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Notre Dame Revisited

12 America August 31 –September 7, 2009

The Church
and the

s summer plays itself out on the beautiful campus by the
lake where the young Holy Cross priest, Edward Sorin,
C.S.C., pitched his camp 177 years ago and began his
great adventure, we must clarify the situation that so sun-
dered the church last spring: What it is all about and
what it is not about.
It is not about President Obama. He will do some good things as
president and other things with which, as Catholics, we will strongly dis-
agree. It is ever so among presidents, and most political leaders.
It is not about Democrats versus Republicans, nor was it a replay of
the recent general election.
It is not about whether it is appropriate for the president of the United
States to speak at Notre Dame or any great Catholic university on the
pressing issues of the day. This is what universities do. No bishop should
try to prevent that.
The response, so intense and widespread, is not about what this jour-
nal called “sectarian Catholicism.” Rather, the response of the faithful
derives directly from the Gospel. In Matthew’s words, “Your light must
shine before others, that they may see your good works, and glorify your
heavenly Father” (5:13).

Public Witness
Does a Catholic university have the responsibility to give witness to the
Catholic faith and to the consequences of that faith by its actions and
decisions—especially by a decision to confer its highest honor? If not,
what is the meaning of a life of faith? And how can a Catholic institution
expect its students to live by faith in the difficult decisions that will con-

MOST REV. JOHN M. D’ARCY is the bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind.,
in which the University of Notre Dame is located.

August 31 –September 7, 2009 America 13
front them in a culture often opposed to the Gospel? The Local Bishop
Pope Benedict XVI, himself a former university profes- The failure to dialogue with the bishop brings a second
sor, made his position clear when he spoke to Catholic edu- series of questions. What is the relationship of the Catholic
cators in Washington, D.C., on April 17, 2008: university to the local bishop? No relationship? Someone
who occasionally offers Mass on campus? Someone who sits
Teachers and administrators, whether in universities on the platform at graduation? Or is the bishop the teacher
or schools, have the duty and privilege to ensure that in the diocese, responsible for souls, including the souls of
students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and students—in this case, the students at Notre Dame? Does
practice. This requires that public witness to the way the responsibility of the bishop to teach, to govern and to
of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the sanctify end at the gate of the university? In the spirit of Ex
Church’s magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institu- Corde Ecclesiae, which places the primary responsibility on
tion’s life, both inside and outside the classroom. the institution, I am proposing these questions for the uni-
In its decision to give its highest honor to a president Prof. John Cavadini has addressed the questions about
who has repeatedly opposed even the smallest legal protec- the relationship of the university and the bishop in an espe-
tion of the child in the womb, did Notre Dame surrender cially insightful manner. He is chair of the theology depart-
the responsibility that Pope Benedict believes Catholic uni- ment and an expert on the early church, with a special inter-
versities have to give public witness to the truths revealed by est in St. Augustine. His remarks were a response to Father
God and taught by the church? Jenkins’s rationale for presenting the play mentioned above.
Another serious question of witness and moral responsibil-
ity before the Notre Dame administration concerns its spon- The statement of our President [Father Jenkins] bare-
sorship over several years of a sad and immoral play, offensive ly mentions the Church. It is as though the mere men-
to the dignity of women, which many call pornographic, and tion of a relationship with the Church has become so
which an increasing number of Catholic universities have can- alien to our ways of thinking and so offensive to our
celled, “The Vagina Monologues,” by Eve Ensler. quest for a disembodied “excellence” that it has become
Although he spoke eloquently about the importance of dia- impolite to mention it at all. There is no Catholic iden-
logue with the president of the United States, the president of tity apart from the affiliation with the Church. And
Notre Dame chose not to dialogue with his bishop on these again, I do not mean an imaginary Church we some-
two matters, both pastoral and both with serious ramifications times might wish existed, but the concrete, visible
for the care of souls, which is the core responsibility of the local communion of “hierarchic and charismatic gifts,” “at
bishop. Both decisions were shared with me after they were once holy and always in need of purification,” in which
made and, in the case of the honorary degree, after President “each bishop represents his own church and all of [the
Obama had accepted. For the past 24 years, it has been my bishops] together with the Pope represent the whole
privilege to serve as the bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne- Church...” (Lumen Gentium, Nos. 4, 8, 23).
South Bend. During this time, I have never interfered in the The ancient Gnostic heresy developed an elitist
internal governance of Notre Dame or any other institution of intellectual tradition which eschewed connection to
higher learning within the diocese. However, as the teacher the “fleshly” church of the bishop and devalued or
and shepherd in this diocese, it is my responsibility to encour- spiritualized the sacraments. Are we in danger of
age all institutions, including our beloved University of Notre developing a gnosticized version of the “Catholic intel-
Dame, to give public witness to the fullness of Catholic faith. lectual tradition,” one which floats free of any norming
The diocesan bishop must ask whether a Catholic institution connection and so free of any concrete claim to
compromises its obligation to give public witness by placing Catholic identity?
prestige over truth. The bishop must be concerned that
Catholic institutions do not succumb to the secular culture, The full letter can be found on the Web site of the Notre
making decisions that appear to many, including ordinary Dame student newspaper, The Observer: www.ndsmcob-
Catholics, as a surrender to a culture opposed to the truth
about life and love. It has been a great privilege and a source of joy to be asso-
ciated with Notre Dame in the past 24 years as bishop. In
Photo pg. 12: Kevin Russeau, C.S.C., celebrates Mass on so many ways, it is a splendid place. Part of this is because
Notre Dame University’s south quad during a demonstration of the exemplary young men and women who come there
in defense of life and in protest against President Obama as
the school’s commencement speaker and honorary degree from throughout the country. It is also because of its great
recipient. spiritual traditions. The lines of young people preparing to

14 America August 31 –September 7, 2009
receive the sacrament of reconciliation at the Basilica of the
Sacred Heart, the Masses in the residence halls, the prayer-
ful liturgy at the basilica and the service of so many young
people before and after graduation in Catholic education
and catechetics, and in service to the poor in this country
and overseas, is a credit to the university and a source of
great hope. The theology department has grown in academ-
ic excellence over the years, strengthened by the successful
recruiting of professors outstanding in scholarship, in their
knowledge of the tradition and in their own living of the
Catholic faith. This growth is well known to Pope Benedict
XVI. It is notable that a vast majority has been willing to
seek and accept the mandatum from the local bishop.

Developments on Campus
Yet the questions about the relationship of the university as
a whole to the church still stand, and what happened on
campus leading up to and during the graduation is signifi-
cant for the present debate about Catholic higher education.
I released a statement on Good Friday, asking the Catholic
people and others of good will not to attend demonstrations
by those who had come avowedly to “create a circus.” I
referred to appropriate and acceptable responses within the
Notre Dame community led by students. Titled “ND
Response,” and drawing a significant number of professors,
these responses were marked by prayer and church teaching,
and they were orderly.
This journal and others in the media, Catholic and secu-
lar, reporting from afar, failed to make a distinction between
the extremists on the one hand, and students and those who
joined them in the last 48 hours before graduation. This lat-
ter group responded with prayer and substantive disagree-
ment. They cooperated with university authorities.
In this time of crisis at the university, these students and
professors, with the instinct of faith, turned to the bishop
for guidance, encouragement and prayer. This had nothing
to do with John Michael D’Arcy. It was related to their
understanding of the episcopal office—a place you should
be able to count on for the truth, as Irenaeus contended in
the second century when he encountered the Gnostics.
I attended the Baccalaureate Mass the day before gradu-
ation, for the 25th time, speaking after holy Communion, as
I always do. Then I led an evening rosary at the Grotto with
students, adults and a number of professors. We then went
to a chapel on campus. It was packed for a whole night of
prayer and eucharistic adoration.
It was my intention not to be on campus during gradua-
tion day. I had so informed Father Jenkins and the student
leadership, with whom I was in touch nearly every day. This
is the kind of deference and respect I have shown to the
Notre Dame administration, to three Notre Dame presi-
dents, over the years. I found it an increasingly sad time, and

August 31 –September 7, 2009 America 15
I was convinced that there were no winners, but I was wrong. I firmly believe that the board of trustees must take up
As graduation drew near, I knew I should be with the its responsibility afresh, with appropriate study and prayer.
students. It was only right that the bishop be with them, for They also must understand the seriousness of the present
they were on the side of truth, and their demonstration was moment. This requires spiritual and intellectual formation
disciplined, rooted in prayer and substantive. I told the pro- on the part of the men and women of industry, business and
life rally, several thousand people on a technology who make up the majority of
lovely May day, that they were the true the board. Financial generosity is no
heroes. Despite the personal costs to More commentary longer sufficient for membership on the
themselves and their families, they chose on the Notre Dame controversy. boards of great universities, if indeed it
to give public witness to the Catholic ever was. The responsibility of university
faith contrary to the example of a power- boards is great, and decisions must not be
ful, international university, against which they were made by a few. Like bishops, they are asked to leave politics
respectfully but firmly in disagreement. Among those in and ambition at the door, and make serious decisions
attendance were many who work daily at crisis pregnancy before God. In the case of Notre Dame, they owe it to the
centers on behalf of life. Congregation of Holy Cross, which has turned this mag-
nificent place over to a predominately lay board; they owe it
The Silent Board to the students who have not yet come; they owe it to the
In the midst of the crisis at Notre Dame, the board of intrepid missionary priest, Edward Sorin, C.S.C., and the
trustees came to campus in April for their long-scheduled Holy Cross religious who built this magnificent place out of
spring meeting. They said nothing. When the meeting was the wilderness. They owe it to Mary, the Mother of God,
completed, they made no statement and gave no advice. In who has always been honored here. Let us pray that they
an age when transparency is urged as a way of life on and off will take this responsibility with greater seriousness and in
campus, they chose not to enter the conversation going on a truly Catholic spirit.
all around them and shaking the university to its roots. We
learned nothing about their discussions. Critical Questions
As bishops, we must be teachers and pastors. In that spirit, I
would respectfully put these questions to the Catholic univer-
sities in the diocese I serve and to other Catholic universities.
Do you consider it a responsibility in your public state-
A collaborative endeavor of ments, in your life as a university and in your actions,
the Center for Catholic Studies including your public awards, to give witness to the
at Fairfield University and Catholic faith in all its fullness?
Wisdom House
What is your relationship to the church and, specifical-
ly, to the local bishop and his pastoral authority as defined
Jesus and the by the Second Vatican Council?
Culture of Peace Finally, a more fundamental question: Where will the
September 11-12, 2009 great Catholic universities search for a guiding light in the
years ahead? Will it be the Land O’Lakes Statement or Ex
Corde Ecclesiae? The first comes from a frantic time, with
finances as the driving force. Its understanding of freedom
is defensive, absolutist and narrow. It never mentions
Christ and barely mentions the truth. The second text, Ex
Corde Ecclesiae, speaks constantly of truth and the pursuit
of truth. It speaks of freedom in the broader, Catholic
John Dear, S.J. philosophical and theological tradition, as linked to the
common good, to the rights of others and always subject to
WISDOM HOUSE truth. Unlike Land O’Lakes, it is communal, reflective of
the developments since Vatican II, and it speaks with a lan-
RETREAT AND CONFERENCE CENTER guage enlightened by the Holy Spirit.
229 East Litchfield Rd., Litchfield, CT 06759 On these three questions, I respectfully submit, rests the
860-567-3163 future of Catholic higher education in this country and so
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16 America August 31 –September 7, 2009
The Public Duty
Of Bishops
Lessons from the storm in South Bend

Editors’ note: Archbishop Quinn originally prepared these teachers of a great moral tradition, and not as actors in the
observations for consideration at the June meeting of the political arena. Coming out of the Catholic moral tradition,
American bishops. Circumstances did not make that possible at this conference has defended human life in the context of
the time. He has submitted them to America as a contribution the pursuit of justice, covering the whole continuum of life
to the debate on the role of bishops in dealing with public issues. from its beginning in the mother’s womb to its natural end.

The Second Vatican Council rightly described abortion and
he right to life is a paramount and pre-emi- infanticide as “unspeakable crimes.” But the council did not
nent moral issue of our time. The Catholic stop there. In a coherent moral logic, the council exhorted
bishops have borne a consistent and prophet- bishops to be faithful to their duty of teaching and witness-
ic witness to the truth that all other rights are ing concerning “the most serious questions concerning the
anchored in the right to life. When Roe v. ownership, increase, and just distribution of material goods,
Wade was handed down in 1973, this conference was near- peace and war, and brotherly relations among all countries”
ly alone among institutional voices pointing out the defects (“Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church,”
and dangers of this decision and calling for its reversal. No. 12). The more recent “Doctrinal Note on Some
Our witness to the sanctity of human life cannot dimin- Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in
ish and our effort cannot cease. We must continue to enlist Political Life” proposes an equally broad spectrum of con-
new vehicles of communication to highlight the grave moral cerns. This consistent focus over nearly 50 years, as well as
evil inherent in abortion. We have to design effective and the teaching of the popes, including Pope Benedict XVI,
imaginative strategies to help people see that the choice for underline that neither the bishop nor the Catholic Church
life is the most compassionate choice. And we have to speak can confine itself to one single issue of concern in human
with courtesy and clarity about why the protection of the society. If we proclaim that the right to life is necessary for
unborn is a requirement of human rights and not their the exercise of all other rights, then we must also address
diminishment. and defend those other rights as well.
There is no disagreement within this conference about Consequently, the Catholic Church brings to the defense
the moral evil of abortion, its assault upon the dignity of the of life and the pursuit of justice in this world the vision of
human person, or the moral imperative of enacting laws that faith and a living hope that transcends the limitations of
prohibit abortion in American society. what can be accomplished in this world. This comprehen-
But there is deep and troubled disagreement among us sive and transcendent vision must provide the benchmark in
on the issue of how we as bishops should witness concerning weighing proposed pathways through the thicket of public
this most searing and volatile issue in American public life. policy choices that confront us. This traditional benchmark
And this disagreement has now become a serious and provides a challenge to us bishops today in evaluating our
increasing impediment to our ability to teach effectively in future approach to those who disagree with us on issues of
our own community and in the wider American society. fundamental importance.
The bishops’ voice has been most credible in the cause of The dilemma that confronts us today is whether the
life when we have addressed this issue as witnesses and church’s vision is best realized on the issue of abortion by
focusing our witness on the clear moral teaching about
abortion and public law, or whether it is preferable or obli-
MOST REV. JOHN R. QUINN is archbishop emeritus of San Francisco.
He served as president of the U.S. Catholic Conference and National gatory to add to that teaching role the additional role of
Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1977 to 1980. directly sanctioning public officials through sustained, per-

18 America August 31 –September 7, 2009
Notre Dame registrar Harold Pace (left) and board chairman Richard Notebaert present the academic hood.

sonally focused criticism, the denial of honors or even a series of candidate-related condemnations during the
excommunication. 2008 election, has communicated several false and unin-
This dilemma has troubled us for many years now, but it tended messages to much of American society. There are
has been crystallized in the controversy over the decision of four such messages that call for our serious consideration
the University of Notre Dame to award an honorary degree today.
in May of this year to the president of the United States. 1. The message that the Catholic bishops of the United States
This is the first time in the history of this conference that a function as partisan political actors in American life. The great
large number of bishops of the United States have publicly tragedy of American politics from a Catholic perspective is
condemned honoring a sitting president, and this condem- that party structures in the United States bisect the social
nation has further ramifications due to the fact that this teachings of the church, thus making it impossible for most
president is the first African-American to hold that high citizens to identify and vote for a candidate who adequately
office. embraces the spectrum of Catholic teaching on the common
good. For instance, Republican candidates are, in general,
False Messages more supportive of the church’s position on abortion and
The case for sanctioning President Obama by declaring him euthanasia, while Democratic candidates are generally
ineligible to receive a Catholic university degree is rooted in stronger advocates for the Catholic vision on issues of
a powerful truth: The president has supported virtually poverty and world peace.
every proposed legal right to abortion in his public career, For most of our history, the American bishops have
and abortion constitutes the pre-eminent moral issue in assiduously sought to avoid being identified with either

American government today. political party and have made a conscious effort to be seen
Notwithstanding this fact, the case against a strategy of as transcending party considerations in the formulation of
such sanctions and personal condemnations is rooted in a their teachings. The condemnation of President Obama
more fundamental truth: Such a strategy of condemnation and the wider policy shift that represents signal to many
undermines the church’s transcendent role in the American thoughtful persons that the bishops have now come down
political order. For the Obama controversy, in concert with firmly on the Republican side in American politics. The

August 31 –September 7, 2009 America 19
bishops are believed to communicate that for all the promise nation will open every bishop to the charge that if we do not
the Obama administration has on issues of health care, use the tactic of sanctions and condemnations on issues
immigration reform, global poverty and war and peace, the such as war and peace or global poverty, we are tacitly rele-
leadership of the church in the United States has strategi- gating those issues to a level of unimportance. And it would
cally tilted in favor of an ongoing alliance with the indeed be difficult to explain how it is appropriate for a
Republican Party. A sign of this stance is seen to be the Catholic university to honor those who authorize torture or
adoption of a policy of confrontation rather than a policy of initiate an unjust war or cut assistance to the world’s poor.
engagement with the Obama administration. To assert on the one hand that the tactics of sanction and
Such a message is alienating to many in personal condemnation are legitimate
the Catholic community, especially those tools for episcopal action in the public
among the poor and the marginalized A selection of Archbishop order, while on the other hand refusing to
who feel that they do not have supportive John R. Quinn’s articles for America. employ those tactics for any issue other
representation within the Republican than abortion will only deepen the suspi-
Party. The perception of partisanship on cions of those in American society who
the part of the church is disturbing to many Catholics given believe that we bishops of the church in the United States
the charge of Gaudium et Spes that the church must tran- are myopic in our approach to Catholic social teaching.
scend every political structure and cannot sacrifice that 4. The message that the bishops are insensitive to the her-
transcendence, and the perception of transcendence, no itage and the continuing existence of racism in America. The
matter how important the cause. election of Senator Barack Obama as President of the
2. The message that the bishops are ratifying the “culture war United States in November 2008 was a unique and signal
mentality,” which corrodes debate both in American politics and moment in the history of racial solidarity in the United
in the internal life of the church. Both poles of the American States. L‘Osservatore Romano compared it to the fall of the
political spectrum see our society as enmeshed in a culture Berlin Wall. All over the world the election was hailed as
war over the issues of abortion, marriage, immigration ushering in a new chapter in the rejection of racial stereo-
rights and the death penalty. In such a war, they argue, the types and the enhancement of international relations.
demonization of alternative viewpoints and of opposing Yet here in the United States, there has been the percep-
leaders is not merely acceptable, but required. More intense tion that we bishops did not grasp the immense significance
tactics and language are automatically seen as more effective, of the moment. African-American priests, religious and lay
as necessary and more in keeping with the importance of the persons have related that they felt they had to mute their
issues being debated. The “culture war mentality” has also jubilation at the election of an African-American president,
seeped into the life of the church, distorting the debate on and that we bishops did not share their jubilation. Some
vital issues and leading to campaigns against bishops for have expressed deep hurt over this, precisely because they
their efforts to proclaim the Gospel with charity rather than respect the bishops and they love the church.
with antagonism. Added to this, the spirited condemnation of the presi-
The movement toward sanctions against public officials dent’s visit and degree at Notre Dame last May have rein-
will be seen as ratifying this trajectory in our political, cul- forced for many African-American Catholics those feelings
tural and ecclesial life. Whatever our intention may be, the of hurt and alienation. It is not that African-American
acceptance and employment of a strategy that deliberately Catholics do not understand that the church must oppose
moves beyond teaching and pointing up the moral dimen- abortion, or that they themselves personally believe that the
sions of public issues to labeling those with whom we dis- bishops are acting out of racist motivations. It is rather that
agree, will inevitably embolden those who de-Christianize when the church embraces a new level of confrontation
our public debate both within and outside the church. when an African-American is involved, this readily raises
3. The message that the bishops are effectively indifferent to widespread questions about our racial sensitivity. And these
all grave evils other than abortion. Perhaps the most difficult questions will only continue to be raised more forcefully if
task we face, as teachers on the moral dimensions of public we continue to walk down the path of confrontation with
policy in the United States today, is emphasizing the pre- this administration.
eminence of abortion as a moral issue while defending a
holistic view of the rights intrinsic to the defense of the dig- A Policy of Cordiality
nity of the human person. This task of balancing arises not As we confront the admittedly difficult task of balancing the
only in the formulation of our policy statements, but also in need to uphold the sanctity of human life while avoiding the
the steps we as bishops take to achieve justice in the politi- enormously destructive consequences of the strategy of
cal order. The pathway of sanctions and personal condem- sanction and condemnation, we bishops could profitably

20 America August 31 –September 7, 2009
look to the example of the Holy See,
which wrestles with these same complex
issues of integrity of witness, fidelity to
truth, civility in discourse, and political,
national and racial sensitivities every
The approach of the Holy See might
justly be characterized as a policy of cor-
diality. It proceeds from the conviction
that the integrity of Catholic teaching
can never be sacrificed. It reflects a deep
desire to enshrine comity at the center
of public discourse and relations with
public officials. It is willing to speak the
truth directly to earthly power.
Yet the Holy See shows great reluc-
tance to publicly personalize disagree-
ments with public officials on elements
of church teaching. And the approach
of the Holy See consistently favors
engagement over confrontation. As
Pope John Paul II put it, “The goal of
the Church is to make of the adversary
a brother.”
These principles of cordiality will not
make our task as bishops in the public The peaceful rhythm of a monk’s day
square an easy one. But they do provide consists of prayer, study, and manual labor.
the best anchor for insuring that our While contemplation is at the heart of
actions and statements remain faithful Trappist life, it is by the labor of our
to the comprehensive and transcendent
mission of the church, our ultimate hands that we support ourselves. At
mandate. Much of this is summed up in New Melleray Abbey, making caskets
the council’s decree on bishops, Christus is an expression of our sacred mission.
Dominus (No. 13):

The Church has to be on speak- Contact us for a free catalog and you
ing terms with the human society will receive a complimentary keepsake
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duty of bishops especially to make
an approach to people, seeking
and promoting dialog with them. Caskets and urns are available for
If truth is constantly to be accom- next-day delivery or can be ordered
panied by charity and under- on a guaranteed pre-need basis.
standing by love, in such salutary
discussions they should present
their positions in clear language,
unagressively and diplomatically.
Likewise they should show pru-
dence combined with confidence,
for this is what brings about
union of minds by encouraging 888.433.6934 | | Peosta, Iowa
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August 31 –September 7, 2009 America 21