Fighting Irish lawmakers mad over Obama’s honor
By Betsy Rothstein and Kris Kitto
March 26, 2009
Several Republican lawmakers who are Notre Dame alumni are strongly criticizing the school for inviting President Obama to give a commencement speech — and for giving the him an honorary degree.
The lawmakers say the president’s views on abortion run counter to Catholic beliefs, and that it is inappropriate to honor him with a degree.
Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), who is mulling a Senate run in New York, where Obama won with more than 60 percent of the vote in 2008, said Obama should be allowed to speak, but opposed his receiving the degree.
“It would be appropriate for Notre Dame to invite the president of the United States to deliver the commencement address, provided that the university made it absolutely clear how strongly it disagreed with President Obama’s stand on abortion,” King said.
“It is wrong, however, for Notre Dame to award President Obama an honorary degree, because this will be seen as tacit acceptance of the president’s abortion views, which are so antithetical to Catholic moral teaching on the sanctity and value of human life.”
Tougher words came from Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.).
“It’s an extreme disappointment,” said Lungren, whose father, two brothers, son and three nieces also graduated from Notre Dame.
Lungren cited Obama’s abortion views, and his recent decision to rescind a Bush administration rule that strengthened job protections for doctors and nurses who refuse to perform abortions for moral reasons. Lungren plans to contact people he knows at Notre Dame “to find out what their excuse is.”
The comments come as an online petition asking Notre Dame’s president to halt the “travesty” of Obama speaking at graduation gathers steam. The petition had more than 130,000 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.
Republican Rep. Mark Souder (Ind.), another Notre Dame alumnus, also voiced concern over this year’s speaker.
Souder said it is “an honor” for a president to visit the university — but pointed to abortion and even Obama’s views on school vouchers as affronts to the Catholic faith.
“He received the invitation out of respect for his position as leader of our nation, not as an endorsement of his personal views,” said Souder, who received a master’s degree in business administration from Notre Dame.
Two Democrats who graduated from Notre Dame, Reps. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), did not respond to requests for comment. Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.), a former faculty member, also did not respond to a call. Donnelly’s district includes Notre Dame’s campus.