Tue, 07 Apr 2009 18:40:08 +0000 – By Tommy De SenoAttorney/Blogger, JustifiedRight.com
There's been quite an uproar since President Obama was invited to give the commencement address at Notre Dame. For me, the mere fact that the president has agreed to give a speech is not the problem. What troubles me more is the honorary law degree the university plans to bestow on him. THAT'S the problem.
Notre Dame's President Father John Jenkins rests his case in favor of the invitation to President Obama on the argument that the school is honoring the office of the president; the school is not endorsing his policy views, particularly on abortion.
However, Father Jenkins' argument is contradicted by the honorary law degree Notre Dame plans to bestow on the president on graduation day. While our Declaration of Independence explicitly states that the right to life is endowed by the Creator (both a religious and legal conclusion), whether the Constitution will equally protect that right for the smallest and weakest humans is a legalquestion.
President Obama may claim to speak in a vacuum separated from his political views, but granting him an honorary law degree is an endorsement of his legal views. His legal view is that our Constitution holds some humans as being worth less than others -- a view rejected by the university, the Church and a billion Catholics worldwide.
Some might argue that honorary degrees are often bestowed on graduation speakers who are not employed in that particular professional field of study. For example, Mike Tyson once received an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from the University of Ohio.
But note the stark difference. Humane Letters degrees are always honorary and given to someone whose career is NOT in science, government, law, literature or religion. Why? Because that way, the recipient cannot embarrass an entire field should he one day embarrass himself (as Tyson eventually did).
Obama IS a lawyer. Notre Dame could have chosen to bestow an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters on him so as not to endorse his legal views. They chose not to. -- That makes the choice of an honorary Doctorate of Laws not only deliberate, but also an endorsement of the president'slegal analysis. If not deliberate, there is at least an enormous capacity to confuse it as such. And that's why giving President Obama the honorary law degree is such a problem.
The Cardinal Newman Society (dedicated to renewing and strengthening Catholic identity at America's 224 Catholic colleges and universities) is circulating a petition that has picked up close to a quarter of a million signatures asking Notre Dame to rescind its invitation to the president. Despite the support the society has received the university still won't budge.
What concerned Catholics should now call for is at least the rescinding of the honorary law degree while still allowing the president to speak. If Father Jenkins and President Obama refuse that olive branch, then both will be exposed as smiting the pro-Life Catholic community when there was a way to avoid it.
If the compromise I've suggested isn't accepted, the graduating Catholic students who are committed to both the Constitution and their faith must take matters into their own hands. They must avoid their graduation ceremony and hold an alternative ceremony that does not include a politician who has passed laws to kill the innocent, as the president did when he restored funds for overseas abortions.
The seriousness of a boycott of one's own graduation is commensurate with the seriousness of the abortion issue. Stopping the practice of abortion is, without a doubt, the most important political battleground for today's Catholics.
There will be an understandable longing by graduates for the pomp and circumstances of the university's sanctioned ceremony. The graduates worked hard for their degrees and most of their parents paid hard for it.
But Catholics follow the path of Christ. What a sin it would be to put a day of celebration for yourself above the opportunity to stand in love and charity to defend innocents from slaughter. An alternative graduation is beyond obligation -- it will be an honor and a joy to take part in it.
The world is watching. If Catholics don't stand strong on Catholic dogma and equality then certainly no one else will. This is a remarkable chance to show Catholic commitment to Jesus and His lesson of love to us.
As a Catholic, I beg pro-life graduates at Notre Dame to begin planning the alternative graduation ceremony. Cancel plans for it only if the university rescinds the honorary law degree or the president rejects the degree. Both the university and the president can save face if they issue a joint statement foregoing the honorary degree but accepting the invitation to speak.
Read more from Tommy De Seno at JustifiedRight.com.