On the Fall of Notre Dame

When William Bennet penned his bestseller, The Death of Outrage in 1998, it very well could have been applied to the endemic problem of milquetoast Catholic academia in the United States, a stubborn malaise that now spans decades. Pro-lifers of all stripes are expressing disbelief and shock over the decision by the University of Notre Dame to award an honorary doctorate to Barack Obama, the most pro-abortion president in the nation’s history, at the university’s commencement ceremonies on May 17. The president has also been tapped for the honor of giving the commencement address to the graduating body. So let’s get this straight: arguably the nation’s most prestigious Catholic university, named in honor of Our Lady, is set to place a laurel wreath on the brow of a man who, at virtually every juncture, has positioned himself in firm, uncompromising opposition to the Church’s teaching regarding the dignity of human life.

John Cardinal Newman, who knew a thing or two about the ingredients that went into the idea of a university, would most likely concur that it is a sad day in the life of academia when Catholic scholars fall victim to the shallow and intellectually barren cult of personality that surrounds President Obama. As fallen creatures we’re all susceptible to the occasional blunder and pratfall, but when hypocrisy becomes de rigueur among ivory tower Catholic intellectuals and their vaunted institutions, it’s a genuine tragedy. When a university claims that it is Catholic, it either is, in the fullest sense of the word as spelled out in clear terms by Pope John Paul II in Ex Corde Ecclesiae, or its Catholicity is a meaningless veneer and a dangerous lie.

It’s not enough for a Catholic university to merely represent the Catholic faith in this or that capacity on campus, every now and then when the time is right. The Church and her teachings must also be unceasingly honored, privileged and defended. Ideas can and ought to be discussed and debated, the pot stirred. But in the final analysis, the penetrating light of faith and reason, shining on Truth, must be upheld by the arm of the university.

How would the president of Notre Dame, the Rev. John Jenkins, acting in his capacity as priest of the Catholic Church, define the sin of scandal? What message is being conveyed on behalf of Notre Dame when an honorary doctorate is conferred on President Obama? Given the high profile nature of the ceremony, might the honest observer perceive at least some tacit approval from the university for the president’s well-known positions? Across the board, Obama has made clear his intention to advance the culture of death by his unwavering advocacy of abortion and Notre Dame responds with an “Atta boy!”

Outrage is the appropriate reaction to Notre Dame’s shameless disregard for patrimony and principle and its lust for prestige, money and notoriety at all costs. Catholics and non-Catholics alike will demonstrate loud and clear in the coming months that reports of the death of outrage have been greatly exaggerated.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • marylisa

    See http://www.NotreDameScandal.com to sign a petition protesting ND’s decision.

  • liturgylover


    I’m surprised so many people are outraged at Notre Dame. Their position in this instance is nothing new. Notre Dame continues to flaunt their “Catholic identity” much like Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi just to name a few. For the most part, the Theology department has not been consistent with the Magisterium for years not to mention annually supporting the production of the Vagina Monologues.

  • Howard S Kelley

    Hmmmm. Is it possible that the Holy Father or local Bishop could declare Notre Dame “NOT CATHOLIC?”

  • DWC

    I wish this was just a UND issue, but sadly we all know it is not. Too many cATHOLIC universities hide behind the veil of free thinking & diversity when constantly allowing un-Catholic activities to take place on campuses. We all are aware of the liberalization and anti-orthodoxy that exists. They see this as “chains” around their necks that lead to the inability to “educate” our young. Too bad, I once read somewhere about a theme where …”the truth will set you free”.

    Just to show I can be reasonable about such efforts … UND could have chose to have a sitting president speak in the future. Why now? I can understand the desire to have a US president speak, but there timing couldn’t be worse. It takes a controversial stance and plunges a daggar into the Sacred Heart. But then, we know the answer. Prestige … or should we just call it sinful PRDIE!

  • Andrew James

    I don’t know what is worse, the invitation by ND for Obama to speak, his actual acceptance, or the arrogant attitude of Fr. Jenkins and some other Jesuits I have heard apeak about this. Who does Fr. Jenkins think he is kidding? He says this is not an endorsement of Obama’s policies, but instead a way to applaude his leadership. The only think Obama has done since getting elected is throw bones to the culture of death. Is that leadership? Obama will take the low road on every issue and consult his liberal special interest lobbies and polls before doing anything.


    Please, if you are a catholic parent and have children who will likely attend college, don’t send them to Notre Dame (or Catholic University, or Boston College or…..) Send them to Steubenville! Let dogs lie with dogs. Give the unfertile pastures of Notre Dame campus back to the goats so they can eat their own garbage! Let Fr. Jenkins be their “shepherd” and he can clean up after them.

  • Rev. John Jenkins says, “protection of life are not being ignored in extending the invitation to the president, but rather can be used as a catalyst for dialogue.”

    Rev John Jenkins one event does not lead into dialogue, if you wish to talk, then do so one on one, for conversion is not a media event.

  • kirbys

    Andrew: Can’t blame the Jesuits on this one! Fr. Jenkins (and presumably the other clergy on campus) are Congregation of the HOly Cross.

    Also, Catholic U has become much more orthodox –I suggest the Cardinal Newman Society’s guide to Catholic colleges and universities (I’m sure you can easily look it up)–CUA is there.

    I don’t necessarily think the Steubenville is the answer for everyone. We are suggesting to our children that they look at either the colleges listed in the Newman Guide, or at secular places where there is a strong Catholic organization. For example, we are in Maryland, and there is a great Catholic presence at the University of Maryland College Park (Go Terps!)–the priest there has fostered several vocations to priesthood and religious life in the past few years.

    I am a graduate of Loyola college in Baltimore, and we have suggested to our children that it is not living up to the standards of St Ignatius, with a FOCUS (gay, les, transgender) student group which is not exactly in line with the Church approved Courage. (And I could go on..) I was being taught liberation theology by a dean of the college during the same year that Pope John Paul the Great was admonishing against it (1984). Hmmmm.

    Let’s pray for the Jesuits, the Holy Cross Congregation (Hey, don’t they run BOston COllege, where they have restored the Crucifixes to the classrooms?), and especially for Father Jenkins, that they will return to the intentions of their saintly founders!St THomas Aquinas, pray for us!

  • MichelleGA

    Not one dollar more of ours will EVER go to this fallen university. We have a daughter at the liberal women’s cesspool across the street, and I tell you that there is not much Catholic left in South Bend. It’s disgusting.

  • costanoan

    I understand that the people who are slamming Notre Dame here are really directing their comments to the administration and some members of the faculty, but lest anyone think that the students are supinely accepting the situation, check out the statement that was just issued by a large number of campus organizations. It makes for good reading and convincingly demonstrates that many, many of the students have seen through Fr. Jenkins’ sophistry and will give a well-considered rebuke to him and the administration that has created this scandal. Yes, the history of these sad steps at Notre Dame goes back years, but it’s possible the worm is finally beginning to turn.

  • Andrew James

    I didn’t say Fr. Jenkins was a Jesuit. I was referring to statements made by several Jesuit priests, in addition to Fr. Jenkins own defense of this scandal. One of these priests (Fr. Reese, if I remember correctly) stated that opposition to Obama’s visit is “absurd”. Well, Fr., the Gospel is indeed absurd, isn’t it? I am aware that ND is not a Jesuit university; that is irrelevant. The Jesuits don’t have a monopoly on dissent, although they probably have contributed more than any other single congregation. Boston College is lost. Putting crucifixes in the classrooms is like paying lip service to the Church. There are alternatives to Steubenville such as Magdalen College and Christendom College. I can’t imagine any Catholic sending their children to cess pools like Notre Dame or Holy Cross.

  • kirbys

    Replacing crucifixes is a start. I am not defending any of these colleges, and certainly won’t support any of our children applying for any Catholic colleges other than the ones listed in the current Newman Society Guide. SOme may not know that Notre Dame isn’t Jesuit, that’s all.