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Truth At The Crossroads At Our Lady’s University

May 19, 2017 Frontpage No Comments

By CHRISTOPHER MANION

“Today’s academic climate might be described as a mixture of infantilism, kindergarten and totalitarianism” — Professor Walter Williams.

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Vice President Mike Pence will speak at Notre Dame’s commencement on May 21, but the occasion makes many students feel “unsafe” — so supporters of sodomy and their allies will demonstrate on campus with the blessing of the administration, as America’s stalwart future Catholic leaders decry Pence’s “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, offensive, or ostracizing” past.
As our beloved Fr. Rutler wryly observes, many of these students are older than those kids who stormed the beaches at Normandy, who dared to fly the flimsy fighter planes over Imperial Germany….
Ah, but they feel “unsafe.” And yet they insist on referring to themselves as the “Fighting Irish” (which term is trademarked, by the way).
As the late Charles E. Rice, eminent pro-life leader and Professor of Constitutional Law at Notre Dame Law School, wrote in 2009, What Happened To Notre Dame?
It is difficult to pinpoint the origins of the decline. Some alumni point in 1967, when Fr. Ted Hesburgh proudly led signers of the Land O’Lakes statement to sever Catholic higher education from the authority of the Catholic Church. Others point to the 60s as well — LBJ’s offer of prodigious federal funding in exchange for secularization, or the “Spirit of Vatican II,” or the sexual revolution and the Pill, or radical feminism, or a host of other catalysts of rot.
Whenever Notre Dame’s decline began, it crashed and burned in May 2009, when university President Fr. John Jenkins, CSC, welcomed Barack Obama to the university’s commencement exercises, and conferred upon the most pro-abortion president in U.S. history the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.
Reaction to this malignant infection of our Lady’s university came swiftly. Some 82 American bishops condemned Notre Dame for its blatant violation of the Church’s policy that forbade pro-abortion speakers from appearing in Catholic institutions.
Catholics by the hundreds of thousands signed petitions voicing their outrage, but Fr. Jenkins doubled down, even helping the Secret Service sneak the presidential limousine onto campus by a back alley so that his honored guest would not be offended by the thousands of pro-life demonstrators that lined all the entrances.
When 88 pro-lifers quietly demonstrated on the other end of the campus, an enraged Jenkins had them arrested, while pro-Obama demonstrators were left untouched. The diktat was Orwellian: When a longtime university administrator bravely attended a pro-life vigil, he was fired.
On the Big Day, an exultant Jenkins beamed, brimming with fulsome praise for the ardent supporter of killing babies after they were born. Obama, wearing his now familiar narcissistic smirk, basked in the cheers of the graduates, who shouted down the lone truth-teller (“Abortion is murder!” shouted one honest grad) with “We are ND,” a chant curiously imported from the football stadium.
And then Obama left.
What ensued is a montage of modernism. Later that same year, 30 million taxpayer dollars from Obama’s “stimulus” slush fund arrived, and Notre Dame’s fundraising pros boasted that 2009 was their best year ever. On reflection, the fiasco was the most unique, and most successful, courting of a high-dollar donor in university history, although some critics alluded to the dollar amount as reminiscent of the thirty pieces of silver Judas received for betraying Christ.
The rot quickly spread. The following year, a freshman committed suicide when the university did nothing for twelve days after she reported that a member of the football team had sexually assaulted her. (Note: We must insert “allegedly” here, because the St. Joseph County prosecutor could not bring charges, his main witness being deceased.)
Meanwhile, Fr. Jenkins and the new football coach, Brian Kelly, desperately tried to cover up the sordid affair, and the accused player never missed a practice or a game. Was he guilty? Draw your own conclusions: When he entered the NFL, his stay was brief. He was fired (“waived”) from the Atlanta Falcons when he was charged with felony aggravated cruelty for killing his girlfriend’s dog, either in a fit of rage or in self-defense — after all, the ferocious beast weighted some 12 hefty pounds.
Alas, dogs get more protection than girls these days.

Football And Its Discontents

“You don’t spit on a man’s head if you’re standing on his shoulders” — Legendary Notre Dame Football Coach Knute Rockne to my father, a member of ND’s “Athletic Committee,” ~1925.

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If Obama had appeared at “Nameless U” in 2009, nobody would have noticed that the most radical pro-abortion leader in the world had surfaced once again to strut and preen upon a fawning stage. But Notre Dame is not nameless; it is named for our Lady, and Fr. Jenkins continues to pretend that he is preserving its Catholic character. But even as the Catholic brand loses its luster, the desiccated husk is overflowing with money. A lot of money.
Tuition is rising far beyond the rate of inflation — total costs top $70,000 next fall. Meanwhile, Jenkins has moved the “Crossroads” of the campus from Sacred Heart Basilica, where this writer was baptized, to the football stadium, which is now receiving a four hundred million-dollar (not a misprint) expansion, including luxury skyboxes for plutocrats whose private jets barely fit at the local airport on home game weekends.
While the money might be rolling in, the school’s Catholic Credibility Quotient is bleeding out. And whatever Fr. Jenkins and Mike Pence might say on graduation day, it’s certain that those demonstrating against Catholic moral teaching on life, marriage, and the family will be celebrated on campus — not arrested like the “Notre Dame 88” who defended that teaching (afraid of being sued, the university later quietly, and bitterly, agreed to drop the trespassing charges).
But why is Vice President Pence speaking at Notre Dame at all? Is it because he is the former governor of Indiana? Because he is a former Catholic but now a more committed Christian than many Catholics?
Or because Fr. Jenkins didn’t want to invite President Trump?
Obama’s appearance was the last of a sitting president. Fr. Jenkins reacted to the firestorm of opposition by insisting that the invitation had been extended out of respect for the office, not the individual. But that sloppy dodge has now been exposed, and at least one group is working to save Notre Dame from itself before it’s too late.
“The Sycamore Trust was established in the summer of 2006 by a group of Notre Dame alumni concerned by mounting evidence of the weakening of the Catholic identity of the university,” reads its website. Led by the dynamic William Dempsey, Notre Dame alumnus and successful Catholic lawyer, the group constantly seeks the good in Notre Dame, so as to increase it.
But sometimes that task takes a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, if one perceives “the good” to mean something beyond money and what my former teacher Ralph McInerny called Notre Dame’s “vulgar lust for prestige.” (See 1 John 2:16.)
And Notre Dame’s “tradition”? Dempsey put it in perspective:
“All of this is, to adapt a legal metaphor, the fruit of a poisonous tree, the Obama episode and Fr. Jenkins’ defense that he was simply following Notre Dame’s tradition of inviting elected presidents no matter their hostility to Church teaching. The accounts of the student anti-Pence protests regularly refer to these events as the background for the student petitions that Trump not be invited and the university’s turning to Vice President Pence instead.”
Dempsey then cites liberal journalist and ND alumna Melinda Henneberger:
“The absolute worst message for college graduates isn’t what they’d hear from Donald Trump or Mike Pence or Barack Obama or Bernie Sanders. The worst message is the one Fr. Jenkins sent Notre Dame students when he indulged their preference to only hear from those with whom they already agree.”
And Dempsey has the last word: “Grave mistakes that are defended rather than acknowledged are likely to cause continuing damage. Had Fr. Jenkins confessed error in inviting Obama and scrapped the demonstrably infirm practice of honoring presidents no matter what, Trump’s election would not have cornered him. But he did not, and it did.”
Snap quiz: Would he have invited a President Hillary?
Let’s not always see the same hands….

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