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.(emphasis and editorial commentary added)
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.
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.(emphasis added)
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]
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")