Identity Crisis

SOUTH BEND, IN —In this bulletin we describe, among other happenings, the University’s role in the distribution of pornography to students. First, however, we offer some introductory comments about the disparate messages sent by various of the University’s actions.

Notre Dame is beset by an identity crisis, neither truly Catholic nor fully secular. It fails its own test of Catholic identity because of the radical reduction of Catholic representation on its faculty, as we have shown. Still, important Catholic elements persist.

The result is that actions by or at the University sometimes evidence the erosion of its Catholic character and sometimes the Catholic strengths that remain.

It is crucially important to recognize that these events are of only secondary importance. What counts for a university is who teaches and what they teach.

Still, these events are significant symptoms of what’s happening to the University. Episodes such as The Vagina Monologues, the Queer Film Festival, and the honoring of President Obama alert unsuspecting alumni and others that something is amiss. On the other hand, projects such as the University’s adult stem cell research initiative that we described in a recent bulletin give hope that what has been lost may yet be regained.

In this bulletin we continue our account of events that evidence this identity crisis.

The University as pornography enabler.

The last edition of The Irish Rover contains an arresting lead article about the University’s role in making pornography available to students.

It is no secret that the hookup culture has a hold at Notre Dame just as it does on campuses across the country. The article explores the relationship between pornography and illicit sex and confirms the pervasiveness of pornography at Notre Dame.

“As many members of the Notre Dame community attest, Notre Dame is no exception to [pornography’s] widespread use, primarily in male dorms.”

The principal source of pornography for students is doubtless the Internet, probably supplemented by television. The University controls both. It is the Internet Service provider and the supplier of cable television.

As to the Internet, as the Rover reported, University policy prohibits students and others from “view[ing]” or “send[ing]” “obscene, pornographic, sexually explicit or offensive material.” However, the Rover also reported that the University “does not currently filter any sites” in order to block pornography.

This prompted us to ask the University why not.

Our question:

As the ISP and the provider also of cable television to students, the University doubtless has the ability to block sites and channels that are without question egregiously pornographic. This would not, of course, prevent students from gaining access to pornography. It is too omnipresent. But at least much of the worst material might be blocked and, more importantly, the action would amount to a statement by the University. [We] assume pornographic magazines are not offered in Hammes or elsewhere on campus, but at present the University delivers it to the students via the Internet and television in large and unrestricted volume.

The University spokesperson’s answer, “essentially the same” as he had given the Rover, was – brace yourselves – that the University relies upon the students not to look.

“The University relies on the integrity of our students, faculty and staff to abide by this and many other policies.”

It is no criticism of the spokesperson, who is courteous and prompt in responding to our inquiries and must work with what he has, to note the transparent inanity of this explanation. Surely common sense and common experience teach those responsible for these services that to count on students’ self-restraint respecting pornography is to invite ridicule.

So one can only speculate as to the real reason the University serves as the principal distributor of pornography at Notre Dame. To make matters worse, the University charges for doing it. But what is in any event clear is that, since the University thereby acts as an enabler of what the Church teaches is grave sin, the University is not acting in accord with Ex Corde Ecclesiae’s injunction that at a truly Catholic university “ Catholic teaching and discipline are to influence all university activities.”

Lax on pornography for students while conscientious on birth control for staff.

This heedlessness respecting pornography contrasts sharply with a laudable University action we have described recently: its opposition to the proposed Administration regulation that would require the University to include coverage for contraception in the health insurance it provides employees.

The irony is striking: The University conscientiously resists subsidizing birth control pills for its adult employees but does not do what it can to interdict a fetid stream of pornography to students entrusted by parents to its care.

More items of interest:

Two of the prime movers in Notre Dame’s stem cell projects — Dr. David Hyde and Dr. Phillip Sloan recently participated in an important Vatican conference on the subject, and Professor Richard W. Garnett, Associate Dean of the Law School, has been appointed as a consultant to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ new Committee on Religious Liberty.
“Want smarter children? Space siblings at least two years apart, research shows.” That’s Notre Dame’s billing of a recent study by Notre Dame researchers. They built upon prior research that, they write, has found that “children from large families generally have lower educational attainment, lower IQ scores, worse unemployment outcomes, and are more likely to engage in risky behavior.” The University’s praiseworthy refusal, as a Catholic university, to sponsor research that could be used to promote embryonic stem cell research evidently is not thought relevant to research that doubtless will be seized upon by Planned Parenthood and its ilk with stress upon its Notre Dame provenance.
The report is likely to have substantial impact. Already it is reported that “[t]he news is making the rounds of the blogosphere this week since so many parents want to do everything they can so their child can have an advantage.”

In a recent notable column in The Washington Post, “Obama Turns His Back on Catholics,” that closely parallels one of our recent bulletins , Michael Gerson opens his analysis of the administration’s assaults on the Church with a description of how Notre Dame was taken in by the President when he was honored in 2009. Gerson’s view of the emptiness of Obama’s carefully crafted words echoes our report
Catholics, eager for reassurance from a leader whom 54 percent of them had supported, were duly reassured. But Obama’s statement had the awkward subordinate clauses of a contentious speech-writing process. Qualifications and code words produced a pledge that pledged little.

We have often urged the support of the centers of Catholicism on campus that nourish the Catholic character of the school. One of the most important of these is the student Right to Life club. Visit their home page to see what they do and to contribute. We especially recommend subscribing to the club’s newsletter, “Footprints,” which you can do at
We remind you again of the opportunity to contribute in support of the upcoming student-organized Edith Stein conference. For a description and instructions see our previous bulletin.

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