How Pro-Life is Notre Dame?

Most Reverend Kevin C. Rhoades

Most Reverend Kevin C. Rhoades

SOUTH BEND, IN – Notre Dame Greets a New Pro-life Bishop While Father Jenkins Continues to Serve on a Pro-abortion Board.

Father Jenkins declared that Notre Dame “engaged with” President Obama because “we care so much” about abortion and embryonic stem cell research. We will from time to time examine the nature and degree of this professed concern.

We recently recounted Father Jenkins’s refusal to suggest the dropping of the trespass charges against the so-called “Notre Dame 88,” as well as the reasons for skepticism about his action in setting up a task force on life issues. Here, we report on Father Jenkins’s membership on the board of an organization that promotes abortion and artificial contraception. We report also on important news that broke as we were about to distribute this bulletin: the appointment of Bishop D’Arcy’s successor.


Along with two of Notre Dame’s most prominent donors and former Board members (Raymond G. Chambers and Donald R. Keogh), Father Jenkins serves on the board of a major international anti-poverty organization, Millennium Promise. Its policies include the promotion of abortion and artificial contraception.

Thus, it aims “to expand access to safe abortions (where permitted by law),” and instructs that where there is “no district center for safe abortion practices…abortion services can be offered at the village level.”  Further, it declares that “contraceptive services are critical to allow women to choose family size,” and it aspires to provide “pharmacologic contraceptives including IUDs. (See Millennium Development Goals and Millennium Villages Handbook)

These goals are not merely peripheral. The organization’s head, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, is reported to be “committed to expanding access to sexual and reproductive health information and services,” and a Columbia University spokesperson declared that this was “the only condition” under which it would have joined the program.

When Father Jenkins’s role was discovered during the Obama controversy, criticism in the pro-life community came swiftly (see Cardinal Newman Society,Pew Sitter and Life Site News). A representative editorial in The Washington Times (Booing Notre Dame) linked the two actions.

In his response to our letter asking about this matter, Father Jenkins acknowledged that he was aware of these policies when he joined the board, but quoted from a letter in which he had advised the organization that he would not participate in matters involving artificial contraception or abortion.

Still, Father Jenkins did not dismiss our concern out of hand. Rather, he added:

We are currently in the process of reviewing all my and Notre Dame’s associations to assure that they accord with our Catholic mission. After that review, we will make a decision about this and any other commitment.

We responded by saying we were “encouraged” to learn of this review, but we continued:

We are frank to say that we do not understand how advising the Millennium Promise Board that you would not participate in matters relating to abortion or artificial contraception solves, or even mitigates, the problem. The organization’s fund-raising projects surely do not mention your disclaimer, and accordingly your membership amounts to a Notre Dame stamp of approval for the organization’s fund-raising efforts. The abortion and contraception program are among the beneficiaries. Thus the Board has the advantages of your membership without the disadvantages of your unsympathetic participation in matters relating to abortion and contraception.

We added this about the impact on Notre Dame:

Moreover, now that Millennium Promise’s abortion and contraception policies are becoming well known in connection with your board membership, especially in the pro-life Catholic community, Notre Dame’s reputation on life issues specifically, and as a robustly Catholic institution more generally, is suffering.

Both Father Jenkins’s stance on the “Notre Dame 88” and his service on the Millennium Promise board are likely to cloud the participation of the Notre Dame students and faculty in the March for Life if these situations continue until then and he leads the contingent, for feelings run high in the pro-life community.

To be continued.


The appointment of the Most Reverent Kevin C. Rhoades, Bishop of Harrisburg, to succeed the Most Reverend John M. D’Arcy as Bishop of Ft. Wayne/South Bend was announced November 14th.

Bishop Rhoades, 52, received his education at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland; St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook, Pennsylvania; and the North American College and the Gregorian University in Rome, where he received advanced degrees in theology and canon law. He served in parishes, in the chancery, and on the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. His last position before being appointed Bishop of Harrisburg was as rector of the Seminary.

Bishop Rhoades strongly supported Bishop D’Arcy in his condemnation of Notre Dame’s actions honoring President Obama.  His Director of the Office of Respect Life Activities, writing on the Bishop’s behalf, declared,   “Bishop Rhoades concurs with Bishop D’Arcy’s statement and position on the matter.”

He continued:

It is disheartening and distressing when an institution that is regarded as Catholic, such as Notre Dame, fails to follow the guidelines set forth by the Bishops of the Catholic Church, especially in these vital moral matters. It is not political nor partisan to stand for the sanctity of human life and the dignity of the human person. President Obama clearly does not stand for or advance the cause of the defenseless unborn and their mothers and families

In contrast, in words of special interest to Sycamore and its supporters, the Bishop and his Director praised those in the Notre Dame community who stood in protest:

It is heartening, on the other hand, to see how many Notre Dame students, faculty, and alumni have made their commitment to human life known and how many Catholics and others of good will have done the same.

Disclosing that the Bishop had written to Father Jenkins “to express his disagreement with the university’s action,” the letter concluded:

It is Bishop Rhoades’ hope and prayer that all institutions that bear the name ‘Catholic’ will affirm the Church’s teachings, expose the culture of death and build up the Culture of Life.

During a press conference in which Bishop D’Arcy introduced his successor, Bishop Rhoades acknowledged that he was “‘very aware’ of the controversy surrounding…Father Jenkins’s decision to honor President Obama” and that he had “supported the position of Bishop D’Arcy.” He said that he “looked forward” to meeting Father Jenkins and to a “close personal and pastoral relationship” with the Notre Dame community, adding:

I feel there’s a responsibility of the bishop to promote Catholic education at Catholic universities, especially in their own dioceses, and especially to promote the strengthening of Catholic identity….And I think that Bishop D’Arcy has done that in an admirable way, and I hope that I can do the same. (Today’s Catholic News)

Bishop D’Arcy leaves with the deep and lasting gratitude of all who cherish a Notre Dame true to its Catholic heritage and mission. We greet Bishop Rhoades in prayerful faith that he will play a key role in the restoration of Notre Dame to the fullness of that heritage and the resolute pursuit of that mission.

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