Opinion: Our Lady Weeps, The Struggle for Notre Dame is Engaged


Deacon Keith Fournier


CHESAPEAKE (Catholic Online) - The news broke late Friday, March 20, 2009. As someone who has experienced how the Press is used in political campaigns, my first thought was that perhaps the Press Office at the University of Notre Dame thought this would disappear in the relaxed pace of the weekend timelines. It most certainly did not. It most certainly will not. There is a struggle underway for the Catholic identity of “Our Lady’s University” and the faithful have been roused again to a new Catholic Action. One after another, lay defenders of the Catholic faith used their perches at the intersection of faith and culture to call attention to the troubling announcement that one of the Nation’s premier Catholic Universities, the University of Notre Dame, was going to award an Honorary Doctor of Law Degree to President Barack Obama and have him send off the graduating class of 2009 as their Commencement speaker.

Pro-life leaders including Joe Scheidler, Deal Hudson, Austin Ruse, Patrick Reilly, Drew Mariani…. all denounced the invitation, calling attention to the fact that this President, in less than 100 days in office, has demonstrated by his executive orders and political appointments that he does not recognize the fundamental human Right to Life, and fails to hear the cry of those whom Mother Teresa rightly called, the “poorest of the poor”, children in the first home of the whole human race. Patrick Reilly, through the outstanding work of the “Cardinal Newman Society” immediately launched a massive petition effort http://notredamescandal.com/. It is directed to University President John I. Jenkins, CSC. Pro-life, Catholic and other Christian new media sources have listed the appropriate people to whom letters of protest should be addressed. The outstanding “LifeSite News” initial article is reprinted on Catholic Online with live links within it.

This announcement came while Pope Benedict XVI was finishing his apostolic visit to Africa. There, against horrible media backlash, he stood courageously for life, true marriage and the full beauty and dignity of human love in the Divine plan. He said these words in Angola: “How bitter the irony of those who promote abortion as a form of 'maternal' health care…..How disconcerting the claim that the termination of life is a matter of reproductive health." Yet, that is precisely the policy path that this US President has embarked upon by: lifting all restrictions on the use of US Aid dollars to promote Abortion; lifting the restrictions on unproven deadly embryonic stem cell research which always kills human embryonic life; attempting to lift all conscience protections for medical practitioners who do not want to engage in the killing of children in the womb; and by appointing dissident Catholics who openly reject the teaching of their own Church on the inviolable dignity of every human life to positions of significance in this administration.

Make no mistake; opposition to this choice of President Obama is NOT limited to “political conservatives”. In fact, it is not really political opposition at all. Rather, it is Moral opposition, indeed Moral indignation. Insistence upon respect for every human life is a Moral framework through which every social justice issue within Catholic Social teaching must be viewed. Rights and freedoms are goods of the human person and when human persons are not protected from being killed by others more powerful, the entire infrastructure of human rights is put in jeopardy.

Similarly, the claims of solidarity, such as this Presidents' constant emphasis on our obligation to be our brother and sisters keeper, are a hollow platitude. Let’s be honest and drop the pretense, we all know when human life begins. Medical Science has confirmed what our consciences and the Natural Law have long insisted, the child in the womb is a human person and she/he is our littlest neighbor. It is always and everywhere wrong to kill our neighbor. Our oldest son and daughter in law just sent us the 4D sonogram pictures of the little boy who is our 6th grandchild. He will not all of a sudden become our 6th grandchild at birth. A picture is worth a thousand words. Continued advances in intrauterine surgeries also confirm the irrefutable fact that every procured abortion is what the heroic Archbishop of Denver Charles Chaput called during the last presidential campaign, a “little homicide.” He recently told a crowd at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit that “November showed us that 40 years of American Catholic complacency and poor formation are bearing exactly the fruit we should have expected.”

There is no other “choice” to take innocent human life which is left up to the individual and protected by the Police Power of the State. Our positive law usually recognizes what the Natural Law urges upon us, whether we are people of religious faith or not, that it is always wrong to kill one another. There is no difference in the moral analysis between taking the life of a child one day after birth then there is of killing that same child in the first home of the womb. Legalized Abortion is not liberty but tyranny. As a Constitutional lawyer I reject the insidious efforts to hide pre-delivery killings of children behind the rhetoric of “choice” and the flawed ‘reasoning’ of the decisions in Roe and Doe and their legal progeny. The “Personhood” movement in the United States is gaining traction. A Federal Personhood Amendment is essential if we hope to protect the American claim of the existence of inalienable rights, including the Right to Life, as endowments and not succumb to the danger of “rights” becoming the creations of an all powerful State. Until then, any Constitutional lawyer who keeps up the facade of defending the Roe rationale to justify the so called “Right” to kill children in the womb is engaged in sophistry not constitutional analysis, even our President.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a lot to say about “Scandal” (See, CCC 2284-2287) and the University of Notre Dame, by conferring a Doctor of Laws degree ‘honoris causa’ (Latin: 'for the sake of the honour') fits squarely within its definition. Yes, as our President we should respect President Obama’s Office. But this invitation does more than respect his Office. It gives a platform to his effort to obfuscate the fact that every procured abortion is a heinous crime against the Natural Law. No Society which sanctions the killing of an entire class of persons and protects it with the mechanisms of the State is acting in a just manner.

Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago and President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, met with President Obama on March 18, 2009. This champion of true social justice warned the President in the past that lifting conscience protection rules for pro-life medical workers will move the Nation toward “despotism.” In the last Presidential campaign he insisted that “The common good can never be adequately incarnated in any society when those waiting to be born can be legally killed at choice… common ground cannot be found by destroying the common good.” The late Servant of God John Paul II promulgated the Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities (Ex Corde Ecclesia, “From the Heart of the Church”) on the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, August 15, 1990. In it he wrote these words “Any official action or commitment of the University is to be in accord with its Catholic identity.”

The United States Catholic Bishops made this statement in “Catholics in Political Life” "The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

The most recent Press effort by the University appears to be an effort to soften the impact of their errant decision. They released the choice (made back in January) of MaryAnn Glendon, the distinguished pro-Life Harvard Human Rights lawyer, faithful Catholic and former Vatican Ambassador as its 2009 recipient of the Laetare Medal. This release made a point of the fact that she will share the stage with the President. The University cannot “balance” this decision off as though the problem is a “political” matter of “Conservatives” v “Liberals”. This selection by "Our Lady’s University" of President Obama who is a defender of the Abortion status quo is a scandal which must now be addressed.

The Catechism in Paragraph 972 quotes this insight from the 2d Vatican Council: “…the Mother of Jesus, in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise she shines forth on earth until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God.” The University of Notre Dame is “Our Lady’s University”. As such, it is a symbol of the Catholic Church for the whole world.

With this choice, I believe the University has made Our Lady Weep. I encourage all who read this article to continue to strongly and loudly protest this choice by the leadership of Notre Dame and try to have it rescinded. If we are unsuccessful, then let us all take our cue from the Catholics of Connecticut whose Catholic Action recently prevented the passage of anti-Catholic legislation in Hartford. Let’s get the busses ready for a trip to South Bend, Indiana.

The Struggle for Notre Dame is engaged.