Published May 08, 2009
One of the Vatican's highest ranked clerics and a frequent critic of President Obama said Friday that Notre Dame is causing a "scandal" by giving the president an honorary degree and a platform to address graduates at its commencement next weekend.
'The proposed granting of an honorary doctorate at Notre Dame University to our president, who is so aggressively advancing an anti-life and anti-family agenda, is rightly the source of the greatest scandal," said Archbishop Raymond Burke, who is the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's highest court.
Burke, the former archbishop of St. Louis and vocal opponent of giving communion to politicians who support abortion rights, told Catholics at a national prayer breakfast in Washington, D.C., that "with unparalleled arrogance, our nation is choosing to renounce its foundation on the faithful."
He pointed to several Obama administration decisions that he said have damaged "the fundamental society that is the family," citing the repeal of the conscience clause, which prohibits health care workers from refusing to participate in abortion-related services; repeal of the Mexico City policy, which allows federal funding to be used abroad to provide abortions; presidential support of the Freedom of Choice Act, which prevents government from in any way denying or interfering with a woman's right to choose; and support of the U.S. Population Fund, which he noted supports China's one-child policy.
He blamed loose morals for legislation that would allow same-sex marriages and repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which states have implemented to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
"At the root of the confusion and error about marriage is the contraceptive mentality which would have us believe that the inherently procreative nature of the conjugal union can in practice be mechanically or chemically eliminated while the marital act remains unitive. It simply cannot be sold," Burke said.
Obama has considerable support from Catholics, having won 54 percent of the Catholic vote in the presidential election. In a Quinnipiac national poll released at the end of last month, 57 percent of Catholics said they approve of the way Obama is doing his job, while 33 percent disapproved.
By comparison, 76 percent of Jewish voters approved of Obama's performance while Protestants were the most split -- 44 percent approval to 42 percent disapproval. The poll had 2,041 registered voters
Burke noted the Catholic support, saying a majority of Catholics freely chose leadership that is now implementing decisions that conflict with the tenets of their faith.
"The path of violation of the most fundamental human rights and of the integrity of marriage and the family which our nation is traveling is not accidental," he said. "As Catholics, we cannot fail to notice with the greatest sadness the number of our fellow Catholics who cooperate fully to the advancement of a national agenda which is anti-life and anti-family."
The archbishop also slammed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who was confirmed by the Senate last week on a 65-31 vote. Opponents cited her ties to an late-term abortion provider, George Tillman, who is a supporter of the former Kansas governor.
"The appointment of a Catholic as secretary of health and human services who has openly and consistently cooperated with the industry of procurative abortion in our nation is necessarily the source of the deepest embarrassment to Catholics and a painful reminder of the most serious responsibility of Catholics to uphold the moral law, which is the irreplaceable foundation of just relationships among the citizens of our nation," Burke said.
He added that it "grieves me to say that the support of anti-life legislation by Catholics in public office is so common that those who are not Catholics have justifiably questioned whether the church's teachings regarding the inviolable dignity of innocent human life is firm and unchanging. It gives the impression that the church herself can change the law that God has written on every human heart since the beginning of time."
After initial criticism of the invitation, Notre Dame University President Rev. John I. Jenkins called Obama an "inspiring leader" who follows in a long tradition of presidential guest speakers. He added that the invitation does not mean universal support for Obama administration policies.
"The invitation to President Obama to be our commencement speaker should not be taken as condoning or endorsing his positions on specific issues regarding the protection of human life, including abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Yet, we see his visit as a basis for further positive engagement," he said in a statement addressing the cricitism.
The White House also has heard the criticism about the president's appearance but is not deterred. The president "greatly looks forward to delivering the commencement address at Notre Dame" on May 17, said a spokesman.
"Any commencement is a very special occasion for students and families that are involved. I think Notre Dame has a strong record of healthy exchange of differing viewpoints and ideas," the spokesman said.
FOX News' Molly Henneberg contributed to this report.