"Notre Dame Becomes a Bit Less Catholic"
Why? In a nutshell:
- The President of the University of Notre Dame (UND), the Reverend John I. Jenkins, CSC, caved in to the forces of this world which reject Church teaching concerning artificial contraception. Fr. Jenkins had UND sue when the Obama administration demanded that it cover the costs of artificial forms of birth control, abortifacients, and sterilization.
- But, when the Trump administration offered UND a religious exemption, Fr. Jenkins flip-flopped until he found a way that UND could obey, in part, the Obamacare mandate while covering the cost of contraceptives--what Jenkins has called "simple contraceptives"--to its employees and graduate students.
Yes, Fr. Jenkins maintains that his solution discontinues coverage for abortifacients. But, as DeSanctis note, Jenkins wrongly justified his decision out of an abiding sense of respect for diversity and inclusion. How so? Church teaching requires respect, he has said, for "the conscientious decisions of members of our community."
- UND employees and graduate students can exercise their consciences without receiving UND-provided contraception at a steep discount. (A question: Does this include abortifacient drugs like RU-486?)
- UND likely abused the legal process by falsely misrepresenting it's intentions when suing the Obama administration for relief. (Another question: Did UND's administrators perjure themselves in federal court? That question has yet to be answered.)
While DeSanctis is bothered by those facts, this UND alumna believes such duplicity calls into question whether UND's chief claim--namely, its "essential Catholicism" makes it different from other outstanding American universities--is fact. DeSanctis argues:
There are plenty of smaller Catholic colleges across the U.S., the best of which demonstrate that operating an authentic Catholic campus is not impossible. But Notre Dame is pre-eminent because it had, for nearly two centuries, combined deeply rooted Catholicism with academic renown. There’s no reason to believe this will always be true, especially if the university compromises whenever its Catholic mission conflicts with its desire for secular prestige.
The decades-old campaign on the part of the presidents of the nation's institutions of Catholic higher education--to put their universities and colleges on an equal footing with the nation’s other elite schools--has come at a very steep cost: That of compromising their Catholic identity. As DeSanctis notes of UND and Fr. Jenkins:
In so doing, it often has renounced its obligation to shape the moral landscape of the society it inhabits, and, more importantly, to form its own community properly.
For DeSanctis, Fr. Jenkins at UND provides an object lesson:
With the decision to provide birth control, Notre Dame has forfeited its chance to stand in moral opposition to a utilitarian sexual culture. It has chosen to stop speaking to the kind of life that makes people whole.
Father Jenkins’s decision also does a disservice to Notre Dame’s faculty and students. They have always been free to exercise personal conscience in their moral lives, but Notre Dame has a responsibility to assist in forming those consciences. By essentially endorsing contraceptive use, Notre Dame leaves many of its children not in the bliss of freedom but in a harmful state of sin.
DeSanctis dissents from Fr. Jenkins' leaflet campaign:
But why would anyone seriously consider the teaching when Notre Dame willfully provides the very contraceptives the document denounces?
When the administration recently announced that undergraduates would be required to live on campus for at least six semesters, Father Jenkins defended the rule by saying the university makes no apologies about being a place of faith. “If that’s what they want, they should come here, but if that’s not what they want, there are many other places--great places--to go to,” he said.The connection between Notre Dame’s Catholic identity and its campus-residency rules is tenuous. But Father Jenkins still imposed this rationale on students who dislike the new policy. Why, then, does he refuse to assert Catholic identity as grounds for refusing to cover contraception?
- Does Fr. Jenkins disagree with Church teaching about contraception and, if he does, why doesn't he just say so?
- Does Fr. Jenkins lack the moral courage--in particular, fear of the madding crowd--it would take to align UND policy with Church teaching?
Who's to know except Fr. Jenkins--who hasn't said? Having already been cowed into tolerating outside groups--aided and abetted by UND students--to distribute contraceptives on campus, the truth may be that it's both.
Despite the decision, Notre Dame will continue to call itself a leading Catholic institution. In many ways it is. But this school’s administration has chosen to ignore Catholic teaching. If the university’s leadership was truly proud of its Catholic identity, it would recognize that, like the church, Notre Dame is most valuable when it defends truths that are difficult to hear.
Only "a bit less Catholic"? Oh, come on! How about "a whole lot more catholic."
Let the discussion begin...
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