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Bishop Samuel J. Aquila Rebukes Notre Dame President and Board

By Deacon Keith Fournier
April 9th, 2009
Catholic Online (

Your judgment in this matter is seriously flawed, with damaging consequences, for '…you are not on the side of God, but of men' (Mt 16:23).

FARGO, ND (Catholic Online) - As the struggle for the soul, future and Catholic identity of the University of Notre Dame continues, students, faculty and friends of Our Lady's University have joined their voices and their prayer in solidarity. the outpouring has been extraordinary. A letter of opposition authored by the champions of Catholic identity at Catholic Colleges and Universities, the Cardinal Newman Society, has already exceeded 250,000 signatures.

Courageous Cardinals and Bishops have sent letters to Fr. Jenkins, the President of Notre Dame, asking him to rescind the invitation to President Obama to address graduating Seniors and receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree. The reason is clear to Catholics and other Christians throughout this Nation and beyond, the Presidents failure to recognize the Right to Life of all persons, including our youngest neighbors in the womb, and his demonstrated hostility to the justice claim of children in the womb through actions and policies which promote abortion.

In their 2004 instruction "Catholics in Political Life", the United States Bishops made it clear: "The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions."

Bishop Samuel J. Aquila of the Diocese of Fargo recently released one of the most forceful of all of the letters to Father Jenkins. It was sent on April 5, 2009 and is available on the Diocesan website.We offer it for our readers in full:

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
400 Main Building
Notre Dame, IN 46556

Dear Father Jenkins,

I was surprised and saddened when I learned about the invitation extended to President Obama to speak at Notre Dame’s commencement exercises and to receive an honorary degree. Your statements in defense of the award and invitation have only deepened my dismay.

We know by science and reason that human life begins at the moment of conception. That includes your life, President Obama’s life, my life and every human being’s life. Faith enhances reason and science by revealing to us that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God and has inherent dignity and value.

The teaching of the Catholic Church on the dignity of human life from the moment of conception to natural death is fundamental to our Catholic identity. I know you are a man of integrity and believe in the Church’s witness. I also know as a priest and a president of a Catholic University, you are well acquainted with Ex Corde Ecclesiae and the 2004 statement of the Bishops of the United States on “Catholics in Political Life.”

Even though President Obama is not Catholic, he clearly rejects the truth about human dignity through his constant support of a so called “right to abortion.” He also tolerates the inexcusable act of letting aborted children die who are born alive. He promotes an intrinsic evil which must always be resisted by a just and civil society.

Inviting President Obama to award him a degree and to speak at a Catholic University implicitly extends legitimacy to his views on these issues in the minds of the average onlooker. Your actions and that of the Board of Trustees of Notre Dame do real harm to the mission of Catholic education in this country and further splinters Catholic witness in the public square.

Your actions provide a forum for an advocate of abortion, in a university which is committed to teaching the truths known to reason and science, and most of all to our faith in Jesus Christ and the teachings of His Church. This places commitment to these truths on an equal plane with a commitment to an intrinsic evil which destroys innocent human life. Your judgment in this matter is seriously flawed, with damaging consequences, for “…you are not on the side of God, but of men” (Mt 16:23).

I know that many wonderful Catholic students, faculty and administrators at Notre Dame support the clear teaching of Jesus Christ and His Church. Unfortunately, your action and that of your Board diminishes the reputation of Notre Dame and makes one wonder what its mission truly is. I pray that you will see the gravity of Notre Dame’s error in this matter and most especially how it undermines the Gospel of Life, who is Christ Himself.

Sincerely yours in Christ,Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila
Bishop of Fargo

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