Three fundamental concerns are driving the formation of the new citizens organization:
I. The negative impact of special rights initiatives on all businesses and property owners, with a particularly negative impact on faith- based and faith-inspired businesses and property owners.
II. The negative impact of special rights initiatives on every citizen's constitutionally protected rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly.
III. The negative impact of the practice of homosexuality on the individuals who practice it and on the rest of the society.
The main multifaceted emphasis of the group is to defend Traditional Marriage as 'between one man and one woman', to respond to the controversy at the University of Notre Dame regarding homosexual activism at several levels, to respond to 'special rights for homosexuals' ordinances as they come forward in the Region and to facilitate help and ministry for those suffering from the ill effects of the homosexual lifestyle.
Pastoral response to 'A Closing Statement on Academic Freedom and Catholic Character' by Father John Jenkins, CSCBy Bishop John M. D'Arcy
April 30, 2006
Father John Jenkins, CSC, shared with me his decision and the rationale that supported it at the same time he shared it with the press, the afternoon before it was released to the public. Holy Week and the beautiful pastoral responsibilities it brings followed immediately, but now, with these responsibilities completed, I am able to respond to the decision and the material that accompanied it in a way that is more adequate, and thus try to fulfill my pastoral obligation.
A bishop is bound to preach the Gospel. In fact, if St. Paul is taken at his word, it seems that this obligation relates directly to his eternal salvation. “If I preach the Gospel, this is no reason for me to boast for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it.” — 1 Cor. 9, 16. Surely, this sacred responsibility does not relate only to the preaching of the Gospel on Sunday at the holy liturgy, though that is always central. It also requires the bishop to apply the Gospel and the teachings of the church to the questions of the time, and, indeed, to his own pastoral decisions. If we do not accept that, there is the danger that the Gospel would become irrelevant and the ministry of the bishop greatly weakened.
“… possesses that institutional autonomy necessary to perform its functions effectively and guarantees its members academic freedom, so long as the rights of the individual person and of the community are preserved within the confines of the truth and the common good.” — “Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” 12.
Although Father Jenkins cited “Ex Corde Ecclesiae” in his closing statement, he did not cite its teaching on academic freedom or related matters, and this would have seemed especially relevant in a closing statement on academic freedom in relation to Catholic character. This teaching simply carries forward teaching on the freedom of inquiry stated earlier by the Second Vatican Council (“Guadium et Spes,” 59) and the 1966 Declaration on Catholic Education, where freedom of inquiry is founded on the same principles. These principles, the rights of individuals, the truth and the common good, also constitute central parts of Catholic social teaching and Catholic ethics. Indeed, if properly understood, they do not restrict academic freedom, but enlarge it and give it a color that is truly Catholic.
Nowhere in his comments does Father Jenkins speak of these principles or the tradition of freedom of inquiry that is based on them. I found this difficult to understand and trust that this teaching was not considered irrelevant.
This is all the more surprising because the University of Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees and the officers of the university traveled to the Holy See for their February meeting, immediately after Father Jenkins’ January presentation to the Notre Dame community. They visited some close collaborators of Pope Benedict XVI, cardinals and bishops, and even, briefly, the Holy Father himself. Presumably this indicated at least an openness to considering the teachings of the Holy See on matters relevant to a Catholic university community. Yet, upon returning to Notre Dame and listening to varied viewpoints, they made no mention of the principles of Pope John Paul II, and the Second Vatican Council before him, relative to freedom of inquiry in general and to academic freedom in a Catholic university in particular. It seems appropriate to raise the question as to why were such principles not considered worthy to be part of the campus-wide debate.
Father Jenkins noted that he even took time to visit with the young women who had acted in this unfortunate play at the heart of the present controversy. Knowing Father Jenkins, I am sure that this was a pastoral visit and showed his desire to assist them spiritually. But, it seems appropriate to ask, if Father Jenkins gave access to these young women and allowed himself to be influenced by them, as he claims, is it too much to expect that he also would have given access to the understanding of academic freedom in a Catholic university put forward by Pope John Paul II? The papacy, after all, is a teaching office. Would it have been too much to expect that, after his gracious visit to the Holy See, (memorialized in the pictures sent out to alumni and to all U.S. bishops in the recent edition of Notre Dame Magazine) the teaching of Pope John Paul II on academic freedom might have at least been part of the conversation, which went on at Notre Dame for 10 weeks? It might even have had some influence. If, as Father Jenkins says, it was his determination that “we should not suppress speech on this campus,” then the speech of Pope John Paul II might have become an influential part of the dialogue. But, if it was the intention that it not be admitted and discussed, what would be the purpose of going to Rome?
Also, it should be noted that, as local bishop, I wrote extensively on this matter three years in a row, as the office I am privileged to hold is also about teaching, and teaching in communion with the successor of St. Peter, as I promised on the day I was ordained a bishop. I, too, presented each year this understanding of academic freedom; but, alas, my words were also absent from Father Jenkins’ statement and from the 10-week dialogue at Notre Dame.
Further, Pope Benedict XVI wrote a striking passage in the first encyclical of his pontificate, “God Is Love,” that is relevant to the play in question. He addresses the “contemporary way of exalting the body,” and judges it deceptive. This insight of the new pope also did not find its way into the continuing dialogue conducted at Notre Dame although I cited it at some length in my statement of Feb. 12, 2006 in our diocesan newspaper. Would it not seem that this would have been very respectful and, indeed, a matter of ecclesial faith to complete the dialogue begun in Rome, and to help Pope Benedict in his teaching to reach the hearts of the young people at Notre Dame? Not only because he is the pope, but because his insight on the true nature of love and the place of the body in love is a result of genuine scholarship, scholarship which is not only biblical but also philosophically and historically informed and rooted in faith?
The nature of dialogue
In recent years, the church has received from Pope John Paul II a teaching, which has been popularly called the “Theology of the Body.” First enunciated at the general audience talks, the late pope, with characteristic humility, called it “an adequate anthropology.” It has filled an enormous pastoral need, especially in helping those who work with young people, to go beyond simply telling them that something, e.g., artificial contraception or premarital sex, is wrong. For many years in my ministry as a bishop, even until the present time, I have been involved with retreats for young adults. I, along with those who work constantly with young people, find this approach attractive because it is positive. It is a movement away from the negative, which has often predominated in our catechesis on these issues in the past.
There are groups of students at Notre Dame meeting to explore the Theology of the Body. Although it is sometimes presented in an exaggerated and oversimplified form on the part of some popularizers, in our diocese in a program that we run jointly with the Notre Dame Theology Department with a grant from Our Sunday Visitor, a professor of philosophy who is an expert on the matter at Notre Dame, is presenting an intensive course on the Theology of the Body to our diocesan catechists. It has been received with great interest. In fact, two of our priests have asked me to have one of our Priests’ Study Weeks devoted to this topic believing that it could be very helpful to them in their ministry with young adults and with married couples. Yet, I could not find any mention of it in the discussion, which I followed in the Notre Dame Observer.
Surely, if there is to be a dialogue between Catholic teaching and culture, as Father Jenkins so rightly prescribes, the teaching of the church should be represented in a contemporary, systematic and enriching form. It should be presented in such a way that young men and women of this time can truly hear it. The church has a right to be a partner that is fully and adequately represented in these discussions. This is only fair. It seems that this was not true in this case.
Pope John Paul II, himself a longtime professor in a Catholic university, as already mentioned, puts it clearly:
“A Catholic university’s privileged task is to ‘to unite existentially by intellectual effort two orders of reality that too frequently tend to be placed in opposition as though they were antithetical: the search for truth, and the certainty of already knowing the fount of truth’.”
— “Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” 1, Discourse to the “Institut Catholique de Paris” June 1980,
What I found to be missing in the decision at Notre Dame and in the rationale of Father Jenkins that accompanied it is any sense that critical decisions for a Catholic university must be based on truth as revealed by Christ and held by the church. Also, I could not find there any mention of the essential link between freedom and truth.
The life of faith
Faith is also advanced through decisions based on faith. That is what is asked of the students at Notre Dame; namely, that they take their faith seriously. Many do. Some give a year or two, or more, to service here at home and across the world to those in need. Indeed, they are asked to build a life rooted in decisions, which only make sense if one believes in Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. This is their vocation. It leads some to seek the priesthood or religious life.
Notre Dame too has a vocation, and that vocation grows by making decisions, which may not always be approved or admired in the secular academy, though even there, Notre Dame’s originality and individuality will, among people of good will, bring respect. Notre Dame, as a premier Catholic university, must make these decisions in a manner that is unafraid and based on faith if it is to live up to its noble vocation. As a great biblical theologian has put it:
“Only a conscious act of faith that constantly renews itself, only an alertness to the call of God in life’s changing situations, only a responsible concern for one’s own faith through observation, prayer and struggle for greater solidity, can be called faith in the sense of the New Testament. Faith is always in dynamic movement; it can become stronger or weaker. There is nothing as hazardous for it than lazy inactivity.” — “Biblical Perspective of Faith in Toward a Theology of Christian Faith,” 1967, R. Schnackenberg
Only when Notre Dame makes its great decisions in light of the truths of faith will its Catholic identity grow. To set aside these truths, as seems to have happened in this case, at least in the campus-wide discussions and in Father Jenkins’ Closing Statement, is to turn away from its vocation. It lacks fidelity to Father Sorin’s original enterprise and to the vocation to which every Catholic university is called.
Does this decision and the way it was explained mean that Notre Dame and its leadership will no longer make its critical decisions based on faith, on revealed truth, on those things which come from God and the church, but only on those things that may seem to endear it to secular institutions of higher learning? I pray that this may never be so.
A personal and concluding word
Since Father Jenkins’ decision, I have received many letters. Among those letters, I especially try to notice those from students. I have had visits from students who feel betrayed by this decision and the rationale that accompanied it. Young people are idealistic. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, in his recent visit to Cologne, have nourished this Christian idealism, and asked all of us to serve these young people and never let them settle for anything less than an unselfish and devoted life, and such unselfishness will only last when it is rooted in faith. They rightly look to us and to our institutions to live by faith. It is the very best thing we can give them. Without it, we fail them.
I have taken special joy in seeing the flourishing of the theology department at the University of Notre Dame. I have encountered many young people who are learning the great tradition of Catholic theology, and I have been especially moved to see them come in contact with the wisdom of the Fathers of the Church, strengthening their own commitment to the Catholic faith. Indeed, in recent years, I have linked our diocesan program of training catechists to the Notre Dame Department of Theology, with very enriching results. I see this as an act of trust in the theology department and in its leadership. What is more important than the catechists who pass on the faith to our young people, and to adults as well?
My pastoral concern is not only because of the decision not to ban the play, but because of the rationale that accompanied the decision. It fails to give room to the great truths of the faith. The teaching of the church on sexuality, on academic freedom, on the relationship between a man and a woman and on the human body is hardly mentioned, except to admit that the play stands apart from, and is even opposed to, Catholic teaching. The truths of faith seem not to have been brought to bear on this decision. Is this an omission that will mark the future of such decisions for this school so blessed by Our Lady and by countless scholars and students over the years? I pray that it not be so; for that would, indeed, mark it as a mistake of historic proportions. As a shepherd with responsibility to Notre Dame, I must point out to her leaders that this judgment and the way it has been explained calls for further, more informed consideration.
Otherwise, our beloved Notre Dame will go down a road, which it has always resisted traveling, and which, with the help of divine grace, I pray it may resist once again. As always, this matter must be considered within the university. In my 21 years as bishop here I have never interfered with university governance, and I have never required the university to adopt any particular policy, nor have I ever asked, required or demanded any particular action of the university. My path has always been rooted in these words in “Ex Corde Ecclesiae.”
“Bishops have a particular responsibility to promote Catholic universities, and especially to promote and assist in the preservation and strengthening of their Catholic identity, including the protection of their Catholic identity in relation to civil authorities. This will be achieved more effectively if close personal and pastoral relationships exist between university and church authorities, characterized by mutual trust, close and consistent cooperation and continuing dialogue. Even when they do not enter directly into the internal governance of the university, bishops ‘should be seen not as external agents but as participants in the life of the Catholic university’.”
Some have said that this is a watershed moment in Notre Dame’s history and certainly any discussion of academic freedom and Catholic character goes to the heart of Notre Dame’s everyday life — both in theory and in practice. Consequently, I believe that many people of good will who wish only blessings on Notre Dame will share my concern that on matters such as academic freedom, human sexuality, the nature of truth, the link between freedom and truth, the teaching of the church was not brought to bear on the wide-ranging dialogue and did not seem to find adequate room in the president’s closing statement.
Notre Dame, with its vast resources, can do better than this. I believe it will. Its responsibility to its students and to the position it has attained in Catholic higher education calls it to do better.
I do believe that Our Lady watches over Notre Dame and I place this matter in her hands, the woman of faith so revered in this place. We need her prayers and the light of her Son, who is the Way, the Truth and the Light during these hours and always.
Bishop John M. D’Arcy
< Back >
CREATIVE SERVICES PROVIDED BY CREEKSIDE DESIGN