Missing The Point

SOUTH BEND, IN — In a recent Irish Rover article, Father Wilson Miscamble, C.S.C., professor of history at Notre Dame, former chairman of the department, and president of Notre Dame Faculty for Life, describes why “there is good reason to believe” that the Chairman of the University’s Board of Trustees, Richard C. Notebaert, “is ill-suited to this important role.”

The question Father raises is of surpassing importance.

As Dr. John Cavadini, director of Notre Dame’s Institute for Church Life, recently declared in connection with a seminar for executives in Catholic higher education that he organized:

Trustees of Catholic colleges and universities have a fiduciary responsibility for the Catholic character, identity, and mission of their institutions.

We have repeatedly pointed out that all those in governance at Notre Dame — the Board, the Fellows, and the Administration — are in grave default of this responsibility. Notre Dame’s Statutes of the University specify that its “essential character as a Catholic institution of higher learning shall at all times be maintained,” and its Mission Statement declares that its “Catholic identity depends upon the continuing presence of a preponderant number of Catholic intellectuals” on its faculty. As we have shown, the faculty no longer meets that test.

Accordingly, the board’s fiduciary obligation is to take whatever actions are necessary to insure the restoration of a faculty majority of committed Catholics.

It has not done so. Rather, successive boards have stood by watching as Catholic faculty representation has plummeted during the University’s quest for secular acclaim.

As board chairman, Mr. Notebaert’s fiduciary duty to remedy this situation is especially heavy. The Notre Dame board does not mirror the structure of boards expected to govern. It is too large — nearly 50 members compared with, e.g., eight for Apple, 12 for Verizon, and 16 for General Electric — and meets only three times a year. The members, accordingly, inevitably depend heavily on the Chairman and his close associates.

Let us see, then, what Father Miscamble tells us about Chairman Notebaert. Since we only touch upon highlights, we urge upon you his full article, Mr. Notebaert, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, and the future of Notre Dame.

Father Miscamble begins with a laudatory account of Mr. Notebaert’s “notable corporate experience” and his and his wife’s “generous capacity for giving” to worthy organizations, including the University and the Congregation of Holy Cross.

Observing, however, that Mr. Notebaert “is neither a Notre Dame alumnus nor has he had any significant prior experience in Catholic higher education,” Father Miscamble examines the reasons for believing that he “evidently does not possess a firm grasp on the identity and mission of Notre Dame as a Catholic university.” Father focuses principally upon Mr. Notebaert’s role in the lamentable Martino and Obama affairs.

As Father Miscamble summarizes the Martino matter (see our bulletins Just Stop Talking and Beating Around the Bush) Ms. Martino was appointed to the board despite her substantial contributions to pro-abortion organizations. When these incriminating facts were unearthed and publicized (by The Cardinal Newman Society, Bill McGurn (ND’80) of the Wall Street Journal, and Sycamore Trust), Ms. Martino resigned; but Mr. Notebaert vigorously defended the appointment throughout, “seem[ing] to supplant the University president” and “appear[ing] not to understand the damage that an appointment like this would do to Notre Dame’s standing as a Catholic university.”

What was especially disquieting was what Father Miscamble refers to as Mr. Notebaert’s “quite misleading statement on the matter” and his failure to apologize for his “apparent dissembling.”

Father is charitable in not describing this in detail. But we have done so in the “Cover-up” section of a prior bulletin, as has Mr. McGurn in his two articles, Notre Dame’s Chairman of the Board and Notre Dame and EMILY’S List.

In brief, while the main charge against Ms. Martino rested upon her contributions to Emily’s List, a single-purpose and powerful pro-abortion organization, Mr. Notebaert tried to persuade the Board that Ms. Martino didn’t realize the organizations to which she contributed supported abortion by describing only multiple-purpose organizations and omitting any reference to Emily’s List.

Regrettably, Father Jenkins then followed suit even in responding to questions referring explicitly to Emily’s List.

As Mr. McGurn wrote:

What does it say about Notre Dame’s chairman of the board and its priest-president that they would send out the dissembling e-mails they have?…And what does it say about [Mr. Notebaert’s] view of the intelligence of the Notre Dame board that he would put out something so dissembling?

As to the calamitous Obama affair, Father Miscamble draws attention to Mr. Notebaert’s unyielding response to Bishop John M. D’Arcy’s America article in which the bishop explained his and other bishops’ criticism of Notre Dame. (Eighty-three cardinals and bishops condemned Notre Dame’s action.)

Mr. Notebaert, Father writes,

paid no attention to the damage that the Obama invitation inflicted on Notre Dame’s standing in the broad Catholic community and he breezed past any serious consideration of the relationship between Notre Dame and the Catholic Church.

Most tellingly, as Father notes, Mr. Notebaert “ended…with an apparent endorsement of the Land O’Lakes statement,” presumably in response to Bishop D’Arcy’s question in his America article whether the “guiding light” for schools like Notre Dame is to be Land O’Lakes or Pope John Paul II’s Ex Corde Ecclesiae.

Father Miscamble closes with the same question:

Does Mr. Notebaert hold that the Land O’Lakes Statement, with its strictures for institutional autonomy from the Church and the aping of our supposed secular peers, should guide Notre Dame into the future? Is this the vision he puts before the future leaders of Notre Dame?

The best answer would be Board action requiring the establishment of a hiring policy designed to insure the ultimate restoration of a majority of committed Catholics to the faculty. Only then will the board redeem itself and discharge its solemn duty to this great university, its founders, those priests and faculty and others who have nourished its Catholic identity over the years, its alumni and donors and parents and students, and the Church.


Roadmap for Catholic students. As we have often said, a discriminating student can still obtain an outstanding Catholic education at Notre Dame, and many do. The challenge is to know which professors and courses to choose.
There are now two valuable aids provided by two fine student organizations: The Irish Rover has published a list and description of recommended professors, and the Orestes Brownson Council has established a program under which upperclassmen will “aid students in seeking a truly Catholic education.”

Faculty and Department Right to Life Representation. The Irish Rover article also included a list of faculty members of the Faculty for Life (UFL) organization as well as the departments who are not represented by any UFL members. While the list surely does not include all pro-life faculty, it is nevertheless worth noting that there are a number of departments with no UFL representation yet. These include, for example, Classics; English; Film, Television & Theatre; Finance; Gender Studies; Journalism, Ethics & Democracy; Peace Studies; Psychology; Theology; and several science and engineering departments.
Student Right to Life Videos & Newsletter. The student Right to Life Club now has a YouTube site. Take a few minutes to watch the testimony of these wonderful young men and women. And take another few minutes to subscribe to their newsletter.
Archbishop Dolan at Notre Dame. Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan spoke recently at Notre Dame at the inaugural event of a new organization, The ND Human Dignity Project . The Project is situated within the Institute for Church Life and is administered by the office of University Life Initiatives, The Project’s pro-life objectives seem substantially identical to those of the Fund for the Protection of Human Life, the pro-life organization with which readers of our bulletins are familiar, though the Dignity Project’s “human rights” mission is more expansive. It is encouraging to see the Project’s pledge to “welcome partnerships with other institutes, offices, and departments of at the University.”
Obama’s Notre Dame Sting Redux. In an article recounting the Notre Dame/Obama episode, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami described how President Obama’s subsequent anti-Catholic actions showed how “Notre Dame’s leadership” was “played by the President” – a subject we also have recently examined. (In 2009, Archbishop Wenski led a Mass of Reparation for Notre Dame’s honoring of President Obama.)
Please join the fight to keep Notre Dame Catholic by supporting our Annual Campaign with a Year-end Donation.

We’ve reached barely 5 percent of Notre Dame’s 120,000 alumni and need your help reaching more. Our membership goal for 2012 is another 5,000 alumni, family and friends of the University and we must raise about $20,000 to meet this goal.

Notre Dame is periously close to losing its Catholic identity. The facts speak for themselves. But without an organization like Sycamore, who is going even to notice?

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