The Associated Press has a nice article about the controversy surrounding President Barack Obama's upcoming commencement speech at Notre Dame University scheduled for May 17. The scheduled speech has outraged a number of people in the Roman Catholic community and over 350,000 people have signed an online petition to have Notre Dame rescind the invitation.
According to the AP: "The Cardinal Newman Society, an advocacy group for Catholic colleges that circulated the position, said the invitation violated a 2004 bishops' mandate that stated, 'The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.' One Catholic leader, Archbishop Raymond Burke, accused Obama of pushing an anti-life, anti-family agenda. Burke, the first American to lead the Vatican supreme court, said Friday it was 'a scandal' that Notre Dame had invited Obama to speak. Catholic activists and bishops have been outspoken in their criticism of Obama....They cite his support for abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research, and his repeal of a policy that denied federal dollars to international relief organizations that provide abortions or abortion-related information. They remain angry with Obama's support for legislation that would prohibit state and local governments from interfering with a woman's right to obtain an abortion."
The fact is that conservative Catholics, such as those represented by the Cardinal Newman Society, are but just a part of a diverse Catholic community--a community that is the ultimate swing group in presidential elections. This is no doubt one reason why the Obama folks accepted Notre Dame's invitation. Obama won 54% of the Catholic vote in 2008--one of the many reasons why he won the presidency. Had Democrat John Kerry, a Catholic himself, won Catholics in 2004, he would have been the 44th president. As it so happened, Kerry was able to manage only 47% of the Catholic vote nationally and only 44% in Ohio, a state he lost by just over 100,000 votes and would have captured had he carried Ohio Catholics. Democrats understand that they must continue to make inroads with Catholic community to continue their recent electoral success.