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Notre Dame Alumni Go After Donations, President Over Obama Invite

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By Katherine T. Phan, Christian Post Reporter
April 19, 2009|8:56 am

A price tag will soon be attached to the University of Notre Dame's decision to invite President Barack Obama as the commencement speaker next month.

A group of seven alumni and donors has launched an online effort using Facebook and the Web site, replacejenkins.com, to withhold funding to the university until the school's president, the Rev. John Jenkins, is replaced.

"Although we love Notre Dame, our conscience requires that we withhold all financial support from our University until such time as Father Jenkins is replaced as Notre Dame’s President with someone who will be more loyal to the teachings of the Catholic Church," Joe DiFranco, ND Class of 1957 and coalition representative, said in a statement this past week.

Jenkins has repeatedly defended invite, first by saying the invitation was meant to honor Obama's accomplishment and not condone his abortion stances. He later disputed a line found in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' direction "Catholic in Political" – which instructs Catholics institutions not to honor those who go against the Church's moral teachings – only applied to Catholics, not Protestants such as Obama.

Still, DiFranco says, the decision to invite Obama as the commencement speaker and to award him an honorary doctor of laws degree "calls into question Father Jenkins’ judgment and leadership."

Organizers of the latest effort have asked the university's alumni and financial supporters to sign a petition on their Web site, stating how much they plan to withhold from the Notre Dame's General Fund in response to Jenkins' decision.

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While the total amount from the petition has not been released, the Facebook group "ReplaceJenkins" has so far attracted around 150 people.

"Alumni and supporters of Notre Dame who for years have proudly donated hundreds of millions of dollars to the University deserve better," argued DiFranco.

The coalition asserts that the effort is not intended to be personal attacks against Obama or Jenkins but rather "serve as a strong condemnation of Father Jenkins’ moral leadership and President Obama’s unequivocal support of abortion."

The effort represents the latest outrage over the university's decision honor Obama at the school’s commencement on May 17. A majority of protesters have cited the president’s pro-abortion policies as the basis for their opposition.

Two weeks ago, a coalition of on-campus student groups known as ND Response held a Palm Sunday rally attended by over 400 people that called for the university to withdraw the offer of the honorary degree.

Jenkins had invited ND Response to a closed-door meeting but recently rescinded the offer after student groups made a list of demands before the meeting. The Notre Dame president wrote in a private letter to the coalition that "conditions for constructive dialogue simply do not exist" and that students should disregard earlier invitations to meet with him, reported ND Response.

In addition, at least 31 Catholic bishops have publicly come out against the decision while nearly 320,000 people have signed a petition effort led by Cardinal Newman Society at www.NotreDameScandal.com, urging Jenkins to rescind the commencement invitation.

Bishop John D'Arcy of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, which oversees the Notre Dame area, has made the decision to boycott next month’s commencement. Despite sharing the same sentiment as many of the protestors, he recently urged a halt to "unseemly and unhelpful demonstrations" against Obama and Jenkins.

Barack Obama will be the ninth U.S. president to be awarded an honorary degree by the University of Notre Dame and the sixth to be the Commencement speaker. Past commencement speakers include President George W. Bush, President Ronald Reagan and President John F. Kennedy.

 

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