Published May 14, 2009
President Obama is "inspiring this nation to heal its divisions of religion, culture, race and politics in the audacious hope for a brighter tomorrow."
That's the language on the honorary degree the president will receive at Notre Dame University on Sunday, Fox News has learned.
Those words strike a harmonious chord for Obama's supporters -- but they're hitting a sour note for his opponents as the controversy over his appearance at the prestigious Catholic university heats up prior to the commencement ceremony.
The honorary doctor of laws degree reads:
"A community organizer who honed his advocacy for the poor, the marginalized and the worker in the streets of Chicago, he now organizes a larger community, bringing to the world a renewed American dedication to diplomacy and dialogue with all nations and religions committed to human rights and the global common good.
"Through his willingness to engage with those who disagree with him and encourage people of faith to bring their beliefs to the public debate, he is inspiring this nation to heal its divisions of religion, culture, race and politics in the audacious hope for a brighter tomorrow."
Not so, says George Weigel, a Catholic theologian and distinguished senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center who takes particular issue with the statement that Obama engages his political opponents.
"I don't see any evidence that President Obama takes the moral arguments of those who disagree with him on the life issues seriously," Weigel told FOXNews.com. "This was most clear in his address at the time he announced the federal government's stance on embryonic destructive stem cell research."
Weigel said he opposes Notre Dame's decision to invite Obama to speak at its commencement, and he said it's "completely inappropriate" to make him the ninth U.S. president to receive an honorary degree there.
"You can't be more offended than people like myself already are," he said.
Caitlin Moredock, a freshman law student at Notre Dame, said she thinks there's a hidden message of sorts in Notre Dame's language.
"It's optimistic and possibly being used as a motivational tool to perhaps motivate him to reexamine what the common good really is," Moredock said. "They're phrasing this in a way to perhaps motivate him to examine his own policies in light of the Catholic understanding of the common good in diplomacy."
Moredock said she supports the university's decision to invite Obama, but she doesn't think he should receive a degree.
"It makes me think that they're using this degree to prompt him to look at what's causing these divisions," Moredock said. "They're using this as a carrot."
But Vincent Rougeau, a professor of law at Notre Dame, said the language was just right.
"I think it's good," Rougeau said. "It identifies things he has done or attempts to do. The university invited him and he's a dignitary that they're welcoming. They drafted an elegant statement as to why they felt he was deserving of the invitation they extended."
"This is like a teenage girl who is in love with a pervert and has had the wool pulled over his eyes," Terry said. "This is written by a sycophant, by someone who is writing regurgitated campaign rhetoric. It's betraying the students and it betrays the church's teachings. Obama is not acknowledging the right to life, so it's impossible for him to promote the common good."
A Pew poll conducted last month found that 50 percent of Roman Catholics supported Notre Dame's decision to invite Obama; 28 percent said they opposed the invitation.