The March for Life, the Election, and Notre Dame


The March for Life is energized by the Trump administration as Archbishop Chaput suggests Trump be invited to speak at Notre Dame’s Commencement.

NOTRE DAME, IN — In our last bulletin, while acknowledging President Trump’s flaws, the impossibility of predicting his future actions, and the many current controversial political issues, we described how in any event his stated policies on pro-life and religious liberty are favorable to the Church and Notre Dame. While we said we would examine the reaction to the election at Notre Dame in our next bulletin, we are instead reporting first on the March for Life and on a reflection by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput on the March and the election in which he has a suggestion for Father Jenkins.

The March for Life

Last Friday some 700 Notre Dame, St. Mary’s, and Holy Cross students, led by Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C., and other Notre Dame priests, faculty, and staff, joined what the Washington Post described as a “massive” March for Life. The New York Times compared Notre Dame’s turnout with Georgetown’s, where the president of the student Right to Life club expected only 30 or 40 students to participate. That, she said, contrasted with the dominantly pro-choice Women’s March a week earlier, to which “Our entire school basically went.”

We are pleased to report that, at the rally, March for Life recognized the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture as a leader of the pro-life movement and Friend of the March. The President of March for Life, Jeanne Mancini, is an alumna of the Center for Ethics and Culture’s Vita Institute.

For representative accounts, see articles in The Washington Post and LifeNews and particularly a National Review article by ND alumna (and Sycamore Trust student awardee) Alexandra DeSanctis. You can also view a time-lapse video of the entire March.

It was a remarkably joyful, even exuberant, gathering marked by the youth of so many participants. President Trump had tweeted that morning, “To all of you marching — you have my full support!” Taking note, the Fox television reporter remarked,

They feel they have a friend in the White House.

The highlight was the appearance of Vice President Mike Pence, the first time a sitting Vice President has attended the March. “The significance of his appearance,” one reporter wrote, “was not lost on the crowd.” Another commentator wrote,

The appearance of the vice president was the strongest evidence imaginable of the sense of optimism and renewed energy that surround the pro-life movement.

Pence, who said he had been asked by the President to appear, declared, “We are in the promise-keeping business,” and pointed to Trump’s reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy and his imminent appointment of a Supreme Court pro-life Justice. Click here to read the transcript of Vice President Pence’s entire talk.

Father Jenkins had perhaps hinted at this transformed landscape when he presided at a pre-March Mass for the Notre Dame marchers.  In opening his homily, he mentioned the “new administration,” his opportunity to tell Vice President Pence about the Notre Dame delegation at a reception, and the “hope” the marchers should harbor. (This from Bill and Mary Dempsey, who were there.) Concelebrating were Holy Cross priests Fathers Bill Miscamble, Terry Ehrman, and Michael Wurtz.

Vice President Pence was preceded by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, who offered the invocation. The Cardinal had also delivered the homily at the Vigil Mass, which was attended by five cardinals, 40 bishops, including Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne/South Bend, 320 priests, 90 deacons, 545 seminarians and a congregation of approximately 12,000.

Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President, spoke just before the Vice President. A “proven fighter for the pro-life movement,”she opened by declaring, “I am a wife. A mother. A Catholic. And yes, I am pro-life!” She closed with a pledge:

Allow me to make it very clear. We hear you and we look forward to working with you.

For the legislative branch, nearly 150 members of Congress sent a letter to President Trump praising him for his support for the March; Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) spoke; and House Speaker Paul Ryan, in a video statement, told the marchers, “For the first time in a while, the House, the Senate, and now the White House are united around a single purpose: defending life.” He vowed:

Today, you march to defend the rights of those who cannot defend themselves. Know that we march with you and that we will not stop fighting until every life is protected under the law.

Click here to watch Vice President Pence and Ms. Conway’s addresses and get a sense of the crowd and its spirit; and to watch Congresswoman Mia Love, the young first black woman Republican Representative, “bring people to tears,” click here.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M.

In an earlier bulletin, we reported on Archbishop Chaput’s 2016 Toqueville Lecture at Notre Dame about the serious fault lines in modern culture. In his talk, he reprehended both presidential candidates (and criticized Father Jenkins’s decision to confer the Laetare Medal on Vice President Biden). Now the election is over, and in the article we reprint below (with permission from  First Things and Archbishop Chaput comments on Trump, his critics, and the pro-life cause, and has a suggestion for Father Jenkins.

The March for Life in Year 44

by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M.

Charles-ChaputSince Inauguration Day critics of Donald Trump have marched, rioted, verbally abused and in some cases viciously assaulted their opponents on a scale previously unseen.

Some of the anger is understandable. As I said repeatedly last fall, Mr. Trump’s words and behavior during the presidential campaign, on immigration and other issues, were deeply troubling. But in one of our history’s darker ironies, Mr. Trump benefited from an opposing candidate who had her own equally, though different, ugly and disqualifying baggage.

Mr. Trump is now President Trump, and curiously, some of the harshest, on-going fury directed at him has nothing to do with his personal character. Rather, it’s a very special brand of “progressive” intolerance for the approach his administration may take toward a range of difficult social issues, including abortion.

It involves a visceral media and leadership-class contempt for people like the hundreds of thousands of stubbornly good persons who continue to march each January — peacefully, respectfully and joyfully — in defense of the unborn child. The contrast with their critics is a lesson in what does, and does not, constitute responsible public witness.

When the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized permissive abortion 44 years ago this month, abortion supporters argued that abortion was a sad necessity. As such, it needed to be made safe, legal and rare. Now it’s celebrated as a sacred right that demands veneration from the whole culture, including the millions of ordinary people who see this kind of officially blessed homicide as a gravely evil act.

One of the more promising signs from the new administration is its apparent sympathy for some key prolife concerns, from the appointment of Supreme Court justices to the defunding of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.

Of course, being “prolife” involves a great deal more than a defense of the unborn child, though it certainly needs to start there. Maybe the best way to amplify and elevate President Trump’s understanding of that word “prolife” would be for a premier Catholic university – say, for example, the University of Notre Dame – to invite him to campus to offer its commencement address, to explain his personal evolution on the abortion issue, and to share, listen and learn with a cross-section of students and faculty in a respectful dialogue on the meaning of human dignity.

Notre Dame takes pride in its tradition of welcoming to campus U.S. presidents from both parties and with very different views. In that light, the invitation would certainly make sense and might be fruitful in unforeseen ways. God writes straight with crooked lines.

In the meantime, abortion is still with us. As thousands of Catholics and other prolife persons gather in Washington on January 27 and walk together in the annual March for Life, the time has never been better, nor the need more urgent, to pray for our country, to pray for the end of abortion, and to pray for a conversion in the hearts our leaders.


Forty-four years after Roe, a reverence for the sanctity of human life still burns in the spirit of far too many people to ignore.

Concluding Comment

As we have reported, Father Jenkins, having triggered widespread protests and demonstrations by his honoring of President Obama at the 2009 commencement and having said he would “do it again” for Obama, now says he may not “do it again” for President Trump because he fears widespread protests and demonstrations. As we have said, we question the wisdom of the university’s practice of honoring presidents no matter what, but it is now too late for Father Jenkins to declare the policy ended. Having cited the policy as warrant for honoring the Church’s most formidable adversary on abortion, he could not escape charges of hypocrisy were he to bypass our new pro-life President.

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