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ND Website Undermines Catholic Teaching

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NOTRE DAME, IN – University continues links to faculty group website recommending pro-abortion organizations, urging more lesbian and homosexual faculty, and more.

In this post, we return to the subject of a prior report: an organization of prominent women faculty, ND Watch, whose website contains materials flagrantly hostile to the Catholic character of the University and is linked to the University in several significant ways. In our earlier message, we noted that we had asked the University to take the steps necessary to sever these links. Here, we describe again the objectionable features of the website and then recount our exchange with the University. The net result is that the University has failed to take action despite ND Watch’s violation of the University’s policy respecting the use of University Internet resources.

ND Watch

Once again we provide links to three compilations of material taken from the ND Watch website:

  1. A series of extracts from the website, with particularly striking passages underlined;
  2. ND Watch’s list of useful websites for Women Faculty; and
  3. A list of the faculty members of the organization’s advisory committeewhich include the Chair of Economics, an Associate Dean of Arts and Letters, and professors from the departments of Theology, Romance Languages and Literature, English, Sociology, Film TV and Theater, and the Law School.

Here are some of the highlights of what you will find in these sources:

First, ND Watch recommends as resources every major pro-abortion organization and some lesser ones besides.

Second, the organization urges women to promote the hiring, not simply of more women, but of “more gay and lesbian faculty.”

Third, in the Gender Studies program issues respecting homosexuality are not taught from an orthodox Catholic perspective but rather from “secular and alternative Catholic” perspectives.

Finally, while the organization is “unofficial,” it is furnished University Internet support and what it says appears to carry implicit University approval. The organization’s website address bears a nd.edu domain and uses the official Notre Dame favicon (i.e., an icon in the browser address bar), it uses the university’s electronic mailing list resources to communicate with its members, and the materials are copyrighted by the University.

Here are some illustrative passages from the website:

On Abortion. ?ND Watch’s list of resources includes the pro-abortion organizations Emily’s List, The ?National Organization for Women, The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights League, Planned Parenthood, and several more.

On Recruiting and Homosexuals. ?”Your department will have to be very pro-active to recruit gay and lesbian scholars and artists.” “Take it upon yourself to contact the heads of special minority, women’s, and a gay and lesbian caucuses that operate inside your national Association.” “Probably the most important way to address gender problems (and the problems of ageism, racism and homophobia) at Notre Dame is to hire more women, minorities, gay and lesbian faculty.”

The author of ” The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology,” the first book recommended under the heading “Books on Notre Dame,” wrote: “I intended the audience to be people who are still wounded by Catholic condemnations of homosexuality….[T]he arguments… are incoherent.”

“If Dr. Tom Dooley were a student or faculty member today, he might not feel welcome. You see, Tom Dooley was gay – not just by orientation but actively so. And Notre Dame refuses to…include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies because…it would violate the ‘Catholic character’ of the university.”

On The Program in Gender Studies. ?In speaking of “political issues that are central at Notre Dame like…the treatment of gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities [and] sexual and reproductive health”: “Given the official position of Roman Catholicism on many of these issues, the program must draw largely on secular and alternative Catholic positions.” “The Gender Studies Program has always been a haven for GLBT students and faculty.” “No one bothers you…about what books we teach or what films we show in our courses

And the Holy Cross Order, “fundamentalist” Catholics, and football take their hits: “Clerical attitudes are often manifested in… sexism or misogyny.” “Some of the Roman Catholics here have aligned themselves with fundamentalist segments of the Church.” “[T] he strong emphasis on athletics…in particular football…may be correlated with sexism or misogyny.” Still worse, “at universities where either sports or fraternities play a large role, there tend to be more rapes and more sexism”

Exchange with the University

In a letter of September 21, 2007, we drew all of this to Provost Burish’s attention, and we asked that the University disassociate itself from ND Watch and withdraw internet support by ending its use of the University’s valuable ListServ internet service and requiring it to stop using the nd.edu domain and official favicon and imprinting the ND copyright on their materials.

We stressed that we were not suggesting the University tell the faculty not to include these materials on its website, objectionable as they are, but only that the University not lend a hand:

“There should be no objection from the sponsors of ND Watch, since no free speech or academic freedom issues are implicated and since they must have been aware from the start of the collision between these aspects of what the organization says and what the University stands for.”

In his October 24, 2007 response, Dr. Burish wrote: “Efforts have been and are continuing to be made to address appropriately and in a manner consistent with University policy issues raised by these websites.” (A website of another organization was also in issue, as we will report in a later newsletter.)

We were encouraged, since with respect to internet support the University’sResponsible Use Policy states: “University computing resources are to be used exclusively to advance the University’s mission of education, research, and public service.” Use that is “inconsistent with the University’s Mission” is prohibited.

But after some two months had passed with nothing done except the removal of a reference to ND Watch on a University website, we wrote again on November 14th, calling attention to the published University policy, expressing the “hope that further action will be taken,” but concluding that, “in view of the time that has elapsed, we will assume that nothing more will be done unless we are advised otherwise.”

We have not been so advised. Nothing has been done.

Conclusion

Both the material on the website, which is further evidence of a deterioration of Catholic identity at the University, and the Administration’s inaction are deeply troubling. In light of the University’s policy, two inferences seem open: Either the Administration considers the pro-choice and other material on the web site to be consistent with the University’s Mission, which seems most improbable, or the Administration is unwilling to take action objectionable to these faculty members. If the latter, then this episode, like Father Jenkins’s reversal of course in the Vagina Monologues episode, is especially worrisome, since, as we have often noted, faculty opposition to the radical change of hiring policy necessary to restore Catholic faculty predominance is formidable.

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