An Open Letter to Father John I Jenkins, C.S.C., and Dean Sarah Mustillo
With copies to Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades
Dear Father Jenkins and Dean Mustillo:
We write as alumni, other members of the Notre Dame family, and concerned Catholics to express our deep disappointment with your allowing the Gender Relations Program and the Reilly Center for Science, Technology and Values to sanction attacks on the Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion in the current series Reproductive Justice. We urge that you take swift action to counter the scandal given students and the damage to the University’s reputation as a Catholic institution.
There is no question about the pro-abortion message of the series. The panelists on the first panel were incontestably hostile to the Catholic Church’s teaching that abortion “is gravely contrary to the moral law.” And the second panel — “Trans Care + Abortion Care: Intersection and Questions” – was considerably worse, with the pro-abortion message prominent throughout.
That was surely by design, given the selection of panelists. In anticipation of the event, the National Catholic Register reported that one of them is a “black trans abortion doula” who “has had two surgical abortions,” “has a forearm tattoo of a tool used in the abortion procedure,” and “provides physical, emotional, or financial help to people seeking to end a pregnancy.”
This pro-abortion initiative by Notre Dame academic units and departments was so blatant that, as you know, Notre Dame’s bishop, The Most Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades, publicly denounced the sponsors and their many departmental supporters for providing “a platform for unanswered pro-abortion activism” that is a “scandal” and “unworthy of a great Catholic research university.”
This unrebutted traducing of Church teaching on abortion would not have happened had Gender Studies and the Reilly Center complied with the Common Proposal, the university’s carefully designed policy for insuring academic freedom while avoiding scandal and protecting Notre Dame’s reputation as an authentically Catholic institution. Instead, the Program and the Center violated the Common Proposal in two fundamental respects and will continue to do so for the duration of the series unless enjoined.
First, the sponsors most certainly did not, as required by the Proposal, avoid “giv[ing] the impression of endorsing controversial perspectives, especially those directly contrary to Catholic teachings.” There was no disclaimer in advance publicity, nor did the moderators disassociate Gender Studies and the Reilly Center from the pro-abortion expressions of the panelists.
Second, and most significantly, the administrators of Gender Studies and the Reilly Center ignored the Common Proposal provision that
“Chairs should aim at ensuring that a forum is provided in which multiple viewpoints and voices on controversial topics can be heard, an appropriate balance among viewpoints is maintained, and, when a significant issue in the Catholic tradition is touched upon, that tradition should be presented.”
The two methods described are the inclusion of a speaker explaining the Church’s teaching when the event is a panel discussion or the sponsoring of such a speaker subsequently when it is not.
What is decidedly not suggested is what the sponsors did, namely, provide links to a long list of pro-life university events, almost all of them already past. This palpably empty gesture made a mockery of the Common Proposal requirement.
The staging of pro-abortion programs by two Notre Dame academic units is especially scandalous because aimed at students whose moral formation has been entrusted to Notre Dame by their parents.
And the scandal is exacerbated by the long list of the program supporters, i.e., the Initiative on Race and Resilience, the Center for Social Concerns, the Institute for Latino Studies, Departments of American Studies, Anthropology, English, Film, Television & Theatre, History, Political Science, and Sociology, the St. Mary’s College Department of Gender and Women Studies, and the Indiana University-South Bend Women’s and Gender Studies Program.
We urge you to take action to counter this scandal and enforce the Common Proposal. Under that policy statement, Dean Mustillo, you had the responsibility to “make clear on campus and off” that sponsorship of these events by Gender Studies and the Reilly Center did not imply support, but instead the audience heard the moderator of the first panel thank “the office of the Dean of Arts and Letters for their support.” And, Father Jenkins, under the Common Proposal you have a similar responsibility “when necessary.”
But since in this instance it is now evident that sponsorship by Gender Studies and the Reilly Center plainly does mean support of the pro-abortion views of the panelists, these Common Proposal guardrails are useless.
Accordingly, we urge you, Father Jenkins, to issue a statement to the Notre Dame community, especially the students, similar to the admirable letter you recently sent the Chicago Tribune about a pro-abortion op-ed in that paper by two Notre Dame professors: .
“I write to state unequivocally that their essay does not reflect the views and values of the UniversityofNotre Dame in its tone, arguments or assertions.”
And we suggest, Dean Mustillo, that you commission the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture and the McGrath Institute for Church Life to organize a presentation by a panel of outstanding Catholic experts to explicate the views and values invoked by Father Jenkins and to rebut the pro-abortion and other anti-Church views that may be advanced in the Reproductive Justice and other contemporaneous programs sponsored by Gender Studies and the Reilly Center. See especially the coming “Queer Holiness” presentation in which a homosexual Episcopal deacon will predictably assail Church teaching on homosexual sex and marriage.
As matters stand, with the pro-abortion Reproductive Justice series sponsored by two sympathetic academic units, supported by a host of others, and watched in silence by you and all others in the administration, the University’s vaunted pro-life declaration looks feeble indeed, if not insincere. But your decisive action could restore, even strengthen, confidence in Notre Dame’s commitment to the Church’s teaching, to the spiritual welfare of Notre Dame students, and to the preborn.
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