Yesterday, something very good happened and the University of Notre Dame was part of it. As you are no doubt aware, Notre Dame, the Archdioceses of New York and Washington and 40 other Catholic institutions joined in a lawsuit against the Obama Administration’s unconstitutional abridgement of religious liberty via the HHS mandate.
Led by Cardinal Dolan, the US Bishops have been rock solid on this issue and they continue to impress. It is immensely gratifying to say that while this steadfast resistance to such infringement might not have been expected from the Bishops just a few short years ago, we have almost come to expect it now and that is amazing in and of itself. The Holy Spirit can truly work wonders.
Much more of a surprise is the participation of Notre Dame in the lawsuit. While much of the student body and faculty maintain a strong Catholic identity, the school administration’s commitment to Catholic teaching and Catholic identity has become suspect over the last several years as a result of several controversial moves by Fr. Jenkins and the Notre Dame Board. Chief among these controversies is the choice of the Notre Dame administration to have the virulently pro-abortion President Obama as commencement speaker in 2009 and to honor him with an honorary degree.
After the announcement about the HHS mandate and the subsequent non-accommodating accommodation, Father Jenkins at Notre Dame made a series of ambivalent and tepid statements about the mandate. As a result, it was unclear whether Notre Dame would sit on the sidelines during the most crucial battle between the Church and an overreaching State or perhaps even capitulate.
So it is that many Catholics understandably reacted with relief and gratitude at the announcement that Notre Dame will participate in the crucial lawsuits necessary to defeat this unconstitutional infringement of religious liberty. I too am relieved and grateful.
That is the good news.
The not so good news is contained within Fr. Jenkins letter announcing the legal challenge.
In his announcement, Fr. Jenkins strongly makes the point that this issue is not about contraception, but rather about fundamental religious liberty. About that he is very right. However, within his statement are a few lines that seems to legitimate the idea that Catholics can ‘conscientiously’ use birth control and that Notre Dame ‘respects’ this decision.