by Kathleen Gilbert
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, August 16, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - President Obama is slated to speak at Louisiana's Xavier University, a Catholic institution of higher education, to mark the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina August 29.
Xavier President Dr. Norman Francis said the school was "pleased and grateful" at Obama's decision to visit the campus. “Mr. Obama will get to see firsthand why we are so proud of the progress we have made here at Xavier during the five years since Katrina, not only restoring our campus but expanding our facilities and services since then in order to fulfill our mission established 85 years ago," he added.
However, a watchdog organization for Catholic higher education, the Cardinal Newman Society (CNS), has criticized the university’s decision to provide a platform for the strongly pro-abortion president.
“U.S. bishops' policy is clear,” said CNS in a statement provided to LifeSiteNews. “No Catholic institution should provide an honor or platform to a public opponent of fundamental Catholic teachings. This is most important at a university that is dedicated to seeking and teaching the truth, and which embraces the Catholic faith.”
The school has already developed a relationship with Mr. Obama: in 2006, the first year after the school's recovery from the Katrina disaster, then-senator Obama received an honorary degree and gave a commencement speech reflecting on the school's experience with the storm.
A Xavier University webpage dedicated to the 2006 appearance notes that the school is "proud" to have honored then-senator Obama. "Who knew at that time that the promising young public servant selected for the task - U.S. Senator Barack Obama of Illinois - would go on to be elected as the 44th President of the United States, and the first African American president in the nation's history?" it notes.
The school declined to comment to LifeSiteNews.com Monday on the event's apparent conflict with U.S. bishops' policy.
Another Catholic University, the University of Notre Dame, drew immense criticism from Catholics across America in 2009 after the pro-abortion president delivered the school's commencement address and received an honorary law degree. Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkins refused to back down on the invitation despite criticism from 80 active U.S. bishops and over 360,000 petitioners.
CNS pointed to the president’s appearance at Notre Dame as a clear reason why Xavier should have refused to host Obama. “Last year President Obama used his platform at the University of Notre Dame to reiterate his support for abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Xavier University is willingly inviting the same scandal,” said the Catholic organization.
Last week, St. Edward's University, a Catholic institution that shares its founder with Notre Dame, turned down an offer by the president to speak on campus. Although a spokesperson said the school was "honored" to be considered as a venue for Mr. Obama, logistical issues were cited as the reason for declining.
Editor's note: A previous version of this article indicated that Xavier University hosted an Obama campaign sponsored "get out the vote" event in 2008. This event was in fact held by Xavier University in Cincinnati, not Louisiana. We apologize for the confusion