By Kathleen Gilbert

MANASSAS, Virginia, March 24, 2009 ( – As of Tuesday night, over 103,000 signatures have poured into an online petition launched this past Friday by the Cardinal Newman Society (CNS). The petition opposes Notre Dame’s honoring President Obama with an invitation to offer the commencement address and receive an honorary law degree on May 17. 

CNS introduced the petition on a new website dedicated to the scandal,, almost immediately after the White House and Notre Dame’s website simultaneously broke the news on Friday afternoon that Obama had accepted the invitation.  Since then, the petition has gathered signatures at lightning speed, averaging 1,000 new signatures every 15 minutes. 

“People are outraged, and the alumni of Notre Dame in particular are communicating to each other,” CNS president Patrick J. Reilly said in an interview with today.  Reilly noted that he recently spoke with a Notre Dame alumnus who said he “barely slept because all day yesterday, and much of the night, he was on email and on the phone with other alumni.” 

“It’s amazing the outrage that we’re seeing,” he added.

Reilly said he did not expect such a large response.  “We see outrages all the time, and I think this for many people was the last straw,” he said.  “The president has been waging a campaign of human destruction with his policies, and abortion, and stem-cell research, and now trying to eliminate conscience protections for healthcare workers. 

“And in the meantime, Catholic institutions – in particular Catholic universities – have been very quick to abandon their Catholic mission for the sake of prestige.  And this is probably the most prominent Catholic University hosting the most prominent leader of the Culture of Death.”

Responding to Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkin’s statement that the invitation would stand, and was intended to recognize Obama’s “accomplishments and leadership,” Reilly referred to Notre Dame Bishop John D’Arcy’s condemnation of the invite, which invoked a 2004 directive by U.S. bishops not to honor pro-abortion politicians.  (To see the bishop’s full statement, go to:

“Fr. Jenkins’ bishop has made it clear that this is a violation of the bishops’ policy against honoring pro-abortion politicians,” said Reilly.

Jenkins had argued that he was following the bishops’ directive not to give pro-abortion politicians honors, “which would suggest support for their actions,” because Obama’s specific position on life issues is “not what we’re honoring.” 

“So Fr. Jenkins needs to rethink his argument,” concluded Reilly.  “And one would hope that now that the bishop has made it clear that Fr. Jenkins’ thinking is wrong, that perhaps there will be a reconsideration of this.”

Reilly, who recently met with Church officials in Rome, said he thought the scandal would “absolutely” receive attention in the Vatican, as he had been “pleasantly surprised by how well-aware” Vatican officials were of recent scandals in American Catholic universities.

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