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Skeptimedia is a commentary on mass media treatment of issues concerning science, the paranormal, and the supernatural.

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Mr. Obama Goes to Notre Dame

May 17, 2009. President Obama is scheduled to give the commencement address and receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Notre Dame today. (Disclosure: I attended Notre Dame from 1963-1965. I became a seminarian there in the fall of 1965 but left before the semester ended. I went to the University of San Diego (USD) for a semester and reapplied to Notre Dame, but was denied readmission. Looking back, the disappointment I felt has been replaced with the realization that rejection can sometimes lead to wondrous things. I applied to the University of California at San Diego, was accepted, and eventually earned my doctorate from Revelle College. I still have a fondness for Notre Dame, however. Last October, I and my wife of more than forty years (whom I met when she attended St. October 2008 - Notre DameMary's College across the road from Notre Dame) were on our way back to San Francisco after a month-long trip to Italy and Ireland. We stopped in South Bend to visit her alma mater and Notre Dame. It was a beautiful fall day, perfect for wandering around the campuses and reminiscing.  I was especially pleased when I stood before my freshman dorm, Farley Hall. There was a banner hanging over the front entrance that read: Welcome Home Farley's finest!)

The graduation ceremony has been marred by media coverage of a few protesters who think President Obama should not speak on campus or be given any honors because he supports the right of a woman to have an abortion and he supports the right of scientists to do stem cell research. The anti-abortion media vultures smell blood. They haven't had an opportunity like this in eight years. They've had a friend in the White House who shares their view that single-celled persons have a right to life, no matter what, but multi-celled persons can be sent to kill and die in irrational endeavors as long as you delude yourself into thinking you're protecting "liberty and democracy." The Catholic anti-Obama folks add the further insult that some of them have been in the forefront of protecting child molesters. Bishop John D'Arcy, whose diocese includes South Bend, says "after much prayer" he won't attend the ceremonies because of Obama's positions on abortion and stem cell research. Where was the bishop when priests were abusing the children in his flock? Where was the bishop when his president ordered the invasion of Iraq? Cardinal Francis George of Chicago is quoted as saying: "It is clear that Notre Dame didn't understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation." Right, but the cardinal doesn't understand that not speaking out against an unjust war and not actively rooting out priests who abuse children is not good Catholic behavior for a leader of the church.

In the view of some Catholics, Obama supports murder because he believes in the right of a woman to have an abortion, which is not the same as advocating that women have abortions. This is not a fine point of theology and should be understood even by bishops and cardinals who believe they eat the flesh and blood of Jesus every morning in the form of bread and wine.

Obama supports freedom, freedom of choice. He also has a duty to uphold the law, which protects the right of a woman to have an abortion. The protesters support believing in bizarre metaphysical notions while depriving people of their right to choose to have an abortion and the right to do research that may save millions of lives and improve the quality of life for millions of others. The media love the protests, which may be small, but which will fill a TV screen.

Of course the media can hardly ignore people like Mary Ann Glendon, a law professor at Harvard University and a former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, who was to be given Notre Dame's Laetare Medal for distinguished service to the Catholic community. In a letter made public she rejected the award, claiming that Notre Dame, by inviting Obama, acted "in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops" that no honors should be given to anyone "who acts in defiance of our fundamental moral principles." I haven't heard Glendon's voice protesting the protection of molesters by bishops and cardinals, nor do I recall her being in the forefront of opposition to the unjust war the U.S. initiated in Iraq.

Where were Glendon, Bishop D'Arcy, and Cardinal George when anti-abortionists were murdering doctors and terrorizing abortion clinics? Where were they when U.S. multi-celled creatures were torturing other multi-celled creatures? Were they silent because their view of the sacredness of life is perverted and twisted?

What I loved about Notre Dame, besides the football, was the atmosphere of debate and dialogue. Speakers were invited to campus and students were encouraged to come listen and engage in discussions with people who represented many views that were not consistent with church doctrine or the views of bishops and cardinals. I still have the utmost respect and affection for Theodore Hesburgh, who was president of Notre Dame when I attended. I can't say I've followed his career closely, or know what he thinks about the great issues of the day, but he created an atmosphere when I was at Notre Dame that implied that the best way to get to the truth about anything was to discuss it in an open forum. The worst way to educate anyone is to tell them you know the truth and they don't need to think about it because others have already done the thinking for them.

I commend John Jenkins, the current president of ND, not just for inviting President Obama, but for not backing down in the face of the irrational protests of those who claim they are defending sacred principles. There is nothing more sacred to an educational institution than open debate about important issues. The protesters have succeeded in getting themselves some publicity, but they have not succeeded in stifling the debate. They are enemies of freedom and democracy, but they are not in the majority. Yesterday, D'Arcy led a prayer vigil on campus. About 150 showed up. They prayed that Obama would change his mind about abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research. They're engaging in a futile action, prayer, and opposing the first president we've had in a long time who brings hope that reason will prevail over emotions on the great issues of the day. The media will give them their unjust reward by giving them an unfair share of attention. They ought to turn their attention to the graduates and the world that awaits them thanks to men of principle like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, and a host of others who try their best to destroy and silence those who disagree with them.

Notre Dame Fall 2008












further reading

Transcript of President Obama's speech

Thousands beaten, raped in Irish reform schools (Any bets on when we'll hear the outrage from Ms. Glendon, Bishop D'Arcy, Cardinal George, or the thousands who signed a petition condemning Notre Dame for honoring President Obama?)

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