Claire Gillen Cousino at this year’s Sycamore
Annual Breakfast at Alumni Weekend.

NOTRE DAME, IN — In this bulletin, we bring you the perspective of two knowledgeable 2012 graduates on the Catholic identity of Notre Dame. In the concluding Notes, we turn again to the litigation over the contraception / abortiacient / sterilization mandate.

The students are the former editor-in-chief and the executive editor of The Irish Rover, Claire Gillen Cousino and Katie Petrick. They summarized their experience at Notre Dame in their concluding editorial, which we reproduce below.

(Claire was the recipient of this year’s Sycamore Trust student award and spoke at

Sycamore’s recent annual breakfast meeting during Alumni Weekend, along with Fr. Wilson Miscable, C.S.C., and Dr. Walter Nicgorski. We will make the entire session available on the Internet soon along with the texts of their remarks.)

In their editorial, Claire and Katie coupled an expression of gratitude for their Notre Dame experience with one of disappointment in the weakened state of the University’s Catholic identity.

While praising professors they had selected, they sharply criticized the overall weakness of Catholic presence on the faculty and of the curriculum. And while praising the opportunities for spiritual growth afforded at Notre Dame, they score a campus culture too much characterized by alcohol and sex and administrators too willing to look the other way. Finally, they point to an inconsistent public witness by Notre Dame as symptomatic of the mix of Catholic and secular forces within the school.

We add a few bracketed headings to the text of their editorial to show how this view of Notre Dame’s Catholic identity corresponds with Professor Alfred Freddoso’s description of the school as “something like a public school in a Catholic neighborhood” in his introduction to Professor Emeritus Charles Rice’s illuminating book, “What Happened to Notre Dame?”

We also a omit a few minor and unessential portions. You can read the entire  text here.

The Editorial
Only a month away from donning cap and gown, we reflect gratefully on the last 4 years. We have counted our blessings, and they are many. We have been privileged to learn from teachers devoted to both the intellectual and personal growth of their students and to have formed true friendships.


[The “Catholic Neighborhood”]
Notre Dame offers a rich sacramental life for those who seek it. From the events hosted by the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture to Eucharistic Adoration, opportunities abound to explore the Catholic intellectual tradition and to deepen one’s faith. At its best, Nortre Dame truly provides what Bl. Basil Moreau, C.S.C., described as education for the mind and heart alike.

From the basilica to the stadium, Nore Dame offers many opportunities for devotion …..

[“Something like a public school”]
Such a vantage point also renders more bearable the dimmer side of campus life. As high school seniors and their parents consider where to invest the next 4 years (and a small fortune), we submit the following areas for polishing.



Core curriculum
Notre Dame lacks a real core curriculum, requiring instead a disjointed collection of courses. Want to satisfy your university seminar requirement with a course on pirates or the history of sex and gender? Notre Dame is happy to oblige. A rigorous understanding of the western or Catholic tradition is neither valued nor in vogue.



[Faculty] The required courses themselves leave something to be desired. Typically shunted off to graduate student teachers who lack a real interest in the University’s Catholic character, the introductory courses in philosophy and theology are particularly weak. The university urgently needs to increase the number of committed Catholic faculty, particularly in the College of Arts and Letters.


Campus culture

[“Catholic neighborhood “– the darker side] We’re not talking about Bookstore Basketball, froyo matches, or hipster moccasins, but rather the compartmentalization of student life. The compartments are well described by an entry in a recent Stallnotes; “What’s your favorite place on campus? 2A because we throw ragers … and the Grotto.” Students see no contradiction in hitting the books, the Bible, and the bottle in rapid succession.

In many ways, these habits are encouraged by dorm structure and winked at by authorities. Instead of holding young adults to the high standards they are capable of meeting, campus authorities seek to minimize the physical, social, and legal consequences of alcohol abuse and concomitant sexual objectification.


Institutional Witness
Notre Dame’s internal confusion about its Catholic identity is manifested in the inconsistency of its public witness. Notre Dame follows its fellow top-20 schools in emphasizing popular (and important) ideas of dialogue, academic freedom, and service but often fails to proclaim the principles the modern world is most lacking in …. [T]he university must be willing to undergo criticism for unpopular stances …. Will the university stand behind the pro-life movement with the same force of the Notre Dame students who fought the Ku Klux Klan? … Will the university speak out for religious freedom … against the meaningless “accommodation” of the HHS mandate?

Students should be able to look to their alma mater for leadership and guidance. Notre Dame undoubtedly promotes academic achievement. What kind of character does the university hope to foster in its graduates.

Katie Petrik Claire Gillen
Katie Petrik Claire Gillen Cousino

To subscribe to the Irish Rover, click here.


As we and countless others have reported, Father Jenkins has provided a welcome answer to one of these questions and gladdened the hearts of many alumni by joining Notre Dame with a number of Catholic plaintiffs in lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate — suits that will proceed now that the Supreme Court has upheld the requirement that individuals purchase insurance.

The startled reaction — the Wall Street Journal observed that “even” the “famously liberal” Notre Dame had sued — was a counterpoint to the widespread dismayed reaction to the University’s approval of The Vagina Monologues and the Queer Film Festival and astonishment at its honoring of President Obama. Notre Dame was thought to be too Catholic for the obscene play and meretricious festival and not Catholic enough for the lawsuit.

Thus, Notre Dame’s colliding secular and Catholic aspects are reflected in its colliding public witness, as the editorial’s authors observed.


  • In another unexpected development, the Catholic Health Association has reversed field and has announced its opposition to the HHS mandate. Led by Sr. Carol Keehan, its president, it had previously supported Ohamacare and HHS’s “accommodation” of freedom of religion claims. CHA’s desertion of the Administration is certainly welcome, though the Cardinal Newman Society has criticized its proposed substitute language broadening the exemption. That language, which has also been endorsed by Notre Dame, has been opposed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It would not protect individual employers nor religious non-denominational organizations and institutions.
  • Professors Gerard Bradley, Richard Garnett, and Carter Snead of the Law School are among the most intelligent and persuasive public voices in opposition to the mandate. In his latest contribution, Professor Bradley sketches the several possible future courses of this controversy and explains why, even if the mandate is set aside, powerful ideological forces are sure to continue to press upon religious liberty
  • On the other hand, prominent law and theology professor Cathleen Kaveny has written in Commonweal that Notre Dame should lose; Professor Gary Gutting of the Philosophy Department has declaredon the New York Times site that the bishops’ “outbursts” suggest “a grasp for secular power” and expresses his hope that “Catholics will see through” this move; and Professor Emeritus Bernard  Doering has taken a wild swing at the bishops for “attempt[ing] to legislate general rules of moral conduct that they cannot get their own subjects to obey.”
  • The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which is under doctrinal examination by the Vatican, evidently will stick to its support of the mandate, while dozens of individual orders of women religious and the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, which was established by women religious disaffected by what they regarded as unorthodox actions of the LCWR, have supported the bishops.
  • During their recent General Assembly, the bishops approved unanimously the prior statement by the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Freedom condemning the mandate and calling for widespread opposition. This undermined the wishful thinking of some, based upon a statement by a single bishop (subsequently corrected), that there is disagreement among the bishops.
  • In its most recent statement, the USCCB appears to have qualified for the moment the bishops’ declaration that Catholic organizations would be morally obliged to disobey the mandate should it become effective. The bishops flatly insisted earlier that the mandate is an unjust law and that “an unjust law cannot be obeyed.” But now the USCCB says that disobedience of “some” unjust laws “may be justified.” The USCCB adds, however, that in this case “we may need to refuse to comply.”
  • This controversy is, of course, suffused with politics. Might President Obama reverse field to recover lost ground with Catholics as he has recently respecting deportation of illegal immigrants? It seems not. Just a few days ago he said that for hospitals and universities to oppose the HHS mandate  “crosses the line” and “is not fair.”

To subscribe to the Irish Rover, click here.

Notre Dame should continue to dedicate its full resources and prestige to the struggle for religious liberty in the service of the Bishops and the Church. If you agree and would like to help with our mission of Catholic renewal at Notre Dame, please click here. Claire Gillen Cousino at this year’s Sycamore Annual Breakfast at Alumni Week

10 Responses to “Insiders”

  1. I regularly read the Irish Rover. The students working for the Irish Rover do a great job and perform a great service to Notre Dame. Also, the faculty advisors for the Irish Rover perform a valuable service to the University, members of which are hostile to the Rover.
    If you like an article in the Irish Rover, please email the student author and tell them you enjoyed or appreciated it. My experience is that the student will reply with a thoughtful and heartfelt thanks.

    Like Reply

  2. Send your student to the University of Dallas for an outstanding core curriculum, philosophy-based courses and orthodox Catholicism.

  3. We can only hope and PRAY that the tide is RETURNING to the initial goals of our cherished University…………..

    Most Catholic clerical orders have long employed policies which limit a priest’s time in a single assignment, particularly a pastorate. The feeling has been that people left too long in positions of significant authority begin to assume an attitude of ownership over their assignment, rather than acceding to the custodial responsibilities proper to their position.
    The recent revelations of the happenings at Pennsylvania State University brought to light what can happen in cases of extended tenure. Joe Paterno not only refused to resign several years ago, when so asked by the board of trustees, but felt qualified to not pursue earlier allegations of extreme misconduct by an assistant coach. This attitude, on the part of Paterno, directly resulted from his too-long occupation of the coaching position at the university. He had become iconic, and others were afraid to challenge him. He felt his judgment was supreme in matters relating to his job.
    Similar situations have occurred elsewhere in cases involving extended tenures. Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes and Bobby Bowden all took liberties with academic standards for their football players. Diocesan priests, after thirty years in the same pastorate, often act like they own the place. And at Notre Dame, after fifteen years in the presidency, Rev. Theodore Hesburgh apparently decided that he no longer wanted Notre Dame to be academically confined by the oversight of the Catholic hierarchy, and convened the Land O’ Lakes conference, which resulted in a withdrawal from Church authority along with a partial laicization of Notre Dame’s governing body, and a subsequent radical reduction in the proportion of Catholic faculty. This action by Hesburgh was the direct result of his self iconization. He had become a legend in his own mind, and valued his personal judgment above the hundred year tradition so carefully nurtured by his predecessors. It is worthwhile to note that none of Hesburgh’s six predecessors in the office of the Notre Dame presidency served more than six years in the office. In the last half of his thirty five year presidency, Hesburgh spent much time off campus, collecting honorary degrees and serving on numerous committees. Iconic indeed! He even issued a statement that “Notre Dame is the place where the Catholic Church does it’s thinking”, an oft-quoted boast that, in fact, did not originate with him at all, but had been used by his predecessor, Rev. John Cavanaugh.
    Hesburgh’s successor then presided over continued dilution of Catholic faculty, such that at the end of his eighteen year term, the faculty was barely fifty percent Catholic, and dissenters such as McBrien and McCormick, who considered submission to the authority of Rome to be optional, were allowed to populate the theology faculty.
    More recently, a compliant Notre Dame administration awarded the most pro-abortion president in history an honorary degree when he had barely begun his term, while the lay board of trustees looked on in stony silence. Certainly, the two low points in the history of Notre Dame were the Land O’ Lakes and Obama fiascos. The current Notre Dame president, a good but timid man, lacks the experience and leadership characteristics necessary to aggressively address the slide in Catholic character initiated by Father Hesburgh. He seems cowed by a largely pro-choice faculty, and the apparent insistence by these faculty members, with the tacit approval of the trustees, to continue to worship at the altar of U. S. News and World Report rankings. Some steps to recover the Catholicity of the faculty have been recently initiated, but they seem far too mild to halt the flood of secularism which has inundated the campus.
    Recent activities by the Obama administration have revealed just how naive Notre Dame officials were in thinking that an honorary degree would buy them any influence with this most cynically pro-abortion President.
    The hope of a return of Notre Dame to its Catholic heritage lies in the hands of the young priests and seminarians of the Holy Cross Order. They seem to be of uniform character in respecting and adhering to the dictates of the Church hierarchy. Hopefully, they will be strong enough and brave enough to stand up to the powerful faculty cabal which values secular recognition over the duty to recover that Catholic character which reflected the standards and ideals of Notre Dame’s founders.
    And, hopefully, no future President of Notre Dame will serve in the office for more than twelve years. The University needs leadership, not icons.

    Like Reply

    • do not see any relationship between this free-floating lecture on term limits and the and the above piece on the Irish Rover and some other current matters. I hope it at least was cathartic.
      In any event, you seem to suggest that “extended tenure” causes one to honor himself with a “Cult of Personality”, which I suggest is historically closer to your proposition than “self iconization” [sic], which is inapt. Would you, however, demand term limits if the President of the University were orthodox and governed the University as an orthodox? For example, should John Paul II have resigned in 1990 after 12 years as Pope simply because 12 years had transpired? His greatest accomplishment, which he achieved with Ronald Reagan, was the defeat of the Soviet Union, the most evil government and collection of gangsters in history, did not occur until after 1990. To be sure, there are other examples of evil men who have served more than 12 years and grew more evil with time; the moral cripple FDR comes immediately to mind.
      It seems to me that term limits are not the solution. A person can do as much harm during his first 12 years in power as in his last 12. Indeed, one could argue more harm can be done in the earlier years when a person is younger and more vigorous and less wise. The solution, I suggest, lies more in the selection process. Liberals, progressives, Marxists and Democrats hysterically object to the dread “litmus test” whenever a Republican President gets to appoint a Supreme Court Justice. Of course, this mean the Party of Death simply wants no threat to their right to plunge scissors into babies skulls and suck out their brains.
      But, I say, let’s do exactly that. Let’s use a litmus test to pick the next President. In the late 19th century (I think around 1895), Leo XIII wrote “Satis Cognitum”. In section 16, Leo expressly and unambiguously stated that if you believe in most Church doctrine but not all, even if you just dissent on one, then you are not a member of the Church.

      • Points well taken, but I still think that too many “long termers” confuse ownership with custody. Peace.

      • Bill, that is true. It also, I suggest, is not inconsistent with human nature. But, “term limits” seem unwise and, in all events, unnecessary. If one thinks a University leader has led his University astray, indeed into heresy, there are better alternatives. Recently, Georgetown honored the high priestess of infanticide and friend of baby killer George Tiller, Kathleen Sebilius. Georgetown alumn William Peter Blatty would have none of it. Blatty, of course, is the author of “The Exorcist”. Rather than complain in the Catholic press about this sin and error, Blatty took action against Georgetown’s President and Georgetown University. He has started a “lawsuit” against Georgetown based on its embrace of heresy and seeks to have the Vatican declare that Georgetown no longer is Catholic.
        Not coincidentally, the Pontifical University in Peru is about to suffer this sanction. And lest anyone question Blatty’s bona fides as a Catholic who fully understands the nature of evil, no less an authority than Gabriele Amorth has written that Blatty’s “The Exorcist” is entirely accurate. See Amorth, “An Exorcist Tells His Story”.

      • http://www.catholicnewsagency….

        Timing may not be everything, but sometimes it is a lot. Too, maybe timing is Providence, or, as the secularists would have it–karma. In all events, the Vatican just announced the Pontifical University of Peru no longer can hold itself out as Pontifical or Catholic because it failed to comply with “Ex Corde Ecclesiae”. Plainly, remedies exist if one believes a Catholic college or university has fallen into heresy.

    • Bob Raymond, BSME 1952 September 27, 2012 at 4:23 pm

      May Mary the Mother of God please implore her Son Jesus to restore her univeritiy’s absolute fealty to the Word of God as proclaimed and cherished by the Catholic Church.

    • An obviously informed analysis that deserves careful and dispassionate attention.

Comments & Questions