Fight Over Obama, Notre Dame Address Leaves Networks Speechless

What is it about Catholic doctrine that broadcast networks don't understand?

Last week, they denounced Pope Benedict XVI, the leader of the Catholic Church on earth, as “controversial” for adhering to traditional Catholic doctrine on condom use. This week, they collectively yawned when Notre Dame announced it would be granting President Barack Obama an honorary doctorate in law and that he would be giving the address at its graduation ceremony in May.

Surely a fervent pro-choice president speaking at a university based upon Catholic principles, one of which is the sanctity of human life, should be controversial enough to ignite a debate on news shows.  

As of March 25, none of the three broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) covered Notre Dame's March 20 announcement that Obama will be addressing its graduates or the backlash the university is facing as a result of its decision.

The Cardinal Newman Society, an organization that “is dedicated to renewing and strengthening Catholic identity at America's 224 Catholic colleges and universities” created an online petition that, as of March 25, received more than 130,000 signatures urging Notre Dame to rescind the invitation. 

Even the announcement by Bishop John M. D'Arcy that he will not attend Notre Dame's graduation ceremony because of Obama's voting record on life issues wasn't enough to interest the networks. Notre Dame is in Bishop D'Arcy's diocese, the Diocese of Ft. Wayne – South Bend, Indiana

Many critics of Notre Dame's president Rev. John Jenkins' decision to invite Obama to speak based their criticism on “Catholics in Political Life,” a 2004 statement produced by Catholic bishops which states, “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions."

The Washington Post “On Faith” blog featured a post March 24 by Thomas J. Reese that was a perfect example of the media missing the point. The media clearly don't understand what a huge slap in the face it is for a Catholic university to invite Obama to speak at its commencement ceremony. Reese argues Notre Dame's actions are not contrary to “Catholic in Political Life” for the following reasons:  

    In his personal life, Obama has never acted in defiance of the fundamental moral principle that abortion is wrong.
    Publicly, Obama has never spoken out against the fundamental moral principle that abortion is wrong.
    He supports legal restrictions on third trimester abortions with a health-of-the-mother exemption.
    Although he does not believe that other abortions can be made illegal, he supports programs to reduce the number of abortions.
    Notre Dame is not honoring Obama because of his views on abortion but because he is President of the United States, as has been made clear by the Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame's president.

Reese's dismissal of the controversy is just the latest example of how the media protect Obama from his pro-choice record.

Reese ignored the fact that Obama has described babies as “punishment.” In a March 29, 2008 town hall meeting in Pennsylvania, Obama said: “Look, I've got two daughters -- 9 years old and 6 years old. I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby.”

The post also ignored Obama's record as an Illinois senator, when he voted against a bill to protect babies born alive following unsuccessful abortions, the Born Alive Infant Protection Act. Yet, television reporters barely mentioned Obama's pro-abortion stances during the primaries. 

Reese noted Obama's “support” of third-trimester abortion restrtictions, but didn't mention his willingness to allow partial-birth abortion . ABC's Terry Moran told viewers on February 25, 2008  that Obama was “considered a reliable Democratic vote in Illinois … opposing efforts to ban so-called 'partial birth abortions.'”

And perhaps Reese forgot about one of Obama's first accomplishments as president. On January 23, 2009, Obama rescinded a policy set into place by Ronald Reagan that stopped American tax dollars from being used for foreign abortions. How does that reduce the number of abortions?

Obama's radical views on life are not simply about the right to abortion on demand. Earlier this month he decided tax dollars should be used to end human life in the name of science by lifting restrictions for federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research.

The president clearly does not hold the most fragile of human lives in high regard, a direct violation of traditional Catholic doctrine.

No one should be surprised the networks didn't address this controversy. They covered for Obama during the primaries. They did after he became president with the Mexico City policy, his nomination of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for Secretary of Health and Human Services, and his decision to “shield science from politics” by lifting federal funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.

Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.