AS A Notre Dame alum (master's in economics, '82), I was extremely proud of the respectful way my alma mater, the graduates and their families and friends hosted President Obama at the 2009 commencement.

It was one of the school's finest hours, coming at a time when the university was dealing with discord from many sources outside the gates of its South Bend campus and a barrage of criticism from many of the church's bishops for its decision to honor President Obama in light of his position on abortion.

As a politically active Catholic, I was inspired by the way the "Two presidents" - of the university and the U.S. - spoke with intelligence, vigor and conviction on perhaps one the most vexing, complex and emotional issues of our time: abortion.

Notre Dame's president, Father John Jenkins, courageously framed the abortion issue and the president's address as an attempt to engage in an honest and thoughtful dialogue in the true tradition of the Catholic university, which from the time of Medieval scholasticism "attempts to use human reason tempered by faith as a means of seeking the common good in secular life."

At the same time, the president of the United States attempted to speak honestly, intelligently and in a straightforward and head-on manner about abortion, which President Obama described in his speech as a "heart-wrenching decision for any woman to make with both moral and spiritual dimensions."

Bottom line: President Obama said it best. The debate on abortion must ensue with "open hearts, open minds and fair-minded words." In fact, President Obama even attempted at Notre Dame to reach across the divide and made news in the process when he said, "Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion and draft a sensible conscience clause" for health-care providers.

Basil L. Merenda, Philadelphia

Catholics in name only

Listening to Obama' speech surprised me. There is no way that abortion can be negotiated by real Catholics. It is, pure and simple, "homicide."

The press made a lot out of the fact that 80 percent of the Notre Dame grads were at the speech. Please be advised that they are Catholics in name only, not real practicing Catholics. Most Catholics in the U.S. aren't practicing Catholics, and they don't realize that their religion is not a democracy.

The beliefs of the church are above the law of the U.S. when it comes to morality. RCs are not allowed to commit murder for their own selfish reasons. That is a felonious sin. In regards to Notre Dame being a Catholic institution, that's not true anymore. It has turned secular. If I was a former student, I'd cancel my donation.

John Stuhr, Philadelphia

Obama vs. Bush

It was interesting that some students at Notre Dame chose to stage a protest by not attending their graduation, and one guest chose to decline to receive the highest honor the university can bestow on an alum because pro-choice President Obama was invited to be the commencement speaker.

But it was not so long ago that president George W. Bush was the commencement speaker at the university.

As I recall, no less a personage than the pope spoke out against the U.S. involvement in the war in Iraq. Wars are responsible for the deaths of many people, including thousands of young American men and women, some of them no doubt Catholic.

Isn't it ironic and hypocritical that the students and bishops, as well as outsiders who inserted themselves into this issue, didn't see any reason to protest Bush's presence? And how ironic that some people are more concerned about the "unborn" than they are about those already on this earth, and than those who gave their lives to ensure that their rights are upheld.

Rachel Garber, Philadelphia

Ignoring the commandment

I'm appalled at the powers that be at Notre Dame for inviting Obama and his lopsided opinions to speak. The Fifth Commandment is "Thou shalt not kill."

And no matter how you look at it, abortion is killing. God forgive you.

Gertrude E. O'Mara, Bensalem