OBAMA AND NOTRE DAME…. Major universities tend to be thrilled when sitting U.S. presidents agree to serve as commencement speakers. And last week, when President Obama agreed to appear at Notre Dame’s graduation ceremony, it was a coup for the university.

Naturally, conservatives are outraged.

The National Right to Life Committee is calling on the University of Notre Dame to rescind its invitation to President Obama to speak at the university’s May commencement.

In a letter sent to Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, the pro-life group called President Obama the “Abortion president,” and that the school’s invite “is a betrayal of the University’s mission and an affront to all who believe in the sanctity and dignity of human life.”

It would be easier to laugh this off as trivia if it were only the National Right to Life Committee raising a fuss, but many on the right are really worked up about this. A longtime Notre Dame philosophy professor is calling the president’s appearance “a deliberate thumbing of the collective nose at the Roman Catholic Church to which Notre Dame purports to be faithful.” The conservative Cardinal Newman Society and CatholicVote.org are both demanding that Notre Dame rescind the invitation to Obama (the latter claims to have a petition with 50,000 names).

None other than Newt Gingrich — the thrice-married supporter of the war and the death penalty, who isn’t a Catholic but is about to convert — called Notre Dame’s decision “sad,” and accused the president of embracing “anti-Catholic values.”

For what it’s worth, a university spokesperson said yesterday that it will stick with its invitation to Obama. Good move.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.