Return Home

A Task Force on Life at Notre Dame…Really!?!

1-14-10 Posted by admin in Blog, Featured Articles, Gallery, Recent Articles 0 Comments

By Matt Smith

A popular skit during Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live in recent seasons has been “Really!?! with Seth Myers.” When I read the University of Notre Dame’s January 14, 2010 press release “Notre Dame task force on life makes preliminary recommendations”, I could not help but think to myself – “really!?!”

The University of Notre Dame, while not the national university of the Catholic Church, is still arguably the most prominently known Catholic university in the world. So really!?! – Notre Dame – you needed to have a task force on life to make recommendations to the university president? According to the press release, “The task force was convened by Father Jenkins in early September to consider and recommend ways in which the University can support the sanctity of life.” It would seem to me a Catholic institution entering its 168th year would already have a handle on one of the basics – the sanctity of human life.

The press release continues to create side-to-side head shaking when it quotes Father Jenkins:

“My charge to the task force in September was to make recommendations on ways in which the University could increase and manifest its own commitment to a culture of life across our campus and in partnership with other constituencies in the Notre Dame family, including our alumni,” Father Jenkins said. “I am pleased to report that the task force has been at work, engaging various of these constituencies in conversation and studying ways in which the University can articulate its commitment effectively and can encourage programming which furthers this commitment.

“The task force has now offered me a series of recommendations and expects, after further study, to refine them by the end of the academic year.”

Father Jenkins – “engaging various of these constituencies in conversation and studying ways in which the University can articulate its commitment effectively” – really!?! I wonder if Father Sorin returned from Heaven to walk among us if he would need to study ways to articulate the principles of life.

While the entire press release gives pause, several other “recommendations” further the question of the necessity of the task force to a faithful Catholic because they address what some would consider the obvious.

“That the University formulate and adopt a policy statement indicating its support for Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.”

Really!?! Notre Dame now needs a formal policy statement to support the teachings of the Catholic church.

“That the president continue to witness for life through attending or sending a delegate to participate in the March for Life or a similar event focusing on the right to life beginning at conception, as well as analogous forms of witness across the spectrum of life issues.”

Really!?! A task force  had to recommend Notre Dame play an active role in the largest pro-life event in the country that has happened on the same day, in the same city, for the past 37 years. Really!?!

“That the University find ways to encourage the work of students explicitly engaged in pro-life activities across the spectrum of life issues.  Further, that the University create and support educative efforts on campus – such as conferences, consultations and courses – intended to inform the campus community on issues pertaining to life, and to form an academic culture of witness to life as appropriate to any given academic venue.”

At first you would add this one into the “Really!?!” category. Some might be surprised to know that anecdotal evidence from pro-life students for years has revealed hostility to their beliefs while they were forced to witness growing support for student organizations like the Core Council.

Pope Benedict the XVI, during his Apostolic Journey to the United States in April 2008, took time to address educators from all Catholic institutions of higher education.  In concluding his remarks, the Holy Father said:

“Teachers and administrators, whether in universities or schools, have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the Church’s Magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institution’s life, both inside and outside the classroom. Divergence from this vision weakens Catholic identity and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual or spiritual.”

The Holy Father was keenly aware of the crisis of identity occurring in America’s Catholic educational institutions. The concerns expressed in his 2008 address needed to be said for years and were further highlighted when Father Jenkins invited President Obama to deliver the May 17, 2009 commencement address and receive honors from the University of Notre Dame. Father Jenkins succumbing to the lure of the celebrity of the White House was a culmination of years of forsaken principle and weakening of Notre Dame’s Catholic identity. So maybe, at the end of the day, the leadership of Notre Dame does need to go back to school themselves, study, and learn the basics in order to rebuild the foundations and proud Catholic tradition known as the University of Notre Dame.

Matt Smith is a consultant in Washington D.C. and former Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Liaison

The text of the University of Notre Dame press release follows:

For Immediate Release

Jan. 14, 2010

Notre Dame task force on life makes preliminary recommendations

The University of Notre Dame’s Task Force on Supporting the Choice for Life has submitted an interim progress report to University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., with preliminary recommendations that are designed to “broaden and deepen the pro-life culture in and among various constituencies in order to strengthen the Notre Dame community’s witness to Catholic teaching on life.”

The task force was convened by Father Jenkins in early September to consider and recommend ways in which the University can support the sanctity of life. It is co-chaired by Margaret Brinig, Fritz Duda Family Professor of Law; and John Cavadini, associate professor and chair of theology and McGrath-Cavadini Director of the Institute for Church Life.

“My charge to the task force in September was to make recommendations on ways in which the University could increase and manifest its own commitment to a culture of life across our campus and in partnership with other constituencies in the Notre Dame family, including our alumni,” Father Jenkins said. “I am pleased to report that the task force has been at work, engaging various of these constituencies in conversation and studying ways in which the University can articulate its commitment effectively and can encourage programming which furthers this commitment.

“The task force has now offered me a series of recommendations and expects, after further study, to refine them by the end of the academic year.”

Several task force recommendations already have borne fruit, including a statement on the University’s unequivocal support of Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life that appeared in a “What Would You Fight For?” commercial on adult stem cell research that aired nationally Nov. 7 on NBC and co-sponsorship with Notre Dame Law School of a panel presentation Dec. 3 on the development of a conscience clause for health care providers informed by Catholic teaching.

The preliminary recommendations include the following:

  • That the University formulate and adopt a policy statement indicating its support for Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.
  • That the University formulate and adopt a policy statement on charitable gifts or investments in order to avoid formal or immediate material complicity in evils such as abortion and torture.
  • That the University adopt strategies to make its current supportive policies toward pregnant students better known to the student body, the faculty and other members of the Notre Dame community.
  • That the president continue to witness for life through attending or sending a delegate to participate in the March for Life or a similar event focusing on the right to life beginning at conception, as well as analogous forms of witness across the spectrum of life issues.
  • That undergraduate research opportunities be made available through “witness to life research opportunities” (or a similar idea), with topics in theology, law, philosophy, sociology, biology and other disciplines across the spectrum of life issues.
  • That the University find ways to encourage the work of students explicitly engaged in pro-life activities across the spectrum of life issues.  Further, that the University create and support educative efforts on campus – such as conferences, consultations and courses – intended to inform the campus community on issues pertaining to life, and to form an academic culture of witness to life as appropriate to any given academic venue.
  • That the University encourage alumni in pro-life witness, for example, in helping them to mobilize their own parish communities in support of women in crisis pregnancies or in assisting adoptions.
  • The task force, for the remainder of its charge, will serve to initiate collaborations with specific Notre Dame constituencies as appropriate in order to further the implementation of the recommendations above and consider further recommendations.

In addition to Brinig and Cavadini, members of the task force are Ann Astell, theology; Kathleen Kelley, student; Mary Ellen Konieczny, sociology; Rev. William Lies, C.S.C., Center for Social Concerns; and Rev. Mark Poorman, C.S.C., vice president for student affairs. Frances Shavers, chief of staff and special assistant to the president; and Todd Woodward, associate vice president for marketing communications, serve as task force liaisons.

Father Jenkins and several task force members will join Notre Dame students, faculty, staff and alumni Jan. 22 at the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Bishops John D’Arcy and Kevin Rhoades and Father Jenkins will concelebrate a send-off Mass for March for Life participants at 9 p.m. Jan. 19 in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on campus.

On the day of the march, Notre Dame participants will celebrate Mass at 10 a.m. at St. Agnes Catholic Church, 1910 N. Randolph St. in Arlington, Va. A Rally for Life will be held at noon at 7th Street and Jefferson Drive. The march, beginning at 1 p.m., will proceed from Constitution Avenue and 7th Street to the Supreme Court building, and a student and alumni reception will follow from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Smith & Wollensky restaurant, 1112 19th Street, N.W., in Washington.

Eucharistic adoration from noon to 4:45 p.m. and a Mass at 5:15 p.m. Jan. 22 at the Basilica will be open to members of the Notre Dame community who are unable to travel to Washington for the march.

###

From: Dennis Brown, assistant vice president and University spokesman

Share
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Google Buzz
  • RSS
  • Tumblr

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>