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University of Notre Dame

President Obama, who has made massive strides to expand abortion rights in his first few weeks in office, is looking forward to a “dialogue” with Catholics, who by church law are pro-life, when he speaks at the school’s commencement this spring.

The confirmation came at a news briefing today from presidential press secretary Robert Gibbs to Les Kinsolving, WND’s correspondent at the White House.

“What is the president’s reaction to the 50,000 people already who’ve signed petitions joining the Catholic bishop of Fort Wayne, South Bend in objecting to his addressing the graduation and receiving an honorary degree from Notre Dame?” Kinsolving asked.

“The president obviously believes that everyone has a right to get involved and exercise their opinion and he met last week with Cardinal George and others to discuss topics that he’s interested in and the Catholic church is interested in and he looks forward to continuing dialogue in the leadup to the commencement and looks forward to delivering the address in May,” said Gibbs.

WND reported earlier on the fury that developed among Roman Catholics when the announcement was made  that Obama, with his pro-abortion agenda, would speak at the school.

In his brief tenure in the White House, Obama has reversed a federal ban on embryonic stem-cell research, lifted a restriction on using taxpayer money for organizations that provide abortions around the world and has promised to support radical legislation called the Freedom of Choice Act, which would eliminate virtually every state and local abortion restriction nationwide. His Health and Human Services secretary, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius,  hosted events in the governor’s mansion for late-term abortionist George Tiller, on trial now on 19 criminal counts.

Notre Dame alumnus Joe Scheidler, the national director of the Pro-Life Action League, issued a statement calling on Fr. John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, to withdraw the invitation to Obama.

“My alma mater should not be providing a platform for this president,” said Scheidler. “Starting from his first week in office, President Obama has enacted a string of executive orders, appointments and policy decisions that contradict Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life – a teaching that Notre Dame is supposed to uphold.”

Scheidler added, “Father Jenkins cannot expect pro-life Catholics to stand back and allow the most pro-abortion president in U.S. history to make a mockery of Notre Dame’s Catholic identity.”

“We have invited the president, and he’s honored us by accepting,” Jenkins said in an campus Observer interview. “Presidents from both parties have come to Notre Dame for decades to speak to graduates about our nation and our world. They’ve given important addresses on international affairs, human rights, service, and we’re delighted that President Obama is continuing that tradition.”

Jenkins continued, “The invitation of President Obama to be our commencement speaker should in no way be taken as condoning or endorsing his positions on specific issues regarding the protection of life, such as abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

“We are not ignoring the critical issue of the protection of life. On the contrary, we invited him because we care so much about those issues, and we hope for this to be the basis of an engagement with him,” Jenkins said. “You cannot change the world if you shun the people you want to persuade; and if you cannot persuade them, show respect for them and listen to them.”

The Cardinal Newman Society, a group that describes itself as “dedicated to renewing and strengthening Catholic identity at America’s 224 Catholic colleges and universities,” has launched a website hoping to pressure Jenkins into reconsidering.

The site has collected more than 172,000 signatures.

The Catholic bishop of South Bend has announced he will not attend the graduation events because of Obama’s presence.

“It is an outrage and a scandal that ‘Our Lady’s University,’ one of the premier Catholic universities in the United States, would bestow such an honor on President Obama given his clear support for policies and laws that directly contradict fundamental Catholic teachings on life and marriage,” states the petition. “We prayerfully implore you to halt this travesty immediately.”

“Notre Dame has chosen a man to hold up as a role model who advocates the legal right to murder the most defenseless in society,” writes Kevin Keane, who describes himself as a 1988 alumnus of Notre Dame in the Observer. “I will be in attendance on commencement day with several thousand others to show my distaste for this decision.”

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