Notre Dame’s Conscience du Jour


In a stunning move, Notre Dame has just taken back the claim it made through years of litigation, in protest of the Obamacare mandate, that it couldn’t in conscience consent to the provision of abortifacients and contraceptives to its employees by its health plan administrator. That is now precisely what it is going to do.

NOTRE DAME, IN – The university waited to announce this reversal until the Trump administration amended the mandate and offered an exemption to Notre Dame and the scores of other religious organization plaintiffs, a development we reported in our last bulletin.

Then it waited longer as its attorneys negotiated a settlement that would guarantee Notre Dame could stop the flow of abortifacients and contraceptives to its employees.

But then, as we reported a couple of weeks ago and to our surprise and dismay, it told its employees that they would continue receiving free abortifacients and contraceptives the next policy year beginning on January 1.

But then, a day after our report, it took that back and told its employees that the abortifacient/contraceptive coverage would end on January 1.

Thinking, foolishly, that the administration finally meant what it said, we reported this development with great satisfaction. It was big news across the country in the press and on radio and television.

But the  lurching had still not ended. In yet another jolting switch, the university notified the employees yesterday that its plan administrator, Meritain,  will continue to supply free abortifacients and contraceptives next year after all. (Click on the image below to read the notification.) While Notre Dame “follows Catholic teaching about contraception,” the university says, it “will not interfere with the provision of contraceptives that will be administered and funded independently of the university.” More, it has advised students that this same system will be continued for them by the insurer rather than ended when the current insurance term ends next August, as it had previously announced.

This stab at disclaiming responsibility is transparently infirm. Notre Dame offers the image of a for-profit health service company pressing Notre Dame to permit it to hand out valuable products to thousands of its employees for nothing.

Who do these people think they’re kidding?

Meritain is a major contractor for Notre Dame, not some independent benevolent or zealous third party. Notre Dame does not suggest, doubtless because it could not, that Meritain would provide this service if it said not to. The abortifacients and contraceptives are being furnished free of charge because of Notre Dame — its willingness, almost surely its urging, and its relationship to Meritain.

The crucial point is that this delivery system is exactly the same as the Obamacare so-called “accommodation” system that Notre Dame swore to the courts is “contrary to its faith” because it compels it to “facilitate practices that Catholic doctrine considers morally wrong.”

Listen to a little more of what Notre Dame told the courts about this arrangement under which Notre Dame was compelled to allow Meritain to provide the abortifacients and contraceptives and Meritain was compelled to furnish them — the arrangement that Notre Dame now adopts voluntarily:

It is a core tenet of Notre Dame’s religion that abortion, contraception, and sterilization are serious moral wrongs. Notre Dame’s religious beliefs are deeply and sincerely held. The mandate requires Notre Dame to do precisely what its sincerely held religious beliefs prohibit.


Notre Dame’s mission “as an educator of youth in the Catholic tradition dictates that it avoid such facilitation.” “Scandal is particularly great when associated with those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others.”


The accommodation “improperly attempts to sever Notre Dame from the Roman Catholic Church.

But now the university, given the opportunity by the Trump administration to stay wedded to the Church, first accepts the proffer and now, in what amounts to a breathtaking repudiation of its judicial representations, takes it all back.

There is a final point relevant to Notre Dame’s Catholic identity. On its face, this decision unmasks what now appears to have been a pretend lawsuit and accordingly a serious abuse of the judicial process. These representations went to an essential element of the lawsuit, the question whether the “accommodation” imposed a” substantial burden” on Notre Dame’s “religious liberty.” It now appears that Notre Dame was perfectly willing right along to do what the government wanted it to do but told its outside lawyers — some of the best in the country — that it wasn’t. If that is so, the lawsuit was a sham.

This turn of events has transformed what appeared to be a very encouraging and courageous stand by Father Jenkins and his associates into a rout by the opposing faculty, staff, and student forces. In not “standing in the way” of the snuffing out of life through abortifacients, the administration has set the precedent for this sort of insurance system for surgical abortion, sterilization, and any other procedure that has a significant constituency in the university community. It is a dark time for Notre Dame.

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28 Responses to “Notre Dame’s Conscience du Jour”

  1. When will they take the blessed Mother from the dome?joe O’Brien 52

  2. At a substantial sacrifice to send my daughters to ND I am mortified with the Non adherence to church teaching and the collapse of moral authority by the
    Non catholic population of teachers now distorting our Catholic teachings.
    It’s not diversity its adherence to Catholic beliefs.

  3. With the cost of an Notre Dame education now at approximately $70,000 per year, one wonders if the bill sent to families includes a line item for “Legal Expenses/Sham Lawsuits.”

  4. Bill Dotterweich November 9, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    It seems to me the comments on this website are getting a little rough. Neither Father Jenkins nor any other Holy Cross priest has ever said “abortion is okay” or any words to that effect. I will agree that the administration lacks spine, but the accusations and vindictiveness should stop at that.

    I am as critical as anyone of some the the actions that have characterized the Jenkins administration (and Malloy’s and Hesburgh’s before that) but tell me people, how many Notre Dame graduates have you met recently who are not upstanding, involved and productive leaders in their communities? Sure, the place may have sagged in some respect since I graduated in 1958, but I dare say the quality of its products (graduates) has not.

  5. John McNamara '86 November 9, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    Dear Bill: I can not see any real difference between what Father Jenkins is doing right now, teaching Catholic university students at Notre Dame that it’s permissible to participate in pre-marital sex, birth control and the murder of an unborn innocent baby-abortion, and what Fr. Charles Curran taught at St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester, NY and at the Catholic University of America, before his papal authority to teach Catholic theology was taken away by the Vatican in the mid 1980’s, other than Fr. Curran came out and wrote what he thought and taught it in lectures, while Fr. Jenkins, an unrespectable boy, hides behind university spokesmen and health insurance companies, but the revolution within the Church is the same, just sneakier and more cowardly. Fr. Jenkins is a conscienceless coward giving approval to the murder of innocent babies. I think Fr. Jenkins deserves the same fate as Fr, Charles Curran, who taught theology at USC, after Catholic University, and just retired from SMU. You can look up Fr, Charles Curran’s story in articles on the internet. I would ask you and the other readers here to contact the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to investigate Fr. Jenkins’ ability to be a priest and teach Catholic theology and ask the Conference of Bishops to contact the Vatican regarding Fr. Jenkins. IT IS that important- you can’t have the president of the Western Hemisphere’s best known Catholic university and the head priest at a basilica saying that abortion is o.k., and if we say and do nothing, we are part of the problem of failing to stand up to evil, even when it only required writing a letter.

    You mention in the article that faculty and student groups were pressuring Fr. Jenkins. Would you identify who specifically? Who has that much power at Notre Dame? I was expecting the pressure to be coming from billionaire and millionaire donors, not college professors and students, whom nobody has ever heard of.

    Would you also please provide the name of the judge who heard the Notre Dame case, and provide the US District Court case number, from which you quote some of Notre Dame’s court pleadings? Thanks in advance for your consideration.

    • John, the district court case number is 3:12-cv-00253 ( N.D. Ind. ), the district judge was Phillip Simon, and the court of appeals judge writing the opinion was Richard Posner, who I think would be especially sensitive to misrepresentations should they they be disclosed in a Rule 7 hearing. If this does not turn up the complaint , let me know.

      There was considerable hostility on campus among students, employees, and I think to a more limited extent faculty. Some graduate students organized a demonstration and petition. I don’t know the number of signatories, but I think it fair to say that Fr Jenkins initial decision was widely unpopular. I think it true also that the birth control teaching does not have much traction at Notre Dame, but that doesn’t explain the acceptance of the distribution of abortifacients. There are I think lots of averted eyes on that.

  6. Bill Dotterweich November 9, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    Want an interesting exercise? Go to Notre Dame’s website and check out the Notre Dame Mission Statement. Compare the statement with this administration’s actions. They just don’t walk the talk.

    Then, go the website of Hillsdale (MI) College. Compare the Hillsdale Mission Statement with how they run their college. Total concurrence. They walk their talk.

    Birds of a totally different feather. This ND administration has been accused of lacking a “true North” on their moral compass.

  7. What do you call people who profess to have a deeply and sincerely held belief, and then, when given the opportunity, go against that belief? I think they are called hypocrites. Clearly Notre Dame has many of them in their governing bodies with Fr. Jenkins the biggest of them all. Notre Dame has been caught participating in a legal and moral sham.

  8. Surprised?….not me!…well at least not entirely. When I attended the university from 1995-1999 I became keenly aware of what I now call the “Cult of Notre Dame.” During my freshman year I encountered students and faculty exhibiting a deep emotional bond to the University. At first I believed this bond was rooted in the deeper and wider reality of ND’s Catholic history and mission. However, as I witnessed students and some faculty distancing themselves from others not yet infected by the ND fervor or worse yet labeling and ridiculing those who were not students at the university; “townies” they called them, I began to understand that what I was seeing was not love of the university but rather pride in oneself. Fr. Jenkins exhibits and propagates the quintessential vice of ND today, pride.

  9. Richard T. Creedon '62 November 9, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    Maybe my recent post about keeping Fr. Jenkins on a leash was inappropriate after all……..and I now realize my error ………….and am truly sorry……….I now am totally certain that it was too kind and not forceful enough.

  10. James J.Holstein,M.D. November 9, 2017 at 11:09 am

    By their actions, you shall know them. It is most discouraging that a university, presumed by so many, to represent the ultimate Catholic university has surrendered so much. This further demonstrates the lack of a core morality and lack of adherence to the fundamental teachings of the Church. To continue this course of subtle support of abortion, either by awarding medals to Vice President Biden or by this provision of access to abortion services,albeit indirectly, is an affront to the Church and the very person for whom this university is named.

    How ironic that an institution named for the Blessed Mother pursues policies that enable the destruction of human life. It is one thing to identify as Catholic, but quite another to live a life consistent with the teachings of the Church. One must wonder what is being taught to the next generation ,regarding faith and morals, when the actions are so opposite these teachings.

  11. I renew my pledge to give no money my alma mater as long as Jenkins is there. He worships at the altar of the almighty dollar. We should pray for him.

  12. The lawsuit was an important factor in our decision to encourage our daughter to enroll at ND. She is a sophomore and loving it. But my wife and I are disgusted right now. Perhaps a group of Catholic students and faculty could gather several days a week to pray the rosary in front of the administration to ask for change of decision and an honoring of the sanctity of the sacrament of matrimony.

  13. Who is in charge at Notre Dame? The Devil.

  14. Dennis Malinowski '70 November 9, 2017 at 9:05 am

    What will Notre Dame fight for Fr. Jenkins, Dogma or Dollars?

  15. William J. O'Connor November 9, 2017 at 8:06 am

    What is stunning is that the policy was passed in the first place. What is stunning is the total indifference of students, alumni,faculty and clergy while innocent, defenseless unborn children were starved to death with abortion pills provided by Notre Dame. What is stunning is, so did we, most of us, the commentators who did nothing more than commentate and
    ” Pray To End Abortion ” with the local Bishop who tacitly assented to the policy. Forty-four years, sixty-one million dead..
    Meanwhile, soda pop flavor enhancers from the kidney tissue of aborted children, and body parts for sale, a history of. warped science and perverted medicine.
    Rhetoric is not resistance. Shame on all of us, for letting it happen.We are more culpable than those we assail.

    William J. O’Connor
    Class of 1974

  16. Boy Jenkins…pimped again. First by NBC. Now, Meritain.

    Please, Holy Spirit…Can we get someone else, now?! Please???!!!

  17. Catholic hierarchy cannot remain silent on this matter. In what ND administrators “have done or failed to do”, we Catholics should specifically pray that, from the top down, the bishops would strongly denounce the Notre Dame administration’s sinful abortion related decisions and make as many employment changes as are possible.

  18. Patrick J. Riley November 8, 2017 at 10:53 pm

    Notre Dame has shown its claim to be a Catholic Institution is a falsehood. I am nolonger proud to be a graduate. Patrick Riley Class of 1953.

  19. One cannot serve two masters, God and Mammon. ND cares more about protecting its riches than obeying the laws of God. The heroic thing to have done would have been to follow the lead of the Sisters of the Poor and risk severe financial penalty with a loss in court. Instead it chose not to risk its grossly inflated endowment by walking the tightrope. ND can’t win for losing.

  20. Richard P. Griffin'60 November 8, 2017 at 8:05 pm

    A pitiful and disgusting development. Just when I thought we were turning the corner on the Catholicity issue. How can our leaders possibly think that God will be fooled by a ‘smoke and mirrors’ defense on facilitating abortion?

  21. I am very disheartened. I was beginning to have renewed hope that the Notre Dame my daughter is currently attending was staying true to its Catholic heritage and mission: invitations to attend Mass made over the Jumbotron at football games, the Sacrament of Reconciliation being made available out in the open on the south quad before the NC State game. However, other signs, the worrisome ones, had remained: the rainbow flags hung outside dorm windows, invitations to sign pledges against “hate”, advertisements about contraceptives and “crisis pregnancies” hung in the hall where my freshman lives. We must continue to keep Notre Dame the special place it still is in most respects by fighting against the forces that are trying to make Notre Dame as morally weak as almost every other university in the country.

  22. Bill Dotterweich November 8, 2017 at 6:31 pm

    The issue here isn’t Notre Dame’s commitment, or lack thereof, to Church teachings. The issue is that we puerile simpletons expected something more, something better, from this administration. We are the foolish ones.

  23. This is stunning given the fact that there was no legal justification for the unconstitutional contraception mandate from the start and thus the reversal will be seen as an affirmation that for The University of Notre Dame, condoning the use of contraception through a coercive accomodation, in n way, shape, or form is a violation of our inherent Right to practice our Faith in private as well as in publc.

    In regards to this excellent statement and to whom it may concern:

    “The University joined a lawsuit against the previous federal rules – by which the government decreed which institutions were sufficiently religious to be exempted and forced those who were not to sign the HHS waiver – because it believes critical issues of religious freedom were at stake. For that reason, we welcome this reversal and applaud the attorney general’s statement that ‘except in the narrowest circumstances, no one should be forced to choose between living out his or her faith and complying with the law.’”

    To be a Catholic University, a University must be “in communion with the correct and true teachings of The Catholic Church”, and thus The Word of God as He Has Revealed Himself to His Church in the trinitarian relationship of Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the teaching of The Magisterium.

    It is important to note that The Supreme Court, “in an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, upheld by a vote of 5 to 4 the individual Insurance mandate to buy health insurance to be a constitutional exercise of Congress’s taxing power”, and thus ruled the individual Insurance mandate to be in essence a tax and not a penalty. The Obama administration had argued that the fees should be considered a penalty. “A majority of the justices, including Chief Justice Roberts, agreed that the individual mandate was not a proper use of Congress’s Commerce Clause or Necessary and Proper Clause powers, though they did not join in a single opinion.” ( “The Commerce Clause does not empower the Federal Government to order individuals to engage in commerce.” See Opinion, Roberts

    This does not change the fact that under Tax Law, The HHS Contraception Mandate, which was added to The Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act by an Administration Agency, after President Obama signed The Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act into Law on March 23, 2010, remains a gross violation of both The First and Eighth Amendments of The Constitution of The United States of America.

    This new “law” that required Insurance Companies to include contraception coverage in their Health Insurance Plans, coverage which is not Life-affirming or Life-sustaining, and in some cases, destroys human life, promotes promiscuity and the objectification of the human person, also forbade insurance companies from charging part of the cost of contraception to the patient, and, in fact, led to a gross violation of not only The First Amendment and our inherent Right to Religious Liberty, but, due to the obscene fines and penalty placed on those who desired to provide their employees with Health Care Insurance, sans contraception coverage, by violating the principle of proportionality, is a gross violation of The Eighth Amendment, as well.

    It is not necessary nor is it proper under our Constitution to use Tax Law to deny Religious Liberty to individuals or groups of individuals, including Insurance Companies, and penalize those individuals through the threat of gross fines, that any reasonable person will construe to be a means to “influence the recepient”of said fine, into violating a tenet of their Faith and/or morals.

    The erroneous notion that private and public morality are not complementary is a grievous error in both Faith and reason, that has reached even into the Hierarchy of Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

    The Law of Nncontradiction is clear, even in a plauralistic society; one cannot be autonomous and in communion with Christ and His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, simultaneously.

    For it is Through, With, and In Christ, in the Unity of The Holy Ghost, that Holy Mother Church exists. One cannot be autonomous from and in communion with The One Body of Christ, simultaneously.

    It is about the Marriage, in Heaven and on earth.

    One Bridegroom, One Bride, on earth.

    One Bridegroom, One Bride, (One Holy Mother Church), in Heaven.

    “And he said to me: Write: Blessed are they that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith to me: These words of God are true.”

  24. Look at the justifications offered by ND below, from:

    Then, compare these justification to those that ND originally proposed, in above article. The university has a quite elastic public persona when it comes to justifying its policies!

    “In an email, Paul J. Browne, the university’s vice president of communications, insisted that Notre Dame had not flip-flopped—the insurance companies had. After the Trump administration’s October announcement, “we believed that insurance companies would discontinue no-cost coverage for contraceptives for employees at the end of the year,” he said, and “since then, we learned that they would continue such coverage.” The real problem was not with third-party insurers, he said. The problem was the government. “In the previous administration, the federal government took it upon itself to determine which institutions were sufficiently Catholic (parishes, for example) and which were not (universities),” he wrote. “That was unacceptable.”

    Jenkins restated this objection to government interference in his annual address to the faculty senate on Tuesday night. The birth-control mandate “was the result not of legislative process but administrative decree,” he said. If religious organizations can’t take exceptions to federal policies, he said, “then they have lost any meaningful religious freedom in the face of the imposition of governmental power.”

  25. The lawsuit absolutely was a sham. Notre Dame cares more about keeping in the good graces of its more “progressive” students and employees, and more importantly, in good standing with its academic “peer institutions” than it does about what is truly morally wrong.

  26. Robert E.Griffin ‘57 November 8, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    A very discouraging final decision. It raises the question: Who is in charge at Notre Dame???

  27. Good grief. They take us all for simpletons.