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THE SHAME OF NOTRE DAME, II

More that 70 Catholic bishops, tens of thousands of Notre Dame graduates and hundreds of thousands of Catholics and non-Catholics have condemned Notre Dame for honoring President Obama, the most extreme and powerful proponent of unlimited abortion in the history of public officials in America.

The sad event is now past.

Archbiship of Denver Charles Chaput speaks of Notre Dame's shame and the embarrassing spectacle of Notre Dame's president John Jenkins taking pride in how the world looks to Notre Dame for moral leadership. Notre Dame failed in its responsibiity under Jenkins' leadership. He should resign or be fired.

NOTRE DAME, THE COMMENCEMENT AND THE ISSUES THAT REMAIN

Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.

"I have found that even among those who did not go to Notre Dame, even among those who do not share the Catholic faith, there is a special expectation, a special hope, for what Notre Dame can accomplish in the world."

Reverend John Jenkins, C.S.C., May 17

Most graduation speeches are a mix of piety and optimism designed to ease students smoothly into real life. The best have humor. Some genuinely inspire. But only a rare few manage to be pious, optimistic, evasive, sad and damaging all at the same time. Father John Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame's president, is a man of substantial intellect and ability. This makes his introductory comments to President Obama's Notre Dame commencement speech on May 17 all the more embarrassing.

Let's remember that the debate over President Obama's appearance at Notre Dame was never about whether he is a good or bad man. The president is clearly a sincere and able man. By his own words, religion has had a major influence in his life. We owe him the respect Scripture calls us to show all public officials. We have a duty to pray for his wisdom and for the success of his service to the common good -- insofar as it is guided by right moral reasoning.

We also have the duty to oppose him when he's wrong on foundational issues like abortion, embryonic stem cell research and similar matters. And we also have the duty to avoid prostituting our Catholic identity by appeals to phony dialogue that mask an abdication of our moral witness. Notre Dame did not merely invite the president to speak at its commencement. It also conferred an unnecessary and unearned honorary law degree on a man committed to upholding one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in our nation's history: Roe v. Wade.

In doing so, Notre Dame ignored the U.S. bishops' guidance in their 2004 statement, Catholics in Political Life. It ignored the concerns of Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon, Notre Dame's 2009 Laetare Medal honoree - who, unlike the president, certainly did deserve her award, but finally declined it in frustration with the university's action. It ignored appeals from the university's local bishop, the president of the U.S. Catholic bishops' conference, more than 70 other bishops, many thousands of Notre Dame alumni and hundreds of thousands of other American Catholics. Even here in Colorado, I've heard from too many to count.

There was no excuse - none, except intellectual vanity - for the university to persist in its course. And Father Jenkins compounded a bad original decision with evasive and disingenuous explanations to subsequently justify it.

These are hard words, but they're deserved precisely because of Father Jenkins' own remarks on May 17: Until now, American Catholics have indeed had "a special expectation, a special hope for what Notre Dame can accomplish in the world." For many faithful Catholics - and not just a "small but vocal group" described with such inexcusable disdain and ignorance in journals like Time magazine -- that changed Sunday.

The May 17 events do have some fitting irony, though. Almost exactly 25 years ago, Notre Dame provided the forum for Gov. Mario Cuomo to outline the "Catholic" case for "pro-choice" public service. At the time, Cuomo's speech was hailed in the media as a masterpiece of American Catholic legal and moral reasoning. In retrospect, it's clearly adroit. It's also, just as clearly, an illogical and intellectually shabby exercise in the manufacture of excuses. Father Jenkins' explanations, and President Obama's honorary degree, are a fitting national bookend to a quarter century of softening Catholic witness in Catholic higher education. Together, they've given the next generation of Catholic leadership all the excuses they need to baptize their personal conveniences and ignore what it really demands to be "Catholic" in the public square.

Chicago's Cardinal Francis George has suggested that Notre Dame "didn't understand" what it means to be Catholic before these events began. He's correct, and Notre Dame is hardly alone in its institutional confusion. That's the heart of the matter. Notre Dame's leadership has done a real disservice to the Church, and now seeks to ride out the criticism by treating it as an expression of fringe anger. But the damage remains, and Notre Dame's critics are right. The most vital thing faithful Catholics can do now is to insist - by their words, actions and financial support - that institutions claiming to be "Catholic" actually live the faith with courage and consistency. If that happens, Notre Dame's failure may yet do some unintended good.

THE SHAME OF NOTRE DAME

While Obama is betraying Israel and endangering the lives of American citizens by his foolishly romantic pursuit of the Islam of his childhood, he is step by step working to undermine the culture of life in America and the world and marching to take his place alongside Mao, Stalin and Hitler as one of history's leading killers of defenseless human beings.

Complicit in his killing campaign is what should be a staunch ally in the fight to respect the dignity and sanctity of every life the University of Notre Dame. But it has sold out its Catholic values to go along and get along with the rich and powerful and to bask in the prestige they grandly bestow. It is led by little men who have brought shame on the university so many have loved and revered, including those who spent formative years there as students. One Notre Dame graduate expresses his grief:


Obama Scored Big at Notre Dame
At least the president is forthright about his principles.
By WILLIAM MCGURN
Wall Street Journal
MAY 19, 2009

Seldom does dawn rise on an America where the morning's New York Times displays a more intuitive grasp of a story than the New York Post. The coverage of Barack Obama's commencement address at Notre Dame, however, was such a day. Where the Post headlined an inside spread with "Obama In the Lions' Den," the Times front page was dominated by a color photograph of a beaming president, resplendent in his blue-and-gold Notre Dame academic gown, reaching out to graduates eager to shake his hand or just touch his robe.

It was precisely the message President Obama wanted to send: How bad can he be on abortion if Notre Dame is willing to honor him?

We cannot blame the president for this one. During his campaign for president, Mr. Obama spoke honestly about the aggressive pro-choice agenda he intended to pursue -- as he assured Planned Parenthood, he was "about playing offense," not defense -- and his actions have been consistent with that pledge. If only our nation's premier Catholic university were as forthright in advancing its principles as Mr. Obama has been for his.

In a letter to Notre Dame's Class of 2009, the university's president, the Rev. John Jenkins, stated that the honors for Mr. Obama do not indicate any "ambiguity" about Notre Dame's commitment to Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life. The reality is that it was this ambiguity that the White House was counting on; this ambiguity that was furthered by the adoring reaction to Mr. Obama's visit; and this ambiguity that disheartens those working for an America that respects the dignity of life inside the womb.

We've been here before. In his response to an inquiry from this reporter, Dennis Brown, the university's spokesman, wisely ignored a question asking whether "ambiguity" would be the word to describe a similar decision in 1984 to give Mario Cuomo, then governor of New York, the Notre Dame platform he so famously used to advance his personally-opposed-but argument. Or the decision a few years later to bestow its highest Catholic award on Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, another supporter of legal abortion. It seems that whenever Democratic leaders find themselves in trouble over their party's abortion record, some Notre Dame honor or platform will be forthcoming to provide the needed cover.

Probably Notre Dame is rich enough that it can safely thumb its institutional nose at the 70 or so bishops who publicly challenged the university for flouting their guidelines on such invitations. Nor can we expect much from Notre Dame's trustees. At a time when Americans all across this country have declared themselves "yea" or "nay" on the Obama invite, the reaction of Notre Dame's board is less the roar of the lion than the silence of the lambs.

Pro-lifers are used to this. They know their stand makes them unglamorous. They find themselves a stumbling block to Democratic progressives -- and unwelcome at the Republican country club. And they are especially desperate for the support of institutions willing to engage in the clear, thoughtful and unembarrassed way that even Mr. Obama says we should.

With its billions in endowment and its prestigious name, Notre Dame ought to be in the lead here. But when asked for examples illuminating the university's unambiguous support for unborn life, Mr. Brown could provide only four: help for pregnant students who want to carry their babies to term, student volunteer work for pregnant women at local shelters, prayer mentions at campus Masses, and lectures such as a seminar on life issues.

These are all well and good, but they also highlight the poverty of Notre Dame's institutional witness. At Notre Dame today, there is no pro-life organization -- in size, in funding, in prestige -- that compares with the many centers, institutes and so forth dedicated to other important issues ranging from peace and justice to protecting the environment. Perhaps this explains why a number of pro-life professors tell me they must not be quoted by name, lest they face career retaliation.

The one institute that does put the culture of life at the heart of its work, moreover -- the Center for Ethics and Culture -- doesn't even merit a link under the "Faith and Service" section on the university's Web site. The point is this: When Notre Dame doesn't dress for the game, the field is left to those like Randall Terry who create a spectacle and declare their contempt for civil and respectful witness.

In the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian, there is a wonderful photograph of Father Ted Hesburgh -- then Notre Dame president -- linking hands with Martin Luther King Jr. at a 1964 civil-rights rally at Chicago's Soldier Field. Today, nearly four decades and 50 million abortions after Roe v. Wade, there is no photograph of similar prominence of any Notre Dame president taking a lead at any of the annual marches for life.

Father Jenkins is right: That's not ambiguity. That's a statement.

For a true witness to life, one need only turn the clock back a few weeks to an address the reporter Willam McGurn gave at the Center for Ethics and Culture at Notre Dame.

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