By Kathleen Gilbert

SAN FRANCISCO, California, May 15, 2009 ( – San Francisco’s Archbishop Emeritus John Quinn has published a letter to President Obama which he hopes will “offer a different voice from” what he called “the often strident outcries” of those who oppose his appearance at Notre Dame – including over 75 other U.S. bishops and over 360,000 petitioners. 

President Obama will deliver this year’s commencement speech and receive an honorary law degree at Notre Dame in two days.

In a letter to Obama, dated April 24 and appearing in the Jesuit magazine America, Archbishop Quinn says that he acknowledges “certain critical differences between us, especially on the issue of abortion.” He then continues: “But without minimizing the gravity of these issues, I want to state several things which I believe of major importance at this time.”

The archbishop emeritus says he was “personally deeply gratified” by the election of the first African American president.  “It is significant that the Vatican newspaper compared your election with the fall of the Berlin Wall and I recall that the Pope personally offered his congratulations to you,” he wrote.

Quinn goes on to praise “the fine example” Obama has given in his married life and in his “love and devotion” to his children, and Obama’s “ability to listen to and weigh views different from” his own. 

Quinn concludes: “Mr. President, I address this letter to you not to deal with matters of policy or legislation, but simply to wish you great blessings and to assure you of my prayer that your service as President will bring lasting benefits to all Americans who, with you, cherish the ideal of ‘liberty and justice for all.’”

In a column for the March 30 edition of America, Quinn had criticized the uproar of Catholic leaders and laity against the Obama honor, saying that it risked “public embarrassment” for the President.

“If the president is forced to withdraw, will that bring about fewer abortions in the United States?” the archbishop mused.  “We must weigh very seriously the consequences if the American bishops are seen as the agents of the public embarrassment of the newly elected president by forcing him to withdraw from an appearance at a distinguished Catholic university.”

Archbishop Emeritus Quinn is the only Catholic prelate known to have publicly voiced disagreement with the pro-life protest against Obama’s honor at Notre Dame.

Recently the leaked text of the honorary degree that will be awarded to Obama on Sunday was published by pro-life activist Randall Terry.

The degree states:

“At the 164th Commencement The May Exercises The University of Notre Dame Confers the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, on the 44th president of the United States, whose historic election opened a new era of hope in a country long divided by its history of slavery and racism.

“A community organizer who honed his advocacy for the poor, the marginalized and the worker in the streets of Chicago, he now organizes a larger community, bringing to the world stage a renewed American dedication to diplomacy and dialogue with all nations and religions committed to human rights and the global common good.

“Through his willingness to engage with those who disagree with him and encourage people of faith to bring their beliefs to the public debate, he is inspiring this nation to heal its divisions of religion, culture, race and politics in the audacious hope for a brighter tomorrow.”

To see the list of bishops who have been confirmed as opposing the Notre Dame scandal:

See related coverage:

Counterstrike: Archbishop Emeritus, Jesuit Clergy Criticize Pro-Life Protests of ND’s Obama Honor

White House Downplays Catholic Opposition to ND Honor, Claims Only “One Group” Boycotting

76: Bishop Emeritus to ND: “The Solution Most Pleasing to the Lord: Disinvite Obama”