Terry Jeffrey

It started with Bishop John D'Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend, in whose diocese Notre Dame is located, announcing he would boycott the school's graduation, noting that a bishop "teaches not only by his words -- but by his actions."

Then Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said, "Whatever else is clear, it is clear that Notre Dame didn't understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation."

Then Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix sent a letter to the Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame's president, stating that Notre Dame's invitation to Obama was "a public act of disobedience to the bishops of the United States."

By the end of April, more than 40 Catholic bishops had spoken up against Notre Dame honoring Obama.

Lay Catholics were being heard, too. The Cardinal Newman Society, an organization dedicated to "renewing and strengthening Catholic identity at America's 224 Catholic colleges and universities," organized a petition campaign asking Jenkins to rescind the invitation to Obama. More than 340,000 people have signed that petition.

On Monday, Harvard Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon announced that she would not accept Notre Dame's Laetare Award, which she was scheduled to receive at the same ceremony where Obama would receive his honorary law degree. In a letter to Jenkins, Glendon said she was "at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect" the bishops' request that those who defy fundamental moral principles not be honored by Catholic institutions.

Notre Dame expects Obama to wear its traditional academic robe when he receives his honorary doctorate. As reported by Edwin Mora of CNSNews.com, this robe bears Notre Dame's coat of arms -- with the words "Vita, Dulcedo, Spes" -- inscribed on its chest. These words, which mean "our life, our sweetness and our hope," come from a traditional prayer to the Virgin Mary.

"The combination of these phrases with the symbol for the university indicates the dedication of all Notre Dame's activities, intellectual, spiritual, athletic and so on, to Our Lady," explained an article in the February 1931 issue of the Notre Dame alumni magazine.

How can granting an honorary law degree to a pro-abortion politician be dedicated to Our Lady? It cannot be.

But the cause of taking Notre Dame back, of remaking it into the institution it once was -- where there was not only a Fighting Irish football team but a fighting Catholic tradition -- most certainly can be.

That would be Notre Dame's greatest comeback of all time.

Terry Jeffrey

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSNews

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