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Status Report and Request

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NOTRE DAME, IN – A firmly established Sycamore Trust turns attention to building financial support to further its mission.

While we have in the past been restrained in requesting contributions because we wanted to see what prospects would be for this new venture, a number of you have generously provided support. We have, therefore, been able to operate long enough so that we can now tell you what we think The Sycamore Trust can hope to accomplish with adequate funding.

Here, in brief, is the situation as we see it:

  1. The Trust is now firmly established. Its range, which we describe below, is wide and growing, and it is well known on campus and to increasing numbers throughout the Catholic educational community.
  2. The next stage should include reaching many thousands more; upgrading our technological capability; maintaining and extending our links with organs of public opinion; and advertising.
  3. Substantial funding will be required for this effort.

Consequently, we urge that those who share our goals provide supportthrough tax-deductible contributions as generous as circumstances permit.

Here are some of the factors that you may wish to consider:

As we have reported in detail, Notre Dame has already been secularized to an alarming degree. The reason is that there is no longer the solid majority of committed Catholics upon which, the Mission Statement declares, the school’s Catholic identity “depends.” Compelling evidence was supplied a few months ago when the Faculty Senate, having canvassed the faculty, declared: “The University should not compromise its academic aspirations in its efforts to maintain its Catholic identity.”

Still, important elements of Catholicism, including a solid core of Catholic scholars, remain. With resolute leadership by the Administration, the Board, and the Fellows, the tide of secularization could be arrested and, over time, rolled back.

The Sycamore Trust can, we believe, advance this cause through mobilizing alumni and other members of the Notre Dame family and though its communications with the University, its subscribers, and the public.

  • We have already built a substantial communications network. Our growing mailing list now totals about 7,000, to which may be added another 5,000 or more to whom all of our newsletters are distributed by other Catholic information services. Particularly newsworthy items reach thousands more through other Catholic services.
  • Based largely on our published materials, major articles respecting Notre Dame’s Catholic identity have been carried during this past year by two major national Catholic weeklies, Our Sunday Visitor and The National Catholic Register, as well as by the monthly periodical The Catholic World Report. Our reports have also been the subject of discussion in countless Catholic blog sites.

We want to do much more, and with substantial resources we could. We have not, for example, advertised. And part-time clerical assistance could make a major difference. But even as matters stand, our voice is heard by many, and we think it is reasonable to think it will have some effect.

For example, but for us, the deterioration of the Catholic presence on the faculty would almost surely be unknown outside the University. We cannot know whether this disclosure will make a difference, but the results of transparency in corporate and governmental activity suggests that it probably will. An organization will usually strive to avoid having doubt raised as to its most important asset — here, Notre Dame’s reputation as a robustly Catholic institution

We have, as you know, also ranged over a number of other issues, with The Vagina Monologues the pre-eminent example. Criticism of the University on this score has drawn heavily on our reports and has been intense. Protest elsewhere has reduced the number of Catholic institutions hosting this play from 32 to 16 (out of a total of some 225). With persistence, we can hope for a similar outcome.

In other instances, some of which we have yet to describe in newsletters, the University’s responses to our inquiries have been favorable. For example, the Provost immediately saw to it that a link to pornography that had somehow been insinuated into a feminist student organization’s web site was taken down, and in another instance the General Counsel ordered a halt to contraceptive advertisements on the Internet edition of the student newspaper “The Observer.”

In other cases, in contrast, such as the criteria for Board members discussed in our last newsletter, the University has flatly declined to respond. Still, knowing that the selections will be scrutinized, perhaps more care will be taken in the future. However, there appears no reason to expect remedial action in a case in which we called attention to the promotion of pro-choice organizations (and much more) on the web site of a women’s faculty organization. Though we received a courteous response promising an inquiry, the site remains substantially unchanged – another sign of the dominance of entrenched faculty undermining Catholic identity.

Some issues are pending. We have inquired about the promotion by University elements of a charity that makes contributions to Planned Parenthood; about the celebratory announcement of a homosexual marriage in the Class Notes section of the Notre Dame Magazine; and about the honoring by a ND Club in an ACE benefit of a politically prominent author for her book in which she dissents from a number of fundamental Church teachings. We will report on the results.

In closing, we note that our work has a value independent of its impact on the University. All those interested in Notre Dame and in Catholic higher education – alumni, parents both current and prospective, students, donors, clergy, hierarchy and laity – should be informed accurately of both the strengths and the weaknesses of this flagship institution. The University can be relied on to advertise its strengths, but cannot be expected to disclose its weaknesses. We, in contrast, are constrained only by our commitment to full and fair reporting. We act out of loyal concern for Notre Dame. The unwittingly disloyal are those who burnish reputation while failing to tend to the reality it should reflect.

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