By Kathleen Gilbert

NOTRE DAME, Indiana, March 24, 2009 ( – The bishop of the diocese where the University of Notre Dame is located, Bishop John D’Arcy, released a statement this afternoon strongly criticizing the university’s decision to invite President Obama to offer this year’s commencement address and receive an honorary law degree on May 17. The bishop said that he would boycott the event.

This past Friday afternoon it was announced that President Obama had accepted the invitation put forward by the university. The announcement sparked a strong backlash from Catholics and Notre Dame alumni, who say that Obama’s liberal policies on abortion, embryonic stem cell research and other social issues should preclude him from being honored at the prestigious Catholic university. As of Tuesday afternoon, a petition launched by the Cardinal Newman Society protesting against the president’s appearance had been signed by over 75,000 people.

Bishop John D'ArcyBishop D’Arcy wrote that his decision to boycott the event is “not an attack on anyone, but is in defense of the truth about human life.”

“President Obama has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred,” said the bishop, apparently referencing the president’s recent decision to allow federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. “While claiming to separate politics from science, he has in fact separated science from ethics and has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life.”

“Even as I continue to ponder in prayer these events, which many have found shocking, so must Notre Dame,” wrote the bishop. “Indeed, as a Catholic University, Notre Dame must ask itself, if by this decision it has chosen prestige over truth.”

D’Arcy also explained that while he has “always revered the Office of the Presidency,” and means no disrespect to the president, “a bishop must teach the Catholic faith ‘in season and out of season,’ and he teaches not only by his words — but by his actions.”

Reflecting on a U.S. bishops’ statement that stipulates that Catholic institutions should not honor pro-abortion politicians, Bishop D’Arcy wrote: “Indeed, the measure of any Catholic institution is not only what it stands for, but also what it will not stand for.”

The bishop said that he was not informed about the invitation until shortly before the White House announcement confirming Obama’s acceptance Friday afternoon.

The bishop ended by invoking “Our Lady to intercede for the university named in her honor, that it may recommit itself to the primacy of truth over prestige.”

University president Fr. John Jenkins stated over the weekend that despite the protest he would not reconsider the invitation.

To view the bishop’s full statement, go to:

To contact Notre Dame:
Phone: (574) 631-5000
email form:

Notre Dame Fellows:
The Fellows are the “successors and associates in office” of the original founders of the University

Rev. E. William Beauchamp, C.S.C., President, U. of Portland
(503) 943-7101

Patrick F. McCartan, Senior partner, Jones Day
(216) 586-7272
Email: [email protected]

William M. Goodyear, CEO, Navigant Consulting
main: (312) 583-5700

list of all Notre Dame Fellows:

To contact the Notre Dame Alumni Association Board Members

To contact the USCCB:

Cardinal Francis George, President
Archdiocese of Chicago
phone: 312-751- 8200
email: [email protected]

Most Rev. Robert J. McManus, Chairman, Committee on Education
Diocese of Worcester
phone: 508-791-7171
committee email: [email protected]

To contact Notre Dame’s bishop:
Bishop John D’Arcy, Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese
Fort Wayne Chancery
phone: (260) 422-4611

See related coverage:

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