Faculty For Life Open Letter to Fr. John Jenkins


Notre Dame Faculty For Life expresses shock at the decision of the school's president to continue the University's involvement in the distribution of abortifacients and contraceptives when it no longer has to. Click To Tweet

We reproduce below an important letter from the Executive Board of the Notre Dame Chapter of University Faculty for Life published originally on January 18, 2018, the day before the March for Life, in the student newspaper The Observer.  The letter is addressed to Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., the University’s president, the leader of the Notre Dame delegation to the March. The UFL Board introduces the letter by expressing its “shock” at Father Jenkins’s decision “to continue [the University’s] involvement in the distribution of abortifacients and contraceptives through the University’s health insurance plan after there was no longer any legal necessity to do so.”

Open letter to Fr. John Jenkins

 | Thursday, January 18, 2018

To the Notre Dame community and the national pro-life movement:

Late last semester, the University of Notre Dame decided to continue its involvement in the distribution of abortifacients and contraceptives through the University’s health insurance plan, after there was no longer any legal necessity to do so. With the March for Life approaching, we, the Executive Board of the Notre Dame Chapter of University Faculty for Life (UFL), want to make clear that there are many Notre Dame faculty, staff and students who oppose these policies that facilitate the destruction of human life, and who are committed to the holistic teachings of the Church on the sanctity of all human life.

Therefore, below we make public a letter we delivered to Fr. Jenkins on Nov. 29, 2017 regarding the Notre Dame health insurance plan. Some of us met with Fr. Jenkins in December, and he listened respectfully to our concerns as well as the concerns of other faculty and staff present at the meeting. However, the problematic policies have not yet been corrected. We hope and pray that Fr. Jenkins and the Notre Dame Board of Trustees will soon restore life-affirming policies that are consistent with the Catholic mission of Notre Dame.


Executive Board
ND Chapter of UFL

Nov. 29, 2017

Dear Fr. Jenkins,

We write as the Executive Board of the Notre Dame Chapter of University Faculty for Life to seek clarification about several issues related to contraceptive coverage and Flexible Spending Accounts recently announced by the University.

As we related in our letter to you on Oct. 24, we were elated that Notre Dame was eligible for an exemption from the HHS mandate and that it could end its connection with the distribution of contraceptives and abortifacients. It came as a great shock to receive notice on Nov. 7 that Notre Dame employees would still have free access to these services, which are contrary to the Catholic Church’s understanding of human flourishing. What is more, University communications have left much unsaid and caused manifest confusion about the changes that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

We would like to meet with you to discuss these developments and to get clarification. The following are among the issues we would like to discuss:

  • The University asserted in court that “Notre Dame believes its participation in the U.S. Government Mandate would cause scandal and therefore Notre Dame cannot comply with the Mandate consistent with its religious beliefs.” Does the new arrangement with Meritain/OptumRx differ from the old arrangement? Are there features of the new arrangement that mitigate or eliminate the scandal caused by the old arrangement?
  • Based on phone calls with OptumRx, our understanding is that daughters of all ages are automatically enrolled in the contraceptive and abortifacient coverage, and that parents cannot close the accounts. Moreover, our understanding is that, once the girl turns 13, her parents cannot view her contraceptives account unless she grants them permission. Are these details true? (Update: After writing this letter, we were able to confirm that these details are true.)
  • In court filings, the University made several statements about the need to “avoid facilitation or affiliation with objectionable products” particularly because of “its mission as an educator of youth.” Are you concerned that the University’s witness to students is damaged by its decision to now voluntarily affiliate itself with objectionable products –– not only the University’s witness in regard to sexual morality, but also in regard to truthfulness and integrity?
  • In court filings, the University asserted that the insurance coverage required under the Mandate included “abortion-inducing products.” However, University statements about the new coverage do not mention abortion-inducing products. Have abortion-inducing products been removed from the new coverage? (Update: After writing this letter, we were able to confirm that abortion-inducing products are included in the coverage. The products covered are the same as those required under the HHS mandate.)
  • What entities are bearing the costs of the new coverage? Why would Meritain and OptumRx “advise that they will now continue to provide contraceptives to plan members at no charge,” as the University stated in a Nov. 7 askHR email? Meritain and OptumRX are two distinct companies. Is it a coincidence that, without any University prompting, both companies advised that they would continue covering contraceptives just days after the University announced that the coverage would not continue?
  • Will this year’s rule change for Flexible Spending Accounts allow Notre Dame employees to be reimbursed for sterilizations (male or female), abortifacients or contraceptives? Why was the wording in the plan document changed from that of prior years?

Please let us know whether it is possible to meet with you about these very important matters. If a meeting is not possible, we would appreciate written responses.

Yours in Notre Dame,

Executive Board

ND Chapter of UFL

Martijn Cremers

Jeffrey Burks
vice president

Madeline Bradley

Gabriel Reynolds
executive board member

David Solomon
executive board member

Jan. 16

Leave a Reply

Let us know what you think about the issues we’ve raised in this bulletin in the “Leave a Reply” section below.

Every Penny Helps!

If like us, you want to see an authentic Catholic renewal at Notre Dame, please take a minute to review our 2016 Annual Report and consider making a year-end donation to Sycamore Trust.

Annual Report & Request

12 Responses to “Faculty For Life Open Letter to Fr. John Jenkins”

  1. Richard A. DeSimon '69 January 28, 2018 at 7:29 pm

    I have been following this saga with sadness and must reflect that it appears that every time Fr. Jenkins makes a decision that is adverse to the integrity of the University of Notre Dame, such as the bestowing an honorary degree on President Obama, bestowing the Laetare Medal on Joe Biden and now NOT fulfilling his responsibility to Honor Our Lady and Notre Dame’s moral integrity by eliminating abortificants and contraceptives from medical coverage for employees of the University, he leads the Notre Dame community at the March for Life. This is so hypocritical and displays the hubris of his administration. It is time for a Catholic of priinciple to lead Notre Dame.

  2. Brian Simboli, Ph.D. January 19, 2018 at 7:01 am

    Bravo to these faculty signees of the note to Fr. Jenkins. I hope they do not suffer career repercussions. There is a plausible argument that on the pro-life issue, this has already occurred at Notre Dame at a few points. These faculty need all the support and, if needed, legal advice should this occur. Do not underestimate the pressures, subtle or otherwise, that the current ND administration can apply.

    As for the March for Life, can anyone provide a summary of Jenkins’s comments in his homily?

    Shifting to the topic of pursuing “dialog”, indeed that is important. The ND administration remains largely silent not only because it is publicly inconvenient to make any comments, but also because any public reasons it might adduce are incoherent. The sole attempt at justifying its position is the university’s reversion to a relativistic “argument” (actually, just an assertion without argument) about accommodating viewpoint plurality. Think of the logical implications of the university’s position. There are many people at ND who support surgical abortion. Would the university apply the same reasoning to accommodate their attitudes by providing surgical abortion coverage? That’s the logic of their position. And what of any number of other issues: physician assisted suicide, RU-486, infanticide, and sterilization, for example.

  3. Paul D. Fuchs, M.D. January 19, 2018 at 4:19 am

    Bravo to the faculty who signed the letter. Thank you.

    Is there no shame on the part of the University in Father Jenkins’ pointed failure to respond? What is the role of the University’s Board of Trustees in this matter?

  4. William J. O'Connor January 18, 2018 at 9:34 pm

    Four years late for the honored dead at Notre Dame. 45 years of marches, and 61 million dead. President Obama
    visits campus, and states at commencement: ” We need to work together to have fewer abortions ” and 10,000 fall
    for it. Four years later, Notre Dame commences providing abortion drugs, opposed only by rhetoric. Truly our
    darkest hour. Praying to end abortion is like praying the Japanese wouldn’t attack Pearl Harbor.

  5. Noel James Augustyn, JD '74 January 18, 2018 at 8:24 pm

    Jenkins appears to be a total hypocrite. Why doesn’t he respond to these inquiries? Is he a coward, too?

  6. George Wenz x1961 January 18, 2018 at 5:35 pm

    I share your (our) beliefs and pray that the University wlll not continue its death-march to the Sheol it will share with Land O’Lakes confreres and therest. We could all name many of them and suspect some of them to be already lost. Our hope must be that our Notre Dame du Lac will not be amongst them, let us pray!

  7. William Sigler '58 January 18, 2018 at 5:33 pm

    I have followed the various communications from the Sycamore Trust on this issue closely over many months. In all this time, I do not recall an instance where any response from Fr. Jenkins or any university spokesperson had been recorded. Should we understand that they are simply stonewalling and have decided not to respond to any inquiry on these issues? If so, how does this square with Fr. Jenkins’ various comments over the past nine years about how important it is to understand opposing positions and dialogue on them? Is this not the idea of a university?

  8. My main question is has Father Jenkins scheduled a meeting with you? If not, Why not? I am disheartened that after the court battle that Notre Dame has continued life ending medical care.

  9. William Mahoney January 18, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    Glad to see the faculty taking a Catholic position consistent stand! So are the trustees behind this hypocrisy? Leading the ND contingent in the March for Life? Shame on you Fr. Jenkins!

  10. Elizabeth Baldo January 18, 2018 at 4:38 pm

    Jesus had no patience for hyprocites who pretended they were holy to impress but were phony. He called them vipers.
    Father Jenkins is like this. He should be ashamed to be at the March for Life. His thinking is rwisted. So sad.

  11. Fr. Jenkins seems to lack integrity. Not what should be expected of a Notre Dame University President.

  12. Bill Dotterweich January 18, 2018 at 3:28 pm

    I admire the bravery and moral clarity of the members of the UFL, risking their standing, jobs and perhaps careers in objecting to this stomach turning direction of the Notre Dame administration. They will receive much criticism from many faculty members (especially the doofuses that seem to populate the faculty council) who thrive in the tepid waters of secularism that have inundated Notre Dame. God bless them all, and I will remember them in my daily prayers.