Home > Domestic/Social Policy, Election 2009: GUV, POTUS/Executive Branch > McDonnell Stands Firm on Obama Degree

McDonnell Stands Firm on Obama Degree

The RTD is reporting that Bob McDonnell, a graduate of Norte Dame himself, is opposed to the University awarding a degree to President Obama. He does not, however, believe ND should revoke its invitation for the President to speak.

McDonnell, an alumnus of the Catholic university in Indiana, said “a number of [Obama’s] views, both private and public, appear to be in great conflict with the Catholic social teaching.”


“Conferring a degree confers certainly an imprimatur, or an approval, of those views,” McDonnell said on the WTOP radio show. “So I don’t think so, if it’s a uniquely Catholic university like a Georgetown or a Boston College or a Notre Dame.”

I agree with Bob. Universities who choose to hand out honorary degrees should do so with an eye towards the values that those degrees represent. Indeed, such is the case with those universities who do not award them (such as my alma mater the University of Virginia), who believe that their degrees are only to be rewarded to those who show their academic worth. Indeed, this is echoed in the context the University provides for its mission statement:

This statement speaks of the University of Notre Dame as a place of teaching and research, of scholarship and publication, of service and community. These components flow from three characteristics of Roman Catholicism that image Jesus Christ, his Gospel, and his Spirit. A sacramental vision encounters God in the whole of creation. In and through the visible world in which we live, we come to know and experience the invisible God. In mediation the Catholic vision perceives God not only present in but working through persons, events, and material things. There is an intelligibility and a coherence to all reality, discoverable through spirit, mind, and imagination. God’s grace prompts human activity to assist the world in creating justice grounded in love. God’s way to us comes as communion, through the communities in which men and women live. This community includes the many theological traditions, liturgies, and spiritualities that fashion the life of the Church. The emphasis on community in Catholicism explains why Notre Dame historically has fostered familial bonds in its institutional life.

Certainly, I think it would be in bad taste for the University to retract its invitation for the President to speak–indeed, it would be against its other stated value of academic freedom. However, as a Catholic institution, respect for the church’s teachings is paramount, and to offer an honorary degree to an individual who has repeatedly and openly stated opposition to the church’s core teaching of the sanctity of life should not receieve such a degree.

I think some commentators (particularly ones on the other side of the aisle) will point to this as an a-ha moment, purporting that they’ve caught McDonnell in a lie about his “true nature.” However, I think all this moment shows is further proof of McDonnell’s leadership style: pragmatic solutions that never betray core values.

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