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Politics, not religion

Letter to the Editor | Thursday, March 26, 2009

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops 2004 statement, “Catholics and Political Life,” states that Catholic institutions, like Notre Dame, “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental and moral principles,” and that those who do “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

On May 17, I will be honored with a Bachelor’s Degree from Notre Dame. In my four years attending this university I have been awarded with over $100,000 in scholarships and financial aid from Notre Dame, and have always been offered a platform to speak my mind, as I would in any credible University. On the day that I graduate, President Obama will be presented with an honorary law degree from Notre Dame and have the privilege to be the Class of 2009’s Commencement speaker. Both Barack Obama and I have acted in defiance of the Church’s fundamental and moral principles in the past, but no one is protesting me receiving my degree.

The idea that by inviting President Obama to deliver the commencement address, Notre Dame is in any way supporting his position on abortion is ludicrous. In presenting him this honor, Notre Dame is rewarding him for his achievements, just as Notre Dame will be rewarding me for mine. There is no Catholic litmus test to decide whether you are fit for this honor. Notre Dame has a long history of presenting this honor to people who have in opposition to the Catholic Church, from General Sherman in 1865, whose total war strategies in his “March to the Sea” clearly violate the Catholic standards of jus in bello, to President George W. Bush, who as governor of Texas presided over 155 executions. I’m willing to bet that the pro-life activists who are turning this event into a scandal were silent when President George W. Bush delivered the commencement speech eight years ago. Which leads to me to believe that this protest movement has nothing to do with “protecting Notre Dame’s Catholic identity” and everything to do with politics.

I have no problem with staging a political protest. It’s our right as Americans to do so. What I do have a problem with is hypocrisy. If you disagree with Obama’s politics, you have the right to stage a political protest, but don’t turn it into something it’s not. Don’t hide behind the Church unless you plan to protest every speaker we have in the future that does not conform to Catholic principles. You are staging a political protest, nothing more.

Bill Sanchez


Knott Hall

March 25