A letter from ten priests of the Congregation of the Holy Cross has been published in the University of Notre Dame’s student newspaper objecting to the university’s invitation of President Barack Obama. Regretting the “fissure” the invitation has caused, the priests warned that the university’s decision may unintentionally distance itself from the Church.
Considering the good of Notre Dame and the good of the Congregation of Holy Cross, the priests said they “cannot remain silent.”
The letter was published in the Notre Dame newspaper The Observer.
Signatories to the letter included Fr. Wilson D. Miscamble, CSC, a Notre Dame history professor and former rector of the Holy Cross Congregation's Moreau Seminary; Fr. Ronald J. Wasowski, C.S.C., a physics professor at the University of Portland, Oregon; Notre Dame vocations mentor Fr. Daniel J. Parrish; and at least two parish pastors.
According to the Cardinal Newman Society, in the past Fr. Miscamble has criticized Notre Dame’s failure to hire sufficient numbers of Catholic professors. He was also critical of university president Fr. John Jenkins’ permission for the performance of the obscene play “The Vagina Monologues.”
“We write as priests of the Congregation of Holy Cross and as proud graduates of the University of Notre Dame to voice our objection to the University's decision to honor President Barack Obama by inviting him to deliver this year's Commencement address and by conferring on him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree,” the priests’ letter begins.
Saying they associate themselves with and encourage the “courageous students and treasured alumni” who oppose the “sad and regrettable decision” to honor the president, the priests said they deeply believe that Notre Dame should lead “by word and deed” in upholding Church teaching that human life must be respected from conception.
They also cited the U.S. bishops’ instructions that Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of “fundamental moral principles.”
Saying they regret the “fissure” opened between Notre Dame and Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend John D’Arcy, they expressed “deep gratitude” towards the bishop for his “leadership and moral clarity” and asked the university to consider the bishop’s advice.
“The University pursues a dangerous course when it allows itself to decide for and by itself what part of being a Catholic institution it will choose to embrace,” the priests wrote. “Although undoubtedly unintended, the University administration's decision portends a distancing of Notre Dame from the Church which is its lifeblood and the source of its identity and real strength. Such a distancing puts at risk the true soul of Notre Dame.”
Regretting their differences with university president Fr. Jenkins, they said the invitation to President Obama has caused “moral confusion” and has given many “reason to believe that the University's stance against the terrible evil of abortion is weak and easily trumped by other considerations.”
The confreres of Fr. Jenkins asked him to revisit his decision, and warned that failing to do so will damage the integrity of the school and detract from its good work.
“We offer these views as we enter Holy Week, recalling the triumph of Christ's holy cross,” their letter concluded. “As ‘men with hope to bring’ we are confident that Notre Dame may yet give true honor to its patroness, and witness to Her Son, through its commitment to the sanctity of life.”