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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

May 18, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Obama at Notre Dame

Jeff Haynes / Getty Images

President Obama addresses the Notre Dame University graduating class of 2009 during the 164th commencement ceremonies Sunday in the Joyce Center on campus.

Applause from the Catholic Church

Editor, The Times:

I applaud Notre Dame University’s invitation of President Obama to be commencement speaker at its May 17 graduation ceremonies [“President addresses rancor on abortion,” page one, May 18].

Both the brilliant introduction of the president by Fr. John Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, and Obama’s carefully crafted address struck me as wise and balanced.

The roughly 35 percent of Catholic bishops and other right-wing warriors who protested the president’s presence at this event tend to equate abortion with the sum of all Catholic concern about public life or of all Catholic social teaching.

In doing so, they alienate the vast middle of the American public, deny a space in U.S. politics where pro-life and pro-choice citizens can work together and marginalize the Catholic Church’s impact on public policy.

In his initial months as president, Obama’s acts did not include the signing of FOCA (still not even introduced in Congress). They did include closing Guantánamo and the CIA’s system of secret prisons, the forbidding of waterboarding in interrogations, the ending of funds for nuclear-weapons development and the initiation of discussions to seek the reduction of nuclear arsenals, and the reduction of abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, making adoption more available and providing care and support for women who carry their children to term.

Abortion is, without question, one of the most pressing fundamental moral challenges of our time. Single-issue proponents, however, ill serve our need to engage with other issues such as poverty, health care, torture or war as pro-life matters of concern to Catholics and indeed to other citizens of goodwill.

Nor does their systematic resistance to Obama and his administration, on the absolutist ground of opposition to his abortion policies, justify a comprehensive rejection of his programs, his policies and his approach of respectful listening and dialogue.

Ten thousand participants and 2,000 more graduates at Notre Dame last Sunday affirmed this.

We owe Notre Dame University, and President Obama, our thanks.

— Fr. Roger G. O’Brien, Archdiocese of Seattle

Only education and health care will reduce abortions

I can only shake my head in disbelief at the protesters of President Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame. Where were they when President Bush appeared? He started an immoral first-strike war and supports the death penalty.

Obama is intelligent enough to know we cannot have a law against a surgical procedure that may need to be done and the only way to cut down on abortions is by education, health care for all and help for the poor. That is also my belief as a pro-life Catholic who attends daily Mass.

— Pat Cervenka, Burien

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