Notre Dame law professor Richard Garnett, writing at National Review, while not supportive of President Obama speaking at the University takes issue with her cyber-critics.
As I made clear in my initial contribution to this NRO symposium, I believe that the University of Notre Dame should not, at this time, honor President Obama with a ceremonial degree and the commencement-speaker role.
All that said, this is not the time for the tiresome anti-Notre Dame screeds that too often clutter the Catholic and conservative corners of the Internet. Some who are outraged, gathering signatures, demanding changes, and pointing fingers have long since given up — mistakenly — on Notre Dame. For them, Notre Dame’s purpose is simply to serve as a convenient target. For many of Notre Dame’s cyber-critics, her many achievements and successes are invisible; her mission is unappreciated or not-understood; her failures are cause for celebration, not constructive criticism.
These critics are wrong. This should not be an occasion for fundraising, grandstanding, or attention-grabbing by self-interested activists. Again, Notre Dame matters, and it is precisely because it still is meaningfully Catholic that its mistakes are disappointing. It’s easy for [insert name here] Completely Pure Catholic College (or blogger) to avoid dilemmas (and mistakes) like Notre Dame’s, because no one cares about that College (or blogger). Notre Dame’s challenge is more difficult. We should want, and be willing to help, her to succeed.
As one of those cyber-critics and as one who has followed this story closely, respectfully I think Professor Garnett is wrong. While their may be some anti-ND Catholics out there, I think the vast majority of Notre Dame’s critics are so loud and dissappointed precisely because we haven’t given up on the University.
We here at CMR love Notre Dame. While other Catholic Universities have completely forfeited their Catholic identity, some of it still remains at Notre Dame. Some of it. But that does not mean Notre Dame is incapable of losing it. Moves such as this invitation to the President diminishes the Catholic identity of the University both on and off campus.
As a Catholic parent, I must keep this in mind when helping my children select an institution of higher learning. Is the Notre Dame campus a place where their own Catholic identity will grow or will it be undermined? As many have pointed out there are still many orthodox Catholics there, both on the faculty and in the student body. But it is also true that polls of the students last year showed widespread support of a virulently pro-abortion candidate, Barack Obama.
The point is, Catholic identity at a University is not something intrinsic. It does not remain no matter what action the administration may take. We have seen this process come to its completion at other Universities with those institutions eventually dropping the pretense of Catholicism.
This is why we criticize. We do not want the same thing to happen at the most prestigious of Catholic Universities. We do not want to read a story a few years from now about how the faculty protested when it was decided to put crucifixes back in the classroom. We fight now to make sure that Jesus stays in the classroom. We love Notre Dame and that is why we fight. That is why we sign letters. That is why we urge alumni to withhold contributions. We love Notre Dame so much and we have not given up hope. We want the golden dome to always shine.