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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