Notre Dame Student Groups Lead Graduation Protest

Campus Divided Over Catholic Character Question

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SOUTH BEND, Indiana, MARCH 25, 2009 ( A coalition of student organizations at the University of Notre Dame are joining forces to protest President Barack Obama’s invitation to speak at their graduation ceremony.

A statement released today by the coalition reported the «deepest opposition» of the students to the announcement made Friday by Notre Dame’s president that the U.S. president will give this year’s commencement speech and will receive an honorary law degree at the university’s graduation.

Senior Emily Toates of Notre Dame Right to Life affirmed: «This is not a partisan issue; rather, it’s an issue of respect for human life, and our Catholic character.

«We want to emphasize that we are not attacking the office of the president, but taking issue with his moral stances. I think the statement makes it clear that the student body of Notre Dame is not unequivocally in favor of this decision.»

The statement noted the objection to President Obama’s «hostility to the Catholic Church’s teachings on the sanctity of human life at its earliest stages.»

It added, «His recent dedication of federal funds to overseas abortions and to embryonic stem cell research will directly result in the deaths of thousands of innocent human beings.»

The students stated, «We cannot sit by idly while the university honors someone who believes that an entire class of human beings is undeserving of the most basic of all legal rights, the right to live.»

Citing the U.S. bishops’ conference, they noted that Catholic institutions should not give «awards, honors or platforms» to those «who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.»

Law and justice

The statement, signed by several law school student groups, noted the «great irony» that the university is awarding President Obama an honorary law degree.

It explained: «The Notre Dame law school states that its mission is ‘to facilitate greater understanding of and commitment to the relationship between law and social justice.’ The social justice issue of our day is the deliberate, legal attack on the most vulnerable members of society, the unborn.

«To award a Notre Dame law degree to a lawyer and politician who has used the law to deny equality to the unborn diminishes the value of the degree itself.»

Moral dilemna

The students asserted that the university’s president, Father John Jenkins, «has placed some of his students in a moral dilemma as to whether they should attend their own graduation.»

«Many pro-life seniors,» they continue, «along with their families, are conflicted about whether to participate in the commencement ceremony.»

The student groups affirmed, «In response to the university’s decision, we pledge ourselves to acts of witness that will be characterized by respect, prayerfulness, outspoken fidelity to the Church, and true concern for the good of our university.»

The groups committed to host academic and religious events in order to engage the university community.

The coalition is comprised of students from Notre Dame Right to Life, The Irish Rover Student Newspaper, Notre Dame College Republicans, The University of Notre Dame Anscombe Society, Notre Dame Identity Project, Militia of the Immaculata, Children of Mary, Orestes Brownson Council, Notre Dame Law School Right to Life, Notre Dame Law St Thomas More Society, and The Federalist Society at Notre Dame Law School.

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