Here, Just Don’t Use Them


SOUTH BEND, IN —The Obama administration intends to force Notre Dame and other Catholic schools to become enablers for student fornication.While Father Jenkins nevertheless maintains his silence, a Notre Dame professor speaks up: “The immorality of birth control is no longer a teaching of the Catholic Church.”

The contraception mandate for students.

In a notice of March 16, the Obama administration confirmed the forthcoming imposition upon religiously affiliated colleges and universities of the obligation to include coverage for contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization in their student health insurance programs. (See Kaiser Health News and Federal Register.)

Thus, Ms. Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student who told Congress that someone else ought to pay for the eye-popping $1,000 a year she and her Georgetown friends spend for contraception, will get what she wants. She is, she says, “very pleased.”


These student benefits are to be provided the same way they are to be provided to the insured employees of religiously affiliated schools under the Obama “accommodation.” The school’s insurer will be obliged to deal with the students and bear the cost, and the school will have to cooperate with the insurer so it can carry out the program.

Because of a legal technicality, this student benefit will not be required of self-insured plans, but Notre Dame’s plan is insured. It is open to all students, and graduate and international students are automatically enrolled unless they provide proof of other insurance.

This student benefit provision will go into effect this coming August except for religiously affiliated schools, which have until the following August to comply.

The contraception mandate for employees of self-insured religiously affiliated organizations.

In the notice, the Administration also described how the Obama “accommodation” will apply to self-insured employee benefit plans of religiously affiliated employers. Notre Dame’s plan is self-insured.

We analyzed in a previous bulletin the “accommodation” as it will apply to insured plans. The plan is to be essentially the same for self-insured plans.

That is, the administrator retained by the employer to manage the plan will notify the employees of the coverage, pay the claims and bear the costs. The employer will be required to provide necessary assistance to the administrator.

The thorny question of how these administrators are to recover their costs is left to a later proceeding. They cannot offset those costs by the alleged (and doubtful) savings the Administration says will benefit insurers through increased contraception.

The Administration, perhaps unsurprisingly, does not suggest how it will prevent either the administrator or the insurer from shifting the cost to the employer by building it into the overall fee or premium, respectively.

The encroachment upon religious liberty is the same respecting both types of plans. The objectionable insurance coverage is linked to the employer’s benefit program – without it, there would be no coverage – and the employer is required to cooperate with the administrator or insurer to enable it to provide the benefit.

In traditional terms, this is material cooperation with evil. For the government to attempt to force the employer into it is an assault upon religious liberty and the Church.

We note also briefly that the plan is objectionable in other respects as well. For example, there will be no protection at all for individual employers – say, Notre Dame graduates – who object on religious grounds to furnishing and paying for this coverage for their employees.

Comments will be received for 90 days; thereafter there will be a formal rule-making proceeding with another comment period; and the final rule will be promulgated _______ the election. Choose “before” or “after.” You win!

The Bishops reaffirm continued opposition to the mandate while Father Jenkins remains silent.

On March 14th, the Administrative Committee of the USCCB reaffirmed the bishops’ opposition to the Obama “accommodation” and to the mandate. (The Administrative Committee is composed of USCCB committee chairmen and key bishops from across the country. It handles important matters between the bishops’ semiannual meetings. Bishop Kevin Rhoades, Notre Dame’s ordinary, is a member.)

George Weigel summarized the outcome:

The bishops have rebuffed calls for a tactical retreat; the analysts who have not grasped the sea-change in perspective of the bishops Conference have been confounded; the Catholic Lite brigades have been challenged to think again . . . ; and those who have supported the bishops thus far have been affirmed in their work.”

Though Father Jenkins opposed the mandate before the Obama “accommodation,” as we have reported, he is not among those who have “supported the bishops” in opposing the “accommodation.” Even the threatened planting of contraceptives in Notre Dame student pockets and purses by the Obama administration has not yet drawn a statement from him.

So there is little to add to our last bulletin’s report on Father’s confounding silence.His last word remains his “applau[se]” of Obama’s “willingness to work with religious organizations” and praise of his worthless “accommodation” as a “welcome step.” Father’s hope that “unclear and unresolved issues” would be settled amicably remains unrealized. Discussions between the Administration and the USCCB have foundered.

There is, to be sure, a host of empty messages from his office responding in identical words to a great many entreaties to Father Jenkins from alumni to speak up.

“The Office of the President” wrote that Father Jenkins“ will continue to monitor the evolving situation, remain in dialogue with the Bishops and other Catholic organizations and institutions, and will speak in his own voice when and if appropriate.”

Father Jenkins, then, has concluded it would not be “appropriate” for him to endorse the bishops’ rejection of the Obama “accommodation” nor to join Cardinals Dolan and George, Notre Dame’s Bishop Kevin Rhoades, over 60 Notre Dame faculty members, and hundreds of other educational and religious leaders in endorsing the statement denouncing the “accommodation” that was prepared by Professor Carter Snead of the Notre Dame Law School; John Garvey, the president of The Catholic University of America; professors Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard Law School and Robert George of Princeton; and Yuval Levin of the Center for Ethics and Public Policy.

“The Office of the President” added one near-risible note in an effort to shore up the letter: the claim that Cardinal Dolan, by praising Fr. Jenkins for telling a White House caller that he or she should tell Cardinal Dolan about the imminent announcement of the “accommodation,” had “publicly affirmed” Father Jenkins’s “approach.” It is simply inane to draw from Cardinal Dolan’s expressed appreciation of Father Jenkins’s courtesy an endorsement of his failure to embrace the bishops’ denunciation of the “accommodation.”

Inferences, Implications, and Reparations

It is worth noting that Father Jenkins’s failure to criticize the “accommodation” does not merely sideline Notre Dame. Rather, it weighs against the bishops.

The calamitous Notre Dame/Obama incident has linked Father Jenkins with Obama in the public mind. This has led to a good deal of comment during the current controversy, as we have reported. A Wall Street Journal editorial listed Father Jenkins as one of Obama’s “allies among Catholic liberals,” and even the Bishops’ Conference includes Father with Sister Carol Keehan and E.J.Dionne, Jr. among prominent “Catholics who have long supported this Administration and its healthcare policies.”

In these circumstances, most observers will surely take Father’s silence to signify a willingness to accept the “accommodation.”

This would be an unhappy reminder of Notre Dame’s regrettable role during the 1960’s in what noted Catholic author Russell Shaw calls the “less-than-glorious history” of the Church’s flaccid approach to government involvement in contraception.

Drawing on Donald T. Critchlow’s well-known book “Intended Consequences,”Shaw writes that a “major object” of the promoters of government support of contraception was softening the position of the Church. He continues with this painful passage:

Helping the process along was a series of off-the-record conferences sponsored at the University of Notre Dame from 1963 to 1967 by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, with the cooperation of Notre Dame president Father Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., and his assistant, George Shuster. These talks brought together liberal Catholic academics, Planned Parenthood officials and leaders … like John D. Rockefeller III, a determined supporter of contraception and, later, abortion …. to formulate an acceptable liberal position for the church on family planning.”

Father Jenkins has the opportunity to write a brighter chapter.

A different Notre Dame voice rings out.

As Father Jenkins has fallen silent, another Notre Dame voice has been raised, that of Professor Gary Gutting, who says he is Catholic and who teaches an introductory course to freshman as well as courses in philosophy of religion.

Writing in The New York Times Online Opinion pages, Professor Gutting assertsthat the debate over the Obama mandate is misguided because it is based on the mistaken assumption that the Catholic Church teaches that birth control is immoral.

To be sure, that is what the Pope and bishops teach. But no matter.

“It is not for the bishops,” Professor Gutting declares, “but for the faithful to decide the nature and extent of episcopal authority.”

This is “above all true,” he continues, “in matters of sexual morality, especially birth control, where the majority of Catholics have concluded that the teachings of the bishops do not apply to them.”

(He says nothing about sterilization or abortifacients, presumably because he doesn’t have a poll ready at hand.)

He concludes with this arresting revelation:

” The immorality of birth control is no longer a teaching of the Catholic Church.”

As Matthew Arnold of the Cardinal Newman Society trenchantly observed:

“Gutting’s argument would seem to have Jesus telling Peter, ‘upon this poll I will build my Church.’”

Professor Gutting evidently does not conceal his views from students. One of them posted this description of him on the Internet:

“Anti-religion, Anti-Catholic, Anti-deist shouldn’t be teaching at Notre Dame.”

As we have stressed from the start, the secularization of originally religious schools begins and ends with the faculty.


  • Father Jenkins and the March for Life. For the third successive year, Father Jenkins led a large Notre Dame contingent of students, faculty, and staff in the January March for Life. He also celebrated Mass for the group in Bill Dempsey’s Arlington VA parish, where the students stay each year. Father delivered a fine homily, Bill reports, which we wish we could reproduce, but Father spoke extemporaneously. Father Bill Miscamble, the president of Notre Dame’s Faculty for Life, concelebrated.

Actions like this and Father’s initial protest of the mandate and his criticism of the Administration’s initial rebuff of all objections fuel hope that he will yet take a leadership role. The Church truly needs Notre Dame now, as the Church and America needed Father Hesburgh during the Civil Rights era.

  • The public opposes the mandate. The Democrats’ effort to turn this episode into a vote-gaining dispute over contraception has so far failed. Both a New York Times/CBS and a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll show that substantial majorities of both women and men oppose the mandate as applied to religiously affiliated organizations.
  • Young alumni “Dear Fr. Jenkins” campaign. A group of young Notre Dame alumni have organized an Internet campaign to post daily one or more letters from alumni urging Father Jenkins to take a leadership role.
  • A legislative effort fails. Legislative relief was blocked by the Democrats in the Senate. The vote was 51-48. Thirteen Catholic Senators, all Democrats, voted against relief, while Democratic Senators Bob Casey and Joe Manchin joined all nine Republican Catholic Senators in support. Legislative relief depends on the outcome of the November election.
  • Court cases multiply. To the lawsuits we have previously reported should be added one by an individual Catholic employer and another by seven state attorneys general, a Catholic high school, two Catholic social service agencies, a Catholic insurance provider, and two Catholic nuns.
  • Dr. Woo’s farewell. For a moment of inspiration and encouragement, read Dr. Carolyn Woo’s “Taking Stock” farewell essay. The long-time Dean of the Mendoza College of Business, Dr. Woo has left to take charge of Catholic Relief Services. Under her inspired leadership, Mendoza has maintained a high proportion of Catholics on the faculty and a strong Catholic character while ascending to the very top of secular rankings. This year marks the third year in a row in which its undergraduate program isranked first in the nation by Bloomberg. More, its MBA program moved up 12 slots to #25 in the U.S. News & World Report 2012 rankings.

Suggested actions:

  • Write Fr. Jenkins and the Fellows (especially the CSC Fellows) urging that Father take a leadership role in supporting the bishops’ opposition to the mandate. Contact information is in the column to the right. If you wish to write Board members also, contact information can be found here.
  • Send the young alumni sponsors of the “Dear Fr. Jenkins” website letters for them to post. The address:

Father Jenkins should publicly endorse the bishops’ rejection of Obama’s “accommodation” and support the remedial legislation. That’s what a truly Catholic university would do. If you agree and would like to help with our mission of Catholic renewal at Notre Dame, please click here.


8 Responses to “Here, Just Don’t Use Them”

  1. Edward Knauf '81 May 26, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    Notre Dame’s collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation and, in particular, David Rockefeller, in attempting to overturn the Church’s position on artificial contraception is set forth in detail, some might describe it as pedantic, in Micahel Jones’s “Is Notre Dame Still Catholic?”

  2. Onethatreally May 26, 2012 at 12:39 pm


    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.

  3. Kris Hull '93 May 26, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    While Fr. Jenkins’s silence is bellowing, let’s not forget that other members of the faculty, particularly Professors Snead and Garnett, have been out front in discussing the Constitutional perils of this mandate.

  4. Michael Green '96 May 25, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    The references to clandestine conferences of the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations in the 1960s, (which I understand were not open to any who might have defended Catholic orthodoxy), when linked with the current silence of Father Jenkins, raise serious doubts as to whether Notre Dame is, or was ever, “unambiguously pro-life.” It is true that Father Jenkins now has the opportunity to write a brighter chapter, but, sadly for both country and Notre Dame, I am not confident he will do so.

  5. John Ryan '79 May 25, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    It seems as if while the general public has rejected the Obama Administration’s efforts to confuse the broad religious liberty and right of conscience issues with the narrow and purposely divisive contraception issue (at least if two major mainstream media polls are even close to on target), Fr. Jenkins and Notre Dame’s administration are either terribly in-perceptive or refuse to consider seriously the implications of this intrusion for the rule of law as we have known it for two hundred plus years in our nation. While Notre Dame and our alumni community ought be extremely concerned with the evisceration of the protections for freedom of religion, will any portion of the Bill of Rights retain significance if freedom of religion can be swept away by an overly broad Congressional enactment and the stroke of a functionaries pen? Does this perhaps cast in a different light the critical importance of the challenges to the Ninth and Tenth amendments inherent in the ObamaCare cases currently being litigated before the U.S. Supreme Court and those continuing work their way through lower federal and state courts currently? For some in leadership at Notre Dame has the long appreciated and frequently referenced memorial to our World War I casualties, “God, Country, Notre Dame,” been turned on its head to read “Obama, Notre Dame, Country, God”?

  6. Jerry Beckett '95 May 25, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    I agree with Prof. Gutting. It is up to “the faithful” to decide morality. And since I’m a faithful Catholic – I go to Mass every Sunday, awake or not – I have decided that cheating on my taxes is no longer immoral, and since a lot of Catholics probably agree with me, I’m not paying this year. Or next. I’m sure Obama will back me 100% on this.

    Also, I’m sure most Catholics will agree that adultery is OK if a) the one you’re cheating on will never find out, and b) the one you’re cheating with is really hot. So it looks like I’ll need some contraceptives myself…

    This morality stuff is fun!

  7. Edward Knauf '81 May 25, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Don’t hold your breath waiting for Father Jenkins. Those who objected to the University’s recalcitrance and hubris during the weeks leading up to Mr. Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame’s commencement should not be surprised that she continues to disregard the teachings of the successors to the Apostles. Rather than “what would Jesus think of us,” Notre Dame is governed strictly with a “what would Stanford, or Harvard, or think of us.” Shame, shame on old Notre Dame.

  8. That is so, and they deserve special credit for being willing to stand up amid a sea of silent support of Obama. There are about 50 active faculty who have joined the Snead/Garvey/Garvey/Glendon statement condemning the Obama “accommodation” — out of 900. Only two — two! — CSC priests; only one — one! dean; only one — one! — department chairman. Not a single member of the administration — no vice president or associate or assistant vice president, not a single one of the 20 members of the President’s Leadership Council. And so we should be especially grateful to those who signed — along with Cardinals Dolan and George and ND’s bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, and those like Professors Snead and Garnett and Bradley who have contributed greatly to the public discussion of this important issue. The agonizing problem is that they are not the voice of the University.

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