Is Notre Dame Catholic?

Is Notre Dame Catholic?
Assessing the Evidence

By Thomas Uebbing
National Catholic Register

A question that will linger for many is whether or not the enthusiastic reception Notre Dame gave Obama was the beginning of funeral rites for the university’s Catholicity.

Archbishop Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest court, told the Register that Notre Dame needs to “come clean.”

“Is it Catholic or isn’t it?” he asked. “There’s an apostolic constitution, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, which sets forth the requirements for a university to have the name Catholic. I think that Notre Dame has to either follow those norms or say ‘We’re not a Catholic university anymore.’”

Commenting prior to a pro-life rally sponsored by ND Response, a coalition of student groups that opposed the Obama honor, Notre Dame law professor Gerald Bradley described this year’s commencement as a “defining moment.” He did not believe it would deal a mortal blow to the Catholicity of Notre Dame, but that it would be “business as usual, what’s been going on for the last 40 years.” He believes that “there is a plausible connection” between the 1967 Land O’Lakes Accord and the invitation to Obama. The accord effectively declares the university’s independence from the Church.

Commenting on the clergy and others who are Notre Dame fellows and hold the legal power, Bradley said, “People on the inside don’t want to stand up.”

“Despite the administration’s sacralization of dialogue and engagement,” Bradley said, he does not see people who work there speaking up — and perceives that it is “not an open campus culture” as one might think.

David Solomon, professor of philosophy, speaking after the commencement day Mass sponsored by ND Response, said, “I am certainly not without hope in all of this. I think things will certainly never be the same after this, though.”

“This has opened lots of people’s eyes to things they didn’t understand about Notre Dame, and I think it’s brought some people here under conviction about what they’ve done in the past,” said Solomon, who directs the university’s Center for Ethics and Culture. “But I think things could go either way.”

Holy Cross Father Bill Miscamble, professor of history, accurately foretold that Obama would talk about “common ground.”

Father Miscamble described Notre Dame’s faith-filled origins and past fidelity to its mission and the Church. “But jump ahead to today,” he said. The formal leadership still proclaims the university’s Catholic identity and assures parents that it is unashamedly Catholic and will instruct their children in the Church’s moral teachings, “but of late that rhetoric seems to ring rather hollow. Words are not matched by deeds. They have planted the damaging seeds of moral confusion. By Notre Dame honoring Obama, they have let the students down and have betrayed the alumni.”

Notre Dame took its action in face of the bishops’ instruction “Catholics in Political Life,” and, in so doing, “distanced itself from the Church, which is its lifeblood,” said Father Miscamble. “Such a distancing puts at risk the true soul of Notre Dame and puts Notre Dame in service of those who wish to damage the Church’s teaching.”