Notre Dame Commencement


Notre Dame Commencement: As It Should Have Been

NOTRE DAME, IN – Thousands scorn the University’s tribute to President Obama and, chosing “truth over prestige,” celebrate with students and Bishop John M. D’Arcy.

(This bulletin consists of an account by Bill Dempsey of the events sponsored by the student group ND Response on Graduation Day. Bill and his wife Mary were joined at Notre Dame by Arina Grossu (’05) of the Sycamore Board and a number of Sycamore supporters. In our next bulletin we will discuss the dark side of Commencement.)

While the University on May 17th was compromising its claim to Catholic identity by according honors to President Obama inside McKenna Hall, outside on the South Quad a courageous band of students and thousands of their supporters joined in a moving display of fidelity to the Church and of love for the unborn. This stirring event predictably went unnoted by the secular media. What was not predictable was that the University would, in its torrent of self-congratulatory publicity and extensive web site coverage, suppress any account of this dramatic exercise in free speech, academic freedom, and pro-life advocacy. The University eagerly “engages” the President by providing him a coveted platform along with an honorary degree, but it studiously turns its face from the protests of those in its family who deplore its actions.

The Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture has noted the irony:

In light of the public statements of prominent administrators at Notre Dame affirming Notre Dame’s “unambiguous” commitment to the pro-life cause, one might have expected that some notice would have been taken of what was surely the most significant pro-life event on this campus in many years. By refusing even to acknowledge the student-organized event, the university also appears to be silencing important dialogue partners for the dialogue to which they have become so passionately committed.

You will soon be able to view the principal events. We arranged for a full videotaping and have provided the product to the Center, as we will to any University organization and, of course, to the University itself. We will advise you as soon as the video is posted on our or some other site. Videos are available now on the sites of the Center and NDResponse, but the one that is coming is of higher quality and you will do well to wait.

In the meantime, here is a summary that intersperses passages from the students’ news release with reflections by Bishop D’Arcy:

Bishop D’Arcy on the Eucharistic Adoration Saturday evening: “The Alumni Chapel was packed – people standing in the aisles. Father Kevin Russeau, CSC, a quiet hero of these days, exposed the Blessed Sacrament. There was not a sound in the chapel, just quiet prayer. The group was made up of students and their parents.”

ND Response on the Sunday events: “Approximately 3000 people gathered on the South Quad of the University of Notre Dame’s campus this past Sunday for a Mass, rally, and prayer vigil hosted by the student coalition ND Response. With pro-life supporters and Notre Dame faithful traveling in from places as far away as Mexico, New York, California, and Florida to stand alongside the ND Response students on their graduation day, Sunday’s events not only provided powerful witness to the sanctity of human life but also expressed constructive disappointment at the University of Notre Dame’s decision to honor President Barack Obama, who has publicly supported abortion and embryo-destructive stem cell research during his tenure in office.”


Bishop D’Arcy: “I arrived to a stirring address by [Rev.] Bill Miscamble, [CSC], a great scholar, a former head of the history department, and a good friend of mine. I was invited to the platform. I said that in this time of sadness, I had thought there were no winners. I was wrong. The young people were the heroes. The dignity and the substance and the prayer which they brought to these events was extraordinary. I told them John D’Arcy was not important, but the Office of Bishop was, and I was honored to be with them.”

ND Response: “Following Sunday’s rally, nearly 40 graduates who had decided to skip their commencement ceremony gathered in the University’s Grotto for a prayer vigil and to listen to a meditation given by Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life. These students were joined at this vigil by over 800 people, including their parents, siblings, and families.”

A good — perhaps the only — press account appears in the Ft. Wayne/So. Bend diocesan paper . The homilist was Father Russeau, and the speakers in addition to Father Miscamble were Chris Godfrey, ND Law ’93, Life Athletes Founder and President, starting offensive guard for Super Bowl XXI Champion New York Giants; Elizabeth Borger, ND ’78, Former Chairman of the Board of the Women’s Care Center; Lacy Dodd, ND ’99, Room at the Inn Board of Directors, Charlotte, NC; Father John Raphael, SSJ, ND ’89, Principal of St. Augustine High School in New Orlenas, LA; and Dr. David Solomon, ND Associate Professor of Philosophy, W.P. and H.B.White Director of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture and Chair of the Steering Committee for the ND Fund to Protect Human Life.

Texts of the speeches are available at NDResponse and Center for Ethics and Culture; but good as they are, the written word in this instance cannot match the spoken, so it would be unprofitable to substitute reading for viewing.

The attached photos of the setting and speakers provide a sense of the event. Note in particular the glorious floral arrangements, the gift of those of you — 139 in number — who contributed so generously in order to grace with beauty this special day for the students and their families. About $5,000.00 was contributed, with $4,000 going to the flowers and the balance to the ND Fund for the Protection of Human Life. (A reminder to donors: To ease our administrative burden, acknowledgments in this instance will be sent only on request.)

Among the photos of the speakers, attend particularly to that of Lacy Dodd with her daughter Mary, for, as you know from Lacy’s essay, it is the Marys of the world whose lives are at stake in this controversy.

One unexpected sidelight deserves mention. At the outset of his talk, Dr. David Solomon invited any faculty members who might be in the audience to join him, and some 25 thereupon made their way to the podium. (One of the attached photos records the scene.) The fact that the great majority of faculty were at that moment applauding President Obama testifies to the school’s loss of Catholic sensibility; but it is heartening to know that there remain a number willing to stand publicly against the pressure to defend Father Jenkin’s action. Surely there are many more who are quietly in sympathy.

These celebrations on the South Quad and the Grotto, which answered the prayers of so many that God manifest His presence in the midst of this wretched affair, represented Notre Dame at its best. We will talk about the other face of Notre Dame in our next bulletin.

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