By Kathleen Gilbert

SOUTH BEND, Indiana, May 15, 2009 ( – In the final days before the University of Notre Dame honors President Obama at its commencement ceremony Sunday, three more bishops have issued strong condemnations of the decision, bringing the number to 79 U.S. bishops disapproving of the scandal. (To see the list of bishops who have been confirmed as opposing the Notre Dame scandal:

President Obama will be receiving an honorary degree and delivering the commencement address on Sunday, a decision that has sparked unprecedented backlash from the American Catholic community. Notre Dame’s campus has been abuzz with the controversy in recent weeks. Pro-life protesters opposed to Obama’s appearance continue to display graphic signs around the campus and face arrest by protesting on campus grounds.

A prayerful protest on Notre Dame’s South Quad will be held at the same time as the 2 p.m. commencement, and pro-lifers from across the country are expected to attend. Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life will lead graduating seniors boycotting the ceremony in prayer (see:

“The Golden Dome of Notre Dame, the long revered symbol of a Catholic university, will be disgraced and dishonored on this coming May 17th, the commencement day of the university,” said Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pennsylvania in a statement dated May 12.

Trautman quoted Mary Ann Glendon, the former ambassador to the Vatican who turned down Notre Dame’s Laetare Award this year in protest over Obama’s presence. Glendon had called President Obama “an uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.”

“May 17th will mark not just a bad decision by university officials, it will mark a day of shame and blemish for the Catholic record and reputation of Notre Dame University,” continued the bishop.

“Its relationship to the Catholic hierarchy and to the fundamental principles of the Church has been fractured and will take new leadership to rebuild. … What should be a day of joyous celebration for graduates and their families will be a day of shame and dilemma as the university leadership moves away from its rich Catholic tradition.

“Now must begin the work of bringing new luster to the Golden Dome. Now is the time for recommitment to being once again a great Catholic university,” Trautman concluded.

(To view Bishop Trautman’s full statement: )

Last year, Bishop Trautman boycotted a graduation ceremony within his own diocese, at Mercyhurst College, over their speaking invitation to then-Senator Hillary Clinton. A day after the arrangement was announced, Trautman issued a statement expressing his disappointment in the Catholic college “for not reflecting the pro-life stance of the Catholic Church regarding abortion.”

St. Louis Archbishop-elect Robert Carlson, currently the bishop of Saginaw in Michigan, spoke against the scandal in an interview this week with the St. Louis Dispatch.

“Notre Dame has to figure out who they are – are they of the culture, or are they of the church?” Carlson said.

Carlson referred to hard-hitting statements on the issue made by Archbishop Raymond Burke, the head of Rome’s Apostolic Signatura and Archbishop Emeritus of St. Louis, at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast last week. Burke called Notre Dame’s honoring of Obama “a source of the gravest scandal.” (To see Abp. Burke’s full address:

“As the head of the Apostolic Signatura, (Burke’s) words carry great weight,” Carlson noted. “And that’s something that if I were at Notre Dame I’d pay very close attention to.”

“I would say the university really has to sit down – its board, its administration – and reflect on what its role is, and what they’re going to be,” he said.

Today’s edition of the Colorado Catholic Herald published Bishop Michael Sheridan‘s letter to University of Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkins, as part of the bishop’s regular column. (To read Bishop Sheridan’s column and letter in full:

“I join my voice to those of many of my brother bishops and those of hundreds of thousands of lay faithful to ask that you rescind your invitation to President Obama to speak at the Notre Dame commencement and receive an honorary degree,” said Bishop Sheridan in the letter.

“I have read your apologia in defense of your action,” the bishop continued. “It is not convincing. Your attempt to justify your invitation by appealing to the title of the 2004 publication of the USCCB is little more than an exercise in legalism.”

Criticizing the school’s failure to stand “unambiguously and always on the side of life,” Sheridan noted, “your invitation to the president speaks far more loudly than your disclaimer that you disagree with him on the life issues.”

The bishop urged Fr. Jenkins to rescind the invitation: “Even though you have made it very clear that you will not withdraw your invitation to the president, my conscience demands that I express my profound disappointment.”

To see the list of bishops who have been confirmed as opposing the Notre Dame scandal:

See related coverage:

FULL TEXT: Archbishop Burke’s Keynote Address from Friday’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast

Dr. Alan Keyes Arrested With 21 Pro-Life Protesters on Notre Dame Campus