000 petitioning Catholics who have expressed outrage at the invitation.

“Surely their collective voice has made it clear that they consider your action to be scandalously inconsistent with Notre Dame’s symbolic mission to showcase how Catholic faith can positively influence modern life and culture,” the bishop wrote. “Why have you refused to meet with twelve university student groups, who have asked to talk with you about your choice?

“I join my voice to this growing chorus of protesters, and I encourage Valley Catholics to express what is in their hearts to you, Father Jenkins.”

In the portion addressed to President Obama, the bishop lauded the president’s personal accomplishments, but acknowledged the “deep divide between you and the majority of Americans on the paramount moral issue of our time: the right to life vs. the claimed right to abortion.”

“Mr. President, less than 18 months ago, Pope Benedict XVI canceled a speaking engagement at La Sapienza University in Rome, simply because some of the students reacted negatively to the announcement of his coming,” wrote Bishop Pena. “Rather than risk throwing the university into turmoil, the pope humbly withdrew.

“I respectfully ask you to consider freely withdrawing your commitment to speak at Notre Dame University, for the same reason.”

In response to requests for comment on the scandal, Bishop Edward Cullen of Allentown, PA, issued a statement in the April 30 edition of the diocesan newspaper, the AD Times.

Bishop Cullen called the Notre Dame decision “disappointing” and “not in harmony” with the 2004 USCCB directive against honoring pro-abortion politicians. The bishop made note of an administrative letter to Notre Dame trustees, published by, in which Fr. Jenkins said the USCCB injunction as not applicable because President Obama is not Catholic.

The Allentown bishop pointed out Bishop D’Arcy’s correction of Fr. Jenkin’s interpretation, and voiced agreement with Bishop D’Arcy’s statement: “When there is a doubt about the meaning of a document of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, where does one find an authentic interpretation? A fundamental, canonical and theological principle states that it is found in the local bishop, who is the teacher and law-giver in his diocese.”

“I stand in solidarity with my brother bishop and share the sentiments that he expressed in his letter,” wrote Bishop Cullen. “As does he, I regret that this situation has taken place and call on the leadership at Notre Dame to face the issue squarely.”

Bishop Robert Hermann of St. Louis, MO stated in the St. Louis Review that “Father Jenkins has no excuse for not standing up for a strong Catholic identity at Notre Dame.”

The bishop encouraged Notre Dame alumni to “organize the alumni in such a way that funding and students would be withheld until there is a change of direction on the Board of Directors.”

“I am quite confident that if there is a change of direction on the part of the board, Father Jenkins will quickly change or leave,” wrote the bishop.

Bishop Hermann noted that “there is no better time” for withdrawing donations than during the current weak economy. “I would appeal especially to major donors who love the university enough to withhold donations until there are substantial changes in leadership,” he added.

(Bp. Hermann’s full column: (subscription required)

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 Cant̼ РSan Antonio, TX
11. Archbishop Charles Chaput – Denver, CO
12. Bishop Paul Coakley – Salina, KS
13. Bishop Edward Cullen – Allentown, PA
14. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo – Houston, TX
15. Archbishop Timothy Dolan – New York, NY
16. Bishop Thomas Doran – Rockford, IL
17. Auxiliary Bishop John Dougherty – Scranton, PA
18. Bishop Robert Finn – Kansas City-St. Joseph, MO
19. Bishop Joseph Galante – Camden, NJ
20. Bishop Victor Galeone – St. Augustine, FL
21. Cardinal Francis George – Chicago, IL; President, USCCB
22. Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger – Evansville, IN
23. Archbishop Jos̩ Gomez РSan Antonio, TX
24. Bishop Bernard Harrington – Winona, MN
25. Bishop Robert Hermann – St. Louis, MO
26. Bishop William Higi – Lafayette, IN
27. Archbishop Alfred Hughes – New Orleans, LA
28. Bishop Michael O. Jackels – Wichita, KS
29. Bishop James V. Johnston – Springfield-Cape Girardeau, MO
30. Bishop Peter Jugis – Charlotte, NC
31. Bishop Joseph Latino – Jackson, MS
32. Bishop John LeVoir – New Ulm, MN
33. Bishop Jerome Listecki – La Crosse, WI
34. Bishop William E. Lori – Bridgeport, CT
35. Bishop Paul Loverde – Arlington, VA
36. Bishop George Lucas – Springfield, IL
37. Bishop Robert Lynch – St. Petersburg, FL
38. Bishop Joseph Martino – Scranton, PA
39. Bishop John McCormack – Manchester, NH
40. Bishop Robert Morlino – Madison, WI
41. Bishop William Murphy – Rockville Centre, NY
42. Bishop George Murry – Youngstown, OH
43. Archbishop John J. Myers – Newark, NJ
44. Archbishop Joseph Naumann – Kansas City, KS
45. Bishop R. Walker Nickless – Sioux City, IA
46. Archbishop John C. Nienstedt – St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN
47. Archbishop Edwin O’Brien – Baltimore, MD
48. Bishop Thomas Olmsted – Phoenix, AZ
49. Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk – Cincinnati, OH
50. Bishop Reymundo Pena – Brownsville, TX
51. Bishop Glen Provost – Lake Charles, LA
52. Cardinal Justin Rigali – Philadelphia, PA; Chairman, USCCB Pro-Life Committee
53. Bishop Kevin Rhoades – Harrisburg, PA
54. Bishop Alexander Sample – Marquette, MI
55. Bishop Edward J. Slattery – Tulsa, OK
56. Bishop Richard Stika – Knoxville, TN
57. Bishop Anthony Taylor – Little Rock, AR
58. Bishop Robert Vasa – Baker, OR
59. Bishop Michael Warfel – Great Falls-Billings, MT
60. Bishop Thomas Wenski – Orlando, FL
61. Archbishop Donald Wuerl – Washington, D.C.
62. Bishop David Zubick – Pittsburgh, PA

See related coverage:

59: Two More Bishops Condemn Notre Dame “Embarrassment”