This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," April 3, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: In "Your America" tonight the announcement that President Obama will be Notre Dame's graduation speaker has sparked outrage among Catholics, and with his support for abortion rights groups and his decision to allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research that outrage will no doubt continue.
Joining me now is Jim Nicholson. He's the former secretary of Veterans Affairs and former U.S. ambassador to the Holy City.
Well, Mr. Secretary, good to see you, welcome back, thanks for being with us.
JIM NICHOLSON, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO VATICAN: Good to see you, Sean.
HANNITY: All right, now there are two sides to this. One side says well, if a president of the United States wants to make the commencement address, you ought to be thankful, but yet look at the difference in views. This is a Catholic institution. Where do you stand?
NICHOLSON: Well, I stand with Cardinal George and a lot of the bishops. Cardinal George in nearby Chicago said that Notre Dame made a grievous error, and it's an embarrassment to themselves and the church. Cardinal Olmstead — excuse me, Bishop Olmstead from Arizona said that Notre Dame is in defiance of a directive of the U.S. conference of bishops and — which says that an institution, a Catholic institution, will not honor someone who is in direct defiance of fundamental Catholic moral principles which is what President Obama is.
One of the first things he did was suspend the Mexico City principles which allows now taxpayer money to fund abortions abroad.
NICHOLSON: He has gone into the destruction of human embryos for stem cell research in science, and now is supporting the Freedom of Conscience Act which if passed will force Catholic health caregivers and Catholic hospitals to give abortions to people that want them or lose their federal funding.
HANNITY: All right. Full disclosure, Ambassador, and that is my niece graduated from there, I think it's a great university. Now the president of the university has said that in spite of the predictable response that he is not going to back down and that they expect this is going to go forward.
Do you think there's going to be any brush back from the Vatican? Will there be brush back from other high profile Catholics, and do you think he should reconsider, and have you spoken to him?
NICHOLSON: I have not spoken to him. The president is Father John Jenkins, I think, is a fine man, and I know the superior general of the Order of Holy Cross, Father Hugh Cleary who's in Rome and is a fantastic priest. I think he — he made a mistake. They're going to have to live with it.
But I think a lot of alumni and a lot of Catholics are very disappointed, and some of the bishops are saying, and I think it was Cardinal George, who also said Notre Dame doesn't understand what it means to be Catholic today. I mean nothing, nothing is more fundamentally important to Catholic doctrine today than the sanctity of life, and this president who has a lot of attributes and has created a lot of excitement being the first African-American president and so forth has just had an assault, an onslaught on life the two months he's been in office.
HANNITY: And one of the things as a political observer that I noticed in all of this, that you would think — I just don't know, and maybe the question could be phrased this way. You know I wonder if Barack Obama — if we look at all the religions out there, for whatever reason Catholicism and Christianity seems to be the one religion that you can bash day in and day out, and you don't — and as a matter of fact, it happens in the mainstream media.
I wonder if it were another religion, do you think it would be another story because I thought of that?
NICHOLSON: Well, I think that's a valid point, and I think that may be one of the redeeming results of this is that it's going to kind of wake Catholics up. You know, there's 70 million Catholics in this country, and 55 percent of those that have voted voted for President Obama, and he's done nothing since he's been president but to stick it right into their eye, and I think frankly that he may have asked Notre Dame for this venue to speak to this commencement.
I don't know that for sure. If he did, I think it was a miscalculation. I think he wanted to go there to salve what some have felt is offensive behavior to Catholics, but there's a great outrage. The Alumni of Notre Dame are very outraged.
I mean it's a fantastic Catholic school, and I guess as a Catholic boy growing up, I always wanted to go there but I couldn't afford it.
HANNITY: Well, my niece loved it and had there greatest experience there, and I agree with you, it's a great school. I just wonder to the extent though, knowing it would create a split or a divide, you know, would this happen? It just seems to me that perhaps this might be more deeply politically thought out than some people think.
Is that a fair statement?
NICHOLSON: I think it is, possibly it is, but I think it was a miscalculation. I think they're getting a lot more pushback from this than they anticipated, and I think it's aroused sort of the Catholic nation. It's —they found a critical mass of Catholics, and I think that they do this politically at Obama's demise.
HANNITY: All right, Ambassador, good to see you. Thank you for being with us. We appreciate it.
NICHOLSON: You bet.
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