Last spring, Catholics debated the University of Notre Dame's presenting President Obama with an honorary degree and inviting him to to speak at commencement. My position on the issue was that the university was in the wrong by openly defying the American bishop's 2004 statement "Catholics in Political Life," that required Catholic institutions refrain from honoring pro-abortion politicians. Essentially, my position is that an educational institution could allow such a politician to speak, but could not bestow an honor on him. An honorary degree is, by name, an honor.
That argument is over. The powers that be at Notre Dame made their decision and it is done. However, there was another aspect of the debate that was overlooked. In a sense, it is more important than the question of a one-day visit. That is the issue of what is Notre Dame doing to further the pro-life position in America today and every day?
Notre Dame's President, Father John Jenkins, announced an answer to this question this week. In a letter to alumni and friends of the University he stated:
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.
For those of us who were disappointed in Notre Dame's decision this spring, this is a positive step.
The Elder Adds: True, but it will get a fraction of the attention that Notre Dame's original decision to honor President Obama did. It will take many more such steps to make up for the damage caused by that unfortunate act.
I also find it ironic that while the Nihilist is staunchly pro-life, he favors the immediate imposition of the death penalty in the case of Charlie Weis.