So much for the rich exchange of ideas. More than 117,000 of the faithful have signed a petition "prayerfully" blasting the decision to invite President Obama to speak at Notre Dame's commencement, citing his support for freedom of choice and stem cell research.
Notre Dame has a tradition of inviting new presidents to speak at graduation, but this year's choice of Obama has triggered a flood of outrage from conservative and religious critics. Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Phoenix
Diocese has called Obama's selection a "public act of
disobedience" and "a grave mistake," and the petition "prayerfully" calls on university president Father John Jenkins to "halt this travesty immediately."
"It is an outrage and a scandal that 'Our Lady's University,' one of the premier Catholic universities in the United States, would bestow such an honor on President Obama, given his clear support
for policies and laws that directly contradict fundamental Catholic
teachings on life and marriage," reads the petition. "Notre Dame
has chosen prestige over principles, popularity over morality."
In blithe response, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki has said Obama is pleased to speak at a school with "such a rich history
of fostering the exchange of ideas.. the spirit of debate and healthy disagreement on
important issues is part of what he loves about this country."
Most of the young people at Notre Dame, if not their elders, seem to agree, evidence that despite the hurdles they are fulfilling a key and timeless task of youth – learning to think for themselves. Seventy percent of alumni letters have opposed Obama's presence, while 73 percent of students, and 97 percent of seniors, support it.
Chris Carrington, a political science major from Chicago, finds the crux of the matter.
"To not allow someone here because of their beliefs seems a little
hypocritical and contradictory to what the mission of the university
and church should be," he said.