By John Jalsevac

April 3, 2009 ( – The two bishops from Scranton, Pennsylvania have made public a letter that they have sent to the president of the Catholic University of Notre Dame, Fr. John Jenkins, in which they protest Jenkin’s decision to invite President Obama to be this year’s commencement speaker and to receive an honorary law degree.

The letter is signed by Joseph Martino, Bishop of Scranton, and John Dougherty, Auxiliary Bishop of Scranton.

The bishops write that “the numerous, repeated and extensive anti-life positions taken by President Obama merit his recognition as an unequalled, prominent proponent of the culture of death in our nation.”

They call the decision to honor the president at Notre Dame, “truly shameful, a scandal to the Church and a major blow to hundreds of thousands who have sacrificed to bring forth a culture of life in our midst.” (To read the complete letter see:,2009.asp)

They continue, “As a Diocesan Bishop and his Auxiliary we cannot overstress our disapproval of these actions by the University.”

The bishops also dismiss Fr. Jenkin’s argument that by bestowing an honorary law degree on Obama and having him as commencement speaker, the university is not condoning or endorsing his views on the life issues. This argument, they say, is “no more than a blatant rejection of United States Bishops’ assessment of what Catholic institutions do when they so act.”

They conclude, “We are convinced that Notre Dame will one day very much regret rebuffing not only her own Bishop D’Arcy but also the USCCB’s efforts to fulfill their responsibilities in her regard.

“Praying this conviction will prove untrue and that Notre Dame will immediately and resoundingly proclaim her Catholic identity in word and act.”

Martino and Dougherty are the 16th and 17th U.S. bishops to publicly state their opposition to the invitation and the scandal that it has caused. In addition, over 235,000 individuals have signed a petition launched by the Cardinal Newman Society (CNS), protesting the scandal. On the Scranton website, where the bishops’ letter is published, concerned Catholics are encouraged to sign the CNS petition (Go to:

The bishops who have so far gone public with their disapproval of Notre Dame’s invitation of Obama (in alphabetical order) are:
1) Bishop John D’Arcy – Fort Wayne-South Bend
2) Bishop Gregory Aymond – Austin A
3) Archbishop Eusebius Beltran – Oklahoma City
4) Cardinal Daniel DiNardo – Houston
5) Archbishop Timothy Dolan – New York
6) Bishop Thomas Doran – Rockford
7) Auxiliary Bishop John Dougherty – Scranton
8) Cardinal Francis George – Chicago, President, USCCB
9) Bishop Robert Lynch – St. Petersburg
10) Bishop Joseph Martino – Scranton
11) Bishop Charles Morlino – Madison
12) Archbishop John J. Myers – Newark
13) Bishop R. Walker Nickless – Sioux City.
14) Archbishop John C. Nienstedt – Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota
15) Bishop Thomas Olmsted – Phoneix
16) Bishop Kevin Rhoades – Harrisburg
17) Bishop Edward J. Slattery – Tulsa

See related coverage:

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