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“Exposed as a Pro-Life Conservative”

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.@PillarCatholic sheds light on counter-cultural challenges @NotreDame in an indepth interview of @Merlot_Fogarty about her work as President @NDRighttoLife #GoCatholicND Click To Tweet

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 This is the season when we invite those who value Notre Dame’s Catholic identity and our mission to contribute financially to our work.  

We are deeply grateful for the support that we received during the last 12 months, enabling us to expand our membership, upgrade our technology, return to campus for our Annual Breakfast after a two-year COVID break, expand our support for student efforts to promote Notre Dame’s Catholic identity, establish the Michael L. and Nancy A. Hansen Student Awards, and most recently form a young alumni group — which may be one of the most consequential projects we have taken on since we began 16 years ago.

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“Exposed as a Pro-Life Conservative” – Abortion Part IV

In today’s bulletin we continue our series about abortion attitudes and advocacy at Notre Dame by republishing with consent (copyright reserved) a Pillar Interview of Merlot Fogarty, Notre Dame Right to Life President, about the counter-cultural challenges that she and her colleagues face in promoting the sanctity of life even, unhappily, at Notre Dame. 

“I respect Notre Dame abundantly for her continued formal commitment to life,” says Ms. Fogarty, but

I do not think she is doing enough to affirm a culture of life within the student body and
faculty. Supporting a culture of life on campus means more than empty statements and “calls for dialogue.” [O]ur post-Dobbs culture requires a revitalization of university protocol and policy.

Our previous bulletins in this series provided examples of the infirmity of the Jenkins administration’s stance on abortion. Most recently, we described its refusal to sponsor Right to Life Michiana’s major fundraising event this year because it disapproved of the main speaker, Ben Shapiro.

Before that, we called attention to the pro-abortion panel sponsored by the Gender Relations Program and the initiative of Professor Tamara Kay and her faculty allies to help students get abortions.

There is another disturbing part of the Tamara Kay story to relate. Notwithstanding her promotion of abortion, the university recommends her to media as a “ND Expert” on “abortion, women’s rights and ethics.”

This is not an oversight. In an October 17th email, Bill Dempsey called Provost John T. McGreevy’s attention to this endorsement of Kay and urged him to “see to it that she is decertified promptly.” Bill continued:

“We would much rather include in a pending bulletin that the university no longer holds out Professor Kay as an abortion expert than that it still does.”

Well, “it still does.”

But pro-life voices at Notre Dame are still many and strong, and none stronger than Ms. Fogarty’s. You will, we are sure, be both exhilarated by her account of her personal faith journey and the pro-life campaign she and her associates have waged on campus and dismayed by the hostility she has encountered.

Here is her story:


Head of Notre Dame Pro-Life Group Sees Opportunities, Challenges at University

by Charlie Camosy

The University of Notre Dame is known as one of the premier Catholic universities in the United States.

Dedicated to Our Lady, the university boasts an active campus ministry program, more than 50 chapels on campus, and some 160 Masses celebrated daily.

But Notre Dame is not without its share of controversy. From awarding President Barack Obama an honorary degree in 2009 to announcing in 2018 that it would cover some contraceptives in its insurance plan, decisions by the administration have sometimes been met with criticism in parts of the Catholic community.

In the months following the overturn of Roe v. Wade, Merlot Fogarty, president of Notre Dame Right to Life, has found herself wishing the university would do more to promote a culture of life and maintain its position as a leader on pro-life issues.

Fogarty, a junior at Notre Dame, is studying theology, political science, and constitutional studies. She hopes to work in the pro-life movement and dedicate her life to promoting the dignity of all human persons.

Fogarty spoke with Charles Camosy this week about her work at Notre Dame Right to Life, the challenges she sees on campus, and her hopes for the university to be a leader in the pro-life movement.


Can you tell us a bit of your story that lands you in the position of being president of Notre Dame Right to Life?

Especially in the Catholic world, I think the reality of broken families is often ignored. Missing one or both parents as a child can cause a lot of damage to the way one thinks about their life and purpose. I grew up in a broken family. I come from deep trauma and heartbreak. I know what it is to think that your life doesn’t have value.

In college, my search for healing led me to Christ, who motivates me to fight so hard for those who cannot stand up for the value of their lives. Children in the womb are discarded simply because their parents believe them to be disposable or a burden. This wasn’t something that I recognized when I chose to come to Notre Dame, but I know God put me here for a reason.

When I started college I quickly realized just how deeply abortion has affected each and every aspect of our culture. In the face of abortion rights signs on dorm room doors and vandalism of pregnancy resources, to a protest against the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, I wanted to join those voices on campus who were talking about abortion and standing up for the truth. As I began to be more vocal about being pro-life, my friends from high school unfollowed me on social media and Notre Dame students I had never met took it upon themselves to “expose” me as a pro-life conservative. This culminated with a 4 a.m. knock on my bedroom door on the night of the 2020 presidential election. My peers had torn off the “pro-life is pro-woman” sign on my door and ripped it to pieces, replacing it with a Biden 2020 sign, and were attempting to confront me about my pro-life convictions.

I was astounded with the hatred students had merely for my visibly upholding what the Catholic Church taught about the dignity of life and the grave sin of abortion. The next morning I walked into my advisor’s office and switched my major to theology, and soon after applied for a fellowship with Students for Life of America. I got the fellowship, and the summer between my freshman and sophomore year, SFLA flew me to D.C. for their annual National Leadership Collective. I learned about both the political and moral sides of the abortion debate, met wonderful people who were on fire with love for the Lord, and realized that the battle against abortion was something that I needed to dedicate my life to fighting.

The next year, Francie Shaft, then-president of Notre Dame Right to Life, taught me what it truly meant to dedicate your life to the fight. Through her friendship and guidance, I learned how to be a leader, ground yourself in the truth, and never let anyone’s opinions of you stop you from speaking out against the destruction of life and fighting for the God-given dignity of women and children.


A lot of us have been thinking about how Dobbs would be received on Catholic college and university campuses. In fact, I was part of a working group this summer that was designed to advise Catholic and Jesuit university presidents about precisely this issue. Now that we are about half-way through the fall semester, how has it gone at Notre Dame?

Let me start off with this: I love Notre Dame. I am so grateful to attend a Catholic university that is still formally dedicated to protecting life. Notre Dame will not offer most forms of contraception at its health center, does not formally recognize pro-choice student groups, funds the largest pro-life student club in the nation, and sends the University’s president to the March for Life with us every year—very few universities can say the same.

However, the administrative response to Dobbs was less than perfect and, as a student, I have been disappointed in the lack of action that Notre Dame has taken since the abortion ban has gone into effect in Indiana. The battle for women’s hearts and against chemical abortion is just beginning, and after offering a timid statement on the reversal of Roe vs. Wade, Notre Dame currently has a professor openly promising to help students access abortion, pro-abortion articles being published and promoted by the University Press, radio silence about South Bend’s unlicensed-yet-still-operating local abortion clinic, and hall staff receiving nothing more than an optional 10-minute introduction to ND’s pregnancy resources. In addition, the word “pro-life” has been banned from use in Notre Dame’s student paper, abortion-pill access stickers are showing up in campus bathrooms, and Notre Dame has not spent a dime on updated resource displays for bathrooms and hall staff on campus.

I respect Notre Dame abundantly for her continued formal commitment to life, but I do not think she is doing enough to affirm a culture of life within the student body and faculty. Supporting a culture of life on campus means more than empty statements and “calls for dialogue.” For a campus purporting to lead the Catholic intellectual sphere in its commitment to life, empowering women and children in our post-Dobbs culture requires a revitalization of university protocol and policy, something I hope to use my role to effect and implement.


How has Notre Dame Right to Life navigated this environment? What sorts of things are you trying to address?

Notre Dame Right to Life released a statement the day of the Dobbs decision affirming our support and uplifting those who worked tirelessly for the pro-life movement before us. While the reversal of Roe is cause to celebrate, it is merely the first step in a long battle to fight the culture of death and regain an understanding of the joy and dignity of life. Our role now is working to create and strengthen the networks and conditions of support and love necessary to build a society where abortion is not just illegal, but unnecessary. No woman should ever feel that she has to choose between her child and her future. No life is a mistake; every life is worth living. I think that’s the message we want to get to people, because that’s the root of what our culture misunderstands.

This year so far, we at Right to Life have hosted Alexandra Desanctis for our Abortion Harms Our Politics and Disadvantages Women event, brought in a counselor from the local Women’s Care Center to speak on Serving One Another Humbly With Love, hosted a talk with Fr. Bill Miscamble on Fatherlessness in the Wake of the Sexual Revolution, presented Roe Changed the Culture: Was Dobbs the Antidote? with Professor Hadley Arkestabled with the Students for Life displayAbortion is not a Right, it’s Wrong, and hosted a week of programming with the theme Be Not Afraid: You Are Not Alone.

Right to Life is committed to service for women, children, and families in the wake of Roe, affirming our identity as a Catholic club through spirituality and prayer events and educating those on both sides of the spectrum why it is we believe abortion is a grave moral wrong that must be outlawed.


Do you think there’s room for interesting conversations to be had across differences in an academic context?

I think that because abortion is considered a conservative issue, it is too often excluded in our conversations on race and disabilities. For example, a recent event at Notre Dame, Post-Roe America: Making Intersectional Feminist Sense of Abortion Banslacked any representation of the anti-abortion side, taking abortion as an indisputable necessity for women at Notre Dame and claiming that “abortion criminalization started as a white supremacy movement.” Abortion clinics are strategically placed in low-income black communities as well as within convenient distances to college campuses. The abortion industry is rooted in eugenics. This is undeniable. It targets the very people the pro-choice movement purports to protect—minorities, the youth, and those with disabilities. Recent studies have proven that many prenatal diagnoses are wrong over 80% of the time, meaning thousands of healthy children have been killed because they might have had a disability—that is eugenic at its core.

Furthermore, the very nature of abortion taking the lives of the most vulnerable is unmistakably ableist—just because a preborn human is not able to feed itself, walk, speak, or comprehend complex thoughts does not make her any less valuable. There are plenty of born human beings who are also unable to do these things and are dependent on others in order to survive, and we value these lives in law and culture. This throw-away mindset is grounded in our work-minded culture, where what you can do trumps who you are as a human being.

Abortion is not only rooted in eugenics, but it also lacks a holistic understanding of what it means to be a woman. The sexual revolution and spread of birth control treat women’s fertility not as a gift to be respected but as a disease to be ruthlessly eliminated at the cost of major health complications. I think we see this very well playing out in the corporations who are now committing to funding abortion for their female employees—it’s cheaper to pay for a woman to allow someone to kill her child than it is to support her in pregnancy and parenthood. All of these conversations are incredibly important and need to be had across the political and academic spheres


Notre Dame is unique in that it is an elite academic institution which is still formally committed to protecting prenatal justice. Do you think the university will be able to hold the line on this? Even under the kind of pressure brought to bear in a post-Dobbs environment?

I think Notre Dame is poised to continue to lead the Catholic intellectual community, especially in regard to life issues. The deNicola Center for Ethics and Culture is a strong force for good on campus in supporting life through its Culture of Life Initiatives. Notre Dame boasts many leading pro-life legal experts, bioethicists, and theologians, and I believe she can continue to be at the forefront of the battle for a culture of life, so long as she takes her student body seriously in their concern for the safety and clarification of policy amidst the onset of chemical abortion.

If the university were to hold stronger public views on these life issues, such as formally supporting the Indiana abortion ban, addressing the danger of an unlicensed abortion facility operating in the area, or speaking more openly about their resources and support for pregnant and parenting students, I believe all students would be more likely to question their current outlook on the abortion debate or pro-abortion sentiments. People look to Notre Dame for guidance and for an indication of the current state of Catholicism, and Notre Dame could be the model for Catholic institutions across the world looking to best protect women and children and to affirm their commitment to life.

Learn how you can support NDRTL in their work to promote and uphold the sanctity of all human life from conception at https://righttolife.nd.edu


Apostolate

Sycamore Trust board member Father John Raphael (’89) will conclude our bulletins by leading us in prayer to turn back the march of secularization at Our Lady’s university and to bring hope to those who are standing tall for the truth of Catholicism on campus. We invite you join us in praying through the Immaculate Heart of Mary…

O God, Giver of every good gift, You have created each of us in Your own image and likeness. From all eternity You have known us and You have called us to share in your Life and Love. When You sent Your Son to become one like us in all things but sin, You willed that He would begin His human existence in the immaculate womb of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, through the power of the Holy Spirit. We now respond to Your call to honor, to reverence and to defend the sanctity of human life, especially the lives of the unborn who yet dwell in their own mothers’ wombs. May they be protected and loved in their journey to and beyond birth as was Jesus. May Notre Dame, Mary, Our Mother, always serve as an inspiration to every mother in the love she bears for her unborn child, and may St. Joseph ever be a guide and model to every father in the protection and care he bestows on his children. We ask this through Christ, the Lord of Life, Who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Our Apostolate participates in regular prayer projects such as our Novena for Catholic Education and our Meditation on the 12-Days of Christmas.

Annual Campaign

This is the season when we invite those who value Notre Dame’s Catholic identity and our mission to contribute financially to our work. In whatever way you are able to support our common purpose — by giving of your time (especially in prayer), talent, or treasure — we are all very truly grateful.

Leave a Reply

 Let us know what you think about the issues we’ve raised in this bulletin in the comments below. And help to spread the word by sharing this bulletin with others who care about Notre Dame’s Catholic identity. 

10 Responses to ““Exposed as a Pro-Life Conservative””

  1. I did not attend Notre Dame but it was a big factor in me getting on the pathway of moving closer to God as I saw and heard and thus experienced God being witnessed to me as it came thru Notre Dame. I will never forget it. It was critical to me in my coming to believe in a spiritual reality and I still revert back to it when the world tries to bring forth doubt in me. I connected with this truth thru Notre Dame as they witnessed it to me and I knew it was authentic, no one had to tell me I knew it because I was at least open to truth and sought it. I wanted the real thing and I saw it, heard it (as in my days I could only listen on the radio to the football games as there was no TV), had it witnessed to me and I will be ever grateful to Notre Dame for witnessing it, cooperating with God. I want to let people like this young woman know what she is doing is affecting so many, so many she will never know about on this earth as she witnesses truth in the face of such opposition. This is not about politics, it is about witnessing truth and living a life of true love (love is willing the good for the other as other). God bless her and others like her and God bless Notre Dame and I thank God for them. I will support them in any and all ways.
    Tom Dewey MD

  2. That should read:
    We can know through both Faith and reason, if it is true that all beloved sons and daughters have the inherent Right to be treated with Dignity and respect in private as well as in public, then condoning the engaging in or affirmation of any act, including any sexual act, that demeans the inherent Dignity of a beloved son or daughter, brother or sister, husband or wife, father or mother, being devoid of authentic Love, are acts of discrimination.
    God Bless to all who travel here.
    May Our Blessed Mother’s Immaculate Heart Triumph soon

  3. Every argument put forth to defend the act of the destruction of a beloved innocent son or daughter residing in their mother’s womb, can only be a non se·qui·tur argument when considering the fact that it is not possible for human persons to conceive a son or daughter, who is not, in essence, on every point of Time and Space In God’s Created Universe, a human person. You are you, and I am I, from the moment of our conception, and if it is no longer true, in reality, that our Constitution serves to secure and protect our inherent Right to Life, the securing and protecting upon which our inherent Right to Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness depends, then “to hell” with our Constitution and woe to us.

    We can know through both Faith and reason, and The Law Of Noncontradiction, that to even suggest that it is possible for a human being to not be, in essence, a human person, is a lie from the start.
    All human persons, from the moment of conception, exist in relationship, first and foremost as beloved sons and daughters, and the fact that some persons, like those that follow the atheist materialist overpopulation alarmist globalist agenda, see this to be a burden and not a Blessing, cannot change the fact that every beloved son or daughter of a human person, possessing equal Human Dignity, is therefore equal before the Law.
    Who can deny that the atheist materialist and their atheist materialistic agenda have not been with us since The Beginning Of Time? Who can deny that Slavery, Abortion, And The ReOrdering Of Human Persons According To Sexual Desire/Inclination/Orientation, do not serve to deny the inherent Dignity of the human person, as a beloved son or daughter, in order to condone the engaging in or affirmation of acts, that regardless of the actors or the actors desires, deny the inherent Dignity of our Beloved?
    Any act, including any sexual act, that does not respect the inherent Dignity of a beloved son or daughter, is not, and can never be, an act of authentic Life-affirming and Life-sustaining Love.

    “General applicability means laws, regulations, or processes that apply objective requirements to all persons or services in a nondiscriminatory manner.”

    We can know through both Faith and reason, if it is true that all beloved sons and daughters have the inherent Right to be treated with Dignity and respect in private as well as in public, then condoning the engaging in or affirmation of acts that demean the inherent Dignity of a beloved son or daughter, brother or sister, husband or wife, father or mother, bring devoid of authentic Love, are acts of discrimination.

    Christ’s Sacrifice On The Cross will lead us to Salvation, but we must desire forgiveness for our sins, and accept Salvational Love, God’s Gift Of Grace And Mercy; believe in The Power And The Glory Of Salvation Love, and rejoice in the fact that No Greater Love Is There Than This, To Desire Salvation For One’s Beloved.
    “Hail The Cross, Our Only Hope.”

  4. I’d like to say to Ms. Fogarty that the problems she’s describing have been going on for a long, long time. I was at ND from ’71 to ’75, which coincided with the lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18. In November, 1972 I was a sophomore, living in Stanford Hall, and I can remember quite well the debates and discussions over Nixon vs McGovern that autumn. I remember how small the group was who supported Nixon for President. I, being in Navy ROTC was one of what seemed to be just a handful of guys in Stanford (or if you will, “Keenan-Stanford”) who intended to vote for Nixon. That was about two months before the Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton decisions were handed down by the USSC in January 1973. .

    In January 1973, the Observer had a very small article on the USSC decisions, and I don’t remember there being a whole lot of discussion about the decisions afterwards (I was a sociology major, taking a bunch of psych and theology classes, too).

    What it’s been like ever since then, at ND, I really don’t know….but given some of the things that were mentioned in Mr. Camosy’s article, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the pro-life movement and sentiments on campus haven’t been that strong nor widespread…..ND is what you make of it. I’ve decided, fifty years later, that the school offered me a really excellent “adult” religious education, for which I will always be grateful. Classes like “the theology of faith,” “the meaning of ritual” and even one called “Marxist/Christian dialogue” all were outstanding. And having the opportunity to go to midnight Mass almost every night in the Keenan-Stanford chapel, after having left the Library on campus at closing time (which I think was around 11:45pm or so, back then), was wonderful–I was given a chance to lector at some of these Masses by our dorm rector (Fathers Buckley, Lahey, Lally and Cormier), and I’ve lectored now for 50 years and have been the lector trainer at three different US Air Force bases (Guam, Texas and twice at a base in Japan).

    I’ve struggled, sometimes, with stuff I read about that’s going on at the school….and the best i’ve been able to come up with in conclusion is this: that ND offers people the chance to grow in their faith but doesn’t force it on them. In addition to these midnight Masses in the dorm chapel, I also saw more Playboy magazines in the dorm than I ever would have imagined (and the day we checked out for the summer, I remember piles of these in the dorm’s loading dock, waiting to be picked up by the trash company). I remember needing to borrow a ruler from a buddy of mine in Stanford one night. I knocked on his door, he invited me in, and as I walked in, I found him in bed with his girlfriend. I saw a fair amount of marijuana in the dorm, too–I went into a buddy’s room and there was a baggie full of….what? (I was so naive I thought, at first, it was a bag of oregano!).

    ND gives people a chance to grow into an adult faith. Gender Studies, or whatever else they call it, never existed when i was there, but then, girls (oops…WOMEN) didn’t arrive on-campus ’til my sophomore year, though of course the girls from SMC were taking some classes on campus my freshman year. A buddy of mine in ROTC got kicked out of Zahm Hall the NIGHT BEFORE we graduated in May, 1975, for violating curfew…..but also I remember Father Robert Griffin and his pet cocker spaniel, Darby O’Gill, walking around campus, and one night inviting me in to his room for counseling…..or sitting in his late-night coffeehouse in the basement of the student center.

    Seems like there’s a lot of theological and spiritual dissent on-campus, right? It existed 45-50 years ago, too. The best–and in a sense, the ONLY conclusion I cam come up with is this: that the Good Lord, represented by good people at ND, says to us that “hey, bring it on….I (we) can take it,:…..and all this nonsense happening, happens….and some people resist and try to keep the faith and grow in faith, at a place named after Our Lady…whereas others do not. I don’t fully understand why some people come to ND, when they probably would be happy or happier at any number of other schools….but then, I don’t know exactly why I ever got into the school, when there were so many other, smarter, more talented, more ambitious people there.

    Keep the faith. God knows what’s going on. And when I look in the mirror and see all my own imperfections and my sinfulness, I have to wonder about how He has forgiven me–repeatedly–for my sins. Let’s pray for each other….or as somebody once said (some martyr?)- “pray for me, as I will for Thee, that we may meet merrily in Heaven.”

  5. Catherine Stokes December 1, 2022 at 10:36 pm

    We live in a time that demands great courage, compassion and understanding. May God continue to bless all that you do. May there be much grace given to you, every day. Catherine Olsen Stokes, MD, ’91.

  6. Alfred (Fred) Gade,‘60 December 1, 2022 at 9:51 pm

    My wife Diane and I highly recommend Adoption over Abortion should a female student have an unwanted pregnancy. The biological mother will then be free to go her own way, but she need never again regret her decision. Too often the Adoption solution is culturally ignored by Notre Dame and other universities. I for one don’t understand why – what is there big Endowment for anyway? Use some it to support Adoption.

  7. Gregory W Ganser December 1, 2022 at 5:44 pm

    Bullied and exposed as a “pro-life” conservative at the university which enshrines the Holiest of Mothers. Perhaps admissions should temper down the exteriors of scholastics, extracurriculars and class hierarchy…and take a harder look into the soul. This student is what Jesus was preaching “to cast your nets in for a catch and to make fishers of men”…too bad Fr. Jenkins is smugly asleep in the stern of the boat.

  8. Catherine Murphy December 1, 2022 at 4:19 pm

    God bless Ms Fogarty in her efforts and passion! I pray there are many more at ND like her who can help turn the tide. Shame on the administration for not unequivocally standing up for life! That students should be the most vocal in support of fundamental Catholic teaching is a sad state of affairs at my former “Catholic” school.

  9. I view fighting abortion like a war. A war is a series of battles and the first battle we need to win is totally banning third trimester abortions. I am no medical expert, but in speaking with doctors, I am told it is outright murder. The doctor has to forcefully kill the baby. Once the country and world clearly understand the horrors of third trimester abortions and fully support outlawing these abortions, we will have won a major battle in the war against abortions.

  10. William Dotterweich December 1, 2022 at 3:46 pm

    There is an old and often appropriate adage: “IF THE FISH STINKS, IT STINKS FROM THE HEAD”. Unfortunately, this has become all to applicable to The University of Notre Dame administration.

Comments & Questions