Dissenter and Disuniter: Bishop John Yanta’s Letter to Fr. Jenkins of Notre Dame


Deacon Keith Fournier


AMARILLO, TX (Catholic Online) - Bishop John W. Yanta is a courageous defender of the right to life for all human persons from conception to natural death. He is unafraid of stating so in the public square. He is now the Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas. Bishop Yenta has always been a strong defender of orthodoxy (right doctrine) and orthopraxy (right practice). He loved the people under his pastoral care and used his frequent pastoral letters to address issues of pastoral concern.

Last night we were sent a copy of this letter which he wrote to his brother in the priesthood, Fr. John Jenkins, the President of Notre Dame University. It concerns Fr. Jenkins decision to invite President Obama to speak at the upcoming commencement exercises and to confer on him an honorary Doctor of Law degree. It was written on Good Friday from a monastery where this holy Bishop was in deep prayer. As we continue the coverage of this “tipping point” in the Catholic moment in America we present this letter as a sign that what has occurred in South Bend has implications long into the future as Catholics, other Christians, other people of faith and all people of good will say “NO” to the acceptance of the killing of innocent children in the womb through legal abortion and its egregious protection in the positive law of the United States of America:

Father John Jenkins, CSC, President
Notre Dame University
Corby Hall
Notre Dame, Indiana

Dear Father

I am writing this letter to you early Good Friday morning, April 10. I am trying to make holy this Holy Week by immersing myself completely into the agony, sufferings and disappointments endured by Jesus my Lord and Redeemer for me and for all mankind.

Notre Dame inviting President Obama to its graduation ceremony keeps coming up in my thoughts. From the first moment I heard of your regrettable, ill-advised action I was very disappointed. Your decision reminded me of words of God, in particular, on the morning of Friday the Fourth Week of Lent as I prayed in the Office of Readings. I read Psalm 78. Salvation history reveals the goodness of God and the faithlessness of His people. God has been very good to Notre dame and more and more, gradually, you have “forgotten God’s deeds,” you choose, to be a defiant and rebellious race” your heart is “fickle”, you “forget the things He has done” and “you have failed to keep God’s covenant and would not walk according to His law.” Psalm 78 is “a didactic Psalm drawing savatory lessons from Israel’s history.” (New American Bible)

Since my boyhood I have been a passionate Notre Dame fan not only of football but of the Nation’s best known catholic university. I rearranged my priestly schedule many a Saturday to watch Notre dame football and basketball games on T.V.

One of my life’s highlights as a Bishop was to be present for the graduation of my nieces as I sat on the stage with your President Father Edward Malloy along with Cardinal Kasper and your Bishop Most Rev. John D’Arcy.

I always attended the Notre Dame sponsored receptions at the Bishops’ meetings. I was privileged to be main celebrant of your famed Sunday Mass on campus. I was your guest at a Saturday afternoon football game at Notre Dame.

In conscience I can no longer support Notre Dame as a Catholic College. I am deeply offended how you treat my wife of 54 years, the Church I love whose head is Jesus Christ.

On this Good Friday, as I try to put myself into Christ’s place I feel Him being rejected, beaten and crucified again by my own sinfulness, lack of faith, indifference and lack of courage. All sinners in their unfaithfulness join me in caressing His Passion and Death.

I see myself associated with those associated with His death, i.e., Judas, Peter, Pilate, Caiaphas, Herod, soldiers, etc. I also see Notre Dame crucifying Our Lord once again. Our Blessed Mother must be sorrowful for what you are doing to her Son, using her name in doing so.

Blessed Mother Teresa said: "Do you think that God is going to bless a nation that kills its unborn babies?” Do you think God is going to continue to bless Notre Dame?

A few years ago I had the privilege of meeting and being in the presence of Lech Walesa over a three-day period. Several times, publicly and privately, he said the United States will cease being the sole super power if we (USA) cease to be the world’s moral leader. Christ spoke of seeing “the signs of the times” in our midst.

As a brother to you in the priesthood of Christ, I will pray for you to disinvite our Pro-Abortion president, who has supported and surrounded himself with Catholics who dissent and are stubbornly defiant of the Church’s teaching, i.e., Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Kathleen Sebelius and others.

Sadly, the Body of Christ is being divided in this Country and you have joined them: Notre Dame, D.D. – Dissenter and Disuniter.

This is a teachable moment for Notre Dame and all of us. It’s time to review the basics of Christianity and Catholicism, i.e., the Word of God about faithfulness and obedience of Faith, documents on Catholic Education, incredulity (Catechism #2089), your Profession of faith (Canon 833, Paragraph 7) , your relation to your local Bishop and the United States Conference of Catholic bishops.

You have “drawn a line in the sand.” The easiest solution to your dilemma and most pleasing to the Risen Lord, is the “above” route. Just disinvite President Obama- he understands politics very well and the steadfast rock that Jesus put into the world, the Catholic Church.

Should you choose to remain unmoved and continue to be defiant, thereby setting a scandalous example for your students and the nation, I will support the many efforts of bearing witness to the truth.

For example, Notre Dame football is being scheduled to be in San Antonio, October 31. I will be there, not in the Alamodome, but outside near there, joining a legal, peaceful and prayerful protest. I will be praying the Rosary, the Sorrowful Mysteries, praying for the conversion of Notre dame, D.D.

This is a permanent commitment on my part, similar to the one I made in 1993 against abortion chambers and Planned Parenthood, the biggest promoter and executioner of abortions in the United States and the world.

I conclude with words of Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) : “Together with the family, teachers and educators have a particularly valuable contribution to make. Much will depend on them if young people, trained in true freedom, are to be able to preserve for themselves and make known to others new authentic ideals of life, and if they are to grow in respect for and service to every other person, in the family and society.

“Intellectuals also can do much to build a new culture of human life. A special task falls to Catholic intellectuals, who are called to be present and active in the leading centers where culture is formed in schools and Universities. …(EV 98,2,3)"

Again Pope John Paul II states: “The one who accepted “Life” in the name of all and for the sake of all was Mary., the Virgin Mother. (EV 102,2) Mary thus helps the Church to realize that Life is always at the center of the struggle between good and evil, between light and darkness.”(EV 104,3)

Asking our Blessed Mother to interced for you and yours with her Divine Son, I am,

Fraternally in Christ the Priest, Most Rev. John W. Yanta, Bishop Emeritus of Amarillo