By Kathleen Gilbert

NOTRE DAME, Indiana, April 8, 2009 ( – Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop John D’Arcy, whose diocese includes the University of Notre Dame, has broken weeks of silence since his initial statement about the school’s decision to honor President Obama.

Notre Dame touched off a firestorm of controversy after it was announced March 20 that President Obama would give the school’s commencement address and receive an honorary law degree May 17. 

D’Arcy issued a statement after the scandal broke, condemning the move and announcing his intention to boycott the university.  29 U.S. bishops have condemned the invitation so far. University president Fr. John Jenkins, however, has declared he will not back down. 

In a recent interview with a local Indiana news station, Bishop D’Arcy said he was stunned at the decision, especially since he was not informed until after it was made public. 

“This is giving a Doctorate of Laws to a person whose only experience with the laws … has been anti-life laws,” D’Arcy explained. 

D’Arcy also explained his reasons for boycotting the commencement ceremony where President Obama would be speaking. “If I’m up there on the platform, it must be OK,” he said. “It’s saying to the young people, ‘Well, it’s OK, it really doesn’t matter.”

The bishop said he feared that by inviting Obama, Notre Dame “has alienated itself from the Catholic community, from the bishops – many bishops are writing – from ordinary Catholic people.”

Regarding Fr. Jenkins’ reaction to D’Arcy’s plan to boycott the ceremony, D’Arcy said, “I don’t know if he understands my position.  I think he minds it, I think he’s troubled by it, and I don’t think he really is eager to talk about it too much.”

“If he [Obama] came for a seminar, even on this issue, or on health care or something like that, that’s what the University should be doing,” said D’Arcy.  “But to honor someone with a doctorate of laws, and the only laws he has made are laws which are against innocent life.” 

D’Arcy added that he thinks the University’s wish “to be a very significant university in the public order … must have driven the decision.”

“To be at those graduations, the mass the day before, all the young people that are there, all their parents that are there, the friends that are there, and they’re graduating from this splendid university – how beautiful is life?” said D’Arcy.  “They’ll go out to the world, they’ll fall in love, they’ll have children, they’ll have grandchildren, they’ll have a family.  No one is allowed to say who’s going to sit at the table of life – and more important, who’s not going to sit at the table of life.

“God didn’t give us that privilege.  He gave us many other privileges – that belongs to him alone.  This is so central – there’s no other right unless you have the right to life, and a Catholic University should support that one hundred percent.”

The bishop said he plans to participate in the baccalaureate Mass before the commencement ceremony.

To view the video of the interview, go to:

See related coverage:

Seven More U.S. Bishops Make 24 Against Notre Dame Scandal

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