‘Constructive dialogue’ on Obama invite no longer possible, ND president tells students
Fr. John Jenkins CSC
Fr. John Jenkins CSC

.- University of Notre Dame President Fr. John I. Jenkins, CSC, has denied a student coalition’s request for wider dialogue concerning the school’s invitation to President Barack Obama, saying “conditions for constructive dialogue simply do not exist.”Fr. Jenkins had initially offered to participate in a closed-door meeting with 25 members of the Notre Dame Response Student Coalition (ND Response), formed in reaction to Notre Dame’s invitation to the president to deliver the commencement address and to receive an honorary law degree.

The invitation of the president has sparked massive protests from Catholics and other pro-life advocates who thought Obama should not be honored.

Mary K. Daly, spokeswoman of ND Response, wrote an April 6 letter to Fr. Jenkins, saying his offer was not an adequate option. The coalition asked that the meeting include all student members of ND Response and some of the group’s faculty and staff supporters. ND Response said it would guarantee fewer than ten students would speak or engage with Fr. Jenkins and suggested two large auditoriums be considered as meeting places.

“The content of this meeting will be available to the public following its event in the form of a transcript and live video recording: True dialogue only comes with accountability,” Daly’s letter added.

According to an April 14 statement from ND Response, Fr. Jenkins replied that “conditions for constructive dialogue simply do not exist” and informed the students that they could disregard his earlier invitations to meet with him.

The student coalition’s April 6 letter asked that Fr. Jenkins take “concrete steps” to demonstrate that the university is “firm and unwavering” in its commitment to defending human life.

“We ask that you promise now and going forward to use the moral authority of your office and the prestige of Our Lady's University to speak out on behalf of the cause of life in a meaningful, concrete and sustained way.”

ND Response also specifically requested that Fr. Jenkins promise that the university publicly commit to never engage in, promote, or allow “practices offensive to life” such as “research involving human embryos in any way” or the use of biological materials derived from embryo- or fetal-destructive techniques.

The coalition also requested that the university “formally support” pro-life initiatives on campus through financial and personnel resources, suggesting that a pro-life ombudsperson be appointed with the rank of associate provost to ensure that “appropriate attention” is paid to life issues in teaching and research at the school.

“The appointee should be a person who has a deep and demonstrated commitment to the cause of unborn life,” the coalition recommended.

ND Response expressed hopes that Fr. Jenkins would consider taking up “the cause of life” by speaking out against “injustices against the unborn” through other methods. The coalition suggested he could speak out through Notre Dame commercials aired during football season, by leading students in the annual March for Life, and by designating the topic of the school’s fall forum as “a celebration of life in its earliest stages.”

ND Response spokeswoman Mary Daly said the coalition “remains open to true and transparent dialogue with Fr. Jenkins on this issue.”

The coalition includes student groups such as Notre Dame Right to Life, Notre Dame Law School’s pro-life group Jus Vitae, Notre Dame Knights of Columbus Council 1477, the Irish Rover independent student newspaper, Notre Dame College Republicans, The University of Notre Dame Anscombe Society, The Identity Project of Notre Dame, Notre Dame Knights of the Immaculata, Notre Dame Children of Mary, the Orestes Brownson Council, and the Notre Dame Law St. Thomas More Society.

Its website is at www.NDResponse.com.

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