Richard V. Allen, Ronald Reagan’s national security advisor, recently wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times strongly defending Reagan’s honorary degree from Notre Dame University on the basis of the former president’s alleged “pro-life” politics. Allen, a Notre Dame alumnus, just as strongly argued against a similar honor planned for President Obama in May.
Apparently Mr. Allen was so busy working for Reagan that he never noticed the president’s actual history on abortion rights. As one “pro-life” writer points out on www.issues2000.org
“Reagan was not as obsessive about anti-abortion legislation as he often seemed. Early in his California governorship he had signed a permissive abortion bill that has resulted in more than a million abortions. Afterward, he inaccurately blamed this outcome on doctors, saying that they had deliberately misinterpreted the law. When Reagan ran for president, he won backing from pro-life forces by advocating a constitutional amendment that would have prohibited all abortions except when necessary to save the life of the mother. Reagan’s stand was partly a product of political calculation, as was his tactic after he was elected of addressing the annual pro-life rally held in Washington by telephone so that he would not be seen with the leaders of the movement on the evening news…”
(Source: The Role of a Lifetime, by Lou Cannon, p. 812 Jul 2, 1991)
Notre Dame has given honorary degrees in the past to publicly pro-choice people like Obama including U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, President John F. Kennedy, and actress Cicily Tyson, a Planned Parenthood advocate, to name just a few. (Notre Dame also gave an honorary degree to Joseph P. Kennedy, father of the president, a Catholic and an alleged bootlegger, public philanderer and long-time paramour of actress Gloria Swanson.)
In 2005, another Catholic college, Loyola University, gave former seminarian Rudy Giuliani an honorary degree, seemingly unconcerned that the former Republican mayor and presidential candidate was pro-choice, had a series of marriages, divorces and public infidelities, abandoned his wife and children, and supported homosexuals, all in defiance of Catholic teachings.
President Obama is at least as worthy in the “Catholic context” as many others on Notre Dame’s past lists of commencement speakers and honorees: so-called “good Catholics” who don’t think so need to stop changing the rules whenever it’s convenient.
Obama, not a Catholic, worked as an attorney helping the underprivileged, shunning higher paying jobs to do this good “Catholic” work.
His record as a politician, as far as we know, is unblemished by the usual shady behaviors and tendency to overlook (if not participate in) graft and corruption.
Obama’s respect and love for his elders, wife and daughters, as well as for those less fortunate than himself, shows that he understands and embraces the greatest commandment to “Love thy Neighbor.” Regarding “basic family values” he excels where Reagan (divorced, remarried, estranged from his children, and no friend to the poor) failed miserably.
If the Catholic Church-- losing membership, wanting in new priests, and steeped in scandals which are bankrupting dioceses left and right-- can’t get its values in order, at least its defenders should try to get their facts straight.