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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

D'Arcy speaks at Notre Dame despite ceremony boycott

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

Bishop spoke to protesters before commencement.

Monday, May 18, 2009 07:20 pm
SOUTH BEND - Appealing to what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature,” President Obama and Bishop John M. D'Arcy on Sunday called on abortion-rights supporters and their opponents to show respect for one another.D'Arcy opposed Obama receiving an honorary law degree from the University of Notre Dame because of his support for abortion rights. However, D'Arcy, head of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, had a change of heart and decided to speak on campus. He said it was right for the university to invite Obama to speak.

“He will do some good things and already is doing some good things. Any president does some things we like and some things we don't like,” D'Arcy said after taking part in a campus demonstration against abortion and Obama prior to the commencement address. “(The issue is) about a Catholic university giving an honor to someone who in his history (has) done many things in opposition to the unborn child.”

D'Arcy's plan to boycott commencement helped rally support against Obama. But D'Arcy briefly addressed the about 2,500 protesters, some of whom drove from Fort Wayne. D'Arcy said the anti-abortion Notre Dame students inspired his change of heart Saturday night.

“It is certainly the place for the bishop to be here,” D'Arcy said to applause. “John D'Arcy's not important, but the office of bishop is very important and (the bishop) must always be like Pope John Paul II to stand up for life all the time, everywhere without exception.”

D'Arcy was one of about 75 bishops to openly criticize the Notre Dame invitation. While that makes up only about 20 percent of American bishops, D'Arcy said the number was significant.

About 56 percent of registered voters and 60 percent of Catholic voters supported Notre Dame inviting Obama, according to a Quinnipiac University poll of 2,041 registered voters nationwide. D'Arcy said those who supported the invitation don't understand the symbolism of Obama receiving a degree.

D'Arcy had planned to boycott Obama's appearance, even though he didn't protest President George W. Bush's 2001 appearance at Notre Dame - despite Bush's approval of several executions while Texas governor.

Yet D'Arcy said there is a difference.

“The killing of the unborn child is intrinsically evil, (but) the person who is executed has had a trial and has a lawyer and has hearings,” said D'Arcy, who didn't attend the 1992 commencement speech by the late U.S. Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan, D-New York, because he said Moynihan voted for abortion funding.

D'Arcy said some “professional activists” had turned Sunday's protest into a circus and urged civility. Nonetheless, Obama's 31-minute address was briefly interrupted by four hecklers escorted out of the Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center. “You're killing our children!” one screamed.

Obama was unfazed, invoking the Golden Rule in a call for common ground between the two sides. He asked for more support for adoption and improved health care for pregnant women.

“Maybe we won't agree on abortion, but we can agree this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually, but with both moral and spiritual dimensions. So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions,” Obama said to applause. “Open hearts, open minds, fair-minded words. It's a way of life that has always been the Notre Dame tradition.”

However, there was no room for compromise among some of the protesters on and around the campus Sunday. Some wore T-shirts with a brown-skinned leprechaun dancing by a baby in a trash can. On the back of the T-shirts Notre Dame's famed Golden Dome was blood red with the inscription, “May, 17, 2009 - The Day the Dome was Forever Tarnished.”

Outside the campus, Obama was compared to Adolf Hitler on one sign. It pictured Holocaust victims under the words “Hitler's Holocaust” and pictured an apparently dead fetus under the words “Obama's Holocaust.”

“It is cold-blooded murder!” Dan Holman, a protester from Iowa, screamed on a loudspeaker to people driving by.

Other protesters were less vitriolic.

“We don't hate Obama,” said Fort Wayne resident Jonathan Norton. We just want him to change his views. I have a lot of respect for what he's been through and for being the first African-American president.”

Fort Wayne resident Cindy Black also was a part of the protest.

“Killing your own child is not the solution,” said Black, who took her 8-year-old son to the protest. “There's no life more innocent than a human life in the womb.”

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