.- Months after President Barack Obamaâs controversial commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame, university president Fr. John I. Jenkins, CSC, has announced several campus pro-life initiatives. He also said he will attend the March for Life in Washington D.C.
Writing in a Thursday e-mail to Notre Dame faculty, students and others associated with the school, Fr. Jenkins said that he has formed the Task force on Supporting the Choice for Life to consider and recommend ways in which the university can support the sanctity of life. The task force will be co-chaired by Professor Margaret Brinig, the associate dean for Notre Dameâs Law School, and Professor John Cavadini, the chair of the Theology department.
âPossibilities the Task Force has begun to discuss include fostering serious and specific discussion about a reasonable conscience clause; the most effective ways to support pregnant women, especially the most vulnerable; and the best policies for facilitating adoptions,â he said, reporting that the task force may also recommend ways to support present pro-life work.
President Jenkins said he plans to participate in the January 22 March for Life in Washington, D.C. to commemorate the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Courtâs abortion decision Roe v. Wade.
âI invite other members of the Notre Dame Family to join me and I hope we can gather for a Mass for Life at that event,â he wrote, adding that further details will be announced as the date nears.
Fr. Jenkins also encouraged support for the Womenâs Care Center, which he described as the nationâs largest Catholic-based pregnancy resource center on whose foundation board he serves. The president of Notre Dame said the center has had proven success in offering âprofessional, non-judgmental concernâ to women with âunintended pregnanciesâ and in helping them through their pregnancy and supporting them after birth.
Thomas Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, told LifeNews.com that the email from Fr. Jenkins was a welcome change.
"Every statement or signal we had received from Notre Dame officials since last May had been hostile at worst and at best seemingly indifferent toward those in the pro-life movement who felt that the university had turned away from the pro-life movement or, worse, rebuked it," commented Brejcha, a 1965 graduate of Notre Dame.
âIt remains to be seen whether Father Jenkins is prepared to follow up this announcement with another decisive, positive and concrete step in the right direction -- calling a halt to the ongoing prosecution of those arrested last May,â he added.
Eighty-eight pro-life protesters, including Norma McCorvey, who was âJane Roeâ in Roe v. Wade, were arrested for trespassing on the Notre Dame campus the day of President Obamaâs commencement speech. Some pro-life leaders have appealed to the university to drop the charges, but Fr. Jenkins has not replied to the pleas.
Patrick J. Reilly, President of the Cardinal Newman Society, the organization that gathered more than 300,000 signatures opposing Jenkinsâ invitation to President Obama, responded to the announcement of new pro-life initiatives by saying that further steps âto atone for (Notre Dameâs) shocking betrayal of the U.S. bishops and the Catholic Church last springâ are needed.
Reilly proposed that Fr. Jenkins should first âacknowledge the scandal of publicly honoring a staunchly pro-abortion public official as commencement speaker and recipient of an honorary degree, and apologize to the U.S. bishops, the 2009 Notre Dame graduates, and all faithful Catholics.â
On the matter of the close to 100 pro-lifers who were arrested at Notre Dame, Reilly said Fr. Jenkins should âdrop criminal charges against those who, through peaceful and civil disobedience, protested last Mayâs commencement ceremonyâ and âdevelop firm policies to prevent such scandal in the future.â
Finally, Reilly took issue with the fact that the recently created Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life was not mentioned by Fr. Jenkins announcement of new pro-life efforts.