Because many different accounts are circulating about what Cardinal George said concerning the University of Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama to speak at their commencement exercises and receive an honorary degree, the following clarifications might be of help:
1. Cardinal George did not say the University should “disinvite” the President. He said that both the President and his office should be respected and that the University could not and should not rescind an invitation to the President of the United States. The President’s views are well known as are his reasons for them; he is not himself the issue here.
2. The Cardinal said that those who were upset about the invitation should let their opinions be known to the University, not to him or other bishops, since the bishops do not control or manage the University. Catholics sometimes seem to think that if they complain to bishops, their own responsibilities cease.
3. The invitation has embarrassed some of those who were also invited to be part of the commencement ceremonies, including the local bishop, who has said he will not attend. The reaction of many, through letters, phone calls and e-mails, indicates that any institution that calls itself Catholic needs to anticipate in some fashion the impact their decisions make on others who are part of the Church. In Catholicism, no person or institution is totally independent.
4. The reason for the strong reaction lies in the growing dismay among many, after years of discussion and organizing, over their inability to stop the killing each day of about 4,000 unborn babies. The indications now that the present administration intends to solidify the right to abortion as a permanent civil right in law, without possible qualification of any sort, add to that dismay and increase frustration. Abortion is a society-dividing issue.
Director of Communications
and Public Relations, Archdiocese of Chicago