By Kathleen Gilbert

SOUTH BEND, Indiana, May 5, 2009 ( – Four more U.S. bishops have come out against the decision by the University of Notre Dame to honor President Obama with the commencement address and an honorary law degree at the school’s graduation May 17.

Philadelphia’s Archbishop Emeritus, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, released to the Catholic professional group Legatus his letter to University president Fr. Jenkins expressing “great distress” at the invitation and calling for its retraction. (

“While one may understand an invitation to President Obama to engage him in conversation on creating a culture of life, it is not appropriate for him to speak at the commencement exercises of a Catholic university, nor should he receive an honorary degree,” wrote Bevilacqua.  “Such actions cause confusion among faithful Catholics and send a mixed message regarding the clear Magisterium of the Catholic Church on life issues.

“It is my hope and prayer that the University of Notre Dame will rescind the invitation to President Obama to speak at the commencement and withhold the conferral of an honorary degree to him or to anyone who so blatantly disregards the basic moral principles upon which the United States of America was founded,” he wrote.  Cardinal Bevilacqua added that he would keep “a special remembrance in my thoughts and prayers” for Fr. Jenkins and Notre Dame.

In a statement yesterday, Bishop Lawrence Brandt of the Greensburg, PA diocese wrote that he learned “with shock and deep distress” of Notre Dame’s honoring of “one of the most pro-abortion politicians ever to appear on the American political stage.” (

“Although the University claims to be opposed to abortion, this issue is apparently not deemed important enough to preclude Mr. Obama’s receiving honors at the Notre Dame Commencement,” said Bishop Brandt.  “There is a serious dichotomy between what the University says it believes and what it does.”

Bishop Brandt also declared his solidarity with Notre Dame’s Bishop John D’Arcy, who has condemned the Obama honor and announced he would boycott the ceremony.

“The attempts to justify this invitation represent for so many a pathetic trivialization of Notre Dame’s Catholic identity,” Brandt continued.

“The toxic residue from this scandal will be the perception that Notre Dame has made dissent in the Catholic Church respectable.  This cannot be looked upon as a paradigm to be followed by others.

“For the sake of those yet to be educated at Notre Dame, for the good of the Church which Father Jenkins, as a religious priest, is vowed to serve, I urge him to do what is honorable by acknowledging the crisis and having the courage to cease and desist from pursuing the deconstruction and division he has embarked upon,” Bishop Brandt concluded.

Another letter to Fr. Jenkins was issued by Bishop George Thomas of Helena, Montana, on May 1.  In it, Bishop Thomas said he felt the decision was “misguided and damaging both to the University and to the Catholic Church at large.”  (

“The honorary doctorate should be reserved for persons whose lives and accomplishments reflect those exemplary qualities and values we wish to cultivate in the lives of our students,” wrote Bishop Thomas.  “Sadly, President Barack Obama’s consistent assault upon the civil rights of the unborn reflects the very antithesis of our Catholic social and moral teaching on the sacredness of life from conception until natural death.”

The Helena bishop joined the majority of opposing bishops who pointed out that the invitation violated USCCB policy, and said he was “particularly disappointed” in Fr. Jenkins’ leadership. 

“By allowing the University to confer this degree, you have failed to exercise your prophetic voice and teach the American people that the only change we can count on is ‘founded on truth, built upon justice, and animated by love’ – love for the least, the last, and the lowliest in our midst,” he wrote.

According to an article in The Compass, the newspaper for the diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin, Bishop David Ricken has also spoken out against the scandal and said the Obama honor violates USCCB policy.  (

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

See related coverage:

62: Three More Bishops Against Notre Dame Scandal, Obama Urged to Decline Invitation