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Isn’t Honesty a Catholic Value?

March 24, 2009, 5:16 pm | Posted by Beth Dahlman

The new anti-Obama petition site, NotreDameScandal.com has been cited in the news (and featured on FoxNews.com‘s homepage) as evidence of a Catholic uprising against Notre Dame for inviting President Obama to speak at commencement.

Leaving aside the persuasive arguments in support of the invitation, one can’t help but think that NotreDameScandal.com’s appeal to Notre Dame to “uphold the sacred mission” of their Catholic University would have more credibility if they hadn’t repeatedly misrepresented the president’s record.

The petition claims “this honor comes on the heels of some of the most anti-life actions of any American president, including expanding federal funding for abortions…” (emphasis added).

Well, no. As we’ve noted before, legislation (such as the Helms and Hyde amendments) currently block federal funding for abortion. Only Congress, not the President, can allow any funding, much less an increase.

But the distortions don’t stop there. On the left-hand column of the site there is a section called “Obama Anti-Life” record with “information” provided by the right-wing site LifeNews.com.

All four of the bullet points they list are deceptive in some way.

Let’s take a look:

Distortion One:

Overturning of the Mexico City Policy, which had prohibited U.S. funds from being used to promote or provide abortions overseas

Yes, President Obama overturned the Mexico City Policy, but as we mentioned above, the Helms Amendment still prohibits funding for providing abortion overseas.

Distortion Two:

Working to overturn conscience protections for healthcare workers, forcing them to cooperate in abortion or risk losing their jobs

Several federal laws ensure that no one will be forced to cooperate in abortion.

Distortion Three:

Appointing pro-abortion Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who has close ties to late-term abortionist George Tiller, to head the Department of Health and Human Services

Gov. Sebelius is pro-choice, but is anti-abortion. Abortions in Kansas decreased under her leadership, and her ties with Tiller are not at all “close.”

Distortion Four:

Dedicating federal funds to harvest embryonic stem cells for research at the expense of the most defenseless members of the human family

President Obama lifted the ban on federal funds for embryonic stem cell research, a move supported by the majority of the American people and many religious groups. Obama himself cannot “dictate” funding for ESC research, Congress needs to take up the question first. Federal law (the Dickey-Wicker Amendment) still prohibits federal funding for the creation of new stem cell lines. What President Obama has done is open up federal funding to existing lines created in private clinics after then-President Bush put in place the ban on federal funding. (These private clinics were never regulated by the Bush ban). Dickey-Wicker was recently renewed by Congress (see page 128).

University President Jenkins has said that the invitation is the “basis of engagement” with a pro-choice president, specifically because the Notre Dame community cares so much about life issues.

According to Jenkins,

“You cannot change the world if you shun the people you want to persuade, and if you cannot persuade them, show respect for them and listen to them.”

Sounds like a good adage to live by. NotreDameScandal.com’s insistence that the invitation equals an endorsement of all President Obama’s positions doesn’t ring true, especially since President Jenkins said the invitation “should in no way be taken as condoning or endorsing his positions on specific issues regarding the protection of life.” NotreDameScandal.com seems more interested in stifling dialogue and scoring points than on dealing with difficult issues in a constructive manner.


6 Responses to “Isn’t Honesty a Catholic Value?”

  1. Beth Conrad says:

    “You cannot change the world if you shun the people you want to persuade, and if you cannot persuade them, show respect for them and listen to them.”

    This may be true, but why publicly HONOR anyone whose thinking is so opposed to the thinking of the Churchon such a vital issue.. Stem cell reserach may be approved by many Americans and several religious groups; the bootom line is it is not approved by the Catholic Church. What other people choose to believe is their business, we do not have to agree. Wrong is wrong, even if the majority holds the view.

  2. John Gehring says:

    As a person of faith proud of our nation’s tradition of civil dialogue and religious pluralism, I stand with Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins and his decision to invite President Barack Obama to speak at the 2009 graduation commencement.

    For decades, presidents of both political parties have been invited to Notre Dame for this occasion to engage in rigorous discourse about the most pressing issues of our day. Presidents have addressed such essential issues as international affairs, peace building, poverty, and human rights. Through this invitation, Fr. Jenkins is honoring the best of our nation’s democratic and religious values.

    While some partisan groups driven by narrow ideological agendas are attempting to smear the Notre Dame community for extending this invitation, I agree with Fr. Jenkins’ statement that Notre Dame is justly honoring our nation’s first African American president – an “an inspiring leader who has taken leadership of a country facing many challenge” with “intelligence, courage and honesty.”

  3. Bea says:

    Let’s have a little honesty. If you’re a Catholic, and especially a Catholic priest like Fr. Jenkins, there are a few items that go with the territory. First, Fr. Jenkins is supposed to uphold Catholic teaching on abortion, which has remained constant since the early Church (see the 1st cent. ‘Didache’, if in doubt) and he isn’t doing that by honoring a pro-abort. Second, he is flagrantly disobedient to his bishop, who is now not going to attend the ceremony. Who is being dishonest? Notre Dame has been a disobedient institution for almost 35 years and, if Fr. Jenkins were to be honest and courageous, he should leave the church and petition his bishop to remove the Catholic designation from the university. Then do whatever you want and I guarantee you that no bishop, Pope, or those really obnoxious Catholic lay people who care about their faith, will bother you. Try it sometime! We’ll miss you, but you’re not really with us anyway, are you?

  4. Mike L says:

    “NotreDameScandal.com seems more interested in stifling dialogue …”

    I would agree with you, except where is the dialogue in having a commencement speaker speak to an audience?

    Dialogue – A conversation between two or more people.

    A commencement speech is a monologue.

    Monologue – A long speech made by one person, often monopolizing a conversation.

    It is irresponsible for Notre Dame, a Catholic university, to offer someone who has anti-Catholic viewpoints an open podium without opposing viewpoints, namely Catholic ones.

    Notre Dame, Our Mother, pray for us!

    (Definitions from thefreedictionary.com)

  5. Dan says:

    To be clear, the dishonesty here is by the attack dogs who are using false accusations about Obama’s record. Jenkins, Obama and Bishop D’Arcy are all straightforward in their disagreement. Honest, good-faith disagreement is healthy, but the deployment of dishonest attacks to bolster an argument — as notredamescandal has done — is just the opposite.

    And I don’t see how imposing litmus tests on a commencement speaker accomplishes anything. If anything, it sends the message that dialogue across lines of disagreement is something to be feared or disdained, and I don’t think that’s a position Notre Dame takes. No president conforms to Catholic doctrine or promotes Catholic values across all issues. I’d hate for students to miss out on a chance to hear such important figures because of that.

  6. Kristin says:

    Interesting– Religion News Service notes that 73 percent of student letters to the school paper supported Obama’s appearance. Among the 95 seniors who wrote letters, 97 percent supported the president’s invitation. It’s a shame that these students, who support this choice, will likely remember a commencement marred with angry protesters.

    These students see the great honor in having the American president agree to speak at their school. (As a recent college grad, I can say that my commencement speaker has nowhere near the oratorical skills or the influence of Pres. Obama!) While many of these students are pro-life, they acknowledge that shunning the other side will not lead to progress on the issue of abortion, or any other issue. We have to work together; we have to listen to different viewpoints– it’s been critical to American success thus far, and it will continue to be.

    I say, hats off to Notre Dame!