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.


~ by Drew on 2009/05/18.

2 Responses to “Obama Does Notre Dame Right With Abortion-Themed Speech”

  1. God trumps Obama. The Bible trumps Obama’s teleprompter. President Obama can spin and rationalize abortion a million different ways, but at the end of the day nothing has changed. His voting record, not his empty rhetoric tell the story.

    But, I will give you this. If you don’t believe in God, if you haven’t been born again, then the Bible is just another book on the shelf. Hence, any argument I bring rooted in scripture will absolutely make no sense to the non-believer.

    I could care less what man thinks about the legal status of a fetus. I only care what God thinks.

  2. You act as if people don’t understand that position: but we do. We just don’t happen to agree with it. I’m indeed not born again, and the Bible is indeed one book on my shelf amongst many. And yep, that’s probably going to mean that appeals to Scripture aren’t going to win me over (then again, they wouldn’t necessarily even if I was a believer: the Scriptural interpretations and inferences necessary to assume that embryos are human beings in the same moral sense as you or I simply aren’t that clear cut or definitive)

    But nothing about Obama speaking to graduates or getting a honor from a university requires anyone to ignore the fact that people’s idea of what God is, or wants, differs. And in our society, we’re just going to have to work out those disagreements, especially when it comes to public policy as best we can.

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