By John Jalsevac

April 1, 2009 ( – Four more Catholic bishops have come out in opposition to the Catholic University of Notre Dame’s decision to invite President Obama to be this year’s commencement speaker and to receive an honorary doctorate. The latest statements bring the total number of bishops who have publicly opposed the decision to thirteen (see list at bottom).

In addition to the bishops, a petition launched by the Cardinal Newman Society in protest against the invitation has been signed by more than 225,000 individuals (To sign the petition, go to:

The four bishops who have most recently criticized the decision are Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, Reverend Edward J. Slattery of Tulsa, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Harrisburg, and Bishop R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City.

The archbishop of Newark, Archbishop Myers, released a statement earlier today saying that he was “pained” to hear of the university’s invitation to Obama.

The archbishop said, “When we extend honors to people who do not share our respect and reverence for life in all stages, and give them a prominent stage in our parishes, schools and other institutions, we unfortunately create the perception that we endorse their public positions on these issues.”

He continued, “We cannot justify such actions, and the Bishops have stated so clearly and strongly.”

Myers concluded his statement, saying, “If the president of Notre Dame University truly wishes to show that his institution is rooted in Catholic teaching and tradition and committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he must underscore this message at commencement plainly and clearly, and invite everyone to embrace an immutable and all-inclusive reverence for life.”

In a letter sent to Fr. Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, Bishop Slattery of Tulsa“plead” with the president to cancel the invitation.

“Faithful Catholics and all men and women of good will are appalled by the sin of abortion,” he wrote. “It is a cancer in our society which is eating away at all the other pro-life issues because abortion destroys human life at its very beginning and has become so common.

“For President Obama to be honored by Notre Dame is more than a disappointment, it is a scandal.”

Another statement put out by Paul CB Schenck, Director of the Office of Respect Life Activities for Harrisburg, on behalf of Bishop Rhoades, said that the bishop has written to the university to express his disapproval of the invitation.

“It is disheartening and distressing when an institution that is regarded as Catholic, such as Notre Dame, fails to follow the guidelines set forth by the Bishops of the Catholic Church, especially in these vital moral matters,” says the statement.

“It is Bishop Rhoades’ hope and prayer that all the institutions that bear the name ‘Catholic’ will affirm the Church’s teachings, expose the culture of death and build up the Culture of Life.”

In a column published in “The Catholic Globe,” the Catholic newspaper of Sioux City, Bishop Nickless said that, “This is truly a sad day for the famous university dedicated to our Blessed Mother.

“I encourage those who care to write to Father Jenkins and express their displeasure with this invitation. May Father Jenkins have the courage to rescind this invitation and not be afraid of the possible embarrassment by admitting that he has made a bad decision.”

Bishop Nickless concluded, “Catholic institutions of higher learning must always be places where the Catholic values we hold so dearly will always be supported and promoted – not where the culture of death is allowed to be honored or valued. Let us pray for those who work so hard to keep our Catholic institutions truly Catholic in all they do to promote the gospel of life.” 

The bishops who have so far publicly come out in opposition to the Notre Dame invitation are:

1) Bishop John D’Arcy – Fort Wayne-South Bend
2) Cardinal Francis George – Chicago, President, USCCB
3) Archbishop John C. Nienstedt – Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota
4) Bishop Morlino – Madison
5) Bishop Robert Lynch – St. Petersburg
6) Archbishop Timothy Dolan – New York
7) Cardinal Daniel DiNardo – Houston
8) Bishop Thomas Olmsted
9) Bishop Gregory Aymond – Austin A
10) Archbishop John J. Myers – Newark
11) Reverend Edward J. Slattery, Tulsa
12) Bishop Kevin Rhoades – Harrisburg
13)  Bishop R. Walker Nickless – Sioux City.

See related coverage:

Newly Appointed Archbishop of New York on ND Scandal: “They Made a Big Mistake”

Notre Dame’s Bishop Will Not Attend Obama-Honoring Graduation, Criticizes University’s Decision

Notre Dame Faces Groundswell of Outrage after Announcing Plan to Honor Obama

Notre Dame President: School “Honored” by Obama’s Acceptance to Speak and Receive Honorary Degree

Catholic Notre Dame University to Give Obama Honorary Degree on May 17, Against USCCB Policy