It is about mid-year. The pandemic is receding. I thought you might not mind if I took up a few minutes of your time to talk about the University of Notre Dame, some recent events, and Sycamore Trust as we come out of this pandemic. But first of all — and I think most importantly — what I want to do, for myself and all of my associates, is to thank you very much for all the support that you’ve given to us in your interest, enthusiasm, and prayers — and, for those who have been able, your financial support. We are in our 15th year and are the most significant organization by far of its sort in the country. And it’s all due to you.
So having said that, let me turn to a couple of matters that have developed quite recently in respect to the university of Notre Dame. The first has to do with the commencement speaker.
As I think most of you know, President Biden is not going to be the commencement speaker. But that isn’t because he wasn’t invited — because, as you may not know, Father Jenkins did invite him. Now we have here the most formidable adversary of the Catholic church on abortion, marriage, sex, gender, and religious Liberty. This is significantly worse in terms of scandal than was the honoring of President Obama in 2009. That brought down the criticism of Notre Dame by 83 Cardinals, Archbishops, and Bishops. When has that ever happened before to a Catholic university? But this time it is much worse because President Biden is a Catholic. And he won’t let you forget it. What that means to the ordinary person looking at an invitation by Notre Dame to honor President Biden is, as far as the university is concerned, the Biden brand of Catholicism — in which one can dissent from these important teachings of the Church and work against them and still claim to be a faithful Catholic — it’s perfectly alright. And if it’s alright with the university of Notre Dame, the preeminent Catholic university in the country, it should be alright with everybody else.
Now, why would Father Jenkins feel comfortable doing this? I ask you to ask yourself would he have done it if he knew that a majority of the faculty would strongly oppose him. I suggest that he would not. And that points to the central issue at the university of Notre Dame in terms of its Catholic identity — the one that we’ve been concerned with from the very start. That is the substantial decline in Catholic representation on the faculty. The university recognizes that this is a crucial issue. It makes the presence of a majority of dedicated Catholics on the faculty the test of its Catholic identity.
That brings me to the second fact which has just developed. We have just discovered through our inquiry that the university has now decided not to disclose any more the faculty data that would indicate whether or not it does have a majority of Catholics on the faculty. This is the first time it’s ever done that. It is obviously a crucially important decision. I don’t see how the university can in conscience sustain or maintain this position over time. We hope that this isn’t the final word. But it is the word at the moment.
Now this is a pretty bleak picture that I’m painting. But I don’t mean it to be that. I mean it to be challenging and not all that bleak because Notre Dame remains the most Catholic of the major Catholic universities in the country. It has more Catholic faculty than other major universities except for Catholic university and more Catholic students. Now, this may not be saying all that much, given the calamity that has befallen Catholic higher education. But it is certainly saying something. And it means that a young man or a young woman who wants to get a Catholic education at Notre Dame can get the very best that’s available any place in the country. But for the student who doesn’t make that effort, the odds are not very good.
Now as to Sycamore Trust, to return to our agenda, we’ve had to cancel our last two annual breakfast meetings, which have been very important to us — and we hope to all of you who’ve been able to attend or participate online. We continue our investigative reporting, of course. The students haven’t been able to put on many productions, panels, or that sort of thing. So we haven’t been called upon to support them in those efforts. But the pandemic has had a good side product for the future. We now have the equipment and the technology that will enable us to put on live panel discussions of issues that are important to the university. And we intend to do that.
That brings me to our last item of news, which is very important to us — and I hope it will seem so to you. The Gay and Lesbian Alumni Association of the University of Notre Dame and St. Mary’s has, for some years, been offering pretty substantial scholarships to students who will carry the rainbow flag at the university of Notre Dame. We wanted to match that practice and provide scholarship assistance to students who work hard to improve and maintain the Catholic character of the university of Notre Dame. But we haven’t had the resources to do it until now. And now, through the generosity of a 1973 alumnus, Mike Hanson, we will be able next year to provide scholarships assistance to five or six students in recognition of the work that they’ve been doing to enhance the Catholic identity of the university. We hope that they will benefit from their association with us. And we know that we will benefit from our association with them.
Now that concludes what I wanted to say this morning to you except for a couple of brief footnotes. First, this is not a fundraising presentation, but I was struck by the fact recently that hardly anybody uses the option of monthly contributions. And so I wanted to bring that to your attention in case it fits your situation. I know that it is an important part of the fundraising programs of other organizations. And so I mention it now.
The second footnote has to do with our Board of Trustees at Sycamore Trust. I’ve mentioned them before. I wish that you would take a few minutes just to go to our website and look at their biographies. You will find that it is a highly credentialed and greatly experienced group of Notre Dame alumni. I am proud to be counted among their number and to have them as friends, as an additional bonus.
With that, then, I leave you. I wish God’s blessing upon all of you, each and every one, upon the university of Notre Dame, its students, its faculty, its entire community, and, all who love it throughout the United States.