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Obama's speech to Notre Dame reveals rift among white, minority Catholics

University of Notre Dame commencement

The long-awaited, much-debated commencement address by President Obama to the graduating seniors at the University of Notre Dame takes places this weekend.

As our colleague Robin Abcarian pointed out in a previous post, news that Obama was to address the graduating class at the nation's premier Catholic university re-ignited the culture wars over abortion that had quieted during the last election. The Fighting Irish were fighting mad — protests erupted, the university president took a lot of heat, the local bishop announced he would boycott the speech of a president who supports a woman's right to choose abortion.

But now the Quinnipiac Poll has released a new survey of American Catholics, showing that opposition to the appearance splits white religious Catholics from minority and more secular Catholics.

Obama won 54% of Catholic votes in the 2008 presidential campaign, slightly higher than his overall total. His approval rating from Catholics is even higher.

"One of the reasons Obama was able to win the Catholic vote outright — and maintains very high approval ratings — is minority Catholics," said John Green, senior fellow in religion and American politics for the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. As Green told NPR this morning, Latino Catholics, African American Catholics and Asian Catholics give the president far higher marks than their white counterparts.

Maybe it's their focus on larger issues — like the economy and jobs, a home-grown concern in Indiana. Maybe it's their pride in seeing another minority in the nation's highest office.

Throw in another factor, religious observance, and the divide grows even starker. Half of self-described Catholics do not attend church regularly. Most Catholics, according to the Quinnipiac Poll, think Obama should be allowed to speak. But the highest number who want the invitation rescinded, some 43%, are Catholics who count themselves as regular churchgoers.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo Credit: Notre Dame University

Comments () | Archives (5)

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Does Notre Dame admit students who are Pro-Choice?
What if they are against the Iraq war? Do they allow students to hold differing viewpoints and still go to school there?

Of course they do. So how is a visit from Obama any different?

He, like many of the students there, has views that differ from those strictly held by the vatican. Who doesn't??! He is not there to push his abortion views, but because he is the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

It's also worth noting the many things Obama and the Vatican AGREE upon. Including opposition to the Iraq war and torture, helping those in need, etc. Do those not count?

Under that logic, since Bush supported the Iraq War and the Vatican opposed it, am I to assume the students would have protested a visit from Bush too?

give me a break.

Hey, this is the President of the United States!

Even if his idea of sport were to be running over schoolkids in an SUV (which it certainly isn't) he deserves respect. If he has the moral courage to show up and honor Notre Dame by his presence, the protesters have the moral obligation to let him speak.

But the exercise of our First Amendment's right to protest does have to exercised from time to time or it atrophies.

I am not catholic so maybe I don't have the facts right, however it seems to me that there is a major hypocrisy going on here. It is my understanding that the Catholic Church in addition to being against abortion, it is also against the death penalty. If that is true then where were these angry Catholic Church goers when Regan and Busch were asked to speak at Notre Dame? If it is wrong according to the teachings of the Catholic Church to take a life, any life, where were the defenders of the faith then? It would appear that once again the "public's outrage" is once again a manufactured event. It would also appear that to the "many thousands" of angered Catholic church goers that the fictitious murder of a fetus is more important than the actual murder of a convicted felon. Where is all that catholic piety? Where is all that Catholic concern for the down trodden? Where is all that Catholic moral outrage for the many men who have been murdered through the use of the death penalty laws who may not have committed the crime. Are these sanctimonious Catholics assuming the posture of Pontius Pilot and washing their hands of the responsibility of murdering the innocent when we are talking about a predominantly minority population of convicted felons? Or is is it really about the difficulty some older and more conservative White Americans are having with the idea of a NonWhite American being president.

Larger issues? what determines the "largeness" of an issue?

so far we have it down as:

economy/jobs is more important than stopping the killing of defenseless human beings.

I read an article in the NY Times yesterday on the same issue and the author said something about how Obama tries to "straddle the divide" on abortion. Ummm ya. he straddles the abortion divide like Ted Nugent straddles the gun rights divide (or a harsher example- like Hitler straddled the Aryan-Jewish relations divide).

Come on. You wrote "...Latino Catholics, African American Catholics and Asian Catholics give the president far higher marks than their white counterparts.

Maybe it's their focus on larger issues — like the economy and jobs, a home-grown concern in Indiana."

It is true that many people will not vote for someone who is pro-abortion, but many of us white catholics are against Obama because we are very concerned with the economy and jobs. His policies are going wreck the economy for years to come. He is trying the same policies that have failed before. All you need to do is look at Europe for an example.

If you say that capitalistic policies failed due to our current recession, then investigate it further. You will find that at the heart of this recession is government interference and socialistic policies that started this whole thing. (I'm not taking time to proof read this, so ignore any typos).


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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