The president of the University of Notre Dame, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, tells the South Bend Tribune he knew his invitation for President Obama to speak at graduation would be controversial. But he didn’t expect the intensity of the reaction from the Catholic bishops, among others.
The university’s board of trustees recently elected Jenkins, 56, to a second five-year term.
If he had to do it over again, he would still invite Obama, Jenkins said:
Although the controversy probably could have been handled better, Jenkins said, he firmly believes Notre Dame shouldn’t shy away from issues related to Catholic identity that were raised as a result of the Obama visit.
“It’s important not to be afraid of controversies. If the issues are addressed with reason and respect, that’s the best you can do. And universities, particularly, should be places where controversy can be addressed with reason and mutual respect,” Jenkins said. That’s what occurred on commencement day, he said.
Jenkins said he hadn’t discussed the Obama invite with the newly appointed bishop of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, the Rt. Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades, who is leaving his home diocese of Harrisburg next month:
Rhoades “strikes me as a very intelligent, very thoughtful, very pastoral person. I think the diocese is fortunate to have him as our bishop,” Jenkins said. …
When differences are expressed in respectful and constructive ways, that can be a sign of loyalty in both individual and institutional relationships, according to Jenkins.
“I’m sure there’ll be differences of opinion and differences of perspective, but far more fundamentally there is a sense of a common purpose and a common mission in the church. I expect that to continue with the new bishop,” he said.