Obama Talks of Common Ground Amid Notre Dame Protests

"Abortion is an intrinsic evil. It is a higher crime than any other crime that we have on the face of the earth," Terry said in advance of Obama's speech, as his fellow protestors surrounded him outside of the main gate of Notre Dame, praying loudly.

"We want our bishops to start acting like apostles," he added. "If ... bishops really stood up and said, 'This isn't gonna happen,' we wouldn't be in this mess right now. The reason why we have President Obama is because our bishops do not rightly express their duty to defend life."

Despite the denunciations by protesters like Terry, Obama's effort to seek common ground with Catholics -- even though he supports abortion rights -- clearly resonates with many in the church.

"I wish Obama's views on abortion were different than they are," said the Rev. John Langan of Georgetown University. "But nothing convinces me that he isn't a morally sincere, sensitive person."

Still, conservative Catholics don't like him. And they're not shy about speaking their minds.

"You cannot say that I'm interested in social justice, and soup kitchens and the like, and health care, and at the same time be pro abortion," said Bill Donahue of the Catholic League. "He's got a real problem in the Catholic community."

Abortion isn't the only issue the conservatives object to. There's also Obama's support for embryonic stem cell research. And a liberal approach to gay rights.

"Never, in my 16 years of doing this job, have I ever seen the bishops collectively become as energized as they have been," Donahue said.

"There are even elements within the Catholic community that do not want to see his presidency to succeed," said Sister Jeannine Gramick of the National Coalition of American Nuns, shaking her head. "So, that's tragic."

'The Majority of Catholics Are on Obama's Side'

But Catholics are not a monolithic voting bloc. Despite church teachings, Catholic voters have long supported abortion rights, stem cell research and the death penalty in the same proportions as all Americans. And 54 percent of them voted for Obama last November.

"The majority of Catholics are on Obama's side," Gramick said.

It may not have seemed so during the unrest at Notre Dame, but, "You don't always find out what a group is thinking by listening to the noisiest members," Langan said.

ABC News' Teresa Crawford and Karen Travers contributed to this report.

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