The National Catholic Review
John M. D'Arcy
A pastoral reflection on the controversy at Notre Dame
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As summer plays itself out on the beautiful campus by the lake where the young Holy Cross priest, Edward Sorin, C.S.C., pitched his camp 177 years ago and began his great adventure, we must clarify the situation that so sundered the church last spring: What it is all about and what it is not about.

It is not about President Obama. He will do some good things as president and other things with which, as Catholics, we will strongly disagree. It is ever so among presidents, and most political leaders.

It is not about Democrats versus Republicans, nor was it a replay of the recent general election.

It is not about whether it is appropriate for the president of the United States to speak at Notre Dame or any great Catholic university on the pressing issues of the day. This is what universities do. No bishop should try to prevent that.

The response, so intense and widespread, is not about what this journal called “sectarian Catholicism.” Rather, the response of the faithful derives directly from the Gospel. In Matthew’s words, “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good works, and glorify your heavenly Father” (5:13).

Public Witness

Does a Catholic university have the responsibility to give witness to the Catholic faith and to the consequences of that faith by its actions and decisions—especially by a decision to confer its highest honor? If not, what is the meaning of a life of faith? And how can a Catholic institution expect its students to live by faith in the difficult decisions that will confront them in a culture often opposed to the Gospel?

Pope Benedict XVI, himself a former university professor, made his position clear when he spoke to Catholic educators in Washington, D.C., on April 17, 2008:

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.

In its decision to give its highest honor to a president who has repeatedly opposed even the smallest legal protection of the child in the womb, did Notre Dame surrender the responsibility that Pope Benedict believes Catholic universities have to give public witness to the truths revealed by God and taught by the church?

Another serious question of witness and moral responsibility before the Notre Dame administration concerns its sponsorship over several years of a sad and immoral play, offensive to the dignity of women, which many call pornographic, and which an increasing number of Catholic universities have cancelled, “The Vagina Monologues,” by Eve Ensler.

Although he spoke eloquently about the importance of dialogue with the president of the United States, the president of Notre Dame chose not to dialogue with his bishop on these two matters, both pastoral and both with serious ramifications for the care of souls, which is the core responsibility of the local bishop. Both decisions were shared with me after they were made and, in the case of the honorary degree, after President Obama had accepted. For the past 24 years, it has been my privilege to serve as the bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. During this time, I have never interfered in the internal governance of Notre Dame or any other institution of higher learning within the diocese. However, as the teacher and shepherd in this diocese, it is my responsibility to encourage all institutions, including our beloved University of Notre Dame, to give public witness to the fullness of Catholic faith. The diocesan bishop must ask whether a Catholic institution compromises its obligation to give public witness by placing prestige over truth. The bishop must be concerned that Catholic institutions do not succumb to the secular culture, making decisions that appear to many, including ordinary Catholics, as a surrender to a culture opposed to the truth about life and love.

The Local Bishop

The failure to dialogue with the bishop brings a second series of questions. What is the relationship of the Catholic university to the local bishop? No relationship? Someone who occasionally offers Mass on campus? Someone who sits on the platform at graduation? Or is the bishop the teacher in the diocese, responsible for souls, including the souls of students—in this case, the students at Notre Dame? Does the responsibility of the bishop to teach, to govern and to sanctify end at the gate of the university? In the spirit of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, which places the primary responsibility on the institution, I am proposing these questions for the university.

Prof. John Cavadini has addressed the questions about the relationship of the university and the bishop in an especially insightful manner. He is chair of the theology department and an expert on the early church, with a special interest in St. Augustine. His remarks were a response to Father Jenkins’s rationale for presenting the play mentioned above.

The statement of our President [Father Jenkins] barely mentions the Church. It is as though the mere mention of a relationship with the Church has become so alien to our ways of thinking and so offensive to our quest for a disembodied “excellence” that it has become impolite to mention it at all. There is no Catholic identity apart from the affiliation with the Church. And again, I do not mean an imaginary Church we sometimes might wish existed, but the concrete, visible communion of “hierarchic and charismatic gifts,” “at once holy and always in need of purification,” in which “each bishop represents his own church and all of [the bishops] together with the Pope represent the whole Church...” (Lumen Gentium, Nos. 4, 8, 23).

The ancient Gnostic heresy developed an elitist intellectual tradition which eschewed connection to the “fleshly” church of the bishop and devalued or spiritualized the sacraments. Are we in danger of developing a gnosticized version of the “Catholic intellectual tradition,” one which floats free of any norming connection and so free of any concrete claim to Catholic identity?

The full letter can be found on the Web site of the Notre Dame student newspaper, The Observer: www.ndsmcobserver.com.

It has been a great privilege and a source of joy to be associated with Notre Dame in the past 24 years as bishop. In so many ways, it is a splendid place. Part of this is because of the exemplary young men and women who come there from throughout the country. It is also because of its great spiritual traditions. The lines of young people preparing to receive the sacrament of reconciliation at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the Masses in the residence halls, the prayerful liturgy at the basilica and the service of so many young people before and after graduation in Catholic education and catechetics, and in service to the poor in this country and overseas, is a credit to the university and a source of great hope. The theology department has grown in academic excellence over the years, strengthened by the successful recruiting of professors outstanding in scholarship, in their knowledge of the tradition and in their own living of the Catholic faith. This growth is well known to Pope Benedict XVI. It is notable that a vast majority has been willing to seek and accept the mandatum from the local bishop.

Developments on Campus

Yet the questions about the relationship of the university as a whole to the church still stand, and what happened on campus leading up to and during the graduation is significant for the present debate about Catholic higher education. I released a statement on Good Friday, asking the Catholic people and others of good will not to attend demonstrations by those who had come avowedly to “create a circus.” I referred to appropriate and acceptable responses within the Notre Dame community led by students. Titled “ND Response,” and drawing a significant number of professors, these responses were marked by prayer and church teaching, and they were orderly.

This journal and others in the media, Catholic and secular, reporting from afar, failed to make a distinction between the extremists on the one hand, and students and those who joined them in the last 48 hours before graduation. This latter group responded with prayer and substantive disagreement. They cooperated with university authorities.

In this time of crisis at the university, these students and professors, with the instinct of faith, turned to the bishop for guidance, encouragement and prayer. This had nothing to do with John Michael D’Arcy. It was related to their understanding of the episcopal office—a place you should be able to count on for the truth, as Irenaeus contended in the second century when he encountered the Gnostics.

I attended the Baccalaureate Mass the day before graduation, for the 25th time, speaking after holy Communion, as I always do. Then I led an evening rosary at the Grotto with students, adults and a number of professors. We then went to a chapel on campus. It was packed for a whole night of prayer and eucharistic adoration.

It was my intention not to be on campus during graduation day. I had so informed Father Jenkins and the student leadership, with whom I was in touch nearly every day. This is the kind of deference and respect I have shown to the Notre Dame administration, to three Notre Dame presidents, over the years. I found it an increasingly sad time, and I was convinced that there were no winners, but I was wrong.

As graduation drew near, I knew I should be with the students. It was only right that the bishop be with them, for they were on the side of truth, and their demonstration was disciplined, rooted in prayer and substantive. I told the pro-life rally, several thousand people on a lovely May day, that they were the true heroes. Despite the personal costs to themselves and their families, they chose to give public witness to the Catholic faith contrary to the example of a powerful, international university, against which they were respectfully but firmly in disagreement. Among those in attendance were many who work daily at crisis pregnancy centers on behalf of life.

The Silent Board

In the midst of the crisis at Notre Dame, the board of trustees came to campus in April for their long-scheduled spring meeting. They said nothing. When the meeting was completed, they made no statement and gave no advice. In an age when transparency is urged as a way of life on and off campus, they chose not to enter the conversation going on all around them and shaking the university to its roots. We learned nothing about their discussions.

I firmly believe that the board of trustees must take up its responsibility afresh, with appropriate study and prayer. They also must understand the seriousness of the present moment. This requires spiritual and intellectual formation on the part of the men and women of industry, business and technology who make up the majority of the board. Financial generosity is no longer sufficient for membership on the boards of great universities, if indeed it ever was. The responsibility of university boards is great, and decisions must not be made by a few. Like bishops, they are asked to leave politics and ambition at the door, and make serious decisions before God. In the case of Notre Dame, they owe it to the Congregation of Holy Cross, which has turned this magnificent place over to a predominately lay board; they owe it to the students who have not yet come; they owe it to the intrepid missionary priest, Edward Sorin, C.S.C., and the Holy Cross religious who built this magnificent place out of the wilderness. They owe it to Mary, the Mother of God, who has always been honored here. Let us pray that they will take this responsibility with greater seriousness and in a truly Catholic spirit.

Critical Questions

As bishops, we must be teachers and pastors. In that spirit, I would respectfully put these questions to the Catholic universities in the diocese I serve and to other Catholic universities.

Do you consider it a responsibility in your public statements, in your life as a university and in your actions, including your public awards, to give witness to the Catholic faith in all its fullness?

What is your relationship to the church and, specifically, to the local bishop and his pastoral authority as defined by the Second Vatican Council?

Finally, a more fundamental question: Where will the great Catholic universities search for a guiding light in the years ahead? Will it be the Land O’Lakes Statement or Ex Corde Ecclesiae? The first comes from a frantic time, with finances as the driving force. Its understanding of freedom is defensive, absolutist and narrow. It never mentions Christ and barely mentions the truth. The second text, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, speaks constantly of truth and the pursuit of truth. It speaks of freedom in the broader, Catholic philosophical and theological tradition, as linked to the common good, to the rights of others and always subject to truth. Unlike Land O’Lakes, it is communal, reflective of the developments since Vatican II, and it speaks with a language enlightened by the Holy Spirit.

On these three questions, I respectfully submit, rests the future of Catholic higher education in this country and so much else.

For more on President Obama's appearance at Notre Dame see America's archive on the controversy.

Most Rev. John M. D’Arcy is the bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., in which the University of Notre Dame is located.

Comments

Jack Rakosky Ph.D. | 8/25/2009 - 10:13pm
Very few Catholic higher educational institutions serve a singe diocese. Most serve a region, or the entire country, and even many parts of the world. They must relate to the complex reality of Catholicsm in many diverse areas of life and the world as well as the many diverse ways that Catholicsm has been lived in the past.
The notion that the local bishop of the physical place where the main campus is located can have any major role in mediating all the above is absurd! 
Western Catholicism has thrived and developed much more through its many religious orders and their diverse ministries, especially those of higher education, than it has through its parish and episcopal ministries. Much of the ministry of religious in recent centuries have been the work of women. 
There has long been tension between bishops and religious. In many centuries when Popes did not appoint bishops they used religious to move the church forward in spite of bishops.  More recently Rome seems to using appointed bishops as a way to control religious who are too independent, e.g. the current investigations of American women religous. We need to have a healthy independence and tension among religious, bishops, and the Roman curia if we are to have a Catholicism that is creatively reponsive the the needs of the our complex, global world.  
Catholicism since Vatican II has just become too parochial (centered on the parishes), an outcome that is undesireable.
 
SUSAN HUBBARD MRS | 8/25/2009 - 9:57pm

His Excellency Bishop D'Arcy has gotten right to the point.  He has clearly stated that the question has nothing to do with Obama.  The question is, what is the relationship between the Catholic University and the local Bishop?  Does the role of the Bishop (to teach, guide and rule) apply inside the gates of the university?

Instead of addressing this question, many commenters are simply trying to deflect it by launching the same old attacks about "seamless garments" and President Bush. If they could only see that their poisonous drivel only points us more surely to the clarity and light of truth in the Bishop's article. What they do not care to admit is that the actions of the President and board of Notre Dame have not been consistent with a Catholic identity. 
This is a free country, and Notre Dame is free to honor whomever it wants, but it cannot be Catholic and not-Catholic at the same time. Bishop D'Arcy, thank you for so powerfully expressing the choice that lies before Notre Dame (and all Catholic Universities). I, for one, pray that your wisdom, generosity and humility win out over the meanness, rebellion and dishonesty which we have seen from Notre Dame, this journal, and many of the above commenters.

Mike McLeish Sr. | 8/25/2009 - 9:44pm
 
   After reading all these comments (after reading the bishop's article) , with the exception of the first comment, where the writer doesn't know which way is up, I can now put them into two categories:  First, those that agree with the Most Rev. John M. D’Arcy, and second, those that argue only with an excuse.  "These other things are wrongs we do not overly protest, so why not overlook this wrong."  The excuses brought up the most: the Iraq war and the Death Penalty.  
     Yes, the Catholic Church is against all three.  The goal is to save innocent lives from unnecessary death.  There is only so much effort that we can expend at any one time.  Logically, where do we invest our effort?
     Those who think the Church should look the other way on abortion or fight a different fight, I respond: Some fights take priority due both to the human dignity they diminish, but also to the sheer numbers that can be saved. 
     I happen to be a 'number cruncher' and seek statistical and logical explanations.  I know that logic flies over the head of many who are ruled entirely by their emotions, but for the rest, I will add some statistics.   Here are some rounded-off numbers to allow an order-of-magnitude perspective:
Abortions in the US since 9/11= over 10,000,000.
US troops killed in Iraq since 9/11= 4,400 (1 death for every 2,271 babies killed).  
Executions in the US since 9/11= 400 (1 per 25,000 babies). 
Now where should American Catholics expend the bulk of our efforts?
Margaret Metrejean | 8/25/2009 - 9:11pm
Wow.  I was going to first write a comment on Bishop D'Arcy's magnificent letter and then read the other comments.  But I decided to read the comments first and what I read thoroughly proved the Bishop's point.    The comments echoed popular culture spirituality rather than the beauty of truth.  A Catholic university is to shine light on Truth.  God's Truth.  And in that truth, fundamentally is life.  President Obama clearly chose to vote against life as a senator in Illinois.  Just look at his voting record.  Social justice can be talked about and touted all one wants, but if human life is not protected and cherished from conception to natural death everything else means nothing...nothing..nothing.  What makes me the most sad is that many young people (and old) believe the lies of this popular culture spirituality.  And I ask, which "Catholic" universities are helping spread them?  The Bishop's questions are valid and timely.  What is Catholic about these universities?  Sadly, not much.  But I do see hope on the horizon.  Praise God.  Thank you, Bishop D'Arcy for your words of wisdom.
| 8/25/2009 - 8:58pm
It is stupefying to read the attempts to equate Obama's unremitting fealty to the public financing and procurement of abortion with the standard roster of allegedly un-Catholic positions on just war and health care. Sheer sophistry. How can these people say with a straight face that Obama is the health care president as he bears the standard of the pro-abortion troops who persistently deny to millions the first right of health, that is, the right to life? It is risible and outrageous. Don't they see how foolish they seem?
FR J VANDAMME | 8/25/2009 - 8:43pm
Church prelates condemned the physicist and astronomer Galileo (1564-1642) for proving that the earth turns around the sun. This has been a black eye for the Church ever since, and, the Church is seen as anti-intellectual. Catholic education is seen as second class under the thumb of the local prelate. In terms of academic freedom, it is proper that Catholic institutions distance themselves from the control of the local bishop and his political agenda. Yes, abortion is an intrinsic evil, so is the death penalty and saturation bombing. One-issue bishops don't see this.
The bishops talk about the "preferential option for the poor" while at the same time abhoring universal health care because big business is against it. If they spent more time promoting universal health care there would be fewer abortions, the poor would be able to live in dignity and not kill their own. If you get stuck on the evil of abortion and the "good bishop" you deny yourself the ability to see the wider issue of the dignity of humanity and the values of the Gospels.
Kris Jameson | 8/25/2009 - 7:10pm
To Francis: Actually, Pres. Busy _did_ receive an honorary degree. However, this doesn't equalize the situations. Pres. Obama supports state-condoned (and state-funded) abortion. Now, abortion - unlike war and the death penalty - is an intrinsic evil; as murder it is always wrong. A particular war may be unjust, but that is a sphere of possible debate. Abortion is not. Hence Pres. Obama's support for legal abortion cannot be equated with Pres. Bush's foolhardy and, as some argue, unjust wars.
HARRY CARROZZA DR/MRS | 8/25/2009 - 6:44pm

Bravo, not only to Bishop D'Arcy & the other eighty Bishops but also to the over 365,000 individuals who signed the petition asking the President of Notre Dame to rescind his invitation to our Commander in Chief. Unfortunately, America magazine jumped the gun in its first editorial scolding the above petitioners & labeling them as sectarian Catholics. Later they toned down their rhetoric by writing an editorial entitled the Community of Disciples..Don't you guys have any backbone? You are so wishy washy! Take a stand..You sound & are acting like the Democrats are on the health care debate. Sorry, Bishop D'Arcy, for bringing the Democrats into my discussion.

In my letter to the editor regarding the community of Disciples I said we were heading into the ninth inning & in that editorial you did show some mercy on  sectarian Catholics. It is possible that you along with Fr. Jenkins underestimated the response of the rank & file Catholics  who are ardently pro-life..This almost again sounds like what is happening at the health care meetings where constituents are letting  the Democratic members know  what their true positions are on this issue.

So we are now going into extra innings  & neither side knows what the outcome will be. I guess that the game will be called in the 21st inning because of a tie.

God bless Notre Dame, Bishop D' Arcy, America & all people of good faith & morals & go Phillies!!

Malaika | 8/25/2009 - 5:29pm
The good bishop doth protest too much. His "respectfully submitted" remarks should have been made before he jumped with both feet on President Obama and Notre Dame.  He made a real spectacle of himself and it was a shameful sight! And then lest he be pushed completely out of the picture, he hung around the campus to be sure to be there for photo ops and in case he "was needed."  Nobody needed him. When he and his fellow shepherds should have been speaking out, they hid and threw money at anybody with a scam against the Catholic Church. Why didn't they stand up on their hind legs then? Now that Darcy and his ilk have been thoroughly disgraced and shown to be the backslappers that they are; the rabid Republicans they are, they are outted.  The Republican Administrations can do no wrong.  But the instant a Black president graces the scene, suddenly it becomes their personal objective to let him know that the white(s) and white bishops do not approve.  Yes, not one word was said as the Bushies ran rampant in spending for war and killing indescriminately. But one Black president becomes fodder. They should be ashamed! I can remember when no Catholic bishops spoke out against segregation, so it comes as no surprise that a Black U.S. president has them riled against him!! Get over it and get used to him! Let the Pope be your example!
HCSKnight | 8/25/2009 - 5:16pm
Thank you Bishop D'Arcy.  However I think a Bishop's call is deeper and more "apostolic" than your letter.   Only one Apostle died of old age... I do not wish for you anything different, but I do think the deaths of the other 10 Apostles point to a more prominent role as defender and teacher of the Faith than your very charitable letter.  
As for the "apologists".... the path upon which you've wandered into the desert is well worn and the rock upon which you believe you stand, it's really sand.
Niphredil | 8/25/2009 - 5:16pm
I appreciate the thoughtful nature of this article, but I am curious as to Bishop D'Arcy's use of the phrase "the University's highest honor."  As I understand it, Notre Dame conferred an honorary degree upon President Obama, a traditional move for the University as a thanks for coming to speak at Commencement (though I will not argue against anyone who claims that Notre Dame hands these out rather freely).  However, I do not believe that an honorary degree has ever been considered the highest honor the University awards - that would be the Laetare Medal, which was intended to be given to a pro-life activist this year, not to President Obama.  It was my understanding that this was done as a way to signal Notre Dame's support - despite their invitation to the President - of Pro-Life efforts, and to show where their priorities lay.  She chose not to accept it, as a protest against the President's presence and honorary degree, which was perhaps unfortunate but certainly something for which she can be respected.  In light of all of this, I wonder what the Bishop meant by phrasing things the way he did.
Francis | 8/25/2009 - 3:35pm
Thank you, Your Excellency.
To those that continue to harp on the, "Bush came and spoke" line:  Bush was not granted an honorary doctorate! 
As the Bishop notes in his article, it is fine for folks to come and speak.  To award an honor on a politician that is fundamentally out of whack with Catholic social thought isn't right.  Bush didn't deserve one and didn't get one, Obama doesn't deserve one and should not have received one.  End of story.
Moreover, the following absurd logic is being employed, "if Notre Dame made a mistake in the past, then we should not say anything if we see ND making a mistake today."
JSullivan | 8/25/2009 - 3:33pm
Thank you, Bishop D'Arcy, for your leadership and words. May God continue to bless you and your faithful ministry.
Art ND 76 | 8/25/2009 - 2:56pm
First , I will admit my bias - I have lived in South Bend, Indiana, during DArcys first years as bishop there and I love the guy as a shepherd of the flock.
When I hear people start to drone on about "seamless garment" and "social justice" issues I listen at first to see if there is anything behind those words of a Godly spirit or if they are merely being used as nice sounding sophisms by practical atheists who call themselves Catholics, but really want to force others to follow their private (and in many cases Godless) definition of right through the use of law. Strange how that sounds alot like their accusations against those that they disagree with.
I attended ND during the Hesburgh years, and it nearly made an atheist out of me. At that time there also was no lack of "social justice" work being promoted by ND students and faculty. There was an alarming lack of any sense that God was being looked to for guidance in this "social justice" work. It appeared, even then, to be guided in its "social justice" work more by which "social justice" work gave more prestige to the university rather than humbly listening to God for guidance.
Andy F. | 8/25/2009 - 2:30pm
Bishop D'Arcy represents the See of Peter in his diocese.  I am rather confused by the dissent I see in these comments.  He asks questions and wishes for clarification.  All backhanded remarks are irrelevant to the point he is trying to make.  Abortion always ends life.  Just war, unjust distribution of wealth, and any other social concern of the Church are issues that deal with the QUALITY of life (save the death penalty which is also bad), not life itself.  Abortion is a greater evil because it is evil by its nature.  People who perform abortions murder innocent life and any person who disagrees with this is simply not a Christian.  If you believe that Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit, then you cannot say that humanity begins outside of the womb.  If the Incarnation occurred at Christ's conception, then necessarily all human life begins at conception.  100% human, 100% God.  Conceived, born, died, rose again.  All of those are part of the human experience.
Joe Kretschmer | 8/25/2009 - 2:08pm
May I applaud Bishop D'Arcy for his brave stand for the Faith?  This is a timely message indeed.  Yet one who is familiar with Notre Dame could have seen this coming forty five years ago.  Notre Dame has in those years always been independent and above the Church.  The wish of all us who love her is that soon she may again become "Our Lady's University".
Steve White | 8/25/2009 - 1:48pm
Mr. Sullivan: the evil of abortion is found in the intentional killing of a child, not specifically in the fact of the child's death. This is why the commandment is "Thou shall not kill" instead of "Thou shall not die." Dying isn't "intrinsically evil." Intentionally killing the innocent is. This is why Pope John Paul II spoke of how abortion greater harm to those who procure, perform, and assist in the act than to those who suffer death by it. Physical death is nothing comapred to the horror of sin.
Thank you Bishop D'Arcy for your courage and clarity. The Church is not a "one issue church," but the Church IS one regarding the sanctity of human life. 
FR J VANDAMME | 8/25/2009 - 1:47pm

It is interesting to note that the good bishop of Fort Wayne never mentions the welcome of George W Bush, who started two devasting wars, and who happily signed death warrents while Governor of Texas. Bush has blood on his hands but the Republican bishops welcomed him dearly. Or, are the bishops only concerned with persons in the womb and not post partum? The good bishop remains silent on universal health care. Yet, in his apologia he waxes eloquent about his role to give pastoral care.
 
The US bishops lost a lot of credibility with the sex-abuse scandals and Cardinal Law. The US bishops, like Bishop John Michael D'Arcy, and his fellow Republicans lost even more credibility, if that was possible, with their attacks on the "Black" US president under the guise of being pro-life (protecting the pre-born but not the post partum). Would that these bishops be as strident in universal health care! 

Janice McCarthy | 8/25/2009 - 1:44pm
My father and son both attended Notre Dame University. I was very upset that President Obama was given an honorary degree. I had no problem with the president being asked to speak as the president.  But why was it necessary to give him an honorary degree?  The president has repeatedly supported the killing of innocent life in the form of abortion. Do we honor that stance? Do we honor the person who supports it?  I believe that the Church must stand up for those innocent lives, even when it may be politically uncomfortable.
Maureen Ronau MS 82 | 8/25/2009 - 1:38pm

I'd like to thank Bishop D'Arcy for his thought-provoking article, and for his guidance and leadership in these troubled times.  He as struck a chord with many when he questions what the role of a Catholic University is, and what role and relationship the university has with the Bishop and church hierarchy.  Land of Lakes has proven to be a disaster for most universities, as was the aftermath of Vatican ii.  Catholics were left without their fundamental Catholic principals, and universities became secularized.  The pre-Vatican II elementary education I received grounded me in my faith, and my college years at a small Catholic University reinforced the morals and values I learned growing up in a Catholic home and attending a Catholic school till the high school was forced to close.  My parents struggled to send their three children to Catholic colleges, but it was important to them.  Likewise, my husband and I "encouraged" our three daughters to attend Catholic universities.  Although I teach at a small liberal arts school and am used to the secular environment, I was amazed by the difference in my Catholic education and theirs.  I would say that it was difficult, for the most part, to see a truly Catholic character at any of the three institutions my children attended.

Bishop D'Arcy's letter was meant to provoke thought about Catholic Universities and their catholic character, and not specifically address the abortion question.  But since several responders have commented on this issue, let me add my opinion.  Why is abortion a "bigger" issue than immigration, other health care issue, war, and the death penalty?  Could it be that abortion is intrinsically evil, meaning there is no justification for it?  Even in the case of rape, the innocent baby conceived in this heinous crime is an innocent.  Could it be that abortion is a crime against the most vulnerable of our society, those who cannot live on their own without the protection of others?  The president's voting record in Illinois clearly reflects his opinions on abortion.  His legislation from the start of his presidency has been pro-abortion.  He has surrounded himself with a cadre of anti-life thinkers, people who support abortion and euthanasia.  In fact, some of his friends support abortion up to the age of 2.  The president is being disingenuous when he says he wants to reduce the number of abortions.  We cannot afford to take what this president says at face value; his previous voting record, his recent legislation, and his appointments have to be the measure by which we judge him.  Innocent lives depend on it.

Dan Ryan | 8/25/2009 - 1:36pm
Enough with the ranting against The Vagina Monologues! The Good Bishop might as well hold up a sign that reads, "I am an out of touch fool." All the problems the church has, and this is what he talks about? Oh boo hoo, Notre Dame puts on a dumb play that deals with (gasp!) sex and has a woman's hoo-ha in its title! Heaven forbid! Forget about world peace, the abolishment of this dopey play is where are prayers should be directed.
Michael P. Ryan | 8/25/2009 - 1:30pm

The earth may be getting warmer. It is an object of legitimate concern and debate but also one of reasoned argument on the nature of the solution.
 
Wars can be just or unjust. It too is an object of legitimate concern and debate  but also one of reasoned argument on the nature of the solution.
 
Poverty and hunger exist and shame the satisfied. Likewise, it is an object of legitimate concern and debate but also one of reasoned argument on the nature of the solution.
 
Abortion may be the killing of innocent human life. It is admittedly an object of legitimate concern and debate but also one of reasoned argument on the nature of the solution.
 
But one thing cannot be the subject of argument. The Church has chosen to stand with and in favor of the unborn and to make the issue of abortion  one of great gravity and binding teaching on the faithful, no matter how much it discomfits the elite members of the Church community. One can freely choose to accept or to reject this teaching but not to finesse it out of existence with nuanced casuistry or by hiding it behind the seamless garment of life. For Notre Dame to have given President Obama an honorary doctorate under the circumstances presented is an illustration of the literal meaning of the word 'scandal.'
 
To see it otherwise is disingenuous.
 
The folks  who run Notre Dame should consider the wisdom of G.K. Chesterton:
"The Catholic Church is the only thing which saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age."
 
Thank you for printing Bishop D'Arcy's article. 
 
Michael P. Ryan, Notre Dame class of 1975, sine laude.

taad | 8/25/2009 - 1:21pm
I, a small uneducated catholic, stand firmly with Bishop D'Arcy and all bishops in communion with Pope Benedict! Thank you Bishop D'Arcy for you courageous defense of TRUTH!  If only more catholics would really be what Christ called us to be, Light & Salt.
Nicholas Kottenstette | 8/25/2009 - 12:39pm
Thanks again, Bishop Darcy for being a consistent guiding light to a university lost in a cloud of moralistic-relativism.  A university, led by President Jenkins who fails to see the oxymoron of calling itself a 'Catholic-University' as it:
i) ignores it's Bishop's teachings on faith and morals, a Bishop who loves Notre Dame and it's students and is true to Christ's Church,  who's warnings unfortunately fell on deaf ears about the Boston scandal
( http://www.boston.com/globe/spotlight/abuse/stories3/120402_letters.htm )
ii) arrests 'extremists'-Catholics on its campus, including
 a) a 80+ year-old grandmother, a South-Bend-Native, who's crime was walking on to campus, wearing a T-Shirt which said LIFE, and for praying an 'university-unsanctioned-rosary'.
 b) handcuffing, and carrying away a 80+ year-old priest on a stretcher for carrying a 'university-unsanctioned-Crucifix' on his shoulders...
 c) women who wanted to share how their abortion negatively impacted their lives including Roe (Norma McCorvey), ...
(google: arrests + "Notre Dame" )
iii) awards an honorary-doctorate to a President who appears to see nothing morally wrong with killing unwanted-unborn-children, whether the word unborn should have () around it is clearly up for reasonable debate:
(google: "Robert George" + Kmiec + CUA )
iv) awards a honorary doctorates to it's own trustee member who recently created a Research Labs who's fundamental purpose is to promote human-embryonic-stem-cell research
(google: stem + cell + trustee + "Notre Dame" )
v) continues to indirectly raised money for Planned Parenthood as it hosts the VM's which promotes  Eve Ensler's foundation who gives monies to PP and other groups clearly at odds with Church teaching
(google: Eve + Ensler + Parenthood + "Notre Dame")
v)...
- A disillusioned alumni (Ph.D. 2008).
Tim Lang | 8/25/2009 - 12:36pm
Thank you Your Excellency.
 
John David,
You were not "a Catholic from birth" but a Catholic from baptism.
B.J. Smith | 8/25/2009 - 12:31pm
Thank God for Bishop D'Arcy. He stood up for what is right and true. To think that Mr. Jenkins and others will ever admit a mistake is a waste of time. They won't change until the "Golden Goose" is near death and they loose their wealth. The adoration of Obama was unbelievable. My only way of fighting is to stop giving them anything. It's time to believe what they do and not what they say.
THOMAS FARRELLY | 8/25/2009 - 12:24pm
Bishop D'Arcy's article was thoughtful, honest, and thought-provoking.  He described his personal and official reactions to the Obama visit, and raised questions regarding the obligations of a university that calls itself Catholic and the role of the local Bishop.  The article was clearly heartfelt, intellectually rigorous, and humble.
The rush by some commenters to assail him provides a range of criticisms that essentially ignore his carefully reasoned position and serve as a platform for various "progressive" positions and indulgence in the Personality Cult of Obama.
I suggest these commenters go back and actually read the article with the same humility in which it was written.
Kris Jameson | 8/25/2009 - 10:36am
"When it comes to abortion I wonder why it is that those who speak in the name of God and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit like Bishop D'Arcy do not seem to have a problem with naturally occurring miscariages and abortions."
But of course the Catholic Church has a problem with the naturally-occurring and untimely death of any human being - these are tragedies, natural evils. They are lives cut short by natural events.
Abortion, however, is a death cut short by human acts. That is what separates tragic natural disaster, such as a woman falling off a cliff, from a tragic murder, such as a woman being stabbed to death by an assailant. And that is what separates a miscarriage from an abortion. Both are tragedies; one is caused directly by human action, with human intent. The latter, then, is the one the Church speaks so strongly against because the Church has a chance of persuading humans not to kill unborn humans.
Nancy Danielson | 8/25/2009 - 10:00am
With all due Respect to Bishop D'Arcy, according to the Bishops, the nature of the mandatum is that it is not a mandatum:
[url=http://www.usccb.org/bishops/mandatumguidelines.shtml]http://www.usccb.org/bishops/mandatumguidelines.shtml[/url]
Under the heading, Nature of the Mandatum, #3 states: "Theologians who have received a mandatum are not catechist; they teach in THEIR OWN NAME in virtue of their baptism and academic and professional competence, NOT IN THE NAME OF THE BISHOP OR THE CHURCH'S MAGISTERIUM."
Since it is true that the Catholic Catechism is a reflection of Catholic Theology, how can a Catholic Theologian not be required to be a Catechist to begin with?
"When seeking truth, avoid confusion." (some famous person who's name is unknown to me)
 
JOHN MCCARTHY MR | 8/25/2009 - 9:47am
Bishop D'Arcy's letter is a classic, comparable in dignity and stature with Martin Luther King's Letter from the Birmingham Jail. Without a scintilla of meanness, and with a heart full of affection for ND, he makes his case with dignity, logic, and charity.  Three cheers for the good Bishop!
BILL JOYCE | 8/25/2009 - 9:39am
Why do we pay attention to Land of Lakes look askance to the Magesterium?
Last I looked, and it usually takes some looking often in barely audible position papers, the Bishops espouse Health Care as a human right (which President Obama has noted reduces abortion) not to mention the rights of labor to organize (apparently in favor of Universal Free Choice and in line with Rerum Novaraum). Perhaps the Bishops could speak as loudly - some do and ND has been in the forefront -about the rights of immigrants, not to mention getting at the roots of world hunger (as Catholic Relief Service is with its alignment with UN millenium goals), fair trade, or the ethics of the use of drone bombers or any number of concerns that often run counter to highly paid lobbies. When Bishops speak with authority on the range of 'life issues,' let alone Catholic social teaching, they will be the Ex Corde Ecclesia we the faithful deserve. 
James W. Bayley | 8/25/2009 - 9:13am
Wonderful comments were made by the bishop.  It is a sad day when catholic universities ignore the catholic faith and refuse to stand up for truth.
M Gloystein | 8/25/2009 - 7:44am
Thank you for your article.  Let us not forget how we got to this point that all eyes are on Notre Dame.  Catholic education has been pandering to the dollar/public opinion/full enrollment for years.  If we had kept an eye on what was being taught in all of our neighborhood Catholic schools for the last 25 years we would not be surprised at the decisions of Notre Dame.  We have been warned about what was happening to our schools and apparently it fell on deaf ears.  Maybe Notre Dame is a wake up call for a reorganization of all of our schools beginning with elementary grades.
ET Morrison | 8/25/2009 - 7:30am
Thank you for sting up and being counted. A brialliant statement. Were have all the the clear thinking leaders of our Catholic Universities gone. Father Hesper where are you?
Kat | 8/25/2009 - 3:50am
Does a Catholic university have the responsibility to give witness to the Catholic faith and to the consequences of that faith by its actions and decisions—especially by a decision to confer its highest honor? If not, what is the meaning of a life of faith? And how can a Catholic institution expect its students to live by faith in the difficult decisions that will confront them in a culture often opposed to the Gospel?
Pope Benedict XVI, himself a former university professor, made his position clear when he spoke to Catholic educators in Washington, D.C., on April 17, 2008:
[quote]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.
IT'S NOT JUST A DUTY; IT IS A RESPONSIBILITY AND THEREFORE AN HONOR.  AN HONOR THE PRESIDENT OF NOTRE DAME DID NOT (OBVIOUSLY) UNDERSTAND.  HOW DO YOU NOT FOLLOW THE GOSPEL AND THE TEACHINGS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH? I would think in his shame, the President of Notre Dame would resign.  But maybe in his IDEOLOGY, he DOESN'T understand  his responsibilities to the University, the people, The Church and to GOD.  Then it would be the responsibility & official duty of the BOARD OF ND to request that the President of ND step down, and find someone WILLING TO UPHOLD THE SANCTICITY OF LIFE, THE TEACHINGS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, THE POPE AND ABOVE ALL...THE HIGHEST MORAL AUTHORITY, GOD.  
 
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rita | 8/25/2009 - 12:24am

Bishop D’Arcy is correct-Catholic is not something we do on Sundays, it is a way of life.  A principal component of this Catholic lifestyle is recognition and acceptance of authority.  While the author of this decree is Jesus Christ; the face of His authority, in time, is the pope and the bishops. To know and understand this standard presumes obedience.

In 2004, he U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a provisional statement on “Catholics in Political Life.” It stated, “Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors and platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” For those who argue, what about war and the death penalty? Read the Catechism. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication, automatically, only to abortion.  "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae.

Quite simply, Notre Dame preferred disobedience to Christ and His Church. Thank you for your clear teaching, Bishop D’Arcy.

Richard Sullivan | 8/24/2009 - 11:24pm

Bishop D'Arcy has taken the high road, we are to believe. He participated at mass, prayed the rosary, and adored the Eucharist with Notre Dame students on the day before Commencement when Notre Dame conferred upon the President of the United States an honorary degree despite his support for a woman's right to have an abortion.
When it comes to abortion I wonder why it is that those who speak in the name of God and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit like Bishop D'Arcy do not seem to have a problem with naturally occurring miscariages and abortions. Is it because God is responsible for them? Can they be intrinsically evil if God is so responsible?

The Catholic Church is pro life and considers abortion to be intrinsically evil. This view is shared by a majority of the people. It is a principle by which they can live. Does it have to be a principle that is imposed on all people by law?

Bishop D'Arcy criticized the Board of Trustees of Notre Dame for their lack of transparency in dealing with the issue of an honorary degree for the President. Can Bishops raise the issue of transparency in view of the manner in which they themselves are chosen to govern, not to serve, of course?

DAVID GENTRY-AKIN | 8/24/2009 - 9:42pm

Thank you, Bishop D'Arcy, for your humble and insightful reflection on the controversy surrounding President Obama's visit to the University of Notre Dame this past spring. I am a proud alumnus of the University of Notre Dame.  I am also a professor at a Catholic College, so I am well acquainted with the issues you raise.

You are correct, Bishop D'Arcy, in pointing out the very serious situation facing us in Catholic Higher Education. The culture of Catholicism has been so thoroughly eroded at many of our institutions that it is now largely only a veneer: the presence of a chapel, some religious iconography, and a handful of religious men or women may seem to suggest that an institution is 'Catholic', but in fact, in many cases, most of the administrators and faculty at our institutions are not Catholic, and more than few are deeply anti-Catholic. The ethos is no longer one permeated by a spirit of faith. Rather, the ethos is secular; all of our points of reference are to secular institutions and their interpretation of what it means to be an institution of higher education. The historic traditions of the institution are invoked whenever they can be used to advance a secular agenda, but ignored in all other cases. The sponsoring religious of the institution are often themselves marginalized.

We have surrendered to a completely secular vision of higher education, with a theology department or a campus ministry unit as a kind of 'add-on' for those who want it. The vision that drives our curriculum is not that of the Catholic intellectual tradition, and our connection to the local church is tenuous at best. Yet, in many places, most of our students are still Catholic. Many come to us hoping to find an environment in which their faith is affirmed and strengthened. And many of them are sorely disappointed.

If Catholic Higher Education is to survive in this country, it is imperative that we find a way of beginning to train a new generation of Catholic intellectuals who find the Catholic vision of reality to be a compelling one, and who want to give themselves to the work of assuring that these institutions continue to be inspired by the beauty, wisdom, and vitality of the Catholic faith which comes to us, as a precious inheritance, from the apostles.

Cody Serra | 8/24/2009 - 8:43pm

As a Catholic from birth, and with due respect to Bishop D'Arcy, I believe the spectacle of a Catholic Church divided and politicized on the issue of abortion was regretable in Notre Dame and during the presidential campaign. It is unacceptable to make the Catholic Church a "one issue" institution.

The Church's responsibility is to teach us morality and principles according to the Catholic faith.  But God gaves us free will and trusted our conscience to lead us in the journey on this world.  The university's role is to shape the consciences and prepare the students for a world full of contradictions. The University leaders offered an opportunity to embrace a  world who is complex and multidimensional, and showed respect for the Office of the Presidency. They honored the President, not Mr. Obama.  I disagree with the political partidism shown at Notre Dame, in which the Bishop dishonored the President of the United States but no even atending the ceremony. In contrast, Mr. Obama received a respectful and warm reception by the Pope shortly after. I am sure they did not agree on abortion, but they discussed it showing mutual respect for their respective leadership positions. I think the USA Bishops should learn how to accept the plurality of minds and avoid to "dictate" to Catholics how they should act and think on policies. The internal scandals of the Church in recent years should be a warning about the dichotomy of what it teaches and its practice by Bishops and Priests.

It is important to remember that in a democracy as ours, the President of the United States could have any personal opinion on life issues, but it is only Congress the one who passes the laws, not the President, who is not Catholic. Politics and Church institutions, are legally separate in the United States and should remain so. They have different roles in society and should respect each other.

John David | 8/24/2009 - 7:43pm

"Give witness of the Catholic faith in all its fullness" all to often tends to be reserved for issues of sex and gender. Where is the witness in all its fullness concerning Catholic social teaching? Of the distribution of wealth? Of the responsibility we have to one another? Of the using and sharing of Earth´s natural resources? The Church has written very movingly about these issues, but Rome and most of our bishops seem content to not make those who are in their care aware of them, let alone promote them. My challenge to the Bishops is to indeed start giving witness of the Catholic faith in all its fullness. Continue to give witness to areas of abortion, but start showing that the Catholic faith is much fuller than the few issues the Bishops choose to emphysis.

BERNARD TRACEY | 8/24/2009 - 6:59pm
It would have been nice if gbyork and Mr. Rowden had given at least some small indication that they had even read Bishop D'Arcy's article before offering their foolish comments.
Bernie Tracey
Notre Dame, Class of '55
BSEE, Sunna Cum Laude
   
TOM LENERT | 8/24/2009 - 6:47pm

We live in a democratic society in which an elected official cannot impose his moral views of the rest of the citizens of his jurisdiction.  Even former President Bush found that he could not, even if he wished. Hasn't Presdient Obama indicated that he is dedicated to reduce the number of abortions during his term in office?  How about giving him credit for this commitment instead of an all-out opposition.

What bothers me most is the unilateral approach to life issues taken by many bishops in the Catholic Church today.  Abortion and stem cell research, no!  War, the death penalty, health care are issues met with only a muted response by the hierarchy.  This weakness is what turns off people like me who believe in the seamless garment approach to life.

leonard Nugent | 8/24/2009 - 4:41pm

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I hear the Shepherds voice comming from Bishop Darcy. All I can say is thanks.

ROBERT ROWDEN | 8/24/2009 - 3:58pm

Is there anyone in the United States, Catholic or not, who believes that the University of Notre Dame its administration, faculty or student body supports abortion?  Would the bishop deny an honorary degree to someone who supports the death penalty? Would he deny such to George Weigel who opposes the Church position on the definition of a just war?  These matters are also part of the "Catholic faith in all of its fullness" and are also "life" issues.

Perhaps there is such hypersensitvity to the legal status of abortion that some have escalted the position of all abortion supporters to a level which seems to automatically convict them of bad faith or evil intent. In my judgment this would have been the conclusion reached by many had the President not been allowed to appear and receive his degree. Let the Church and its related universities continue to support the President on those life and social justice issues on which we agree and continue to oppose him on the others.

george york | 8/24/2009 - 3:13pm
Is it verifiably true that Obama is, as the bishop writes, 'a president who has repeatedly opposed even the smallest legal protection of the child in the womb'? If it is true, is the truth due more to the president's political or to his moral judgements (compromises and deal making)? If due mostly to his political judgments, is his action then consistent with Church teaching on the role and responsibility of public officials; that is, isn't it pro life of the state in whose government he serves? Why should he grasp for something beyond his reach? Isn't abortion less within the purview of a state representative or a US President and more within that of Congress and the Court? And to whom is Congress answerable? Isn't it too easy to perceive reality as though it were as one wishes it to be?

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