If we take the president at his word, always a dodgey proposition I concede, we do see in his speech a concession that there is something intrinsically wrong with abortion.
That's when we begin to say, "Maybe we won't agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually, it has both moral and spiritual dimensions.
So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions, let's reduce unintended pregnancies.
If there was nothing wrong with abortion, it would not have those "moral and spiritual dimensions" and we should have no desire to see the number of them reduced.
So if we are to seek common ground, we must begin at the understanding that abortion destroys human life. If that is what the president also understands, then quite apart from any theological considerations he has a moral and ethical responsibility to oppose abortion. If that is not what the president understands, than any hope of common ground is lost and the president's wish for less abortions is just a bunch of meaningless pixels on the teleprompter. He asks for fair words, we might ask for honesty.
That said, whatever hope Fr. Jenkins may had for "dialogue" was certainly not achieved by the president's appearance at Notre Dame and the acceptance of the honorary degree. The cost to Notre Dame was high in donations and in its reputation. What good did it achieve?
One other remark from the president stood out:
And I also want to thank you for the honorary degree that I received. I know it has not been without controversy. I don't know if you're aware of this, but these honorary degrees are apparently pretty hard to come by. (Laughter.) So far I'm only 1 for 2 as President. (Laughter and applause.) Father Hesburgh is 150 for 150. (Laughter and applause.) I guess that's better. (Laughter.) So, Father Ted, after the ceremony, maybe you can give me some pointers to boost my average.
How petty. President Obama spoke at Arizona State's commencement last week and some Obama supporters were bugged he didn't receive the wall decoration honorary degree. And on Sunday Obama revealed his own irritation.
How else can you explain the rude and ungrateful remarks of the president? Surely being asked to speak at a major university's commencement was honor enough?
His little attempt at humor would be like if you went to dinner at one friend's house and they didn't offer dessert. The next week you went to another friend's home within the same circle. When they brought out dessert, you announced how grateful you were to be in a home that understood the importance of dessert - unlike some people. Who within that circle of friends would think highly of you after that obnoxious display?
We have the measure of Obama's character, I think, and it is vindictive and small.