Days away from the highly publicized and debated commencement at the University of Notre Dame, a coalition of student groups opposing the invitation of President Obama will hold its own gathering on graduation day.
Notre Dame Response announced on Tuesday that it has received "official permission" by the university to hold a two-day rally that includes a "meditation" and prayer vigil. The protesting seniors want to affirm the university's Catholic identity and pro-life position.
"It's not a political issue; this is an issue of human dignity, and it's a Catholic issue," said Greer Hannan, a Notre Dame graduating senior, in a video by ND Response. "As a Catholic university, we need to stand up for it."
Thousands of graduating seniors, alumni, clergy and Catholics outside the university are outraged that Obama, who is pro-choice, was not only invited to give the commencement address on May 17 but also to receive an honorary law degree.
Awarding a Notre Dame law degree to Obama who has used the law to deny equality to the unborn would diminish the value of the degree itself, ND Response has said.
The Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, will be leading members of the senior class who have decided not to attend their graduation in a separate meditation on Sunday.
"In standing with these students, I am standing with the true spirit of Notre Dame: a pro-life spirit, in harmony with human reason and Catholic Faith," Pavone said in a statement Monday. "The scandal that has been generated does not represent what Notre Dame is all about; it represents a radical betrayal of what Notre Dame is all about. I am encouraged by the pro-life activities of so many student groups on this campus – activities that are carried out all year round."
Pavone is encouraging students not to show up at the university's commencement ceremony and instead attend the alternative "Vigil for Life."
"The seniors who do this are manifesting the real meaning of commencement: they are carrying out the witness to truth and service that their hard-earned degrees have prepared them to give in the world," he stated.
For nearly two months, thousands have protested, petitioned and advertised their opposition to Obama's invitation and have called on university president the Rev. John Jenkins to rescind the invitation.
Former Notre Dame president the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, however, has not been swayed by the protests, according to seattlepi.com.
"No speaker who has ever come to Notre Dame has changed the university. We are who we are," Hesburgh recently told a group of students and alumni, according to seattlepi. "But, quite often, the very fact of being here has changed the speaker."
Former commencement speakers at the university include former presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, and George W. Bush.