Archbp. Nienstedt writes to the Pres. of Notre Dame

His Excellency Most Rev. John Nienstedt, Archbishop of St. Paul & Minneapolis, has issued a letter with comments about the invitation by the University of Notre Dame to Pres. Obama.

The following is the complete text of Archbishop Nienstedt’s letter to the President of Notre Dame, Fr. John Jenkins.

My emphases and comments:

March 26, 2009

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

Dear Father Jenkins:

I have just learned that you, as President of the University of Notre Dame, have invited President Barack Obama to be the graduation commencement speaker at the University’s exercises on May 17, 2009.  I was also informed that you will confer on the president an honorary doctor of laws degree, one of the highest honors bestowed by your institution.

I write to protest this egregious decision on your part.  President Obama has been a pro-abortion legislator.  He has indicated, especially since he took office, his deliberate disregard of the unborn by lifting the ban on embryonic stem cell research, by promoting the FOCA agenda and by his open support for gay rights throughout this country. [In this paragraph he stressed Pres. Obama’s pro-abortion position.]

It is a travesty that the University of Notre Dame, considered by many [!] to be a Catholic University, should give its public support to such an anti-Catholic politician[In this terse paragraph, he underscores that Pres. Obama is not just pro-abortion, he is anti-Catholic.]

I hope that you are able to reconsider this decision.  If not, please do not expect me to support your University in the future[!]

Sincerely yours,

The Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt
Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

Two things impress me positively about this letter.

Very often when people proclaim their objections, their words ring like those of Captain Renault in Casablanca: they are empty.  "I’m shocked that you would invite Pres. Obama! Shocked!".   Big deal, right?

On the contrary, Archbishop Nienstedt says that he will do something if the decision isn’t reconsidered.  He will not give them any support. 

It is hard to say precisely what that future "support", or lack thereof, might involve, of course.  But when a Catholic university as well-known as Notre Dame wins the public scorn of an American Archbishop,… that can’t be good for the school.  Archbishops tend to talk to a lot of people, including well-healed alumi.  They wind up on committees of the bishops’ conference.  They are sometimes appointed as members of Vatican Congregations.  They have platforms.  They are asked for their opinions.

What really strikes me about Archbp. Nienstedt’s letter is that, as I mention, he describes Pres. Obama as being not just pro-abortion but also anti-Catholic.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Chris says:

    Father, one thing you didn’t point out was this line: “It is a travesty that the University of Notre Dame, considered by many to be a Catholic University …”

    I love the fact that he doesn’t just say it’s a Catholic University (which it isn’t). He simply says it’s “considered” to be “by many.”

    Now that’s the hammer I’ve been waiting for!

  2. EDG says:

    I think it was significant that he mentioned the gay thing, too; this is being used, not openly by Obama himself but clearly in line with his policies and those of the people behind him, to attack the Church, and I think it’s good that somebody higher up called attention to this. There are so many levels on which it is completely wrong for a Catholic institution to give Obama an honor that one hardly knows where to begin.

  3. jarhead462 says:

    Bravo! to His Excellency, Bravo!

    Semper Episcopal Spines!

  4. irishgirl says:

    I second that Bravo, JarHead!

    You tell ’em, Your Excellency! [thumbs up]

  5. Rancher says:

    The ABp has hit this nail square on the head. Obama’s anti-catholicism is illustrated in a number of ways. It is not just his anti-life actions but his intentional appointment of so-called Catholics who oppose true church teaching to key positions in his administration. Obama is an authoritarian dictator who will use anyone, anything, and any institution (including the Church) to further his agenda. As seen in his dealings with the banking and auto industries and the health care professions Obama has a great desire to control entities which heretofor were considered private and outside the sphere of such restrictive government control. Recent attempts (Connecticut) at government control over the administration of the Church should be a cause of great concern. Obama and his brain trust know that at some point the Roman Catholic Church may be the only institution with the size and strength to oppose his immoral and socialist agenda. His early efforts (anti-catholicism) to neuter if not destroy the influence of the Church is his form of a preemptive strike.

  6. Catholicman says:

    Where did this letter come from? I don’t see it posted on the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis website. Just curious.

  7. DarkKnight says:

    Here is the reaction of the superior of Fr. Jenkins:

  8. Tomas says:

    His Excellency appears to understand well that Obama is just the latest Wall Street prop, props which alternate between “Republican” figures, who are usually socially conservative but economically subversive (e.g. with trade agreements which undermine American sovereignty, like the Security and Prosperity Partnership), and “Democrat” figures who are socially leftist and perhaps slightly protectionist economically. This new prop, however, is just plain radical on every front. I consider him to be the ideal enemy of the Church and of Western Civilization, from Wall St.’s point of view: charismatic enough to deceive millions of ignorant people, young, black (thus representing a victory over America’s racist past), and articulate enough to fool some of the people some of the time.

    I hope Abp. Nienstedt’s letter shook the ground beneath Jenkins’ weak knees. If Obama had a conscience, he would withdraw – but he doesn’t, so he won’t. This is shaping up to be a major face-off between the culture of death and the culture of life.

  9. TNCath says:

    Brick by brick, bishop by bishop!

  10. Chris says:

    That response from the the head of the order is a joke.

  11. Rancher says:

    The “head of the order” whitewahsed a poor decision. He is as culpable as Jenkins.

  12. Dennis Martin says:

    He is effectively declaring that Notre Dame is no longer Catholic, but without using the words themselves, not unlike the effort to dissuade pro-abort politicians to self-excommunicate rather than as bishop, directly excommunicating them. He is stating that ND would not be worthy of his support. That’s a round-about way of saying, ND is no longer Catholic, because, if ND were Catholic, a Catholic bishop would, presumably, support it, at least in a general sense.

  13. frajm says:

    It seems to me that the bishops are now taking public stands that most would not have done just a few years back. The release of private letters or emails to the public seems to be new. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that. It seems that private letters to specific people should be kept private by the sender, but certainly bishops should make public statements which could be done in a separate release. Public confrontations with politicians and Catholic clergy should be rare and few by bishops.

  14. taad says:

    In looking at his campaign and what he has done so far, I would say there is
    an organized attempt to divide the Catholic Church in this country. He is very
    determined to appoint catholics who disagree with the church into high positions.
    It seems as if there is a strategy here to divide us further than we have been.

  15. marcum says:

    bingo! Obama is anti-Roman Catholic.

    The progressives are pushing the term catholic (small case c)
    in an effort to undermine allegiance to the magisterium and
    tradition of the RCC.

    Obama and the democrats have a world view that clashes like a
    train wreck with the RCC in it’s traditional form. To a utopian humanist, the RCC belongs in the dust bin of history so the new man can rise. So, anytime you hear a
    progressive dressing down RC to c,,make a point to offer a
    charitable correction.

  16. GOR says:

    I agree, Father, that the Archbishop’s letter carries some serious weight. Unlike the pharisaic ‘rending of garments’ we see from many in public life (e.g. the politicians lamenting the financial situation they were complicit in causing…) the Archbishop comes across as not just genuinely concerned but also resolved to act.

    While what his ‘withdrawal of support’ may entail is unknown, I wouldn’t underestimate the impact on Catholic parents of an Archbishop who calls into question the judgment and orthodoxy of a supposedly Catholic University.

  17. Nicknackpaddywack says:

    Obama did not lift a ban on embryonic stem cell research because there was none. Here the bishop unintentionally repeats a thought used by the enemies of the Bush policy. He lifted a ban on federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research.

    The public use of the term “anti-Catholic” to describe Obama also seems incautious to me. Surely we don’t want to reduce the term “anti-Catholic” to the meaning of “disagrees with some things the Catholic Church teaches.” In that case, all non-Catholic Christians would be “anti-Catholic” because they don’t accept the Pope, etc. The term should be reserved for those who have a special antipathy for Catholics and/or Catholicism.

    Overall, this letter seems to have been written in haste and without sufficient forethought. Think then post, I say. [Okay… think about this: Did he get it right or not?]

  18. jacques says:

    Pdt Obama has stepped down at the same level as Mgr Williamson, and even a bit lower:
    He denies there is a mass muder of babies, like Williamson denies (in a doubtful manner) that there was a mass murder of Jews during WWII.
    The difference between them is the following: Williamson questions an historical fact according to (sometimes) questionable historical documents. But he has no responsibility in the Jews murder.
    On the contrary Pdt Obama while asserting there is no mass murder in an abortion, has a huge responsibility in the abortions performed every day since he until now okayed them, but is now undertaking to loosen the last restriction that may still exist. [Does he assert that there is no mass murder?]
    Moreover, he has daily statistical datas available to help him to assess the number of crimes he is supporting
    I suggest Fr Jenkins to invite Mgr Williamson having a speech at Notre Dame.

  19. Magdalene says:

    I just love it that we once again have a few bishops with backbones!
    Shepherds like this we can look to and trust.

  20. JSP says:

    The Archbishop is coming off downright mean and nasty

    He must be a “conservative”

  21. cathguy says:


    Are you joking?

    Look, Obama is most certainly anti-Catholic. He supports an agenda of warfare against the Church. He calls the Church’s position extreme and ideological. That is the pot calling the kettle black. HIS position is the ideological and the extreme one.

    His support of FOCA is only one example. This is huge potential attack on Catholic health care.

    His attacks on the Christian family (the CORE of what it means to be a lay Catholic)are another.

    His first act in office was to overturn the Mexico City Policy. His secretary state (Clinton) said yesterday that “reproductive rights” will be the focus of our foreign policy. She said this the day after snidely asking “who painted it?” when visiting the shrine to Our Lady of Guadaloupe.

    Lets be clear: The US has a lot of money and influence. Clinton and Obama have publicly stated that they want to use this influence to wage a diplomatic war in Catholic Countries to make sure the Catholic position on “reproductive rights” (banning the murder of innocent children and the spread of immoral contraceptives) is overturned.

    I live in Connecticut. Obama’s party supports the sort of legislation anti-Catholic bigots here recently attempted to pass (we are talking about the state taking over control of the Church for goodness sake).

    Not only is President Obama an anti-Catholic, I would say he is VERY anti-Catholic. I would say he is an EXTREMIST on the abortion issue (this is clear by his agenda and his own words). We are living through perhaps the most anti-Catholic administration in U.S. history.

    Pray, organize, and get involved. He have to use every moral and legal means in our power to make sure we can defeat Obama in free and open elections 4 years from now.

  22. The public use of the term “anti-Catholic” to describe Obama also seems incautious to me. Surely we don’t want to reduce the term “anti-Catholic” to the meaning of “disagrees with some things the Catholic Church teaches.”


    Well, he chose an excommunicated former Catholic (see Code of Canon Law 751, 1364) as a running mate. That seems pretty anti-Catholic to me.

  23. Michael Kramer says:

    There must be something in the diet coke at the USCCB meetings. It’s the only explanation for recent events.

  24. Jordanes says:

    Perhaps he should change his screen name to Nitpickpaddywhack.

  25. Irenaeus says:

    If Fr Jenkins cant be persuaded, I can only hope he will use this as an opportunity to persuade Obama to be less zealous with his support for the culture of death. Perhaps they can rehabilitate Obamas positions a la Clockwork Orange style :) Force him to sit through presentations of the actual truth, with refutations of the pro choice view.

  26. APM says:

    What I liked about this letter is that the Archbishop did not feel the need to take the “pathetic modern churchman” tone. There is no conciliatory need to heap praise upon the president for agreeing with the church on certain issues or talk about our “profound respect” for him and his accomplishments, nor the use of words such as “unfortunate” or “disappointing”.

    It is clear and to the point. Normally when a modern bishop slips up and says something this clear we can expect to see a “correction” released within a few days explaining how his words were misinterpreted and he didn’t mean it. I get the feeling with this one no such retraction should be expected.

    Bravo, Your Excellency, thanks for being a true shepherd!

  27. Jack says:

    1) Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.”

    2) Obama and his adminstration are both admitted and demonstrated as anti-life, anti-truth, and anti-way.

    3) Therefore Obama/US DEMS are anti-Christ.

    4) The Catholic Church is the body of Christ.

    5) Therefore Obama/US Dems are anti-Catholic.

  28. TJM says:


    I assume you were jesting when you stated “the Archbishop is coming off downright mean and nasty.”

    If being direct and to the point is “downright mean and nasty” then count me in that group. When liberals referred to George Bush as “BushHitler” or
    “Chimpy” I assume you would certainly condemn such language in terms far stronger than being downright mean and nasty.

    Bravo, Archbishop, bravo!


  29. Obama is anti-Catholic, this is clear…Bravo to the good Archbishop for stepping up to the plate.

  30. craig says:

    Nicknackpaddywack, the point of calling Obama anti-Catholic instead of merely not Catholic is that his administration has not merely acted in opposition to Catholic truth itself, it has sought to force Catholics to act in opposition to it too (e.g., by subsidizing anti-life policies with tax dollars, attempting to remove conscience exemptions, etc.).

  31. Bubbagump says:

    “It is a travesty that the University of Notre Dame, considered by many to be a Catholic University, should give its public support to such an anti-Catholic politician”

    Note the important thing here…”Considered by many Catholics to be a Catholic Universtiy.

    Is he saying that ND isn’t a Catholic University?

    I’d say this is turning into a serious, and valid question.

  32. Bubbagump says:

    \”It is a travesty that the University of Notre Dame, considered by many to be a Catholic University, should give its public support to such an anti-Catholic politician\”

    Note the important thing here…\”Considered by many Catholics to be a Catholic Universtiy.

    Is he saying that ND isn\’t a Catholic University?

    I\’d say this is turning into a serious, and valid question.

  33. Chris says:

    Bubbagump, read the first comment.

  34. Alessandro says:


  35. Corleone says:

    Wow. I’m sorry, but THIS is a bishop with cojones! I almost thought this breed had long gone extinct. His words are without a doubt concise, accurate and powerful.

    I believe the bishop chose his word “support” very wisely as ND, as well as all Universities, rely on donations (not tuition) to keep their doors open. Should this bishop, as well as other like minded ones, steer the specific benefactors in their respective archdiocese away from ND as a viable institution for charitable contribution in the future, I honestly think the impact will be so substantial that the University board will have no choice but to relent. Hopefully this will happen sooner than later.

  36. Jim says:

    Fr Jenkins must now realize that he has bitten off more than he can chew. The humble thing would be for him to rescind the invitation with a polite letter of explanation to the President.

  37. Old Bob says:

    Bravo Archbishop Nienstedt, and Bravo Father Zuhlsdorf! It’s about time a line was drawn in the sand.

  38. Catholicman says:

    I love this straightforward letter. I’m still wondering if this is a public letter that was “issued” as Fr. Z says or private correspondance that has leaked out somehow. If it is officially released somewhere, I’d love a link.

  39. mwa says:

    @ Catholicman:
    The letter is posted on the Cardinal Newman Society website, with their statement that it was released to them today.

  40. Yes, let us hope these alumni are as “well-healed” as they are well-heeled.

  41. Elizabeth T. says:

    Bravo Archbishop Nienstedt!!!
    I’m so grateful to have a bishop who proclaims the TRUTH! Praise God!

  42. Thomas in MD says:

    At the risk of being taken as a reactionary: Obama is not just anti-Catholic; he is ANTI-CHRIST, in the truest sense. His infiltration of a formerly Catholic bastion is-dare I say it- apocalyptic. It is a clear victory for the prince of this world. We all need to double up on our payers to St. Michael-defende nos in proelio.

  43. ssoldie says:

    Thank you Bishop Neinstadt, you in Minneapolis/St Paul are so blessed to have a true Shepard to lead you. I am not of your diocese but am praying we will get a Shepard just like your Bishop Nienstedt.

  44. kate says:

    This letter is succinct and well put.
    For those in confusion: Obamas statements and policies are collectivist and Marxist. The ultimate form of Marxism, which is the goal of the Heglian dialectic we are currently enmeshed within, is the elimination of individual liberty and assimilation of all into the collective…the Total State. This is incompatible with and the antithesis of Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism.

  45. Brendan says:

    It is interesting to note that instead of saying that many consider Notre Dame to be the foremost and leading Catholic University in the United States, His Excellency said that many consider Notre Dame to be Catholic.


  46. jarhead462 says:

    On the contrary Pdt Obama while asserting there is no mass murder in an abortion, has a huge responsibility in the abortions performed every day since he until now okayed them, but is now undertaking to loosen the last restriction that may still exist. [Does he assert that there is no mass murder?]

    Father Z- I would say that Obama DOES (at least by inference) assert there is no Mass murder by mere fact that he seems to fall on the side that denies that a fetus is a human life. Keeping in mind that the question of weather life begins at conception is “above his pay grade”

    Semper Fi!

  47. jarhead462 says:

    Sorry for the line-out

    Semper Fi!

  48. Joe says:

    The Democrat Party, long the party of most US Catholics, is today anti-Catholic to the core. Oh, sure, the Democrat Party wants to spend more on programs to “benefit” the poor and the working class, expand “health care” to “cover the uninsured”, “reach out” to adversarial nations, etc. Under the “seamless garment” preached by the late Cardinal Bernardin, the bishops ate that stuff up, thinking the real goal was to spread peace and assist the poor in the world.

    The Democrat Party wants to help nobody but themselves. They want to control everything but sex. Certain bishops are beginning to realize this. It’s a shame they didn’t realize it sooner.

    Obama is quite aware of what he is doing. The abortionists who claim to be Catholics play a prominent role in his administration. I read a book about government pork years ago – the author pointed out that then Senator Bob Packwood, a liberal Republican from Oregon, pointed out that as long as Congress spent money on social programs, the Catholic bishops would say nothing about abortionist politicians. Packwood was right.

    Obama seeks to expand the split in the Catholic Church in this country and make to too weak to fight his goals. People such as Sebelius and Biden perform the role of useful idiot to further Obama’s aspirations. Pelosi is an accomplice. So are the Kennedys, Kerry, Bob Casey, Barbara Mikulski, Schwarzenegger and the rest of the left-wing who call themselves Catholic.

    Obama will bring about the chastisement Father Corapi warned us about. We didn’t wake up after September 11 and this time it will be worse. It won’t be a terrorist attack, but a government that curtails our rights, enshrines abortion and birth control and piles so much debt upon our taxpayers that we’ll never pay it off.

  49. TJM says:

    Joe, I agree with your and it’s a charade that the Dems want to help the “poor.” They want the poor to be wards of the State, dependent on the Democratic Party for their daily bread, and otherwise keep them in their place. Yah, and they also want their votes. This social justice stuff is just sheer nonsense. Social justice starts with the least vulnerable in our society – the unborn. Until that Party comes to grips with that, I”m not buying. Tom

  50. Supertradmom says:


    If there are public actions which cause scandal, a public rebuke is appropriate. And, as ND seems to be benefiting from the publicity of having the president at the commencement, a public denouncement of that entire invitation, degree, occasion, is absolutely fitting.

  51. Matt says:

    [If you can’t self-edit… I will do it for you. The next time, I will lock you out.]

  52. Rancher says:

    The chastisement may prove to be both–living in a marxist society and a terrorist attack. The terrorist organizations have got to be taking note of two things: one, that BO is limp wristed and indecisive; and, two, that he is trying to do all things at once which leaves him way short on time for proper awareness of and concentration on the potential for a terrorist attack. Just today a Taliban thug known to be responsible for some pretty ambitious terrorist attacks warned of a huge one that will be inflicted on our nation’s capital. If #2 occurs quickly enough it may slow down #1.

  53. Mark says:

    Bravo! It’s totally fine by me that Abp. Nienstedt represents the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis. A fine shepherd, indeed.

    Viva L’Arcivescovo!
    (how did I do with my Italian, Don Zuhlsdorf?)

  54. This is going to put the football fanatics between a rock and a hard place. Are the Catholic or sports fans. I knew a Murphy whose neighbor had a leprechaun painted on the side of her garage opposite his kitchen. He used to travel to South Bend twice a year. He also attended Mass at the VA Medical Center daily. I’ll warrant he’s spinning in his grave. Semper Fi Jarhead from this WWII gyrene.

  55. TerryC says:

    I’d say a bishop who has withdrawn his support from a University can do quite a bit. Someone has already mentioned the chilling effect on the parents of prospective students. Most diocese have scholarships which students in the diocese can get to attend a Catholic College or University. If the bishop wants to play hardball he can exclude UND from the list of Catholic Universities which can receive scholarships from the diocese. As also already mentioned he can discouraged donors from contributing to the school.
    If he really wants to play hardball he can take it to the USCCB and try to get a statement of condemnation endorsed by the whole conference. There have been a number of bishops speaking out and I don’t think I’ve seen a single bishop speak in favor of UND’s actions. I’m sure Land O’ Lakes grates on many of the Ordinaries. Perhaps they’re ready to respond to it.

  56. Irene says:

    Thank the Lord for such a courageous bishop. Let’s pray that the USCCB as a whole comes out and says the same thing as a unified body. I pray that the good bishop does not retract his statements. If all the bishops said they would no longer support Notre Dame, how long do you think it would be before Obama decided he “has to attend to the affairs of the union and cannot attend the commencement.

  57. Tim from St. Agnes says:

    In his Letter the AB concludes: “If not, please do not expect me to support your University in the future.”

    Guessing what this might mean: As the parent of a high schooler in the archdiocse, I know that Notre Dame recruiters come to the school campuses at least once a year to do a preso to interested students and of course the ND athletic program recruits as well. Perhaps our good AB will put an end to those practices, perhaps go further and not allow parish and archdiocesan employees to attend any seminars, events, etc. at NotreDame? In short an embargo on ND? And what if other bishops in the US did the same? What if the USCCB called on that to happen?

    Just musing? any thoughts on whether an Ordinary could order such a thing in his diocese from the Canon Lawyers visiting this blog?


  58. cavaliere says:

    Not only did the Archbishop write this fine letter, he also gave a wonderful homily on the proper role and dignity of a priest at last night’s Chrism Mass in the Cathedral.

  59. A says:

    “well-healed alumi” –> well-heeled alumni

  60. mfg says:

    Ecce Sacerdos Magnus, who in his days pleased God and has been found just. Liturgy of the Hours. I call it straight talk. Thank you Archbishop Nienstedt.

Comments are closed.