Do you remember March 20, 2009?
That was the day the University of Notre Dame announced they would honor newly-elected President Obama as their Commencement speaker.
Under intense pressure, Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins called the invitation a “catalyst for dialogue.” He noted that Presidents of both political parties had spoken in the past, and that the invitation was in no way an endorsement of President Obama’s well known hostility to Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life.
Will Notre Dame continue their tradition and invite President Trump?
We understand the Notre Dame Board of Trustees met earlier this month. It is fair to assume that decisions have likely been made regarding speaking invitations for their upcoming Commencement.
However, in the weeks following the election last year, Fr. Jenkins signaled a retreat from the decades-old tradition of inviting the new President. He told reporters he was concerned an invitation to President-elect Trump would turn into a ‘political circus,’ perhaps far worse than the controversy that erupted in 2009.
Would they have worried about a ‘circus’ had Hillary Clinton been elected?
While Catholics today continue to debate how to best balance the economic and security interests of the country with immigration policy, the Trump administration has encouraged Catholics with pledges to work to defend the sanctity of life, restore protections for religious liberty (including for Notre Dame) and to be a voice for workers and families left behind by our globalized economy.
As a prestigious Catholic university, Notre Dame can help bridge the growing divide in America — and our Church. Recall what Fr. Jenkins said in 2009: “The world today is torn by division and fixed on its differences. Differences must be acknowledged and sometimes even cherished…”
If Obama was ok, why not Trump?
No doubt political forces are conspiring to sabotage an invitation to President Trump. While Catholics supported Donald Trump last November, many of his opponents remain as hostile as ever. Meanwhile, true dialogue and debate are being shut down on many college campuses.
Notre Dame is not Berkeley. Notre Dame can and should be different.
We note that a petition is already circulating urging Fr. Jenkins and Notre Dame to invite Trump.
Perhaps Notre Dame staff is already on the phone with the White House logistics team.
Our Take: A ‘catalyst for dialogue’ in 2017 is exactly what is needed.
Last month Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput seemed to agree saying:
“Notre Dame takes pride in its tradition of welcoming to campus U.S. presidents from both parties and with very different views… In that light, the invitation [to Trump] would certainly make sense and might be fruitful in unforeseen ways. God writes straight with crooked lines.”