Published May 10, 2009
One of Catholicism's latest and most high-profile converts sided with Vatican critics Sunday in questioning the University of Notre Dame's decision to grant President Obama an honorary degree next weekend.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who in late March converted to Catholicism, suggested that Notre Dame was compromising its values by inviting Obama, an abortion rights supporter, to receive the degree and deliver the commencement address May 17.
"To the degree that Notre Dame still thinks of itself as a Catholic institution, it raises real questions," Gingrich told "FOX News Sunday."
"I think the president's position has been the most radical, pro-abortion of any American president, so I think there is a legitimate question there," he said.
Gingrich added: "But look -- I'm a new convert. I'll let the Vatican speak for the church. I'm just speaking for Newt Gingrich."
Gingrich, a Republican, was responding to criticism last week from Archbishop Raymond Burke, who is the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's highest court.
'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," Burke said.
Burke is the former archbishop of St. Louis and a vocal opponent of giving communion to politicians who support abortion rights. He was the latest in a string of Catholic leaders to criticize Notre Dame's decision.
But Notre Dame University President Rev. John I. Jenkins has called Obama an "inspiring leader" who follows in a long tradition of presidential guest speakers. He says that the invitation does not mean universal support for Obama administration policies.
"I think Notre Dame has a strong record of healthy exchange of differing viewpoints and ideas," a White House spokesman said.