updated 5/8/2009 1:02:59 PM ET 2009-05-08T17:02:59

A powerful Catholic leader on Friday accused President Barack Obama of pushing an anti-life, anti-family agenda and called Notre Dame's invitation for him to speak scandalous.

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Archbishop Raymond Burke, the first American to lead the Vatican supreme court, said Catholic universities should not give a platform, let alone honor, "those who teach and act publicly against the moral law."

Notre Dame has asked Obama to deliver the commencement address on May 17, an invitation that has drawn criticism from a number of Catholics. The university has said the president will be honored as an inspiring leader who broke a historic racial barrier.

"The proposed granting of an honorary doctorate at Notre Dame University to our president, who is so aggressively advancing an anti-life and anti-family agenda is rightly the source of the greatest scandal," Burke said to applause from the crowd at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.

Obama supports abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research. He also repealed a policy that denied federal dollars to international relief organizations that provide abortions or abortion-related information. And he backs legislation that would prohibit state and local governments from interfering with a woman's right to obtain an abortion.

Standing up for church's teachings
Burke called the confirmation of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic who supports abortion rights, "the source of deepest embarrassment for Catholics."

Burke, who formerly led the Archdiocese of St. Louis before leaving for the Vatican, has made headlines in the past. In 2004, he said he would deny Communion to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, a Catholic who supports abortion rights as part of public policy.

In 2007, Burke indicated he would so the same to then-Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani. He also protested singer Sheryl Crow's appearance at a benefit for a Catholic children's hospital over her support for embryonic stem cell research.

In January 2008, Burke called on Saint Louis University, a Jesuit school, to discipline college basketball coach Rick Majerus for publicly supporting abortion rights.

Burke said if Catholics are not willing to stand up for the church's teachings, "we are not worthy of the name Catholic."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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