.- The Board of Trustees of the University of Notre Dame has elected Fr. John I. Jenkins, CSC, to a second five-year term as university president. While Notre Dame officials praised him for his commitment to the Catholic character of the school, others have questioned the direction of the prestigious school.
Fr. Jenkinsâ tenure has featured continued controversy over the schoolâs Catholic identity, especially concerning the invitation to President Barack Obama to speak at the university's commencement ceremony and to receive an honorary degree.
Critics had charged the action violated the U.S. Catholic bishopsâ 2004 instruction in âCatholics in Political Lifeâ which held that university honors are not to be given to pro-abortion politicians.
Trustee Chairman Richard C. Notebaert said in his Oct. 16 announcement of Fr. Jenkinsâ re-election said that the priest has demonstrated âinspiring and innovativeâ vision and leadership.
âBuilding upon the foundation set by his Holy Cross predecessors, he is making the aspirations of this University a reality. The Fellows and Trustees look forward to continuing our work with him in service to Our Ladyâs University,â he stated.
The trustees in a separate resolution spoke of their ârespect and full confidenceâ in Fr. Jenkins, saying he has advanced the universityâs mission to âattain the highest standards of excellence in teaching, scholarship and research in a community of learning where truth is informed by belief and where, specifically, the Catholic faith and intellectual tradition are celebrated and lived.â
The Fellows of the University expressed their âappreciationâ for what they said was Fr. Jenkinsâ commitment to the âCatholic character of the university.â
Fr. Jenkins said he was âhumbledâ by the re-election.
âWith the support of our Trustees, I will continue pursuing the goals I cited at my inauguration four years ago â offering an unsurpassed undergraduate education, becoming even more pre-eminent as a research university, and ensuring that our Catholic character informs all that we do,â he commented.
Patrick J. Reilly, president of the Manassas, Virginia-based Cardinal Newman Society (CNS), was critical of Fr. Jenkinsâ re-election.
âNotre Dame has suffered terribly in recent years because of a lack of leadership and commitment to its Catholic identity,â he commented, charging that Fr. Jenkins has displayed âpublic disrespect.â
In Reillyâs view, Fr. Jenkins has allowed ârepeated scandalsâ such as the honors for President Obama and the performances of The Vagina Monologues. The CNS characterized Notre Dameâs bestowal of an honorary degree upon President Obama as being in âdirect defianceâ of the U.S. bishops.
Bishop John M. DâArcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend published a pastoral reflection in the August 31 issue of the Jesuit-run America Magazine concerning both the Obama degree controversy and the controversy over the Vagina Monologues.
"Although he spoke eloquently about the importance of dialogue with the president of the United States, the president of Notre Dame chose not to dialogue with his bishop on these two matters, both pastoral and both with serious ramifications for the care of souls, which is the core responsibility of the local bishop," he wrote.
"Both decisions," Bishop DâArcy revealed, "were shared with me after they were made and, in the case of the honorary degree, after President Obama had accepted."
The bishop also criticized the universityâs Board of Trustees for saying ânothingâ about the Obama controversy at its spring meeting.
âWhen the meeting was completed, they made no statement and gave no advice. In an age when transparency is urged as a way of life on and off campus, they chose not to enter the conversation going on all around them and shaking the university to its roots,â he wrote, urging the board to âtake up its responsibility afresh, with appropriate study and prayerâ¦ with greater seriousness and in a truly Catholic spirit.â
CNA contacted the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend for comment on Fr. Jenkinsâ re-election but did not receive a response by deadline.