Paul Schenck for Bishop Rhoades on Notre Dame Scandal


Deacon Keith Fournier

  HARRISBURG, Pa. (Catholic Online) – To anyone who has been in the Pro-Life movement for any length of time Paul Schenck is a hero. He has stood without compromise in the trenches of the fundamental human rights issue of our age, the struggle to defend the preeminent Right to Life. In fact, he put his life, his reputation and his very liberty on the line for life. He is an iconic figure in the Pro-Life movement. The image which adorned the cover of Life magazine of a younger Paul Schenck, still a Protestant minister at the time, standing up for life is a part of the pictorial history of our movement.

The US Supreme Court case which bears his name has protected the Free Speech rights of Pro-Life citizens for a long time - Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western New York (1997). It was argued successfully by Pro- Life champion Jay Alan Sekulow. I had the privilege of serving along with Jay and helping to defend Paul in those days. It is an honor to say he has been a friend for decades. I am inspired by his courage to continue on in this struggle until we succeed. I also rejoice over his wonderful faith journey which led all the way home to his entry into full communion with the Catholic Church. I served as the Deacon at the Mass of reception into full communion when Fr Frank Pavone welcomed Paul home.

So, when I read the letter written on behalf of Bishop Rhoades by Paul C.B. Schenck, I admit I was not surprised. After all, Paul understands the importance of the struggle for the soul of Notre Dame. The Catholic Church is the bulwark of truth in an age of lies. In a culture properly characterized as a “Culture of Death” she is the Champion of a new “Culture of Life”. The invitation extended to President Obama to receive an honorary Law Degree from Our Lady’s University is a scandal. It has galvanized Pro-Life Catholics, other Christians and all people of good will and it will not go away. It is good to see Paul CB Schenck again on the front lines. We present his letter in our continued coverage of this important issue:

Subject: FW: Bishops statement re Notre Dame

Dear Christina,

Thank you for your note of concern which you recently sent to the Bishop’s office regarding the University of Notre Dame.

Maria Wood, secretary to Bishop Rhoades, referred your email to me. Bishop Rhoades has discussed this issue with me, as it pertains specifically to my office.

As is clear from Bishop Rhoades’ most recent commentary entitled "Disturbing advances for the culture of death", President Obama’s policies, and those of his administration, on abortion and embryonic stem cell research violate the moral law and Church teachings on the sanctity of human life and dignity of the person. Bishop Rhoades concurs with Bishop D'Arcy's statement and position on the matter. (Bishop D’Arcy is the bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, the diocese in which Notre Dame is located). Bishop Rhoades stands firmly with the US Catholic Bishops’ statement called “Catholics in Political Life” which unambiguously says –

“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”.

Bishop Rhoades also supports those who exercise their freedom of conscience and speech to express their opposition to the university’s decision to have President Obama as commencement speaker and honoree. In fact, Bishop Rhoades has written to the president of the university to express his disagreement with the university’s action.

It is disheartening and distressing when an institution that is regarded as Catholic, such as Notre Dame, fails to follow the guidelines set forth by the Bishops of the Catholic Church, especially in these vital moral matters. It is not political nor partisan to stand for the sanctity of human life and the dignity of the human person. President Obama clearly does not stand for or advance the cause of the defenseless unborn and their mothers and families. This is the tragic reality we must come to terms with as Catholics living in an increasingly secular environment. It is heartening on the other hand, to see how many Notre Dame Students, faculty and alumni have made their commitment to human life known and how many Catholics and others of good will have done the same.

It is Bishop Rhoades’ hope and prayer that all the institutions that bear the name “Catholic” will affirm the Church’s teachings, expose the culture of death and build up the Culture of Life. Thank you for your selfless commitment to the defense of innocent human life. Please be assured of our prayers.

On behalf of Bishop Rhoades and myself, I am


Paul CB Schenck, MA (Theol.), LHD, Director Office of Respect Life Activities, Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg