"In All Things" has received a copy of an email sent to "the Notre Dame Family" from University President, Father John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. In it, Father Jenkins outlines ways for Notre Dame to become more involved in the pro-life effort. One of the canards thrown at Father Jenkins during the controversy surrounding President Obama’s commencement address was that it undercut the school’s commitment to the pro-life cause which, as Father Jenkins writes, is "at the heart of Notre Dame’s mission." Another canard thrown at Father Jenkins was that the President’s appearance would do nothing to increase dialogue, a goal Jenkins cited in his decision to invite the President. Of course, the Catholic community spent much of last spring having that dialogue but today’s letter shows further fruit of Jenkins’ decision. I would submit that a letter from a Catholic university president inviting the university community to get more involved in the pro-life movement would not normally be considered newsworthy. But, all of us, and many more non-Catholics too, are more attuned to this important aspect of Catholic witness precisely because of all the attention and controversy that surrounded Notre Dame’s hosting the President. Let's hope that the University, and all Catholic Universities, continue to find ways to further the cause of life. Here is the text of the letter.
Dear Members of the Notre Dame Family,
Coming out of the vigorous discussions surrounding President Obama’s visit last Spring, I said we would look for ways to engage the Notre Dame community with the issues raised in a prayerful and meaningful way. As our nation continues to struggle with the morality and legality of abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and related issues, we must seek steps to witness to the sanctity of life. I write to you today about some initiatives that we are undertaking.
Each year on January 22, the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, the March for Life is held in Washington D.C. to call on the nation to defend the right to life. I plan to participate in that march. I invite other members of the Notre Dame Family to join me and I hope we can gather for a Mass for Life at that event. We will announce details as that date approaches.
On campus, I have recently formed the Task Force on Supporting the Choice for Life. It will be co-chaired by Professor Margaret Brinig, the Fritz Duda Family Chair in Law and Associate Dean for the Law School, and by Professor John Cavadini, the Chair of the Department of Theology and the McGrath-Cavadini Director of the Institute for Church Life. My charge to the Task Force is to consider and recommend to me ways in which the University, informed by Catholic teaching, can support the sanctity of life. Possibilities the Task Force has begun to discuss include fostering serious and specific discussion about a reasonable conscience clause; the most effective ways to support pregnant women, especially the most vulnerable; and the best policies for facilitating adoptions. Such initiatives are in addition to the dedication, hard work and leadership shown by so many in the Notre Dame Family, both on the campus and beyond, and the Task Force may also be able to recommend ways we can support some of this work.
I also call to your attention the heroic and effective work of centers that provide care and support for women with unintended pregnancies. The Women’s Care Center, the nation’s largest Catholic-based pregnancy resource center, on whose Foundation Board I serve, is run by a Notre Dame graduate, Ann Murphy Manion (’77). The center has proven successful in offering professional, non-judgmental concern to women with unintended pregnancies, helping those women through their pregnancy and supporting them after the birth of their child. The Women’s Care Center and similar centers in other cities deserve the support of Notre Dame clubs and individuals.
Our Commencement last Spring generated passionate discussion and also caused some divisions in the Notre Dame community. Regardless of what you think about that event, I hope that we can overcome divisions to foster constructive dialogue and work together for a cause that is at the heart of Notre Dame’s mission. We will keep you informed of our work, and we ask for your support, assistance and prayers. May Our Lady, Notre Dame, watch over our efforts.
In Notre Dame, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.