Obama Does Notre Dame Right With Abortion-Themed Speech
As I sort of expected, President Obama didn’t shy away from addressing the controversy over his commencement address to Notre Dame: he tackled it directly and with laudable class. College graduates, whether they be from a religious institution or not, anti-abortion or not, are all set enter a real world full of disputes and deep divisions that they’re going to have to figure out how to negotiate. Catholics are part of a larger world, and even if they see themselves as working to change it for the better, they could have no better introduction to the wider debate than a speaker with whom they might vehemently disagree, but is willing to engage them honestly. Even if they strongly reject Obama’s own policy choices in terms of abortion and stem cell research, hearing him out, accepting that people can disagree but still listen and honor each other, was a mark of maturity for the graduates.
As usual, I have little sympathy for the protesters who sought to disrupt and hijack the actual speech itself in order to get their message out. Disrupting someone else’s allotted time and space, particularly in a venue that has given them plenty of opportunities to state and defend their position in the past, isn’t what free speech is all about.
And far less classy were the comments of Catholic Bishop John D’Arcy:
“President Obama has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred,” D’Arcy said in a written statement.
As anyone who’s actually engaged seriously in the abortion debate knows, the core issue at stake is whether everything from fertilized embryos to fetuses really are all human life in the same moral and legal sense as the rest of us. Glossing over this disagreement for the purposes of a cheap rallying point is nothing short of intellectually lazy and rhetorically bankrupt. One can strongly disagree with others about the point at which human beings are truly alive and deserve ethical and legal protection without boldly dissembling about what the other side actually believes and supports.
Catholic League Bill Donohue, now forever famous in my mind for believing that there’s a “natural law” governing sorority parties, was of course just happy to get yet another chance to make the talking-head cable rounds.