Just Who Do They Think They’re Fooling?


Notre Dame's president has led in putting contraceptives and abortificients in hands of its employees and students. He now plans to lead its delegation in the annual March for Life. Click To Tweet

Just as Notre Dame’s response to the Obamacare abortifcient/contraceptive mandate began with misrepresentations to the courts, as we recounted in our last bulletin, so does it continue with misrepresentations to everyone else. While the administration tries to lay responsibility on its insurers for the provision of free abortifacients and contraceptives to its students and employees, in fact this is Father Jenkins’s decision. He has repudiated the University’s long-standing refusal to play any role in the provision of abortifacients and contraceptives and has turned the University into the sponsor, if cloaked, of their distribution to students and employees and, accordingly, a facilitator of the abortions they cause. He has doubled down on the University’s recent decision to make cut-rate abortifacients, contraceptives, and sterilization available to employees through its Flexible Spending Account program. Nevertheless, he plans to lead the Notre Dame delegation to the March for Life in a few days.

What follows is the story of this most recent, but hopefully not final, chapter in Notre Dame’s response to the Obamacare abortifacient/contraceptive mandate.

We have described in previous bulletins  Notre Dame’s bewildering reversals of position since the Trump administration offered religious organizations exemptions from the mandate. Notre Dame initially notified its employees that they would continue to receive free abortifacients and contraceptives; then told them they would not; then, finally, told them that they would.

The Alibi

Notre Dame’s wildly improbable explanation is that this was all due to a failure of communication with Meritain/Optum, its contractors.

According to Paul Browne, Notre Dame’s vice president for communications, after the change in the regulations

We believed that the insurance companies would discontinue no-cost coverage for contraceptives for employees at the end of the year.

And so that’s what they told the employees.

But they were wrong, Browne continued, presumably to their surprise:

Since then, we have been informed that Meritain Health/OptumRx will continue such coverage indefinitely.

So, Notre Dame switched for the second time. It told the employees that, while the University “follows Catholic teaching about the use of contraceptives,” in view of “the plurality of religious and other convictions among its employees, it will not interfere with the provision of contraceptives that will be administered and funded independent of the University.”

(This is the only invocation we have discovered of the newly minted, and risible, “Least Common Denominator” school of moral theology.)

The university followed with a similar notice to over 3,000 students under the student plan about what the insurer, Aetna, intended to do.

Is this even faintly plausible? Consider the likelihood of Notre Dame’s not talking to its insurers before telling the employees what the insurers were going to do. Visualize also these for-profit companies as free-spending partners of Planned Parenthood in the abortion and contraception wars, presumably prepared to provide the same free contraceptive coverage to all their other clients.

The Truth

Now consider the single fact that cuts through this fanciful account and places full responsibility squarely where it belongs, on Father Jenkins and whoever collaborated with him: The University, not having elected an exemption, continues to operate under the  “accommodation” program it has used since it failed to get a court injunction in 2014.

There is no doubt about this. One wouldn’t know it from Notre Dame’s statements, but if Notre Dame has not claimed an exemption, it must comply with the mandate pursuant to the “accommodation” program. Notre Dame has never so much as hinted that it has claimed an exemption, and we have given Father Jenkins and Notre Dame’s General Counsel ample opportunity to say that the University has taken the steps necessary to withdraw from the accommodation. We said if they declined, we would assume the University has not withdrawn. They have declined.

This provides a straightforward and credible explanation for what’s happened. Under the accommodation, the Meritain/Optum are obliged to furnish free abortifacient/contraceptive coverage to employees, but they’re compensated by the government.   They have no choice.  Neither did Notre Dame before the Trump adminstration’s revision of the regulation and its settlement of Notre Dame’s lawsuit.

But now it’s Notre Dame’s call, not the government’s, for the University could have claimed an exemption, and still could. Evidently Father Jenkins toyed with that idea when the University announced that the coverage would end. But faculty and students protested, and Father Jenkins decided to stick with the accommodation. Whereupon the University announced that the coverage would continue after all.

By this action, Father Jenkins doubled down on university’s recent decision to offer for the first time cut-rate abortifacients, sterilization, and contraceptives to employees participating in the University’s Flexible Saving Account program. The University initially included surgical abortions, but when we caught and publicized these startling changes  the university quickly shifted to damage control mode. It backed off on surgical abortions, but not on abortifacients, contraceptives, and sterilization.

We end where we began:  Father Jenkins has turned Notre Dame into a facilitator of abortions. Father Jenkins, not the insurers, has decided that Notre Dame students and employees should have free abortifacients and contraceptives. He knows this will result in a large, if indeterminate, number of abortions. (See the analyses of the Pontifical Academy for Life and the Charlotte Lozier Institute (headed by a Sycamore Trust board member Charles Donovan) on the abortion-inducing character of “morning after pills” and IUD’s, all now provided to ND students and employees.) The insurers are acting in substance as Notre Dame’s agents in providing the coverage, but in terms of responsibility the prescriptions should be stamped “ND” and might as well be handed out to students in the Main Building and sent to employees along with their paychecks.

This is what the Pontifical Academy for Life had to say  about those responsible for the distribution of morning-after pills:

From the ethical standpoint the same absolute unlawfulness of abortifacient procedures also applies to distributing, prescribing and taking the morning-after pill. All who, whether sharing the intention or not, directly co-operate with this procedure are also morally responsible for it.

We add that, while the responsibility for the distribution of abortifacients and contraceptives would be Father Jenkins’s  even if he simply gave permission to requests by insurers, it is depressing to see the misrepresentation and dissembling that have characterized this matter at an institution whose mission is to seek and speak the truth.

The March for Life, January 19

Father Jenkins attended the March for the first time – indeed, the first time for any Notre Dame president – in 2009 after the Obama debacle. It was an obvious damage control move and an embarrassment. Eighty-four cardinal, archbishops, and bishops had condemned his action in honoring the Church’s most formidable adversary on abortion. The late Nellie Gray, storied founder of the March, phoned Bill Dempsey to talk about her concern that Father Jenkins might ask to be on the platform.

Nevertheless, we welcomed his attendance. It lent prestige to the event within the University and attracted more students and faculty. And there was at least something to be said in Father Jenkins’s defense, however flimsy.

This year, however, Father Jenkins’s action is far more serious than the honoring of President Obama. It involves Notre Dame’s role in the termination of life, and there is nothing to be said in his defense.

Accordingly, we had hoped that Father Jenkins would not attend. But he will, and he will be principal celebrant of the Notre Dame Mass at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Arlington, Virginia, which once again is generous host to the Notre Dame delegation. It is hard to see how he can preach a pro-life homily with credibility. The hypocrisy and scandal are evident — his action seems to imply that  the use of abortifacients and contraceptives is acceptable, whatever reservations the University might set to paper —  and will surely not go unmarked.

The Future

But perhaps Father Jenkins’s experience at the March will inspire him to change his mind. Let us pray that it does. Otherwise, we will look to the Fellows and Trustees of the University to reverse this execrable action, so hostile to human life and so damaging to Notre Dame’s claim to be a Catholic university. We will shortly offer a petition for you to consider.


The student Right to Life club is sponsoring a “Prayer Campaign for the Catholic Identity of Notre Dame” during the month of January. It is an especially appropriate time. For details and directions about participating, go here.

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10 Responses to “Just Who Do They Think They’re Fooling?”

  1. Fr. Jenkins must clearly and emphatically stand up for the rights of the unborn instead of waffling about his and N.D. University’s responsibility. Pope Francis also must show his leadership as head of the Catholic Church by denouncing Fr. Jenkins’ flimsy excuse for his complicity in providing birth control and abortion tools to students and employees. Pope Francis himself should have called out those Catholics in Congress who ignore their very serious responsibility to protect the unborn instead of forcing taxpayers to fund Planned Parenthood clinics here and abortions abroad. Some of them claim to be good Catholics but accept bloodied campaign donations from Planned Parenthood and others of their ilk. If our Catholic Church leaders cannot take a strong anti-abortion stance, then they are no better than those priests who participated in and/or covered up pedophilia in the Church.

  2. I no longer give to ND due to Obama and Biden and now to Jenkins. We need a real Catholic priest who will lead ND so that we can again be proud of ND. Ron Herman MD ’57


    The erroneous notion that private morality and public morality can serve in opposition to one another and are not complementary, has led to grievous error in both Faith and reason, as demonstrated by this statement:

    “… in view of “the plurality of religious and other convictions among its employees, it will not interfere with the provision of contraceptives that will be administered and funded independent of the University.”

    When you know the truth about the Sanctity of human life, you have an obligation to defend the truth about the Sanctity of human life, even when among persons who hold a plurality of religious and other convictions.
    God’s Truth about the Sanctity of human life remains true, despite the existence of a plurality of religious and other convictions in regards to the Sanctity of human life.

    Father Jenkins desires to defend the Sanctity of human life from the moment of conception; it is thus not consistent to accomodate the plurality of religious and other convictions that do not serve to defend the Sanctity of human life from the moment of conception.

    I will Pray that the administration of Our Lady’s University will not only recognize their error, but take the exemption so that God’s Truth about the Sanctity and inherent Dignity of the human person will prevail.

  4. Please continue the fight against this immoral situation

  5. Within my Catholic Heart I hear Jesus’ voice telling me that this man will come to his senses. But, my Human judgment of him is so strong that I fail in the test of being my brothers keeper! What are we to gather from the actions of this man chosen from among Jesus’ flock to lead those who know that Catholicism is the fruit of Jesus coming? Our resolve must be that there is a message from Christ that he is screaming at all Catholics through the actions of this priest. We , “THE BODY” must be true to the teachings of our LORD and Savior. At times there is ZERO difference between the actions of a human man and that of Lucifer. So it is up to the army of GOD through the teaching for JESUS CHRIST to pray for his soul, and at the same time ask that he BE REMOVED from the leadership of OUR CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY.

  6. walt osgood 62' January 17, 2018 at 5:39 pm

    The only way to make a meaningful statement is to quit contributing…this is the only way…..

  7. John McNamara '86 January 17, 2018 at 4:36 pm

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Father Jenkins’ power over a famous University and a multi-billion dollar endowment (more money than the diocese of Fort Wayne, Indiana), has left him with a tumescent feeling of being impervious to any action by the Catholic Church in America- not the Bishop of Fort Wayne, not the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops- he’s got more money and can hire more and better attorneys, He has made the Machiavelian political calculation that the USCCB will be too cowardly to take him on, because it will publicly expose division within the Catholic Church, between lay people and the clergy and between some in the clergy and others in the clergy. This guy, Fr. Jenkins, a.k.a the Pope of The Church of South Bend, is nothing but a 60’s-early 70’s generation member that feels the rules don’t apply to him and one has to wonder whether he joined the priesthood more to evade the draft, than because of a rock-solid calling to serve God and the Catholic Church. A guy that flip flops as much as Bill Dempsey described Fr. Jenkins flipping above is an arrogant flim-flam artist that thinks he blesses people with his presence and he has lost the ability to feel guilt and shame about lying. There are moral concepts called right and wrong and lying is always, always morally wrong. Lying about who is responsible for deciding that Notre Dame will provide for abortions and sterilization is not the same as telling old Aunt Maude her pink and black dress looks pretty- it’s the same as lying and false advertising to parents that their children will be attending a Roman Catholic university, instead of a private school operated by the newly formed Church of South Bend, where the fallen away priests will tell your kids, behind your back, that contraceptives are o.k. and “I’ll help you get an abortion if your parents won’t help”. It’s damnably disgraceful for the flim-flam Pope of South Bend to show his dishonest face at the March for Life, and pretend to be a Roman Catholic priest and public statements ought to be made about that. Fr. Jenkins, the wealthy flim-flam Pope of the Church of South Bend, damages the Roman Catholic Church’s credibility with American society and other pro-life religions, when he brings his con game to the March for Life. Notre Dame breaking away from the Catholic Church, under the direction of someone of English ancestry, feels so much like Ulster being amputated from Eire, all over again. It’s understandable to be angry at the flim-flam Pope of South Bend, but we also ought to be praying for the guy, he is doing his soul some very serious damage very late in life and has lost his way in the bright lights. Fr. Malloy ought to be pondering about whether he will silently let the newly founded Church of South Bend take over Catholic land and a Catholic university in his parish, and the rest of us ought to be thinking about whether we are being silently complicit or whether we are going to say anything to the USCCB and or the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, regarding the University of Notre Dame fraudulently claiming to be a Roman Catholic university, when actually it is being run by a fallen away priest, who is starting his own unauthorized, pro-contraception branch of the Catholic Church, the Church of South Bend, and making fraudulent statements to parents and the Roman Catholic Church that the University still operates by the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church. I am already writing and I, with deference and respect, request you reading this to do the same.

  8. Brian Simboli, Ph.D. January 17, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    Well, the university’s claim that it is accommodating religious pluralism on the matter of abortifacients and other contraceptives already, in itself, settles the case of its full complicity with a grave violation of Catholic teaching.

    There are people at ND, probably very many, who have no problem with surgical abortion. E,g. see the links off the Gender Studies department page. So on the grounds given–accommodation of religious pluralism–how is the university administration “stance” against (surgical) abortion even remotely plausible?

  9. If “choice” is the greatest good all else is theater.

  10. Fr. Jenkins will have to stand before God and answer to Him.