As I keep reading the waves of media coverage of the University of Notre Dame rites honoring President Barack Obama (click here for a flashback), I continue to be impressed with two facts.
The coverage of what happened inside the building was pretty standard stuff, in terms of analyzing what the president had to say, as he openly and enthusiastically inserted himself (and the power of his office) into this era's wars inside Catholic higher education. Many readers, especially those who read follow-up commentaries on left and right, had a chance to learn the basics about what Obama had to say.
The coverage of what happened outside the building was a travesty, focusing roughly 100 times more attention on the loud, professional demonstrators who visited the campus to make noise and provide photo ops, while almost completely avoiding coverage of the quiet, constructive and even diverse rites that were organized, for the most part, by members of the university's pro-life community.
So far, I have found one major-media sidebar about these prayer rites and the Mass held on campus, from the Chicago Tribune. Here is a good chunk of that short report:
It was always intended to be a day of celebration. For the 26 University of Notre Dame graduates and their families who chose to skip the traditional pomp and circumstance on Sunday, it still was.
Instead of marching in with 2,900 other classmates, Michele Sagala and her fiance Andrew Chronister spent time in prayer and reflection with their families, celebrating the gift of life.
"There's such a sense of joy I can't imagine being duplicated," said Sagala, 22, after reciting the rosary and turning her tassel at a service in the Grotto, a Marian shrine at the corner of campus. "Our hope is that it showed the outside world there's a lot of good here at the university."
From a mass and rally in the university's South Quad to the vigil at the Grotto, graduates, their families, faculty and supporters demonstrated their opposition to abortion rights with a mostly peaceful show of solidarity on Sunday -- a contrast to protests by activists earlier in the week that included fake blood-spattered props, acts of civil disobedience and arrests.
"The heroes are the young people on campus and the students in the great tradition of John Paul and Pope Benedict," said Bishop John D'Arcy of the diocese of Ft. Wayne-South Bend, whose jurisdiction includes Notre Dame. The bishop has said he opposes the university awarding Obama an honorary doctorate of laws degree. "Their protest was carried out with love, prayer, dignity and respect."
Students made it clear that they were not protesting the president by not going to the graduation. They were offended by the university's decision to ignore the bishops' instruction against inviting Obama to speak and giving him an honorary degree.
Several questions leap to mind: * We are told that the participants in these worship services -- families, faculty and supporters -- "demonstrated their opposition to abortion rights with a mostly peaceful show of solidarity on Sunday." Uh, "mostly peaceful"? What did they do that was violent or non-peaceful? This label is pinned on them, but left hanging. There was "non-peaceful" activity in the Grotto? In the Mass?
* What is the number that you remember at the end of this story? For me, it's 26. That is a small and essential number. Yet, might it also be important that -- according to some biased witnesses -- the Mass drew 2,000? That the Grotto event drew 1,000 or so, or at the very least "several hundred"? Were these events small, in relationship to the 100 or so at the loud protests by outsiders that drew police and major media attention? Might we seek some verification?
* I am especially interested in the fact that 50 or so Notre Dame faculty, in full regalia, attended the rally. Who were they? Were they linked to any particular organizations or departments within Notre Dame? Why were they there? Has anyone interviewed them?
Just asking. Again.