By inviting Barack Obama to deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree at Notre Dame, the Rev. John Jenkins has polarized the Catholic community nationwide -- and raised a question. What does it mean to be a Catholic university in post-Christian America?
Are there truths about faith and morality that are closed to debate at Notre Dame? Or is Notre Dame like London's Hyde Park, where all ideas and all advocates get a hearing?
To Catholics, abortion is the killing of an unborn child, a premeditated breach of God's Commandment "Thou Shalt Not Kill." The case is closed for all time. Any who participate in an abortion are excommunicated. Catholic politicians from Nancy Pelosi to Joe Biden who support a "woman's right to choose" have been denounced from pulpits and denied Communion.
Obama, however, is the most pro-abortion president ever. On his third day in office, by executive order, he repealed the Bush prohibition against using tax dollars to fund agencies abroad that perform abortions.
He supports partial-birth abortion, where a baby's soft skull is sliced open with scissors in the birth canal and its brains sucked out to ease its passage, a procedure Sen. Pat Moynihan said "comes as close to infanticide as anything I have seen in our judiciary."
In the Illinois legislature, Obama helped block the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, a bill to save the lives of infant survivors of abortion. He voted to allow doctors and nurses to let these tiny babies die of neglect and be tossed out with the medical waste.
Barack is committed to signing the Freedom of Choice Act, which would repeal every federal and state restriction on abortion. He has smoothed the path for federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.
Notre Dame, a university that teaches that all innocent human life is sacred, will thus honor a leader determined to ensure that a woman's right to destroy her unborn child in the womb remains unrestricted.
There is thus a direct clash between what Notre Dame professes to stand for and what Notre Dame is doing.
Says Ralph McInerny, a philosophy professor since 1955: "By inviting Barack Obama to be the 2009 commencement speaker, Notre Dame has forfeited its right to call itself a Catholic University. ... (T)his is a deliberate thumbing of the collective nose at the Roman Catholic Church to which Notre Dame purports to be faithful.
"Faithful? Tell it to Julian the Apostate."