Cardinal maintains pressure on Notre Dame

Published: 4/2/2009 12:03 AM

Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago, has continued to put heat on the University of Notre Dame for inviting President Obama to speak at the school's May 17 commencement.

In videotaped remarks first broadcast on the anti-abortion news site, George said the decision by Notre Dame, one of the country's most prominent Catholic schools, has brought "extreme embarrassment" to many Catholics and added that the university "didn't understand what it means to be Catholic" when it issued the invitation.

The invitation has come under fire because of the president's decision to provide federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and his stance on abortion. Bishop John D'Arcy of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, which includes Notre Dame, said he will boycott the ceremony. University officials have said that Notre Dame does not plan to rescind the invitation.

A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Chicago said Wednesday that George made the remarks during a conference held Saturday that focused on respect-for-life issues. The diocese is referring local Catholics with questions or comments about the invitation to the board of trustees at Notre Dame and leaders of the order of priests that governs the school.

The Rev. Bill Zavaski, pastor of St. James Catholic Church in Arlington Heights, said that while it's important for Catholics to stand firm on their beliefs about the sanctity of life, he also sees how a visit from Obama could be very valuable for the students.

"He is the president, after all, and there are a number of things he could speak on that could inspire the students in the right way," he said. "But I don't know. The university is in a tough position."