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The March for Life, the Election, and Notre Dame

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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 CatholicPhilliy.com) 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.

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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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32 Responses to “The March for Life, the Election, and Notre Dame”

  1. I consider myself pro-life, but I am also pro-choice. I strongly believe that a woman has a right to make decisions about her own body, especially in cases involving rape, incest or in which the life of the mother is at risk.”

    If you strongly believe that a woman has a right to make decisions about her own body, and you believe the son or daughter residing within a mother’s womb is in essence, part of a woman’s body, then it would follow that a mother, due to your strong belief that a woman has a right to make decisions about her own body, which includes the son or daughter residing in their mother’s womb, would then have the right to withhold nourishment and shelter and anything necessary to sustain the life of their son or daughter, at any point in time of that child’s life, if that particular son or daughter comes forth from their mother’s womb alive.

    There is nothing that is pro-life about the claim that a woman has the right to decide whether her son or daughter’s life should be preserved, after that son or daughter has been created and brought into being at their conception.

  2. “[I]t 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.”

    But the simple and glaring fact is that Fr. Jenkins IS a hypocrite. Expect the worst from him.

  3. Jane, wife mother and mother-in-law of ND grads
    Whatever must our Blessed Mother be thinking of her previously honorable Notre Dame?! Really.

    Don’t the powers-to-be at UND know she’s REAL and not just a gold statue on the dome? In 2009 the board of trustees and Fr. Jenkins had the teachable moment in American history when they should have refused to invite to a Catholic campus the most pro abortion leader in American history. They not only invited…they fawned over him. NOW Fr. Jenkins and the board must invited President Trump!

    How culpable are Notre Dame leaders for their pronounced ignorance on what the Abortion Industry is all about! This is a war on women and their children…and the men who love them…on the sanctity of the family itself! Just as Our Lady herself foretold at to Sr. Lucia (Fatima), the final battle between God and Satan will be over Marriage and the Family!
    Have they viewed the documentary Maafa 21 (Swahili for Black Genocide)? Did they know about the enormous impact of the Land of Lakes Compact for America’s Catholic universities which Fr. Hesburgh facilitated? Have they now seen the information in “The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing’ film (EWTN)?

    35 years ago I had the privilege to help found a pro life Pregnancy Center to support all those in an untimely pregnancy. We have seen the hope and joy clients and their families find with us…a Place Of Trust. We have also seen first hand the devastation and wounds in the lives of those mothers…and fathers…who have lost a child (or more) in abortion…and served them. How can a Catholic University named for our Blessed MOTHER participate in this debacle?

    President Trump must be invited….and UND must demonstrate repentance…like ourselves, these supporters of the Abortion Industry need our prayers. Healing and Hope are possible…but we must never tolerate evil. (Bishop Sheen).

  4. Neil B. Connelly '74 February 3, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    Fr. Jenkins helped to set up a candle light protest after Donald Trump won the presidential election. Anyone who hopes he will invite the President to speak at Notre Dame is hoping in vain. Fr. Jenkins has long abandoned the fundamental principles of our alma mater. Like other posters, I ceased donations when the Obama fiasco took place. Notre Dame was once a shining beacon of hope and inspiration for many Catholics. It has lost its standing. The Progressive attitude of Fr. Jenkins and the Board of Trustees endangers the future of ND. Left unchecked, the University will gradually become a forgotten mid-western school of no particular importance. I pray I am wrong, but I fear I am not.

    • Neil: I was going to make a post here, but you left me with nothing else to add. Well said!
      Tim Danielson ’69

    • It would indeed be hypocritical to render an opinion about immigration, lawful, or unlawful, while denying the natural born citizenship of certain sons and daughters residing in their mother’s womb, through the act of prohibiting certain sons and daughters from coming forth from their mother’s womb, alive.

  5. Telling the truth can never be an act of hypocrisy. Father Jenkins could say that he now realizes that Catholc Institutions should not honor those who do not respect The Sanctity of human life from the moment of conception and/or the Sanctity of the marital act and thus God’s intention for marriage and the family because Catholic Institutions have a fiduciary duty to Witness to The Way, The Truth, and The Life (Light) of Love, our Savior, Jesus The Christ, in public as well as in private.

    “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

    To deny the Sanctity of the marital act and/or the Sanctity of human life from the moment we are created and brought into being, in The Image and Likeness of God, equal in Dignity, while being complementary as a beloved son or daughter, Willed by God, The Ordered Communion of Perfect Love, worthy of Redemption, is to deny that God Is The Author of Love, of Life, and of Marriage. To deny that God Is The Author of Love, of Life, and of Marriage, is to deny Salvational Love, God’s Gift of Grace and Mercy.

    Why would a Catholic Institution not desire to Witness to Christ and thus to our fundamental moral principles when those who are Catholic recognize that there Is only One Way, One Truth, One Life (Light) of Love?

    It is not Loving or Merciful to desire that we or our beloved remain in our sin. If it were true that it is Loving and Merciful that we remain in our sin, we would not need our Savior, to begin with.

  6. I just signed the petition, seems we only need a few thousand more to make 10,000. Go Irish! Literally, go Irish and sign that petition.

  7. Dale C. Havre, M.D. February 2, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    Abortion is terrorism at its worst. The in-utero infant is helpless and innocent, and it is tragic that he or she cannot render an opinion about “choice.” I would never choose Fr. Jenkins to lead a march for life in my neighborhood.

  8. “…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.”

    Telling the truth can never be an act of hypocrisy. Father Jenkins could say that he now realizes that Catholc Institutions should not honor those who do not respect The Sanctity of human life from the moment of conception and/or the Sanctity of the marital act and thus God’s intention for marriage and the family because Catholic Institutions have a fiduciary duty to Witness to The Way, The Truth, and The Life (Light) of Love, our Savior, Jesus The Christ in public as well as in private.

    • Robert Pasquarelli February 2, 2017 at 3:05 pm

      Jenkins should resign his position at Notre Dame and be sent to a Monastery for contemplative prayer for the balance of his life for leading so many young people on the wrong path.

      • Frank Freidhoff February 2, 2017 at 3:29 pm

        Certainly the Holy Cross Community has been hurt by the action taken in 2009 by Fr. Jenkins, as has the whole Pro-life effort when viewed in the total effect of honoring a anti-life leader. Hopefully the values of the Catholic Church are not permanently diminished by the action of the ND President. Fr. Jenkins has a good opportunity to amend his actions now!

        • Robert Pasquarelli February 2, 2017 at 5:20 pm

          Yes, but the Holy Cross community re-appointed him President since the Obama debacle. They are complicit in perpetuating Jenkins destruction of Notre Dame.

  9. Frank Freidhoff February 2, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    Fr. Jenkins needs to invite President Trump to speak at Notre Dame. His previous invitation to Pres. Obama was such a mistake that only by inviting President Trump can he hope to help rectify that error. As an alum I have not contributed a dime to the University since Fr. Jenkins prior action. Nor will I change that position until Notre Dame and Fr. Jenkins make amends to all pro-life advocates for the slap in the face of the Obama incident.

    • Robert Pasquarelli February 2, 2017 at 3:07 pm

      I also have not contributed to Notre Dame since the Obama debacle and will not resume contributions until Jenkins has resigned.

  10. Robert Pasquarelli February 2, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    Rev. Jenkins must invite President Trump to speak at the 2017 commencement. Have you read Rev. Franklin Graham’s comment that God intervened in this presidential election. And sincerely and absolutely believe that to be true. Jenkins has also proposed that Notre Dame become a “sanctuary” campus. This is a flagrant violation of U.S. Law and all Federal funding will be withheld from N.D. After Trump has been invited and has addressed the 2017 commencement Jenkins should must resign as President for the good of the University and for the negative influence of all students who have matriculated under his stewardship and all the Catholics who he has so wrongly influenced.

  11. Roe v Wade is not settled law, as the political left argues. Embedded in that ruling is the possibility that science might at some future date (from January, 1973) be able to more accurately and authoritatively define when life begins. That time is now, as current science does indeed recognize that human life begins at the moment of conception. Simple logic asks: If not human life then what is it? If an embryo is growing and developing it must be alive. If a fetus sucks her thumb she must be alive. Thus, if it is a living, human child, why is it legal to kill her?

  12. Ronald herman MD February 2, 2017 at 11:46 am

    Notre Dame needs to invite Trump and get a new Board of Directors and elect Fr Miscamble to replace Fr Jenkins..
    Ronald herman MD ’57

  13. Richard Creedon '62 February 2, 2017 at 10:49 am

    Thank you for the tears (of happiness and hope) that I shed while reading this Bulletin. God works slowly….but God works tirelessly. Let’s double down on our prayers for the Unborn who are the only true losers in this sad game of pawns.

  14. I believe that Father John is sincere in his desire that human life be protected from the moment of conception and I applaud him for attending The Right to Life March.
    How ironic that a multitude who fault President Trump for his disrespectful comments are members of a political party whose actual platform denies the Sanctity of the life of a beloved son or daughter residing in their mother’s womb, and the Sanctity of the marital act and thus the Sanctity of marriage and the family.

  15. Stephen Fralish February 2, 2017 at 9:03 am

    As with Carol’s question above in the Comments, “is there a petition to sign requesting Fr. Jenkins invite President Trump to the commencement?” The sooner this starts the better, since time is is the essence. Even if the President decides not to come, at least ND would have maintained its so-called “consistency.” Hopefully it is not too late yet.

    Best, Stephen Fralish

  16. Kathleen McAllister February 2, 2017 at 8:51 am

    We finally have a decidly prolife president after 8 years of a radical pro-abortion president. It behooves Notre Dame to invite Pres. Trump to address the 2017 commencement at ND whose notorious reputation as Catholic in name only is a disgrace to the very idea of the Catholic Universitiy
    To do otherwise would be reprehensible regardless of threats of extreme protests by so many brainwashed students who cannot accept or deal with those who disagree with them.

  17. Jenkins being a participant in the pro-life march occurred after almost 40 years of ND indifference. Money talks.

    • Father Jenkins did not participate in the first years of his presidency, just as no Notre Dame president had in the preceding decades. He began participating after the calamitous honoring of President Omaha in 2009. He appointed a committee to make recommendations as to how he could show that ND is pro-life — some might say how to manage damage control — and his participation in the March was one of the committee’s recommendations.

  18. Fr. Jenkins’s participation in the March for Life is incoherent as long as he oversees a university that dispenses abortifacients. So much for the “Fighting Irish”.

  19. What else can we possibly expect from Jenkins? I will be shocked if he has the courage and consistency to invite Trump.

  20. Is there a petition to Father Jenkins to invite President Trump to the 2017 Commencement?
    God Bless. Carol Smith

    • There is such a petition, Carol, at http://tinyurl.com/jnpayqf/

      However, we don’t know and can’t find out who’s sponsoring it. I posted the following inquiry to the petition and received no response: “If the organizers of this petition will tell me who they are and what connection they have to ND, e.g., alumni, family, I will include the petition in a bulletin, which would doubtless add a large number of signatories. I am president of Sycamore Trust (www.sycamoretrust.org). You can email us at info@sycamoretrust.org.” Bill
      • Edit• Reply•Share ›

  21. May Notre Dame University return fully to its Catholic heritage in word, deed, and in God’s Divine Will. An invitation to President Trump to deliver the commencement address would definitely be a step in the right direction.

    • betty spann --- rather it not be used February 2, 2017 at 12:36 pm

      AMEN to what Mr. Bill Myers said. YES — President Trump should be invited– and Notre Dame should return to its Catholic heritage. What year was it that Father Jenkins allowed silent Right to Life protesters be arrested — and HE is still the President of Notre Dame? a Parent of two ND grads and so proud of what these boys have accomplished.

  22. There is hope for the unborn and for Notre Dame in the Trump administration