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Is Notre Dame Still Catholic?


By inviting Barack Obama to deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree at Notre Dame, the Rev. John Jenkins has polarized the Catholic community nationwide — and raised a question. What does it mean to be a Catholic university in post-Christian America?

Are there truths about faith and morality that are closed to debate at Notre Dame? Or is Notre Dame like London's Hyde Park, where all ideas and all advocates get a hearing?

To Catholics, abortion is the killing of an unborn child, a premeditated breach of God's Commandment "Thou Shalt Not Kill." The case is closed for all time. Any who participate in an abortion are excommunicated. Catholic politicians from Nancy Pelosi to Joe Biden who support a "woman's right to choose" have been denounced from pulpits and denied Communion.

Obama, however, is the most pro-abortion president ever. On his third day in office, by executive order, he repealed the Bush prohibition against using tax dollars to fund agencies abroad that perform abortions.

He supports partial-birth abortion, where a baby's soft skull is sliced open with scissors in the birth canal and its brains sucked out to ease its passage, a procedure Sen. Pat Moynihan said "comes as close to infanticide as anything I have seen in our judiciary."

In the Illinois legislature, Obama helped block the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, a bill to save the lives of infant survivors of abortion. He voted to allow doctors and nurses to let these tiny babies die of neglect and be tossed out with the medical waste.

Barack is committed to signing the Freedom of Choice Act, which would repeal every federal and state restriction on abortion. He has smoothed the path for federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

Notre Dame, a university that teaches that all innocent human life is sacred, will thus honor a leader determined to ensure that a woman's right to destroy her unborn child in the womb remains unrestricted.

There is thus a direct clash between what Notre Dame professes to stand for and what Notre Dame is doing.

Says Ralph McInerny, a philosophy professor since 1955: "By inviting Barack Obama to be the 2009 commencement speaker, Notre Dame has forfeited its right to call itself a Catholic University. ... (T)his is a deliberate thumbing of the collective nose at the Roman Catholic Church to which Notre Dame purports to be faithful.

"Faithful? Tell it to Julian the Apostate."

McInerny calls Father Jenkins' invitation to Obama worse than the "usual effort of the university to get into warm contact with the power figures of the day.

It is an unequivocal abandonment of any pretense at being a Catholic university."

An honorary degree, writes Catholic author George Weigel, is a statement that here is a man we should admire and emulate. But how can a Catholic university say that about a man who means to appoint Supreme Court justices who will keep constitutional and legal the systematic slaughter of the unborn that has taken 50 million lives in 35 years?

Can Father Jenkins not see the contradiction here that renders Notre Dame a morally incoherent institution?

Diocesan Bishop John D'Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend has told Father Jenkins he will not be attending commencement because of Obama's support of embryonic stem cell research.

Said the bishop, "While claiming to separate policies from science, (Obama) has in fact separated science from ethics and has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life."

Pope Benedict has yet to be heard from. But on his visit to the United States, he declared that any appeal to academic freedom "to justify positions that contradict the faith and teaching of the church would obstruct or even betray the university's identity and mission."

Does not honoring the most visible pro-abortion advocate in America "betray the identity and mission" of Notre Dame?

Father Jenkins says the invitation "should not be taken as condoning or endorsing his positions on specific issues regarding the protection of human life."

But what Notre Dame is saying with this invitation is that Obama's 100 percent support for policies and programs that bring death to more than a million unborn children every year is no disqualification to being honored by a university dedicated to Our Lady who carried to term the Son of God.

Chris Carrington, a political science major, regards the opposition to Obama's appearance as un-Catholic: "To not allow someone here because of their beliefs would seem a little hypocritical and contradictory to what the mission of the university and church should be."

The obtuse Carrington has stumbled on the relevant question: Is Notre Dame still a repository, teacher and exemplar of eternal truths about God and Man, right and wrong, whose mission is to convey and defend those truths in a hostile world?

Or has Notre Dame joined the secularists in their endless scavenger hunt to seek and find truth in the marketplace of ideas?

Patrick Buchanan is the author of the new book "Churchill, Hitler and 'The Unnecessary War." To find out more about Patrick Buchanan, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at



7 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;....Is Notre Dame still Catholic???I don't know??? Is she taking any public money???Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Tue Mar 31, 2009 7:00 AM
Help me out. Catholics are against killing, right. The denial of using condoms to prevent aids is not indirect killing, right? Lert's see, more directly we have the Inquisition, the laCK OF CONCERN, CARE OR HELP DURING THE HOLOCAUSt and plenty in between. The protection of Nazi war criminals in monasteries, the pact with Hitler by Hitler's Pope, the support of a wide range of killers and tyrants in many countries esp: Latin America, the issuance of Vatican passports to war criminals etc. etc. etc.. This is just a partial list of course. Crimes against people like Galileo are separate. How can you smugly and sanctimonously declare any moral high ground for the Catholic church. Father Jenkins is the hope of a medieval church's survival not the doctrinaire nonsense you spout.
Comment: #2
Posted by: alf1052
Tue Mar 31, 2009 11:10 AM
Jesuit schools were all about power and politics when I attended over 40 years ago. They haven't become more Christlike since. Their main purpose in life is to increase the endowment and keep the cellar stocked.
Comment: #3
Posted by: MylesJ
Tue Mar 31, 2009 12:35 PM
Thank you, Pat.
Comment: #4
Posted by:
Tue Mar 31, 2009 7:38 PM
Sir;...If I may revisit this issue: The Ten Commandments really are a pearl... I love them; and though I have even broken them all, certainly in the Catholic sense, that day is past... I do not want to advertize such behavior...But I would point out one well recognized fact... Some of those Commandments are to the mind of mankind... There is no objective method of telling if a man is honoring his father and mother, or not coveting his neighbors wife, or goods.... God , or Moses, or Jesus were alike in understanding that sin happens first in the mind before it happens in society, and there is no other proper place in which to nip the problem....Nowhere in the Ten Commandments is there support for prior restraint.... There are the commandments that thou shall not steal, or covet thy neighbors goods... What greater good is there than freedom, and upon what authority does one steal freedom from another when it is out of freedom that people consent to do good, and go to God??? I do not support abortion, and I do not encourge abortion...I do realize that if a person is not free in their body, free to lay down with whoever they should choose, and free to enjoy their privacy as they see fit, then they are not free in any political, or social, or economic, or religious sence... If Chrisitains took to heart their Christianity, and better yet, if Catholics would take their faith to heart, and invest their thoughts and lives in the word of God then there would be no need for popes and priests... Human freedom is a given condition in the Ten Commandments....If it were not so, then the forms of correct behavior would have been stated, and penalties prescribed...If freedom were not a given for individuals, then one man would have been set over the others, and that would have been the end to it... No free people would have submitted to such a condition even under the greatest duress, and neither should we... Just as much as sin is in the mind, so is much of forgiveness... We can all forgive people for being human; not only our young women, but our young soldiers, and our old politicians, and all who are too easily entertained by the taking of life....But the greatest Commandment, the condensation of the Law, as expressed by Jesus and many old testament teachers was to love God, and and love our fellow man which is in fact, one single command... Where is the Christain who follows that commanment in practice???Not here....Bob Dylan put into the mouth of Mark the words that before you can heal the sick you must first forgive them.... Jesus said: he without guilt should throw the first stone... I say: create the condition in the lives of people where sin is the furthest thought from their minds... If they would steal it, give it... If they would kill you; lay bare your breast... Ultimately, if we have faith in God, then we have no protection from harm, but God's will... In this sense, it is essential to our lives, and to our faith that we correct ourselves, and help our brothers because we cannot reasonably believe that we will not be judged for the sins of our neighbors if we did not do all that was justified to keep them from sin... Making laws is too easy, and not enough... We need to support those who want to abort their children, who are their lives, and their right, and see that they have justice in their lives, and that their sin is not a result of our own sins... Stealing rights is a sin... Helping and forgiving others is our Christian obligation... For that obligation there is no easy escape, and you should quit looking for one..The hard path is the straight path.. ..Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #5
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Wed Apr 1, 2009 6:36 AM
Re: arthur l. finn...Sir; one, religion is the way to salvation, and to another, it is the way to power... And admitting that there is no greater hypocrite than myself helps me to justify my contempt of all competitors... In fact, it is not religion that gives anyone true power, but virtue, which all reasonable people crave, and and few enough can find..I think you are on the right track....Thanks... Sweeney
Comment: #6
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Wed Apr 1, 2009 6:50 AM
Mr. Sweeney - not sure what you meant with your response to 'arthur I. finn' ... but in my opinion, he is treating Catholics the same way that he is condemning them of treating the other religion (it could be his). Hypocrisy is the worst thing, and unfortunately it is present in almost every religion. Lastly, as it is not guns that kill people, but actually people who choose to fire them ... it is not a religion that causes so much turmoil around the world, it is the use of the religions. In my opinion, if we begin to respect (not necessarily like, but just respect) other religions, we may actually drive our own religion's 'evolution' process over time resulting in certain religion-specific beliefs adjusting more to current times. We all know that Jews, Muslim and Christians (incl. Catholics) have created bloodshed at some point throughout world history.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Ali Mogharabi
Sun Apr 5, 2009 12:21 AM
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