Amy Sullivan: Not Even the Vatican Cares About Obama's Notre Dame Speech

May 1st, 2009 5:04 PM

Dear religious pro-life Catholics, get over yourselves. Signed, Amy Sullivan.

Okay, I'm paraphrasing, but the Time magazine staffer practically expressed those sentiments in two April 30 Swampland blog posts wherein she suggests that even the pope wouldn't mind hanging out with Obama on stage at Notre Dame when he accepts his honorary doctorate later this month.

"The Vatican apparently needs to get on-message--its newpaper gives Obama's first 100 days a tentative thumbs-up," Sullivan snarkily noted in a an April 30 post entitled "The Phantom Menace," referring to the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which Sullivan considers a virtually non-existent pro-life movement bogeyman:

[Ed Henry's press conference] question is a misstatement of Obama's campaign pledge to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund that "the first thing I'd do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act." Of course, before Obama could sign the bill, Congress would have to first pass it. And he's never expressed the hope that Congress drop what it's doing and prioritize FOCA.

Less than an hour later, Sullivan sought to marginalize conservative Catholics who are disturbed by Notre Dame honoring the very pro-choice President Obama:

Forget the Vatican. Apparently, most American Catholics need to get on-message as well.

Although Ed Henry also declared last night that Obama's scheduled commencement address at Notre Dame "has caused a lot of controversy among Catholics," a new Pew Research poll indicates that "a lot" is overstating things quite a bit. It's gotten a lot of attention in the press, that's true. But according to Pew, only 28% of Catholics think Notre Dame was wrong to have invited Obama.

But as the Pew survey shows, the more frequent attenders at Mass were more likely to oppose Obama being honored at Notre Dame's commencement. What's more, those who do regularly attend are more likely to be aware of the controversy in the first place, and hence arguably to have more informed opinions on the matter (emphasis mine):

Among white, non-Hispanic Catholics, regular Mass attenders are more than three times as likely as those who attend less often to say they have heard a lot about the controversy (35% vs. 10%). However, even among regular Mass attenders, a sizable minority say they have not heard anything at all (32%). Regular church attenders also express much higher levels of disapproval of Obama's visit to Notre Dame. Among white Catholics who attend church at least once a week, a plurality (45%) say it was wrong for Notre Dame to invite Obama, while the majority of less-observant Catholics (56%) take the opposite view, saying Notre Dame was right to invite him.

The absence of a general backlash on the part of Catholics to Notre Dame's invitation to Obama may not come as a surprise, given that most Catholics voted for Obama in the 2008 election and give him positive marks for his performance in office thus far. Obama won 54% of the overall Catholic vote in the November presidential election. Weekly attending Catholics, who in recent elections have tended to support Republican candidates, were evenly divided between Obama (49%) and McCain (50%).