Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Notre Dame's Missing Witness [UPDATED]

Bill McGurn writes in The Wall Street Journal:

... Pro-lifers are used to this. They know their stand makes them unglamorous. [ED.: Not according to Mark Shea, who believes pro-lifers ... errrr ... sorry ... the "anti-abortion movement" ... take this stand out of some sense of political "convenience" - using Catholic teaching as a "convenient prop", if you will - in an effort to be part of the "right-wing Catholic 'in' crowd".] They find themselves a stumbling block to Democratic progressives -- and unwelcome at the Republican country club. And they are especially desperate for the support of institutions willing to engage in the clear, thoughtful and unembarrassed way that even Mr. Obama says we should.

With its billions in endowment and its prestigious name, Notre Dame ought to be in the lead here. But when asked for examples illuminating the university's unambiguous support for unborn life, Mr. Brown could provide only four: help for pregnant students who want to carry their babies to term, student volunteer work for pregnant women at local shelters, prayer mentions at campus Masses, and lectures such as a seminar on life issues.

These are all well and good, but they also highlight the poverty of Notre Dame's institutional witness. At Notre Dame today, there is no pro-life organization -- in size, in funding, in prestige -- that compares with the many centers, institutes and so forth dedicated to other important issues ranging from peace and justice to protecting the environment. Perhaps this explains why a number of pro-life professors tell me they must not be quoted by name, lest they face career retaliation.

The one institute that does put the culture of life at the heart of its work, moreover -- the Center for Ethics and Culture -- doesn't even merit a link under the "Faith and Service" section on the university's Web site. The point is this: When Notre Dame doesn't dress for the game, the field is left to those like Randall Terry who create a spectacle and declare their contempt for civil and respectful witness.

In the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian, there is a wonderful photograph of Father Ted Hesburgh -- then Notre Dame president -- linking hands with Martin Luther King Jr. at a 1964 civil-rights rally at Chicago's Soldier Field. Today, nearly four decades and 50 million abortions after Roe v. Wade, there is no photograph of similar prominence of any Notre Dame president taking a lead at any of the annual marches for life.

Father Jenkins is right: That's not ambiguity. That's a statement.
(emphasis and editorial commentary added)

UPDATE (20 May)
Steve Skojec has more on Notre Dame's purported "commitment" to the Church's pro-life teaching:

... We all agreed that it would add value to track the marchers as they journeyed across country. John Carroll High School of Birmingham, Ala., readily agreed to let us put a camera on one of its busses as did Missouri Right To Life, a non-denominational group out of St.. Louis.

We wanted a college group as well. Sanborn had contacts at Notre Dame University, and they too seemed eager to participate. Given Notre Dame’s status as the iconic Catholic university, we all thought the university’s participation a good idea.

As the Jan. 22 date approached, however, Sanborn started getting mixed signals out of Notre Dame. The administration was proving as unhelpful as his contacts had been helpful.

When I asked Sanborn whether the resistance was just routine boilerplate or active obstruction, he said obstruction. As far as he could tell, the Notre Dame administration did not want our camera on the bus.

The reason seemed clear enough even then: The university had no interest in seeing its name publicly associated with something as unblushingly Christian as the March For Life...

[Read the whole thing]
(emphasis added)

Yeah that's some "commitment" to the pro-life cause. If it were a civil rights march to protest racism, Notre Dame would be front and center, as Fr. Hesburgh's example indicates.

But a civil rights march against the holocaust of the unborn? No way! Notre Dame can't have its good name besmirched by being associated with such an unenlightened endeavor. Why, they would be the laughing stock of elite academia.

Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Notre Dame Should Be a Witness for Human Life

The REAL Beneficiaries of Abortion (Hint: It Ain't Women Who Are the Ones Being "Liberated")

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At 5/19/2009 12:51 PM, Blogger Dad29 said...

Shea can't seem to find a lot of allies on his "BUSHTORTURES!!!" bandwagon, so he's going to grind all over the pro-lifers.

Maybe he should accept Obama's advice to 'consider other points of view,'--like, for example, that waterboarding might NOT be torture, and maybe national security isn't a real easy black-and-white puzzle.

At 5/19/2009 1:09 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

I happen to agree with Shea on torture, which, then, calls into question why he wants to tar me and others in the pro-life movement with guilt by association.

Oh, Mark will draw fine distinctions and say "Oh, I wasn't talking about you; it's those other icky pro-lifers I was talking about.", as he has done with his new post on the subject today. But to outside observers, Shea just tarred the entire pro-life movement as captive to the GOP and marching to the tune of those who have little concern with Catholic teaching. He just affirmed every "progressive" Catholic and mainstream media stereotype of committed pro-lifers as motivated by solely partisan concerns. And the "not 'pro-life', but 'anti-abortion'" rhetoric is straight out of the playbook.

As far as I'm concerned, Shea jumped the shark by going there. Parroting the cheap rhetoric of the Catholic left blowhards and Obama apologists is beyond the pale. Contemptuous, actually.

At 5/19/2009 2:56 PM, Blogger Mark P. Shea said...


You've misread me badly. See my reply to Pansy today.

Meanwhile, your first commenter makes my point for me--yet again.

At 5/19/2009 3:06 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

I read your reply to Pansy. That's what I was referring to in my previous comment:

Oh, Mark will draw fine distinctions and say "Oh, I wasn't talking about you; it's those other icky pro-lifers I was talking about.", as he has done with his new post on the subject today.

At 5/19/2009 3:21 PM, Blogger Michael R. Denton said...


I think Jay has you read quite well. In your zealous efforts to attack torture defenders, you've moved on to attack the pro-life movement, even so far as calling them the anti-abortion movement. That, coupled with bizarre claims like the Notre Dame display was due to torture, shows that you have seriously mis-characterized the pro-life movement, undermining people you should be expending every effort to assist.

At 5/19/2009 4:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is my view. I am Mary Faith...i go to write fai| and before I cross the + I ave written fail. That is when you live faith. Yes, I have had an abortion. No, I am not proud of it. Did I do a strong thing? Yes I did.Do I recommend abortion? No. Would I make the same choice again? maybe.
Everyone is clear it is not the best way way to prevent a birth.Am I grateful it is a legal option?Yes. Moral choices confront_each.angelangle.net ....I M.F as fasten "matter" with "fact". No. I am not an "advocate" for abortion...nor apportion of truth.

At 5/20/2009 8:15 AM, Blogger Jeremy said...

What is wrong with calling the anti-abortion movement? - it is what it is. Pro-life is the meaningless news-speak adopted by the movement when anti-abortion polled worse than the equally newspeaky 'pro-choice'. I was just reading a feminista blog where she was stressing how important it was to frame the issue correctly - that is because the truth is not on their side. The truth is on our side - and we can handle being called anti-abortion - because we are.

At 5/20/2009 8:30 AM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

I have no problem, in principle, with the term "anti-abortion" ... except, of course, when it's used as a perjorative to call into question people's commitment to other aspects of Catholic social teaching.

Furthermore, the pro-life movement is also concerned with things like ESCR and euthanasia, AMONG OTHER THINGS, which don't exactly fit in the "anti-abortion" box.

At 5/20/2009 2:37 PM, Blogger Dad29 said...

Am I to take it, Mr. Shea, that all wartime decisions are easy? Like, man, just push the button from Office Depot?

Or am I to take it (contra Shea and Jay) that waterboarding IS 'torture', no matter the thousands of pages of legal analysis from people of good will?

Thanks, Mark, for making my point very well. Nothing like a heaping dose of Self-Righteousness with your vitamins!

At 5/21/2009 11:23 PM, Blogger Mark P. Shea said...


When Catholics parse their support for Catholic teaching into "Opposed to abortion but in favor of torture" (and I mean torture, not mealy-mouthed "enhanced interrogation",as polls show a decided majority do), I don't know what else to call it but being "anti-abortion". Clearly the people who respond to such polls have not internalized the Church's actual teaching about reverence for life or the dignity of the human person. Sorry that offends you. I nowhere say that all prolifers sign off on this. But the fact remains that support for torture is highest among those who are "conservative Christians". That is, the same people who overwhelmingly identify as "prolife", whether Protestant or Catholic.

One might complain that the survey group is small, however, my experience in cyberspace (just read the comments at Inside Catholic suggests) that the poll basically reflects the situation on the ground.

I don't *enjoy* pointing these things out. They depress the hell out of me. But I don't see what's untrue about my point.

At 5/22/2009 2:52 PM, Blogger Dad29 said...

What's untrue about your point, Mr. Shea, is your characterization of waterboarding as "torture."

Other than that, you're a fine guy.


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