Sunday, May 24, 2009

Barack Obama Speaks at Notre Dame

Mr. Obama was invited by the Catholic institution to make the commencement address at the university ceremonies. Above the ceremonies hung the specter of one of the core issues which divide mainstream Catholics from Obama's strongly-held views. Abortion.

This is not a minor issue over which there is some petty argument. It is closer to the concept of the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem inviting Iran's Ahmadinejad to the Temple to clarify his views on the extermination of Israel.

It is difficult to fathom what the commencement committee could possibly have been thinking when inviting Obama to speak at this occasion. Yes, he's the elected President of the United States. So what? He is also the former Senator whose views on abortion are arguably the most extreme of any member of that body, as they were when he was an Illinois legislator. Unless Obama had indicated to the committee that he was announcing a major shift to the orthodox view of abortion, there was simply no excuse for this travesty. That of course was not, and is not, the case.

This is not a free speech or a censorship issue. Notre Dame is at the very least a nominal Catholic institution. It is a private university, and Obama didn't volunteer to speak, the university invited him. It is not even a debate on abortion. It was an invitation to an abortion extremist to speak unopposed at a Catholic school, when the Pope and the leading Catholic clerics hold not just a different view, but an entirely oppositional view. Is Notre Dame such an insignificant institution that it needed to get some publicity by inviting the President regardless of his entirely anti-Catholic views on the sanctity of human life in the womb?

The topics Obama spoke on were not specifically related to abortion, and I would have no objection to him speaking at my alma mater, the University of California. But that is a public university with no ties to any church. How about, say, the University of Southern California or Stanford? These are private universities, but again not affiliated with any church, let alone the Catholic church. No harm, no foul.

In his speech Obama, in his usual smooth dance, quickly addressed the abortion issue by telling a touching little story about how one of his staff had written a post on Obama's website which stated that pro-life advocates were zealous ideologues who wished to impose their will on helpless women. After receiving a letter, so Obama says, from a pro-life Christian doctor, Obama had the post removed. What a gentleman. Of course it completely ignores the fact that Obama's extremist abortion views didn't change one iota. He even managed to con Jim Kearney, a normally sane contributor to into praising Obama for his reasonableness, civility and story-telling skills. Aw, phooey. I'm sure Jim Jones had many of the same skills, just before he passed the Kool Aid around. Sincerity of belief is not sufficient reason to be tolerant of that belief. Hitler sincerely believed that Jews were inferior and should be exterminated. No, I am not saying that Obama is Hitler, or even Hitler-like. I am saying this his view on the taking of the life of a baby is both extreme and sincerely held.

I hesitate to use a word which is over-used by liberals, but there are many "nuanced" views on abortion which genuinely seek to respect the life of the unborn while allowing for some very early-term abortion exceptions. Obama isn't even close, and Notre Dame will be a long time in removing this stain from its reputation. To mis-quote Benjamin Franklin, "a religious institution which will abandon major tenets of its Faith for some fleeting publicity deserves neither."


SQT said...

As someone who was raised Catholic, I was so offended by this. I hesitated commenting to much on it because I wasn't sure I could be objective about it. But, like you, I cannot fathom why Notre Dame would issue the invitation. Why the pandering? What do they hope to get out of this?

LawHawkSF said...

SQT: I can certainly understand your feelings. I felt that as a Lutheran who has immense respect for the Catholic Church, I was free to make comments on what seemed like a very odd way for a church-sponsored university to behave. The sight of Catholic priests being hustled out of view of Obama at a Catholic university seemed even odder.

Captain Soapbox said...

I can understand why Catholics are annoyed, if the college is set up even nominally as a Catholic school then the values of the religion should be reflected in the speakers that they chose to invite. Obama's extremist views on abortion, and I agree with you LawHawk there is no other way to term them but extreme makes me wonder what the heck they were thinking.

Abortion is either killing a human being, or it's not. There's no way to nuance your way around that argument, no matter what some people would say. With Obama's own stance being that he supports abortion, which the church also believes is murder, then I can find no rational reason to have invited him there. As you said, if he wanted to go speak at pretty much any college in the country, no one would have cared. He could have even spoken about abortion at most of them, and while some would have issues with that intrinsically no matter where; him doing so, even tangentially at Notre Dame seems to me to be not only in bad taste, but an actual slap against not only those who do not believe abortion is just fine but also against all religions that hold that abortion is wrong as part of their beliefs.

At least that's how I see it. Not only dumb on the part of the university, but something that Obama saw as an opportunity to "get one over" on the religiously inclined people in the nation in general. I may be reading too much into his motives, but honestly to me he seems like that would be the sort of thing that would give him an inner, secret pleasure.

LawHawkSF said...

Captain Soapbox: Your final paragraph about Obama's reason for speaking at Notre Dame was precisely to "put one over" on religious people (and pro-life people). I was truly irritated by Jim Kearney's cave-in, but once I started reading the comments, I realized that a whole lot of us weren't fooled at all. Here's the link. You'll see what I mean about Obama's ability to con those who should know better, but his inability to fool "all the people, all the time."

AndrewPrice said...

This reminds me of the decision by Georgetown (a Jesuit institution) several years back to remove the crucifixes from the classrooms because they didn't want to offend people.

Naturally, it is their right to do that, but I wonder why a religious school would be afraid to display the symbols of its own religion or why they would so willingly hide their own beliefs?

Captain Soapbox said...

Thanks for the link Lawhawk, I usually check out Pajamas every day, but it's been a busy week around here so I'd been lax. The article, well to be blunt is a steaming pile. The comments, at least to me too, indeed do more accurately reflect what was going on.

And that's a good question Andrew, I wonder what the reaction would be if someone suggested at an Islamic school that maybe they should take down some of the more incendiary murals they have? Actually I know what the reaction would be, and so does anyone with a clear head.

With this administration in power it seems that those that had a bone to pick or axe to grind with Christianity and Judaism feel like it's fine to come out from the shadows and enter into a full scale war for hearts and minds. I increasingly get the impression from the media that atheism is the way to go, and if you really need to have a religion well then Islam is acceptable. Anything else though and you're just a silly person who believes in silly things.

Writer X said...

By inviting President Obama to speak, Notre Dame behaved much like the Republican Party of late: In the zeal to be bipartisan, the party has sacrificed its principles. I agree with SQT--What did Notre Dame hope to gain? It's not like they're a podunk college needing recognition. And now they've lost a lot of their donors and maybe even some of their soul.

freedom21 said...

Normally, I would be more than eager to pile on both Obama and Notre Dame but I am just unable to get angry about this one.

From what I gather, it's somewhat of a tradition to ask the President to speak at ND post election. In fact, Obama is the sixth President to appear at the university. I am sure that past President's have shared his views as well. Also, no matter what, I believe having the President speak at the University is an honor and should be respected.

Then again James Carville was the speaker at my graduation and pretty much anything would be better than that.

AndrewPrice said...

Freedom21, I'm glad you found our new place. Please feel free to drop by any time!

Carville? Yuck.

I agree with you that inviting the President is always a plus, and I personally can't get too worked up either over what a private school chooses to do. For me, this is more of a question of wondering if the school's administration (in choosing to hide their beliefs) isn't demonstrating a bit of moral cowardice.

By the way, I wanted to ask, I saw on your profile that you are thinking about becoming a tax attorney?

freedom21 said...

It's great to be here!! :) I love reading what you guys have to say. It makes the days seem to fly by!!

I am reluctant to say that it is actually moral cowardice because I do believe that you can have a speaker that you don't align with ideologically or morally and still learn something or become "motivated" and "inspired" and still maintain your convictions. Good ol' Mrs. Thatcher was pro-abortion and I would never shy away from having her speak to any group of people. (It was in Maggie's younger years, but let's face it, President Obama is still in his younger years as well).

And, yep, I am a tax attorney. I graduated law school last year (the dreaded Carville commencement) and have been at it for a good eight months. It's not the most exciting of work, but you gotta make a living, right?

AndrewPrice said...

Freedom21, for me, the moral cowardice wasn't in the invite, it's in the hiding of their own beliefs when he arrived to speak.

I love Thatcher, and it makes me so sad that the British are so nasty about her right now.

Congrats on graduating! Tax law -- wow. Impressive! That's a tough field. I wish you the best.

SQT said...


That was the one mitigating factor in the whole thing for me. If it's tradition to invite the President-- fine. But I agree with Andrew, the school shouldn't back down on what it's supposed to stand for in the interest of being polite.

freedom21 said...

SQT/AP, when you put it like that, I understand and completely agree with you.

To me it was much less of an offense than what we Catholics did the week before. I found the actions of the Georgetown administration utterly reprehensible when the covered up the the God initials that were to appear behind Obama.

If I were crass, I would crack some sort of joke about how the Preists must have found it odd to be the ones bending over for once. Lucky for you, I have class......

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