Patrick Buchanan on Notre Shame

Patrick J. Buchanan on has some observations about Notre Dame and the invitation to Pres. Obama.

My emphases and comments.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009
 Is Notre Dame Still Catholic?
by Patrick J. Buchanan

 By inviting Barack Obama to deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree at Notre Dame, the Rev. John Jenkins has polarized the Catholic community nationwide — and raised a question. What does it mean to be a Catholic university in post-Christian America?

Are there truths about faith and morality that are closed to debate at Notre Dame? Or is Notre Dame like London’s Hyde Park, where all ideas and all advocates get a hearing?  [Remember your history: Former president of ND, Fr. Hesburgh was a leader for the Land O’ Lakes Statement.]

To Catholics, abortion is the killing of an unborn child, a premeditated breach of God’s Commandment "Thou Shalt Not Kill." The case is closed for all time. Any who participate in an abortion are excommunicated. Catholic politicians from Nancy Pelosi to Joe Biden who support a "woman’s right to choose" have been denounced from pulpits and denied Communion.

Obama, however, is the most pro-abortion president ever. On his third day in office, by executive order, he repealed the Bush prohibition against using tax dollars to fund agencies abroad that perform abortions.

He supports partial-birth abortion, where a baby’s soft skull is sliced open with scissors in the birth canal and its brains sucked out to ease its passage, a procedure Sen. Pat Moynihan said "comes as close to infanticide as anything I have seen in our judiciary."

In the Illinois legislature, Obama helped block the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, a bill to save the lives of infant survivors of abortion. He voted to allow doctors and nurses to let these tiny babies die of neglect and be tossed out with the medical waste.

Barack is committed to signing the Freedom of Choice Act, which would repeal every federal and state restriction on abortion. He has smoothed the path for federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

Notre Dame, a university that teaches that all innocent human life is sacred, will thus honor a leader determined to ensure that a woman’s right to destroy her unborn child in the womb remains unrestricted.

There is thus a direct clash between what Notre Dame professes to stand for and what Notre Dame is doing.

Says Ralph McInerny, a philosophy professor since 1955: "By inviting Barack Obama to be the 2009 commencement speaker, Notre Dame has forfeited its right to call itself a Catholic University. … (T)his is a deliberate thumbing of the collective nose at the Roman Catholic Church to which Notre Dame purports to be faithful.

"Faithful? Tell it to Julian the Apostate."

McInerny calls Father Jenkins’ invitation to Obama worse than the "usual effort of the university to get into warm contact with the power figures of the day. It is an unequivocal abandonment of any pretense at being a Catholic university."

An honorary degree, writes Catholic author George Weigel, is a statement that here is a man we should admire and emulate. [This is a very important point.  Some people are waffling on this.  They are suggesting that a doctorate honoris causa doesn’t really honor them in the sense of.. well honoring them.  Or, on the other hand, they will say "he is being honored for X but not for Y".  Maybe that works for some public figures, but I don’t think it can in the case of President Obama, for the reasons Buchanan reminds us about above.  This is not simply a case of some university honoring "an American President".  This is a president with a difference at a school which identifies itself as Catholic.] But how can a Catholic university say that about a man who means to appoint Supreme Court justices who will keep constitutional and legal the systematic slaughter of the unborn that has taken 50 million lives in 35 years? 

Can Father Jenkins not see the contradiction here that renders Notre Dame a morally incoherent institution?

Diocesan Bishop John D’Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend has told Father Jenkins he will not be attending commencement because of Obama’s support of embryonic stem cell research.

Said the bishop, "While claiming to separate policies from science, (Obama) has in fact separated science from ethics and has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life."

Pope Benedict has yet to be heard from. But on his visit to the United States, he declared that any appeal to academic freedom "to justify positions that contradict the faith and teaching of the church would obstruct or even betray the university’s identity and mission.[I don’t think ND is trying to justify a pro-abortion position in honoring Pres. Obama. I think the motivations is simpler.]

Does not honoring the most visible pro-abortion advocate in America "betray the identity and mission" of Notre Dame?

Father Jenkins says the invitation "should not be taken as condoning or endorsing his positions on specific issues regarding the protection of human life."

But what Notre Dame is saying with this invitation is that Obama’s 100 percent support for policies and programs that bring death to more than a million unborn children every year is no disqualification [there it is] to being honored by a university dedicated to Our Lady who carried to term the Son of God.

Chris Carrington, a political science major, regards the opposition to Obama’s appearance as un-Catholic: "To not allow someone here because of their beliefs would seem a little hypocritical and contradictory to what the mission of the university and church should be."

The obtuse Carrington has stumbled on the relevant question: Is Notre Dame still a repository, teacher and exemplar of eternal truths about God and Man, right and wrong, whose mission is to convey and defend those truths in a hostile world?

Or has Notre Dame joined the secularists in their endless scavenger hunt to seek and find truth in the marketplace of ideas?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Father of Three says:

    If the Pope had to apologize for lifting the Excommunication (not even honoring) of Bishop Williamson, then Fr. Jenkins should at least apologize for honoring a man who is attempting to murder more innocent life than the Nazis and Communists combined.

  2. Irenaeus says:

    Doesn’t Fr Jenkins have superiors. Can’t they be appealed to for putting pressure on him?

  3. meg says:

    How many more will be dazzled to the point of blindness by Barack Obama?

  4. TJM says:

    Although I often find myself opposite of Mr. Buchanan on many issues, he is spot on here. Tom

  5. Paul Haley says:

    Leave it to Patrick J. to tell it like it is. What would be the impact if the Holy Father (who must have heard of this controversy by now) were to immediately and publicly laicize Fr. Jenkins and declare that the University in question has no right to claim the Catholic identity? Now I know this is not going to happen but just think what an impact it would have? It would be earth-shattering and a gauntlet thrown to the pro-death crowd. But, the Holy Father is also the Head of the Vatican State and, as such, he must continue to deal with the likes of Obama…unfortunately. Like a friend of mine said recently: “Wotta Mess”!

  6. Julia says:

    Chris Carrington is wrong about this being an issue of Obama’s beliefs. It’s about his actions as a politician and stated intentions of further actions.

  7. Tominellay says:

    Bravo, Pat Buchanan. When you’re right, you’re right.

  8. MargoB says:

    “But what Notre Dame is saying with this invitation is that Obama’s 100 percent support for policies and programs that bring death to more than a million unborn children every year is no disqualification to being honored by a university dedicated to Our Lady who carried to term the Son of God.”

    Best phrase I’ve heard yet in the coverage of this situation.

  9. Jacob says:

    I commented on Mr. Carrington’s words in that blog post. Mr. Buchanan misses the devastating implications of Carrington’s words.

  10. Ken says:

    I don’t think I have ever disagreed with Pat (a lifelong TLM communicant) on anything. That remains true today.

    As an aside, it’s good to see George Weigel united with traditional Catholics again for a noble cause.

  11. stgemma says:

    They aren’t lost on him, I assure you. That’s the whole point for its inclusion in the article. He’s setting up Carrington’s position of what is considered to be what the Catholic Church thinks and does versus what the Catholic Church actually is. I was very appalled at Carrington’s understanding of the Catholic Church. I think, and there a TON of studies to support this, that there is such a lack of identity at almost every level of the Church, from Bishops to John and Jane Pewsitter. It’s hard to fathom how things can derail themselves in such a short period of time. I hope and pray that all of this is establishing the true values of the Church and allows it to rediscover its identity in the world. But again, this is nothing new for the Church in its history. It is always being hammered against from those outside as well as inside. We can only pray that our Bishops can see their way through all of this to come out better than our current society will. The Church has remained while entire empires have fallen. Maybe this is just the beginning of the end for a once gleaming bright light that is/was the US. May God help us and protect us all if that is the case.

  12. EDG says:

    Paul Haley – “Wotta mess!” Yes, it is, and Obama knows exactly what he’s doing. He may be completely inept at the duties of the Presidency, not to mention his new job as CEO of GM, but he is an extremely canny ideologue and politician. The selection of Biden was meant as a taunt to the Catholic Church, and unfortunately, because of a lack of unified and immediate response from the bishops, he got away with it. His technique is to put the Church in an increasingly untenable position, and he is succeeding quite well at this. Unfortunately, he gets a fair amount of help from certain people inside the Church, and this really has created a mess.

  13. Christa says:

    EDG, I couldn’t agree with you more. He has been pulling these “in your face” actions against the Church since he began running. He made a very deliberate and successful attempt to co-opt Catholic celebrities, the most prominent being Doug Kmiec.

    All Catholics he has appointed have been very pro-choice. The conscience clause is going to be withdrawn not for abortion rights (becuse he knows darn well that this doesn’t really stop any abortions) but in order to force Catholics into a confrontation. That Freedom of Choice Act will further place the Church in an untenable situation.

    These are deliberately divisive and evil acts. The speech at Notre Dame will not be conciliatory; far from it. Father Jenkins is either a complete dupe or has lost his Catholic faith. Did he not care about those students who are faithful Catholics? Did he not care for the Church and the situation in which his actions have placed her?

    Bad things are coming our way, I think.

  14. jacques says:

    I was a bit saddened by Mgr Burke’ reaction to Randall Terry’s visit to the Vatican.
    Of course, he is extremely puzzled that a number of his colleagues and friends are implicated in file, although they are fully guilty of disobedience to the Pope and the Church regarding the last recommendations regarding giving or not giving
    communion to the persons who condone the abortion. But he had to stay on the good side of the fence, instead of rebuking
    Randall Terry about the way he handled the issue.
    I am afraid that will bring a bit more scandal and confusion.

  15. Stephen says:

    My position is this: invite him (since we welcome always sinners), listen courteously but do not honour him with any awards.

  16. Bill in Texas says:


    Fr. Cleary, the head of Fr. Jenkins’ order, has already said in a 13-page letter that he is happy that President Obama was invited.

    No point appealing to Fr. Jenkins’ superiors. They have his back.

  17. Fr. Michael says:

    Bill in Texas wrote: “No point appealing to Fr. Jenkins’ superiors. They have his back.”

    You obviously haven’t read his letter, nor have you rad carefully the CNS article.

    As a Holy Cross priest myself here in Rome I can tell you that Fr. Cleary, our superior general, has “his (Fr. Jenkins’) back insofar as he is a brother in community.

    The letter is clear in stating, however, Fr. Cleary’s hope that Mr. Obama’s heart and conscious are changed. Now that is indeed a fine petition for all of us to direct our prayers and energies.

  18. PMcGrath says:

    At the risk of throwing a fly in the ointment here, I have to throw out a reasonably likely scenario:

    At some point in his term, Obama is likely to visit Italy. Following custom, while in Rome, Obama may visit the Vatican — all the most recent Presidents have done so.

    Now what happens? A visit by a head of state to the Apostolic Palace is, by definition, an honor.

    There are going to be photographs and TV cameras all over — they can’t give Obama the Nancy Pelosi treatment.

    Does he not invite him? Does he allow Obama to visit but only at midnight?

    Anyway — somebody in the Sostituto’s office should be thinking about that.

  19. TJM says:

    Fr. Michael, I am a Notre Dame graduate and have fond memories of many fine Holy Cross priests. Father Jenkins (Mr. Vagina Monologues) is not included
    in that company. In my opinion, he is just another secularized priest, who comes across more as a business man selling a product rather than as a witness for
    Christ and His Church. I will not be attending my 30 year law reunion because of this unfortunate misjudgment and I will not contribute another
    cent to the University so long as the present admininistration and its ethos reign. Tom

    ps: It’s delusional to think a visit to Notre Dame is going to change Abortion King’s mind. After all, he once said he didn’t want his own
    daughters, if pregnant, to have to live with their mistake.

  20. Biff says:

    The activities of Hesburgh, UND , and Land o’ Lakes has been covered extensively by E. Michael Jones (he was canned by the university for being a defender of life)
    Plenty of links and audio at

  21. Lee says:

    “No point appealing to Fr. Jenkins’ superiors. They have his back.”

    Ummm, maybe we could appeal to the PATRONESS of the University of Notre Dame.

    But perhaps that is too medieval. After all, we are men of action now.

    I have it! A petition. Be sure to sign the petition! And send in your red envelope! Also, we could plant white crosses up and down Notre Dame Avenue!

    On May 17th, the students should hold up pictures of aborted fetuses! They should turn their backs on the president, and not clap when he is done!

    We should write to the alumni, to the head of the order, to all the bishops, the Fellows, The Board of Governors and all the ships at sea.. We should follow the leadership of Joe Scheidler. Wait, no, we should follow the leadership of the Newman Society.

    So many distraught Catholics in search of leadership, in search of a unifying command.

    At Fatima Our Lady asked for fasting and prayer. She could be in charge now, IF WE WOULD OBEY HER with rosaries and Rosary processions and pilgrimages on campus and off, in large and small towns across the country, “with every kind of prayer and petition.”

    Perhaps something wonderful would happen, for Notre Dame, for Fr Jenkins and President Obama, for our Catholic universities and national politics. Is it really so medieval after all to pray to her en masse, as a Catholic people desperately in need of her intervention?

  22. Biff says:

    Pray for the consecration of Russia

  23. Corleone says:

    I voted for Pat Buchanon in 2000 and I would vote for him again. It irks me how so many Catholics only support Catholic candidates when it is convenient. If you didn’t vote for Buchanon in 2000, you can’t whine and moan about Biden in 2008. You spoke, and the political spectrum listened to your sins of omission.

    Regardless of how much or little political clout he has left, this statement will go a long way as the sound of yet another bean in the bucket to use an analogy.

    Keep ’em coming.

  24. lee faber says:

    “moral incoherence” is perhaps the best phrase to describe this mess I’ve seen. One might add “institutional schizophrenia”. Just today in the ND student paper they had an article about how Fr. Jenkins just refused to add a clause about sexual orientation to ND’s non discrimination charter.

    On a sadder note, the day this story broke a lector in the notre dame basilica added his own prayer to the prayers of the faithful to the effect htat ND would rescind its invitation. After mass, four of the ND police came in and dragged him out, with no respect for his advanced age, hurting him in the process. No CSC was on hand to suprevise, and the local press outlets never picked up the story.

  25. TJM says:

    lee faber, that man needs a lawyer. Tom

  26. Romulus says:

    a lector in the notre dame basilica added his own prayer to the prayers of the faithful to the effect htat ND would rescind its invitation. After mass, four of the ND police came in and dragged him out…

    Call it “active participation”.

  27. Fr. Michael says:

    Lee Faber,

    An ND student told me a different “version” of the event. It was the Saturday evening vigil Mass with Fr. Ayo, CSC presiding (he is one of two priests who celebrate the Extraordinary Form on campus) and that a man in the side transept yelled out his petition, interrupting Mass.

    I imagine you and I both value facts.
    God bless.

  28. trespinos says:


    At some point, the Holy Father, as he should, will grant an audience to President Obama. That is not an honor, that is a diplomatic courtesy. Previous popes and this one have received all kinds of political characters–Idi Amin, Yassir Arafat and Vladimir Putin come to mind–so there is no such problem as you anticipate.

    Pat Buchanan’s voice is right on target, this time. More power to him and to all who are raising their voice. The cumulative effect is good; the Holy Cross Order’s superior general’s letter is a mixed bag, but it, too, may be another blow to the Jenkins’ rationale, in the long run.

  29. roxanne says:

    “all too medieval” yes, I agree. We are all missing the point. Why not an appeal to Our Lady? Fasting & prayer by the 215,000 Catholics that are outraged and signed the NoBama petition, now that would be taking action!

  30. Bill in Texas says:

    Fr. Michael, I did read the CNS article (not the letter, at the time I posted the letter was not available online). The article says, “Father Cleary’s letter began by congratulating Obama on being awarded an honorary doctorate from Notre Dame, and said the university was honored to have him deliver the commencement address.” That really does sound to me as if he is happy that President Obama was invited.

    I do not wish to be argumentative, particularly with you. However, I do read and I do think before I post. This whole affair is deeply disappointing to me.

  31. David Kastel says:

    Please notice that the great PJB does not draw a conclusion, but merely poses the questions at the end of his essay…\”Is Notre Dame still a repository, teacher and exemplar of eternal truths about God and Man, right and wrong, whose mission is to convey and defend those truths in a hostile world?\”

    Let\’s be real everyone. This is not simply a Notre Dame issue or a 2009 issue. All \”Catholic\” schools fail to teach the Catholic faith as divinely revealed truth. They all have heterodox teachers. Was not Governor Cuomo invited to ND 25 or so years ago to articulate the Catholic \”pro-choice\” position to the student body? Is this not all a part of the \”we must have dialogue with everyone\” movement called for by the Council:

    \”Wherefore every man has the duty, and therefore the right, to seek the truth in matters religious in order that he may with prudence form for himself right and true judgments of conscience, under use of all suitable means. Truth, however, is to be sought after in a manner proper to the dignity of the human person and his social nature. The inquiry is to be free, carried on with the aid of teaching or instruction, communication and dialogue, in the course of which men explain to one another the truth they have discovered, or think they have discovered, in order thus to assist one another in the quest for truth.\” – Dignitatis Humanae

    The Church needs to \”clarify\” this unfortunate document.

  32. No one of consequence says:

    From Buchanan’s Right from the Beginning, p. 221:

    ==begin quote==

    When the sainted (but naive) Pope John XXIII issued his gauzy encyclical Mater et Magistra (Mother and Teacher), Buckley headed his dissent, “Mater, Si; Magistra No!” That was just the right touch of faithfulness and fire, irreverence and spirit. That was what I felt, too.

    ==end quote==

    Buchanan would be a more effective advocate for Catholicism if it weren’t for statements like that one. [The question is: what do you think of what he wrote in this column? Right or wrong?]

  33. No one of consequence says:


    No. Honoring Obama is not the sort of dialogue called for by the Council. That should already be abundantly clear from the Church’s teaching – even just, say, the Council’s and John Paul II’s and now also Benedict XVI’s – taken as a whole.

  34. Anne Wilson says:

    It seems that “Fr Michael’s” assigned duties are to troll the internet and spin any bad news of ND and
    The Brothers there “enshrined.” But as it continues it becomes clear that such protestations are hallow
    much like ND!

  35. Anne Wilson says:

    Correction- Hollow. But it does make an interesting pun~

  36. Catherine says:

    Buchanan is correct in saying that an honorary degree signifies
    someone whom we should admire and emulate.

    For a truly worthy example of such admiration, read about the
    great Knute Rockne and his witness to being the epitome of the authentic Catholic
    identity and role model for his school.

  37. A simple and direct piece stating the obvious facts to any practicing Catholics, as well as to those non-Catholics who wonder what real Catholics who accept absolute truth and principles believe in. So the great apostasy deepens, as prelates and institutions continue to fall. God can’t wait too much longer to cleanse this world, as mentioned by Our Lady of Fatima and Akita.

  38. CPKS says:

    It’s worth re-reading Professor GEM Anscombe’s argument in principled opposition, when another great malefactor was honoured by another university:

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