By Kathleen Gilbert

April 14, 2009 ( – Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville, Ten. and Bishop Gerald Barbarito of Palm Beach, Fl. have joined the ranks of U.S. bishops publicly opposing the University of Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama to speak and receive an honorary law degree at its May 17 commencement.

In his column in last week’s East Tennessee Catholic, Bishop Stika said, “As a Catholic, I am embarrassed by this gesture of the University of Notre Dame.

“It is fine to honor an individual because of his accomplishments, but can one seriously believe that it is in keeping with the teachings of Jesus to honor someone who is so powerful and influential that innocent and pure human life is in danger of death?”

“The president’s approach to abortion rights, embryonic-stem-cell research, and other issues is not in keeping with the teachings of our Catholic faith,” he continued. “It seems that the University of Notre Dame has abandoned its Catholic identity in this matter.

“I feel that it is embarrassing and shameful.”

Bishop Gerald Barbarito of Palm Beach, FL, published an April 3 letter he wrote to University president Fr. John Jenkins.

“I wish personally to express my disappointment in solidarity with the other expressions of disappointment you have received,” Barbarito wrote.

While previous University decisions “have tarnished the clarity of the University’s Catholic identity,” said Barbarito, “the present one gives rise to grave concern as to what message the University is giving to the Catholics of our nation when it honors a public figure who, regardless of his office as President and the good work he wishes to accomplish, stands so strongly against and has already acted contrary to the Church’s moral teaching on the right to life of the unborn.

“If Notre Dame does not alter its present course, it will be difficult for me to offer support for the University on any level,” he said.

In closing, the bishop wrote: “I fully realize the difficult decisions which you must make as the administrator of the University in this day and age. However, the invitation to President Obama was not necessary and extremely disappointing.”

33 U.S. bishops and over a quarter million signers of an online petition by the Cardinal Newman Society ( have condemned the scandal.

The bishops who have so far publicly criticized 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. Archbishop Daniel Buechlein – Indianapolis, IN
6. Bishop Robert Baker – Birmingham, AL
7. Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz – Lincoln, NE
8. Archbishop Eusebius Beltran – Oklahoma City, OK
9. Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Cant̼ РSan Antonio, TX
10. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo – Houston, TX
11. Archbishop Timothy Dolan – New York, NY
12. Bishop Thomas Doran – Rockford, IL
13. Auxiliary Bishop John Dougherty – Scranton, PA
14. Cardinal Francis George – Chicago, IL; President, USCCB
15. Archbishop Jos̩ Gomez РSan Antonio, TX
16. Bishop William Higi – Lafayette, IN
17. Archbishop Alfred Hughs – New Orleans, LA
18. Bishop Jerome Listecki – La Crosse, WI
19. Bishop William E. Lori – Bridgeport, CT
20. Bishop Robert Lynch – St. Petersburg, FL
21. Bishop Joseph Martino – Scranton, PA
22. Bishop Charles Morlino – Madison, WI
23. Bishop George Murry – Youngstown, OH
24. Archbishop John J. Myers – Newark, NJ
25. Bishop R. Walker Nickless – Sioux City, IA
26. Archbishop John C. Nienstedt – MN
27. Archbishop Edwin O’Brien – Baltimore, MD
28. Bishop Thomas Olmsted – Phoenix, AZ
29. Bishop Kevin Rhoades – Harrisburg
30. Bishop Alexander Sample – Marquette, MI
31. Bishop Edward J. Slattery – Tulsa, OK
32. Bishop Richard Stika – Knoxville, TN
33. Bishop Anthony Taylor – Little Rock, AR

See related coverage:

Notre Dame Bishop Urges Pro-Lifers: Keep Protests Respectful

Canon Lawyer: Notre Dame Prez Reasoning “Too Bizarre for Words”

Bishops Bruskewitz, Aquila Issue Stinging Condemnations to “Formerly Catholic” Notre Dame

Notre Dame’s Bishop on Obama’s Pro-Abortion Views: “No One Is Allowed to Say Who Sits at Table of Life”