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Where do you draw the line?

Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I, too, am shocked that Notre Dame is inviting Obama, who is as pro-abortion a politician as it is possible to be.

I am all for academic freedom and inviting people of opposing views to campus for academic debates. For instance, if Notre Dame were to hold a forum on the abortion issue, I think it would be acceptable to invite a speaker or debater who is in favor of legalized abortion to make the case for that side, so that the issue will have a full hearing from both sides.

But this is completely different. Here, we are not inviting Obama to an academic debate, but rather, we are giving him an honorary degree, and giving him one of the most prestigious honors the university has – promoting him as Commencement speaker and holding him up as a role model to our graduates and the Notre Dame community as a whole. The standard here should be much higher than for inviting someone with controversial views to speak on campus at another forum.

Then the question arises: what about other Catholic issues? The church is against the death penalty – so why were Reagan and Bush allowed to speak, when they favor the death penalty? And should we exclude any politician that does not favor a legal ban on contraceptives or in vitro fertilization? Where do you draw the line? I think this is a fair comparison, as those issues are against church teaching and I doubt you would ever find a single politician that proposes to ban the pill or condoms.

I think the death penalty is the closest comparison, as in both issues, it is truly a matter of life or death. So I think to be consistent, those who want to ban Obama should also say that Notre Dame should also ban any Commencement speaker who favors the death penalty. Then again, the death penalty hits how many? Thirty or 40 a year? And these people are convicted of heinous crimes. There are over a million abortions a year, and these victims are 100 percent innocent. So do you make an argument based on this that the abortion issue is a deal breaker, while the death penalty or other Catholic issues are not? Again, where do you draw the line? A difficult question.

I fear that this issue will tear the Notre Dame community apart, and this is the most important reason that the invitation was a bad idea. The “prestige” of having a President visit Notre Dame is simply not worth the anguish that will be produced.

Mark Rolfes


class of 1984

March 23