The Church and the University: A pastoral reflection on the controversy at Notre Dame

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:

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.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
10 years 1 month ago
"his degree"? Wow. Where does that put the hard working ND graduates' degrees? No big deal?
What's seamless about Tom's approach to life when millions of garments have been rent through the abomination of abortion? Easy for us whose mother's chose to give us a chance to say that others shouldn't.
Brenden, I agree with you Latin-as it applies to President B. Obama.
Bless the Catholics who are not only in the pews receiving the Light and the Truth and the nurture necessary to be strong and compassionate but also are taking this to the streets and to the pregnancy centers and building homes for the homeless and donating to and manning the food banks for the hungry and visiting the shut ins and bringing communion to the homebound and the list could go on and on. Catholic organizations world wide are always at the front and center of help and social justice. How can they be called a one-issue Church? Or is it just that those who call it that don't agree with that one issue and wish it wouldn't be talked about so they don't feel uncomfortable?
Thank you, Your Excellency. My donated dollars continue to go to those organizations which promote life and helping the less fortunate. They won't be going to Catholic, in name only, Universities.
10 years 1 month ago
Janice McCarthy
You are the face of duplicity; say hi to Teddy in hell.
Daniel Callahan
10 years 1 month ago
Perhaps the most important questions asked by Bishop D'Arcy revolve around the necessity for communication and dialogue to occur between the administration of Catholic Universities and the Ordinary Magistarium of the Church. The facts that he was informed of decisions after they were made suggest lack of communication and perhaps trust.  His points suggesting that financial largesse trumps Catholic Cultural Values in the decisions to appoint board members is one that seems most likely. This parallels what might also be seen in the Catholic Health Care Arena which like Catholic Education has seen great erosion in Gospel driven mission objectives. Market driven financial incentives often militate against Gospel mission objectives. This article is fair, and asks some very important questions that I would hope the Board of Directors at Notre Dame and other Catholic Universities will consider, and then be forthcoming as they communicate their mission focused discussions.
10 years 1 month ago
From one of my Dad's many speeches.."Show me where a man has been and I will tell you where he's going"  Obama's political history is crystal clear...This man should not be allowed on the property at Notre Dame unless he's participating in a panel..Unfortuntely, ND's trustee's are interested in liberal foundation and government money...The faith and what it stands for means nothing to these trustee's.. Many know the history of the trustees, please shed more sunlight on them.  As far as the trustee's honoree, we can only pray and plan that this political cancer will be removed in  2012. 
10 years 1 month ago
Bishop Darcy's article on why he opposed President Obama's appearance at ND and its conferral of an honory degree on him is praiseworthy both for its reasoned exposition of moral principles and its pastoral tone. He acted as any bishop with courage should. He placed the interests of the unborn - the weakest of our brothers and sisters - above formalism. In doing so gave eloquent witness to the truth that anyone who supports the wilful destruction of innocent human life should not be placed in a position of custodian of the common good, nor should he be given a public platform in a Catholic institution.
Eamonn Keane
10 years 1 month ago
A M E N !!!!  God bless you Bishop D'Arcy for such a beautiful explanation of what it means to be a Catholic in the only church that Jesus Christ gave to humanity; and for the truth which lifts our hearts when all else around us is tumbling down.  What about Fr. Jenkins?  He should be removed from the honor of being president of Notre Dame.  As one alumnus member said, "he should be relegated to the position of Librarian and never heard from again."  There are too many fakes in the ranks of priests who truly believe.  My hopeful remedy is prayer unceasing for all priests and consecrated in the Catholic Faith.  What we have been given cost Him dearly and we must defend it in every instance where it is challenged. 
10 years 1 month ago
Like Bishop D'Arcy, I see much at Notre Dame that is praiseworthy. On a personal level, one of the most remarkable people I know (my wife, as Providence would have it) is a Notre Dame graduate. Nonetheless, it seems to me that Bishop D'Arcy and Prof. Cavadini are quite right to question the University's commitment to the Catholic faith. As an alumnus, I am almost equally afflicted by doubts about Notre Dame's commitment to reason.

If Fr. Jenkins had talked about his firm and unwavering commitment to racial equality while inviting a segregationist commencement speaker, his stance would have been justly derided by every thinking Catholic. I find it rather extraordinary that his statements about Notre Dame's "firm and unwavering" defense of the unborn are even taken seriously.

Many of us in the Notre Dame family have been saddened and embarrassed for years as the University's leaders have equivocated on important issues. One area in which they have remained steadfast, though, is in their commitment to academic freedom. Accordingly, with the same filial respect that Fr. Jenkins has shown for his local bishop, I offer my alma mater a new motto for the 21st century:

"I may disagree with what I say, but I will defend to the death my right to say it."
10 years 1 month ago
Bravo, Bishop D'Arcy! May God richly bless you for doing your job which is to LEAD the Church. I still get a knot in my stomach when I think of what happened at Blessed Mother's university on May 17, 2009. I wouldn't have expected anything else from President O. But it was as if President Jenkins & his Board simply slapped Mary in the face. It doesn't matter what words they use to try hide behind, the fact remains they honored a man who has no problem voting in favor of killing children who are unable to speak up for themselves. God help them & our poor Church!
10 years 1 month ago
Thank you Bishop D'Arcy! Today is the Feast of the Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist...You give good honor to him whose fidelity to the Lamb of God cost him only earthly life, and won him eternal union with Him, Who named Himself the Way, the TRUTH and the Life! You also give the gift of HOPE to those of us who are simply trying to live out our "ordinary" Catholic lives in this our day and time. Thank you.
Robert Koch
10 years 1 month ago
Very simple = Shame on Rev. Jenkins, he should step down as president of the university.
10 years 1 month ago
Can a Catholic, in good conscience, attend The University of Notre Dame?
10 years 1 month ago
The Pope recieves the President, the local Bishop does not?
Robert D'Aoust
10 years 1 month ago

I am stunned by the hatred and divisiveness that I sense in these responses. The subject of abortion has become so emotionally charged that it is driving a wall though our church.

During the Kerry/Bush election I ended up arguing with a priest about his sermons, in which he implied that Catholics could not vote for Kerry and receive the sacraments because of his position on abortion. When I confronted him after Mass about Bush's death penalty record and the war - he
insisted that abortion was the far greatest evil.  I flippantly threw out the line that "if that's the case then maybe women who've had abortions should be subject to the death penalty". I was shocked when he said "well, maybe they should!"

Attitudes like this are going to get us nowhere.  For those who don't understand or accept our beliefs, education and persuation are the important tools; confrontation and coersion never win hearts.

Abortion is the only significant issue that separates Obama's positions from key Church social doctrine. Are we going to squander this opportunity to educate and persuade a president who empathizes with our beliefs? Unfortunately it's a lot easier to fall head over heals for silver tongued politicians who will give lip service to their opposing abortion but trample over the body of
Church doctrine with nary a word raised.

10 years 1 month ago
One of my sons went to Harvard and the other went to UMass Amherst.  At both schools the Catholic Club was a welcoming place filled with practicing Catholics.  As a mother I felt satisfied that These clubs were there to guide my sons.  I did wonder why the Church was wasting its time with Catholic colleges. Perhaps they were important once but no longer.
10 years 1 month ago

Thank you Most Reverend Bishop.  It is high time someone spoke out against the liberal policies that are engolfing our Universities and Colleges who claim to be Catholic. Thank you for doing it so eloquently. We pray that your admonition will fall on receptive ears by those making decisions. We pray to Mary and Her Son to give guidance to all.

10 years 1 month ago
Bishop D'Arcy's take on the Obama-University of Notre Dame fiasco offers at least this practitioner of the faith such a balanced and intelligent, at the same time humbly human, range of insights as to all but restore trust in our hierarchy's grasp of what its "world's most important assignment" needs to consist of.
James C. G. Conniff
10 years 1 month ago

No one doubts the authority of bishops to pronounce on moral issues.  Bishop John D'Arcy ("The Church and the University") goes beyond this point to claim a right to determine how Catholic institutions-and presumably individual Catholics-alter their conduct in light of such pronouncements.  The bishop's complaint is that Notre Dame has "honored" the president of the United States, although he does not accept the Church's teachings regarding abortion.  I note that Bishop D'Arcy does not charge the Notre Dame authorities with suggesting, by their receiving the president, that they themselves dissent from the Church's teaching-or that they intend to communicate this message to the broader public.  Instead, he seems to argue that it is simply improper for Catholic institutions-and presumably individual Catholics-to rub shoulders with those who do not accept the Church's teaching.  

I myself "honor" many opponents of the Church's teaching on abortion by inviting them to my home.  In doing so, I do not express any dissent from the Church's teaching-on the contrary I am a strong supporter of that teaching.  On occasion, while they are there, we discourse on the subject of abortion;; and this provides me with an opportunity to articulate the Church's position; and maybe, just maybe, seeing my resolve, they may soften their hearts.  

I do not know whether Fr. Jenkins softened the heart of President Obama-and I do not know whether Pope Benedict softened his heart, when the pontiff received the president at the Vatican.  But, in the interest of reducing abortions, we should be looking for more, rather than fewer, occasions to interact with "pro-choice" people. 

10 years 1 month ago
10 years 1 month ago
When I was 16, my 15 year old best friend got pregnant by her adult boyfriend. She told me about it 30 minutes or so before he was taking her to Planned Parenthood to have an abortion. I never tried to stop her. Planned Parenthood never called the police and my friend's mother (who had adopted her as a baby) never knew either. My friend went on to have two more abortions, paid for by her loving older man, all before she turned 18. When she grew up and got married to someone else, she found she could not have children because the abortions created too much scar tissue on her uterus. She eventually left her husband and contemplated suicide. My friend never had a chance to make an informed decision because there was nothing standing in the way between her and the abortion table - no parental notification laws, no sonograms, no information about adoption, no information about the possible physical and psychological problems that accompany abortion - all the things Obama still opposes.
30 years ago the majority of Americans were pro-life. Now the majority are pro-choice. I think the reason for this is because there are now so many people like me who know someone who has been harmed by abortion either psychologically or physically or both. This is the most important social issue of our culture today and I thank God that the Catholic Bishops realize this.  
Jesus said "know the tree by the fruit". Obama is proposing government funding of abortions. I wonder, does Notre Dame President Jenkins and theology professor Richard Obrien consider this good fruit? I don't. At least when Arizona State University invited Obama to speak at their commencement, they had the good sense to withhold the honorary doctorate noting that his body of work was "yet to come". But because Notre Dame and its theology professor Richard McBrien have a long history of controversy with the US bishops, in making their decision to grant Obama an honorary doctorate, they were more interested in snubbing those bishops than in caring for the sheep. Since they do not realize the importance of working together with the Bishops on the most important societal ill facing the US today, they should not be in positions of influence and I pray to God for their immediate removal and/or conversion of heart.
10 years 1 month ago
Dear America Editorial Board,
Have you thanked Bishop D'Arcy for illustrating for you what a genuinely Catholic worldview looks like?
Frank Hannon
10 years 1 month ago
"Reducing abortions" implies that some abortions are permitted and some are not. Thus in the absence of a clear and imminent danger to the LIFE of the mother and if one accepts that human life begins at conception, then all non life threatening pregnancies to the mother are nothing less than killing of an innocent human being. It is as elementary as that. Isn't it? Should it not be taught in Catholic Universities?
10 years 1 month ago
Mr. Davies says "Abortion is the only significant issue that separates Obama's positions from key Church doctrine."  I see this argument in variation in other responses.  Too many Catholics want desperately to link the Church to liberal political policies.  By equating policies on war, welfare, or immigration with abortion they purport to "balance" the moralities and dump the abortion issue because it is so inconveniently linked to conservative political principles.  The last time I checked, however, abortion was an intrinsic evil that carries with it an automatic excommunication.  I must have missed the Vatican pronouncement excommunicating any Catholic who reports for duty in Iraq or opposes amnesty for illegal aliens.  Catholics can, in good conscience, disagree on the political means to obtain desired social ends although it is hard for me to see why taking money from someone else to give away entitles one to any moral high ground.  Abortion is intrinsically evil, disagreements over citizenship are not.    
10 years 1 month ago
Here are the words of John Paul II from his encyclical "Evangelium Vitae."     "The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an 'unspeakable crime' (GS51).  The perception of its gravity has become progressively obscured. Its acceptance in the popular mind is a sign of a crisis of the moral sense.  As the prophet says: "Woe to those who call evil good" (Is. 5:20). There is widespread use of ambiguous terminology expecially in the case of abortion, such as the term "interuption of pregnancy," which tends to hide its true nature. This playing with words is maybe itself a sign of an uneasiness of conscience. No word has the powere to chage things: procured abortion is direct killing. We are dealing with the murder of a human being at the very beginning of life, lacking even that minimal form of defense consisting of the cries and tears of a newborn baby."
10 years 1 month ago
It started with the German play, "The Deputy." Aspersions were cast against Pius XII claiming that he had been silent during the Nazi Holocaust. Further attacks by the Left against Catholics and the Catholic Church multiplied over the next 40 years. history has a way of allowing the present generation to feel morally superior and to condemn the weaknesses of their ancestors.
Fast forward to the current day and 36 years of legalized killing, something society calls "a woman's right to choose."  We know it as abortion. 50 million dead babies. Millions of affected and traumatized women. A vicious attack on life.
The current president is supported by the very abortion industry that profits from the carnage. And it is most ironic that those who defend him are the same ones who oppose such other forms of violence and can be the loudest in their condemnation of war.
The Church's teachings are not complicated on the subject. Perhaps if certain people would stop apologizing for the evil and call upon all persons of whatever political stripe to protect and defend all innocent human life, born and unborn, we Catholics might not be the pawns of others who would just as soon destroy the Church as follow her teachings. Perhaps if all the 'peace and justice" types could take five minutes to realize that pro-abortion liberal friends are NOT their friends, then together with pro-lifers, we could be the block of Americans who stood up against the violence against women and children.
The Bishop here is acting in his role as teacher and defender of the Faith. Would that throughout history, more bishops stood firm in defense of the Truth. Would that we not fall to the siren calls of complicity, but address the real humanitarian aspects of all the issues of the day, be they economic or social. The point is that Notre Dame failed in acting as an observant Catholic school. Future generations will ask why in the same way that people asked what Catholics did during the 1930s.. Hopefully we can repent of the evil that has been done in the land and as is written in Holy Scripture, get on our knees, humble ourselves, ask God for forgiveness and perhaps He will heal this nation.
10 years 1 month ago
Thank you to Bishop D'Arcy for having the courage to write this article. I hope that many other Catholic Universities will read it and take heed. Many parents send their children to Catholic colleges expecting them to get a Catholic education and it is quite disappointing to discover  that is not in fact the case, as I personally found out when I went to Seton Hall Law School many years ago.  At least one knows what one is getting when one attends a public school; I would rather my child get no information on religion than teaching that ignores, or is contrary to, the teachings of the Catholic church.  Jesus called  the Pharisees who  gave Him lip service, but failed to follow His commandments, "hypocrites".  Unfortunately, that statement can easily be applied to many  Catholic universities in this country who are  "Catholic" in name, only.
10 years 1 month ago
Bless Bishop D'Arcy!  To be Catholic is to be countercultural in every age-because God's ways are not the ways of the world.  There was no excuse for awarding the highest honors to a man who has the most extreme possible view on killing one's own off-spring while in the womb.
It is clear who will ultimately win this type of battle.  I say that not only because we've read the end of the Book (Revelation) but also on natural grounds:  those who are killing their kids are selecting themselves out of the population.
10 years 1 month ago
Bishop D'Arcy is correct  - President Jenkins was wrong!  Either you are Catholic or you are not Catholic.  There is no in-between.  Since Vatican II,  the Church, both in instruction and tradition, has been watered down until it is hardly recognizable. Cafeteria Catholics who are trying to fit the Church into their own personal lifestyles and belief systems might do well to quit and join some other religious group.  And those clergy, religious and political leaders who are aborting our Catholic faith daily should be excommunicated!
It appears that Catholic clergy, scholars and leaders worship their own intellect above all else.  They are disobedient, arrogant and do not possess the "childlike humility" preached to us by our Lord.
Moreover, for a long time now, the entire American educational system, both public and private, has been promoting a permissive ideology.  It is time to rectify this festering problem and call for a complete overall that ensures that students receive a well-balanced education so they can make informed decisions.
Meanwhile, we must  pray for the conversion of Catholics to the Holy Mother Church restoring us all to the fullness of Her beauty and truth.
10 years 1 month ago
For a professing "Catholic" to invite an open dissenter in matters of Catholic faith and morals to one's home for dialogue/conversation is far different from a public institution that professes to be "Catholic" inviting someone (in this case, the President of the United States) who publically takes positions contrary to grave matters of our Catholic faith and morals to give an address at a public ceremony and, in addition, confers on them an honorary Law degree.  Bishop D'Arcy would be remiss in his obligation as Bishop of the Diocese in which UND is established, if he didn't speak up publically re. the scandalous, defiant choice/action of UND's President and Board.   
I haven't looked into this to verify...,  but I think that a Catholic institution that publically ceases to uphold/profess Catholic principles of faith and morals as clearly set forth by the teaching of the magisterium of the Church in union with the Pope has an obligation to cease calling itself "Catholic."  It seems to me that UND is in this precarious position.  We fool ourselves when we call ourselves "Catholic" while we reject an exhortation/teaching followed by a remonstrance from our Bishop and/or the Vicar of Christ on earth in matters of faith and morals, whether by our words or actions.  Jesus tells us still:  "He who hears you, hears me and He who rejects you rejects me and he who rejects me, rejects him who sent me."  ( Lk 10:16)  How could this be more clear?  The Word of the Lord is forever "living and active."  (Heb 4:12ff)  Let's pray for the President and Board of UND-that they come to their Catholic senses!
10 years 1 month ago

For a professing "Catholic" to invite an open dissenter in matters of Catholic faith and morals to one's home for dialogue/conversation is far different from a public institution that professes to be "Catholic" inviting someone (in this case, the President of the United States) who publically takes positions contrary to grave matters of our Catholic faith and morals to give an address at a public ceremony and, in addition, conferring on them an honorary Law degree.  Bishop D'Arcy would be remiss in his obligation as Bishop of the Diocese in which UND is established, if he didn't speak up publically re. the scandalous, defiant choice/action of UND's President and Board.   

I haven't looked into this to verify...,  but I think that a Catholic institution that publically ceases to uphold/profess Catholic principles of faith and morals as clearly set forth by the teaching of the magisterium of the Church in union with the Pope has an obligation to cease calling itself "Catholic."  It seems to me that UND is in this precarious position.  We fool ourselves when we call ourselves "Catholic" while we reject an exhortation/teaching followed by a remonstrance of our Bishop and/or the Vicar of Christ on earth in matters of faith and morals, whether by our words or actions.  Jesus tells us still:  "He who hears you, hears me and He who rejects you rejects me and he who rejects me, rejects him who sent me."  ( Lk 10:16)  How could this be more clear?  The Word of the Lord is forever "living and active!"  (Heb 4:12ff)

10 years 1 month ago
The point is not the invitation to Obama, the point is the HONORING HIM.  I can be as compasionate as I can be to the worst criminal. I could even invite them into my house and feed them; but in no uncertain terms would I HONOR them to tacitly approve of their actions.
Yes, this was political motivated.  Notre Dame "won over" all the Obama lovers of the world for "standing up" to the Bishop.  Well done Notre Dame!  Enrollment should be up right about now...  Money...
ABORTION is KILLING babies.  Abortion is wrong.  His intention to reduce the number of killings should not be a "pacifier".  I'm sorry, I cannot give this president an "attaboy" for his "good intentions" of reducing the number of babies to kill.  Even ONE baby killed is wrong.
The president is charismatic,no doubt about it.  Even I like the man! but I will not compromise my soul on this one.  I thank God for Bishop D'Arcy's faith and I thank Bishop D'Arcy for being a true Catholic.  For not being politically correct. 
At the end of the day, it gets reduced to enrollment.  Lets not polarize anybody or they will not come to our school.  Well, simple solution.  Do not call yourselves a Catholic school...
My prayers with and for Bishop D'Arcy and for Notre Dame.  God Bless...
10 years 1 month ago

The most horrendous act in the history of all mankind is abortion.  A million innocent lives are snuffed out every year.  This exceeds any war or other man caused deaths.  The Catholic Church and its institutions along with the other Faiths who also abhor abortion must stand by their committment to abolish it by every means possible including through our universities.  Most Rev. John M. D'Arcy mentions several times that a Catholic University has the responsibility to give witness to the Catholic Faith. That this witness shapes all aspects of an institution's life. This doesn't mean as Most Rev. John R. Quinn suggested for the Catholic Church to confine itself to one single issue.  But, I feel, it is a primary issue. Just because Barack Obama is the first African-American President doesn't mean he should be honored by a Catholic University in spite of his pro-abortions stand.  Would he be honored if he promoted "snuffing out" the elderly sick who cost too much to care for?  Where do we draw the line?
Respectfully submitted,

Mary Scoran, Fairfield, CT

10 years 1 month ago
YADA...YADA...YADA      So many words....nothing resolved.   Father Jenkins should be excommunicated for allowing raunchy entertainment? at Notre Dame AND for inviting President Obama as the guest speaker at commencement.  ON TOP OF THAT ...... TO AWARD HIM  THE HIGHEST HONOR  .... what was he thinking?  Actually, leaves you wonder IF he was thinking.   I think he could (AND DEFINITELY SHOULD)  easily be replaced with an intelligent Priest who is committed to serving responsibly in the best interest of the students.   As far as our "being the winners" ......... I DON"T THINK SO!!!   
10 years 1 month ago
YADA...YADA...YADA      So many words....nothing resolved.   Father Jenkins should be excommunicated for allowing raunchy entertainment? at Notre Dame AND for inviting President Obama as the guest speaker at commencement.  TO CONFER AN HONORARY DEGREE UPON HIM .... what was he thinking?  Actually, leaves you wonder IF he was thinking.   I think he could (AND DEFINITELY SHOULD)  easily be replaced with an intelligent Priest who is committed to serving responsibly in the best interest of the students and their reasons for choosing a Catholic college.   As far as our "being the winners" ......... I DON"T THINK SO!!!   ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS.!!
10 years 1 month ago

Put the two articles on the President Obama’s visit to Notre Dame in the context of the recent death of Sen. Edward Moore Kennedy and you feel like saying to both bishops “Cut the Crap.”  To have denied “Ted” a catholic funeral because he was married twice and had two living wives or did he get an annulment before John Paul II made them impossible to get?  Just as denying him the same rites because of his stand on abortion or even gay rights would have not only scandalized the Nation but also bitterly divided the people of God the Catholic laity in America.


But then he was a Kennedy. Kennedy funerals are almost always marked by the presence of an American Cardinal and the singing of Schubert’s Ave Maria during the mass.(was it sung Saturday, not at mass it seems)  The latter being a musical piece frequently denied to ordinary Catholics because it is considered more operatic than religious.  The American bishops are effectively indifferent to all grave evils other than abortion.  Still which bishop would have denied the Kennedy family the rites of the church for their elder son?  I’d like to hear Darcy and Quinn weigh in on these issues. Talk about a cauldron of controversy for the American Catholic Community. 


Weigh all the issues which their Excellencies D’Arcy and Quinn raised over giving a degree to Obama against giving Kennedy a full catholic funeral in a Basilica in the heart of Roxbury MA and you see the laity speaking truth to power. Quinn comes to the meat of the issue in the closing paragraph on cordiality. When he acknowledges that even Rome has signaled several times in the last few years that the American hierarchy needed to trim its extremist sails or risk losing the loyalty of all but the extreme Catholic right which together with extremist elements of the evangelical movement cling so ardently to the Republican Party. Bishop Quinn makes reference to this appearance and the dangerous position in which the American hierarchy finds it selecting which Catholic politician can be publicly chastised, or which university can be slapped about by a bishop for some matter of academic freedom in which the church can only seem to be creating a Syllabus of Confusion rather than clarifying doctrine.  


Both bishops here would have done well to have moved on rather than cater to the extremist support the Catholic Leaguers who love to besmirch other Catholics questioning their orthodoxy.   D’Arcy, please your feigning ignorance of the degree before hand is more than just a little hollow when tradition dictates the bestowal of  degrees on important speakers at convocations. Are you saying you didn’t know the President was going to speak at Notre Dame?  If you wanted to exercise your mandatum there seems to have been ample time to have done so before the event. As you know, to have done so would have depicted you as a petty mid western provincial cleric. You come out swinging after the fact. It’s really apparent you didn’t have the ball’s to do it beforehand knowing it would have pushed you into a corner from which you could not have emerged ever. The face saving thing is to complain ex post facto.   Was Ted entitled to a Catholic funeral?  Who among the American hierarchy could have dared to say no to the Kennedy family if the answer was actually, no.


To some extent the situation is similar to the late Judge Leander Perez who  went to communion every Sunday in Plaquemine Parish after Archbishop of New Orleans, Rummel had excommunicated him for so bitterly opposing integration in the churches and schools of the archdiocese of New Orleans in the early sixties.


Rome has signaled to the American bishop’s that caution is needed here.  Could it be that they are too simple to read in between the lines.  Or is the success of American parochial schools and Catholic universities that we now have a laity which is better educated than the priests and bishops who serve us?


As Arsenio Hall use to say, things that make you go, HMMMMMMMMMMMMM.


Billy C. Beal

Meridian MS


10 years 1 month ago
The issue of abortion is about life itself.  It can never be negotiable.  Why would Notre Dame even think about giving Pres. Obama an honorary degree?  They are supposed to be a Catholic Institution.  Don't we as Catholics have an obligation to stand for our beliefs? That should mean ND too has a responsibility to represent the Catholic Church's beliefs.  Sure Mr. Obama has made some statements about social issues and improving the quality of life.  But first and foremost he needs to stand to protect life itself.  How can we honor someone with an honorary degree from a Catholic University when they fail us on their thinking and actions regarding the most important belief we have, namely life itself.
10 years 1 month ago
I am reminded of a line from Monty Python"No one expects the inquisition".  It seems to me that this is more of a political issue than a Catholic one.  Republican or Democrate .  If your a Republican , like the Bishop, then Obama is the devil incarnate.  If your a Democrate then Obama is a savior of ALL human rights.  Get out of politics Bishops, have the good Cathoilc sense to accept all of God's people regardless of their politrical bent.  This whole issue is causing a rift among many Catholics.  I would hope the Bishops would recognize this and privately handle it.  We do not need the grandstanding of a snubbed Bishop all over the public airwaves and media.  If you have the authority to do something about it then quietly do it and let the healing of this wound on all Catholics begin.  But for heavens sake please let it end.  Afford the charity to forgive our inequities  and pray for the conversion of America to deny the imorality of abortion and the early death of all people through capital punishment, euthanasia, war or social outcast.  We are all made in Gods likeness.   JMJ
William Rydberg
10 years 1 month ago
What a wonderfully eloquent article.  I pray that Bishop D'Arcy's successor is just as clear...
10 years 1 month ago
As faithful Catholics, who continually look for God's Truth in every action of man, institution and most especially from our Church, we praise God for Bishop D'Arcy, his most insightful article and for his continued leadership and sheparding, of what has become a most "watered down" Catholic University.  We will pray for Bishop Jenkins and those like him.  We will bear their sins and ask for God to guide them back to our most Holy Catholic Church-God's bride.
10 years 1 month ago
I think it is the responsibility of a bishop to speak out as John M. D'Arcy has done in this article. To do otherwise would be a failure of his ministry for our Lord Jesus Christ. God Bless him for doing so! Furthermore, Bishop D'Arcy's courage is a great comfort to me in this day and time.
10 years 1 month ago
I think at some point good Bishop D'Arcy should add some ruling stick in with the teaching carrot for Notre Dame.
The Ordinary has identified areas of Catholic identity and witness in which the University has been weak. He might consider the need of revoking NDs use of "Roman Catholic" when discribing its mission, programs and faculty.
The Bishop might request specific corrective action, or consultation with the Ordinary in certain areas, a declaration of intent to follow offered guidelines, or actions that must be avoided.
Unfortunately, if there is never a loss of public Catholic identity, all senior leaders at Catholic colleges that direct or permit public actions that confuse or contradict central gospel values will probably continue to do so. If so, this may be a type of deceptive advertising for students, parents, the Church and the public.
Not to put a too fine point on it, ordinaries are the ones that act to correct this lack of truth, justice and witness.  After all, bishops are called not only to teach, but to govern.
10 years 1 month ago
I think Prof. Cavadini nailed it. Notre Dame, Georgetown  -  Gnostic.
Observing just the sacramentals while seeking the gnosis (knowledge). Believing the "Church" to be a spiritual ideal only, ignoring the real part of the Church (you and I) right here on earth.
Yes, it is nice that both Universities do good works, but you do not have to be Catholic to do good works.
10 years 1 month ago

I completely disagree with the opinions in this article.  I am convinced that too many of our Catholic prelates are primarily interested in scoring political points, by using the abortion controversy as a wedge issue to generate donations and to influence elections.  I take this position for two reasons.

First, most people think that reversing the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade will stop all abortiions.  This is incorrect.  Reversing this decision will end the federal right to an abortion.  States will then have the right to determine if abortions will be allowed or forbidden.
I am certain that several states will outlaw all abortions.  However, most states will not.  I cannot fathom California, Illinois, New York Massachusetts, and other similar "blue states" outlawing all abortions. It would take an amendment to our US Constitution to outlaw all abortions in all states, and the likelihood of this occurring approaches zero.

In spite of this fact, our bishops and cardinals have pushed, sometimes relentlessly, to reverse Roe v Wade.  Why?  I am convinced that they do it as a means to raise money and to send a clear signal to Catholices for whom they should not vote.
If any bishop or cardinal told his congregtation for whom to vote, the diocese would lose its 501(c)(3) charitable organization status, and donations would not be eligible for a tax deduction by the donor.  But they send a clear signal on this very point by trumpeting loudly to whom they would not give Holy Communion, because of his or her position on the abortion issue.  And every Catholic recognizes the significance of that edict.  The bishops are indirectly, but clearly, signaling whom we should and should not support.

And so it is ture with respect to the "slap in the face" to President Obama by denouncing the honorary degree given to him by the University of Notre Dame.  Do we think that a single abortion will be halted by insulting the Present of the United States?  No, I perceive that this is another attempt on the part of our hierarchy to play "king makers," by using this influence over the "Catholic vote" to point to which political party we should support.
Second, I am convinced that the major reason, not the only reason, but the primary one, for the unconscionably high number of abortions is the economic inequality in our country.  I believe that most pregnant women, along with the fathers and other significant persons involved in the pregnancy, choose abortion as the last resort in a desperate situation.  For instance, they cannot afford the health care costs for the prenatal check-ups and the doctor and hospital charges for the birth.  Or their family needs the income from the prospective mother, which would be lost during portions of the pregnancy and the new born care.  Or the mother is overwhelmed with the responsibilities of working, raising her other children, and caring for her new born.

I think that most abortion decisions are made out of desperation, primarily financial, and not because it is a preferred birth control method. This means that we "pro life" Catholics should be investing our scare time, effort, money, and political capital in securing reasonably priced health care for all Americans, in increasingt the income of low wage workers, in giving direct financial contributions to every family giving birth to new life, and increasing the help and support for all new mothers.

If the bishops and cardinals truly want to reduce the number of abortions, they should denouncing and refusing Holy Communion to every politician who votes against health care reform, or the minimum wage, and child welfare and support.  The very last thing they should be doing is insulting our existing president by denouncing the honorary degree given to him, when he is prepared to do these very acts which will do more to reduce the number of abortions than any effort to reverse Roe v. Wade.

We "pro life" Catholics know the importance and sanctity of all life, especially new life "in the womb."  These are powerful precepts, which can move our country to a better and more just environment.  We do not need to condemn and outlaw those choosing abortions.  We need to understand what their needs  and then act upon that understanding, so that they do not "have" to choose that desperate option.

I know that it is much easier to pass a law to force people to do what we think is right, and how much harder, more time consuming, and eventually more expensive it is to convince them to change their behavior willingly.  Yet, I am convinced that Jesus Christ wants us to help all those who are faced with the abortion decision in our present economic situation.  We "pro life" Catholics do not need to pass a law or reverse a Supreme Court decision to make abortions illegal.  We "pro life" Catholics need to have our politicians adopt Catholic social justice principles which make them unnecessary.
May the Peace of Jesus Christ be with us all!

Philip J. Butzen

10 years 1 month ago

Bishop D'Arcy asks' "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 Ecclesia?" In 1999 the Catholic Bishops of United States approved The Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae. The Decree of Promulgation by the U.S. Bishops is based on John Paul II apostolic constitution on Catholic higher education entitled Ex corde Ecclesia. It describes the identity and mission of Catholic colleges and universities and provides general norms to help fulfill it vision. 
Briefly, the document begins by discussing the ecclesiological concept of communion amongst the individual faithful and communites in the Church. Ecclesial relationships of both individuals and communities are linked together by one and the same Spirit forming one theological reality, the Catholic Church. "Unity of faith" universally expressed in the sacrament of baptism is the dynamic principle that keeps these ecclesial relationships together. This theological reality makes the Church one, holy, catholic and apostolic and is the reason and basis of unity in the Church.

By virtue of their Catholic identity, colleges and universities share "the Church's universal teaching mission" according to their own distinct and special charism. The Church's position on abortion is clearly spelled out in the Catechism as an "abominable crime." As John Paul II said at the Catholic University of America, "...The term Catholic will never be a mere label either added or dropped according to the pressures of varying factors." Notre Dame shamefully compromised itself and made a mockery of its Catholic identity by awarding an honorary degree to the President of the United States, the most powerful pro-abortion advocate in this country.       
Ex corde Ecclesiae declares that "Bishops have a particular responsibility to promote Catholic Universities, and especially to promote and assist in the preservation and strengthening of their Catholic identity, including the protection of their Catholic identity in relation to civil authorities." Given the charade at Notre Dame Bishop D"Arcy should rephrase the question in the form of an imperative. If Notre Dame is unwilling to function as a Catholic university according to the principles and norms spelled out in Ex corde Ecclesiae it should lose the honor of calling itself Catholic. 

10 years 1 month ago
Bishop D"Arcy described Notre Dame's decision to offer a degree to the President as chosing "prestige over truth."  Last year, Notre Dame gave a degree to Cardinal McCarrick, with D'Arcy smiling at his side.  Please visit Fr. Richard Sipe's website and follow the link to Fr. Sipe's letter to the Pope warning him of McCarrick's appalling conduct with seminarians.  Here is the link:
Not a word from Bishop D'Arcy faulting the decision to award a degree to McCarrick.  Bishop D'Arcy, like most of his peers and superiors, is dishonest and dishonorable.
10 years 1 month ago
Looking at President Obama's record throughout his lifetime, it's absurd to think that he's committed to reducing the number of abortions in the United States.  This is the man who voted against allowing palliative care for infants who survived botched abortions.  This is the man who repealed the Mexico City Policy despite public opinion in its favor.  This is the man who said that the Freedom of Choice Act was his legislative priority.
He's taken many actions already during his presidency that will increase the number of abortions performed around the world.  He's done nothing so far to reduce them.
And to those of you who claim that the bishops are using abortion as a political tool, shame on you.  Do you really hold millions of human souls in such disregard?  Of course the repeal of Roe v. Wade would reduce the number of abortions performed.
If it helps you sleep at night to believe that your votes for Obama were really the pro-life thing to do, then I can't stop you from deceiving yourselves, but you can't deceive God.


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