- (Photo: AP / Ron Edmonds)
Outrage over the invitation of President Barack Obama to offer the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame has translated to over 111,000 signatures and counting in protest.
At one point Tuesday evening, the website notredamescandal.com popped up with the "Server is too busy" statement as the online petition continued to collect an average of 1,000 new signatures every 15 minutes.
"People are outraged, and the alumni of Notre Dame in particular are communicating to each other," Patrick J. Reilly, president of Cardinal Newman Society, which launched the petition, told LifeSiteNews.com.
White House officials announced on Friday that Obama had accepted Notre Dame's invitation to speak at the May 17 event. Following protests from pro-life groups, university alumni and religious leaders, the White House issued a statement Tuesday saying Obama welcomes the "spirit of debate and healthy disagreement on important issues."
Bishop John D'Arcy, the Roman Catholic Bishop of South Bend, Ind., has decided not to attend the commencement ceremony, where Obama will also be given an honorary degree.
D'Arcy's main protest is against Obama's recent actions which include lifting a ban on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research and overturning a policy that banned U.S. taxpayer money from going to international groups that perform or promote abortions.
"President Obama has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred," D'Arcy said Tuesday. "While claiming to separate politics from science, he has in fact separated science from ethics and has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life."
Reilly of Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) told LifeSiteNews.com that he sees outrages all the time but he believes Obama's selection was "the last straw."
"The president has been waging a campaign of human destruction with his policies, and abortion, and stem-cell research, and now trying to eliminate conscience protections for healthcare workers," he said. "And in the meantime, Catholic institutions – in particular Catholic universities – have been very quick to abandon their Catholic mission for the sake of prestige. And this is probably the most prominent Catholic University hosting the most prominent leader of the Culture of Death."
CNS, which is dedicated to renewing and strengthening Catholic identity at the nation's 224 Catholic colleges and universities, launched the petition on Friday right after the announcement by the White House. Other groups, including Notre Dame campus organizations and Catholicvote.org, have joined the petition drive.
"Notre Dame has chosen prestige over principles, popularity over morality," the petition laments.
Despite the burgeoning protest, the president of the renowned Catholic university, the Rev. John Jenkins, said the invitation still stands, citing that past presidents from both political parties have also spoken at Notre Dame's graduation ceremonies.
"We will honor Mr. Obama as an inspiring leader who faces many challenges," Jenkins said. "It is of special significance that we will hear from our first African-American president."
He added that the invitation does not mean the university supports all of Obama's positions and that it "should not be taken as condoning or endorsing his positions on specific issues regarding the protection of human life."
"Yet, we see his visit as a basis for further positive engagement."
Meanwhile, CNS' petition says Obama's pro-choice views "directly contradict fundamental Catholic teachings on life and marriage" and violates the 2004 "Catholics in Political Life" mandate, part of which states: "The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions."