Tempest in a Teapot: The Non-Controversy of Obama’s Notre Dame Commencement Speech

"People are weary of it," Notre Dame history professor R. Scott Appleby told the Washington Post in a story published today about the ongoing protests by far right Catholic groups opposed to President Obama giving the commencement speech at the University this coming Sunday.

Billboards have been put up, planes with signs trailing have been flying around the campus, and stranger-than-strange professional protestor and former Operation Rescue leader Randall Terry is there through Sunday to create mayhem.

The Post reports:

"In South Bend, former Operation Rescue leader Terry has set up shop,
scheduling rounds of protests. Followers stand at the university gates,
holding up signs with photos of aborted fetuses. Last week, Republican
gadfly [Alan] Keyes was among 22 protesters arrested on trespassing charges." 

Terry states:

"We want this to be a political mud pit for Obama.  Our
mission is to tar him with the blood of the babies so he can never
shake it between now and 2012."

"We really see this event as an opportunity," Eric Scheidler,
spokesman for the Pro Life Action League, told the Post.  The group hopes to reach Catholics who support
Obama’s views on social justice without "thinking so much about his
extreme views on abortion."

The Washingon Post also quotes Anthony J. Lauinger, a National Right to Life executive, who sent all eight of his children to Notre Dame, and who accused Obama of using the graduation speech "to co-opt the Catholic vote."


Because last time I looked the Catholic vote was made up primarily of people who are using contraception and abortion at the very same rates as the rest of the population.

Here are some of the facts you won’t get from Terry, Scheidler, or Lauinger.

From Guttmacher Institute:

From Catholics for Choice:

  • The overwhelming majority of Catholics in the United States disagree with the hierarchy’s ban and use contraception.

  • Sexually active Catholic women above the age of 18 are just as likely (97%) to have used some form of contraception banned by the Catholic church as women in the general population (97%).
  • Eighty-five (85) percent of sexually active Catholic women report that they have had their partners use condoms during intercourse.

  • Seventy-eight (78) percent of sexually active Catholic women report having used birth control pills.

  • Married sexually active Catholic women who attend church once a week or more are as likely (88%) to use a form of contraception that is prohibited as those who attend services less frequently (88%).


  • Catholics support providing teenagers with contraception and information about contraception.

  • Eighty-eight (88) percent of Catholics are in favor of public schools providing sex education.

  • The vast majority of Catholics (83%) believe that family planning information should be available to teenagers.This is consistent with the opinions of Protestants (83%) and the general population (84%).

  • Catholics are just as likely as the general population (58%) to believe that 14 to 16-year-olds should be able to access contraception,even if their parents do not approve.


Moreover, Obama is not the only problem if you use the same yardstick
as these protestors.  Counting for the fact that the majority of
students and faculty at Notre Dame are more representative of the
average Catholic American than they are leaders of this protest in regard to the above and that the majority agree with allowing Obama to speak, Terry
and gang should ostensibly be protesting the presence of the entire
student body on a daily basis.

No wonder people are tired.  The Catholic vote is made up of people who agree with Obama, and the large majority of the U.S. public writ large agrees that, no matter how much they may personally oppose abortion, they want women and couples to be able to use contraception and have access to abortion according to their own personal needs and moral and ethical considerations.

"I certainly feel this is not the best way to respect life. It makes the cause a circus," said Appleby.

To the degree the rest of the world has already tuned out, it is a circus without much of an audience.  Don’t buy tickets for the tour.

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Follow Jodi Jacobson on twitter: @jljacobson

  • invalid-0

    According to this poll by Rasmussen the majority of Americans and Catholics do not support Notre Dame awarding an honorary degree to President Obama.

  • invalid-0

    Scheidler and his Pro Life Action League are the same right-wing crazies that are against all contraception — not just abortion. Yet, as Jodi points out, Catholics use contraceptives as regularly as the rest of Americans.

    Check out the anti-contraceptives crowd at Contraception Is Not the Answer.

  • jodi-jacobson

    According to the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of Catholics approve of Obama’s performance in office.  Fifty percent of Catholics thought Notre Dame was right to invite Obama, and only 28 percent objected to the invitation.  Among Catholics attending mass at least once a week, 39 percent support Obama going and 39 percent oppose.

    Jodi Jacobson

  • http://art-architech.blogspot.com/ invalid-0

    Someone can be not agree about the status of Kuriles, someone for an interdiction of abortions, but is fundamental indicators, like life expectancy, the income per capita etc. which are interesting to all inhabitants of the country. I consider, that the president is not guilty in present dissoluteness of women…