I am trying hard to imagine what the real Notre Dame, the Blessed Virgin Mary, would make of a Catholic university named in her honour, and I presume, relying on her patronage and intercession, inviting someone who publicy opposes Catholic teaching on the sancitity of human life to speak to students at commencement.

Speaking at commencement is about giving students direction for their lives as they complete their studies. At a Catholic university, or any Christian university,  it is also about the reason for those studies in the context of the needs of the world and the mission of the Church.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Notre Dame University is also presenting Obama with an honorary degree. For what? A book of memoirs written by Bill Ayers, an unrepentant terrorist?

Local diocesan bishop John D’Arcy said ‘President Obama has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred. While claiming to separate politics from science, he 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.’

This support for the direct destruction of human life extends to withholding care from children born alive after an attempted abortion.

I am not a Catholic, and I find this baffling. It is hardly surprising that it has turned into a public relations disaster for both Notre Dame and the White House.

A petition of more than 300,000 signatures has been delivered to Notre Dame’s fellows and trustees, asking them to think again.

The University hoped to soften some of the (clearly unexpected – and that tells a story in itself) backlash by awarding the Laetare Medal to Mary Ann Glendon, a pro-life Harvard law professor.

It then announced: “President Obama won’t be doing all the talking. Mary Ann Glendon, the former US ambassador to the Vatican, will be speaking as the recipient of the Laetare Medal.”

But Glendon would not be used in this way, and said she would not accept the medal. This is the first time the award has been declined.

The always interesting Amy Welborn has posted a homily by Bishop Wenski, preached at a Mass of reparation prompted by Notre Dame’s decision to honour Obama.

In his homily Bishop Wenski says:

Notre-Dame chose to defy the Bishops of the United States who have said that “the Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

The hurt felt by many throughout the United States is real, for Notre-Dame’s actions, despite its protests to the contrary, seem to suggest that it wishes “to justify positions that contradict the faith and teachings of the church; to do so, as Pope Benedict reminded Catholic educators in Washington, DC last year “would obstruct or even betray the university’s identity and mission.” At the very least, Notre-Dame’s actions suggest that, unlike a beauty queen from California, it lacks the courage of its convictions.

Some of the comments to this post on Amy’s blog are dismaying, if they come from Catholics. To paraphrase:

‘We live in a diverse society, and have to accept that others have beliefs which are different from our own.’

Yes, but accepting that others believe differently does not mean we have to deny what we believe.

‘We have to respect the views of others.’

Do we? Do we have to respect the views of a religious leader who says it is OK to have sex with a nine year old girl? Do we have to respect the views of a man who thinks it is his right to beat or rape his wife?

Then why do we have to respect the views of a man who thinks it OK to partially deliver a living human baby, and then crush its head?