Utne Blogs > Mind and Body

Obama at Notre Dame, a Moderate Opinion

by Katie Leo 

Tags: Spirituality, Church and State, University of Notre Dame, Obama and Catholics, Commonweal,


Pundits continue to wrestle over the University of Notre Dame’s decision to invite President Obama to speak at commencement, with a growing online petition against the visit, outrage from the likes of Newt Gingrich, and subsequent outrage at the outrage from liberals. Sometimes it’s hard to find a moderate voice between all the shouting back and forth, but J. Peter Nixon presents a restrained, thoughtful opinion over at Commonweal.

Nixon recognizes the politics involved in Notre Dame’s invitation:

“There was a time, of course, when Catholics were on the outside looking in at mainstream American society.  The fact that Notre Dame could entice a president to speak was a mark that we had arrived and were part of the mainstream.  Is that the message we want to send?  That the nation’s leading Catholic university has ‘bagged another one,’ so to speak?  Is our ability to attract the attention of the powerful a mark of our success as followers of Jesus Christ?”

And as for Obama, accepting the invitation signals “that at least some portion of the Catholic community is ‘okay’ with him.  I don’t blame him for this and it doesn’t particularly upset me.  This is what politicians do.” 

Nixon cops to voting for Obama in the election but remains openly conflicted on the president’s positions on stem cell research and abortion:

“I was ‘okay’ enough with Obama to support him last year, given the choices I had,” Nixon writes. “But it was always a ‘two-and-a-half cheers’ kind of thing.  I couldn’t forget–and didn’t want to forget–that there was an entire class of human beings that were outside his circle of moral concern.”

He concludes, “There is a difference between a hiring decision–which is what I think a choice for president is–and holding someone up as a person to be emulated.  When I think of the kind of commencement speaker I’d want students at a Catholic university to hear from, I’d be looking for someone a bit different.”

Source: Commonweal 

Image by Paul J Everett, licensed under Creative Commons