Although I have spilled many bytes on this blog over the Obama-Notre Dame commencement-honorary doctorate controversy, I have offered no suggestion on how Notre Dame should have responded when presented with the opportunity to invite President Obama to address its graduates. Over the last couple of days, however, I have given it some thought, and here is one possible scenario.
The ND administration could have had it both ways. It could have invited President Obama to give the commencement address while not offering him an honorary doctorate. A few days after the president's hypothetical acceptance of this invitation, curious reporters would no doubt begin to notice that every other president who had given a commencement address at ND was also awarded an honorary doctorate. Press inquiries to ND would soon follow. And ND President, the Rev. John Jenkins, could have then said with complete moral integrity, “Although we respect and honor President Obama’s historic election as well as his accomplishments, we cannot award him an honorary doctorate in laws since he is actively engaged in making sure that a large segment of the human community, the unborn, are permanently sequestered from the protection of the laws. This, of course, does not mean that we do not respect his office and the many possible ways in which Catholics may work with the president on a variety of issues and common causes. Because we know that President Obama respects Catholics and Catholic moral theology, we are convinced that he understands, appreciates, and respects our stance.” This would have made it nearly impossible for the Right or the Left to have cried foul. Certainly, it would have put President Obama in an awkward position. But, if he really wants to dialogue with those with whom he disagrees, a condition of that dialogue can not be that his hosts remain silent and administratively impotent on the veracity of their own fundamental principles.