Dear Fr. Jenkins:
You are, no doubt, being inundated with letters, phone calls and emails objecting to the decision of Notre Dame to invite President Obama to give the commencement address this year and to receive an honorary doctorate from your university.
I feel compelled to write to you as a brother priest to express my own dismay at this decision which I see as dangerous for Notre Dame, for the Church, for this country, and frankly Father, for your own soul.
I have had the honor to speak at Notre Dame over the years in my capacity as the president of the Acton Institute. I recall the sparkling discussion and questions from the student body, notably from a number of the Holy Cross Seminarians. I have, in fact, been invited to your campus on a number of occasions and on my last visit I was given a statue of the Lladro Blessed Mother in appreciation of my speech. I was told the statue was blessed by Fr. Hesburgh. It has occupied a special place in our religious community since then.
Father, I have no degree or awards from Notre Dame to return to you to indicate how strongly I feel about this scandalous decision. So here is what I have decided to do:
I am returning this statue to your office because what once evoked a pleasant memory of a venerable Catholic institution now evokes shame and sorrow. The statue is simply too painful a reminder of the damage and scandal Notre Dame has brought to the Church and the cause of human life in this decision.
Moreover, I will encourage the young people from my parish and within our diocese to consider universities other than Notre Dame for their college career and I will further encourage other priests in my diocese to do the same. I will also discourage Notre Dame alumni to make donations to the University.
And you may rest assured that I will make this sentiment known from my pulpit and in other public outlets as the occasions present themselves.
This is not a matter of abortion (I presume we agree on how evil it is); nor is it about free speech (you could have invited the president to a discussion for that). This is about coherence. You no longer know who you are as a Catholic institution.
It pains me to write this letter to you. I ask that you go before the Blessed Sacrament and look into your soul – the soul of priest – and reverse this decision before more scandal is brought to the Church.
You and the students under your pastoral charge will be in my prayers and Lenten sacrifices.
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Robert Sirico