You may be aware that President Obama is scheduled to give the commencement speech this year at Notre Dame. He will also receive an honorary degree. Because President Obama supports a woman’s right to choose and because of his stance on stem cell research, the university has received numerous complaints regarding his appearance.
A Harvard Law professor was also extended an invitation to attend Notre Dame to receive the prestigious Laetre Medal which honors a Catholic layperson who exemplifies the ideas of the church. The professor has declined the award and the offer to attend the university because President Obama will be in attendance and she disagrees with his opinion on a woman’s right to choose, stem cell research, and the fact that Notre Dame invited him to be the commencement speaker and that they will give him an honorary degree.
Regardless of your personal beliefs, I’ve always felt that we, as a country, must learn to respect each other’s opinions whether or not we agree on a particular topic.
This situation was summed up brilliantly by Rev. Kenneth Himes, chairman of the theology department at Boston College:
“There are some well-meaning people who think Notre Dame has given away its Catholic identity, because they have been caught up in the gamesmanship of American higher education, bringing in a star commencement speaker even if that means sacrificing their values, and that accounts for some of this. But one also has to say that there is a political game going on here, and part of that is that you demonize the people who disagree with you, you question their integrity, you challenge their character, and you brand these people as moral poison. Some people have simply reduced Catholicism to the abortion issue, and, consequently, they have simply launched a crusade to bar anything from Catholic institutions that smacks of any sort of open conversation.”
While Rev. Himes speaks specifically to the situation at Notre Dame, I feel it applies to just about any situation we find ourselves in today. Remove a few words and insert the topic of your choice. Remember how divisive the Presidential election process was last year? Think about how you react when someone states an opinion that you disagree with. Do you demonize the person or group you disagree with, question their integrity, or challenge their character?
I’m not taking the high road here as I’m just as guilty as the next person for doing what Rev. Himes describes. It is through his words, however, that I hope to recognize when I start to react that way.
And kudos to Rev. Himes for presenting a logical and rationale synopsis on this form of gamesmanship.