May 22, 2009

Notre Dame, Obama and Economics

By Dr. William Luckey *

I am sure that readers of this blog are familiar with the recent episode relating to the supposed Catholic university of Notre Dame inviting President Obama, the most pro-abortion president in history, to be the commencement speaker and receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

There are a number of things to be said about all of this. For example, the argument was made that we have to hear the other side of the story. Can anybody really say that any Notre Dame students have not heard the various arguments both for and against abortion in at least one course in their academic career? If so, Notre Dame is really running a kindergarten under false pretenses. Even I got both sides of the arguments at the Catholic university I attended, and abortion was not even legal yet. Secondly, the academic freedom argument says that in a university setting, professors have the right to express various aspects of a subject, or else academic discourse will be hampered. There are a number of problems with this argument, but the one that is relevant here is that academic freedom applies to classroom instruction, not to public speeches, especially by politicians, which, by their very nature, are open to discussion in the public forum; in fact open to public disputation, which is exactly what the protesters were doing at the university.

It is this latter situation which lends itself to an economic analysis. Giving the president of Notre Dame some credit, it probably was the board of trustees which invited president Obama to the campus, never thinking that that decision would be the source of such controversy. By and large, Catholic universities run by religious orders have given up control of their institutions by putting mostly laypersons on the board, most of whom are there because of the large amounts of money they can contribute and get their friends to contribute. But this means that, assuming the invitation to President Obama was not Father Jenkins’ idea, Father Jenkins is faced with the following dilemma: waffle in justifying the invitation, which he personally opposes and was outvoted on, or resign. He obviously did not quit, so he had to waffle; he had to try to fit the invitation of the radically pro-abortion Obama into the clearly stated principles of the university. This could only be done by using the above stated arguments.

There are then two economic sides to this situation. President pinnochi-obama said the he wants to cut down on the number of abortions, and in that he agrees with Notre Dame. But does he? It is simple supply-demand and price. Obama is in favor of funding abortion, both here and abroad. Giving government money to abortion clinics allows them to charge less for abortion. If the price goes down, the demand goes up. Therefore the policies of Obama will actually increase abortions. The fact that the remaining crowd at Notre Dame were wildly enthusiastic of his speech tells me that either the so-called Catholic Notre Dame is not doing its job of teaching in accord with the Catholic faith AND natural law, and/or the people there were stupid. In either case, it leads me back to the kindergarten analogy I mentioned above.

Next, there is the old expression that there is no such thing as bad publicity. We are in economic hard times. The Notre Dame website recognizes this, but says it will not freeze pay, let people go or freeze spending. Nevertheless, the possibility that prospective numbers of applicants will decline might be worrisome to the administration. Now, what Catholic institution was the subject of lengthy discussions, articles and coverage in the media recently? Only one—Notre Dame University. It got more free publicity in the past few weeks than even its football team can get for it. And who will be attracted to Notre Dame as a result of this free publicity? Pro-abortion, pro-Obama fans, both Catholic and non-Catholic. Considering the audience at graduation, both the graduates and their guests, this is not surprising. On the other hand, my employer, Christendom College, had Father Pavone and Dr. Jude Dougherty, both famous orthodox Catholics and foes of abortion. My undergraduate alma mater, St. John’s University in New York, run by the Vincentian Fathers, had Immaculee Ilibagiza, a Catholic Rwandan genocide survivor, who has been on EWTN. Neither Christendom nor St. John’s got any free, big national publicity from these speakers and degree recipients, even though they got some in certain circles. But if you wanted a real Catholic education based on who got honorary degrees, which would you pick: Notre Dame? Or would you pick Christendom and St. John’s? All those who believe that Notre Dame is the pre-eminent Catholic University in the United States need to think this out again. So Notre Dame waters down its commitment to our Faith, yet cries all the way to the bank. The rest of us must earn our money the old-fashioned way—we earn it—by pleasing God.

Dr. William Luckey is the former chairman of the department of Political Science and Economics at Christendom College, where he is currently a professor.  He holds advanced degrees in Business, Economics, Political Philosophy and Systematic Theology. He was married in 1971, has four children and 12 (soon to be 13) grandchildren, and is a Lay Dominican.

You can visit his blog entitled Catholic Truths on Economics at:

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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