05/04/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Cardinal Stands By Notre Dame Obama Criticism As Chicago's Catholic Mayor Daley Disagrees

Mayor Daley, a lifelong Catholic and the father of a Notre Dame graduate, said Friday he disagreed with Chicago's most prominent Catholic about the storied Catholic university inviting President Obama to give its commencement address.

"This is not about all political correctness. This is the President of the United States," the Sun-Times' Fran Spielman quoted Daley as saying. "There's always controversy any time the President speaks -- whether [it was] President Clinton, President [George H.W.] Bush, President [George W.] Bush, President Reagan. There's always controversy. But, you live through the controversy."

Cardinal Francis George, the Archbishop of Chicago, recently said that Obama's planned speech caused "extreme embarrassment" for Catholics and that Notre Dame, the country's flagship Catholic university, "didn't understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation."

George reaffirmed those comments Friday, but he told NBC Chicago that they were made in response to a question and not meant for a broad audience:

"The Bishops don't control the University of Notre Dame ... but what one Catholic does affects all of us," George said. "I have great respect for Mr. Obama and his office and we agree (on many issues)."

However, George made it clear that Obama's positions on abortion and embryonic stem cell research remain fault lines, saying, "It is a crime to kill a human being."

George joined a growing list of Catholic officials who have spoken out against Obama's selection. Notre Dame's President, the Rev. John Jenkins, said that while the school does not support all of Obama's views, it sees the speech as "a basis for further positive engagement" and has no plans to rescind the invitation.

Daley's brother, Bill, also a Catholic and a co-chairman of Obama's presidential campaign, took issue with George's reasoning in an op-ed published Friday in the Tribune:

I believe Cardinal George's stand is an embarrassment to Chicago Catholics and furthers the divide among the church, its members and the rest of America.

To follow his rule, students at Catholic universities would hear only from other Catholics--and, even then, only from those who agree with church doctrine on every subject. But the fact is that American Catholics are divided over the difficult moral issues of stem-cell research and abortion. It's important that students, and Catholics generally, be exposed to people with different ideas and ways of thinking. It is particularly important for them to hear from Obama, whom a majority of voters, including a majority of Catholic voters, have chosen to lead our country through difficult times.

Supporters of Notre Dame's invitation to Obama have started a petition at

Watch Cardinal George's remarks on Notre Dame and Obama from a March 28 conference in suburban Chicago: