Is Notre Dame Doing Damage Control?

Protest of Obama's appearance at Notre Dame commencement

League Protest at Notre Dame, May 2009

The University of Notre Dame gained national attention last year when it presented President Barack Obama with an honorary doctorate in law and gave him the stage for a commencement address to the class of 2009. Over 80 bishops publicly expressed their disappointment, criticism and outrage at Notre Dame’s action.

Pro-Life leaders all over the United States appealed to Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkins, C.S.C., to rescind the invitation or at least to withhold the honorary doctorate from the most pro-abortion president in American history, all to no avail.

The Pro-Life Action League worked with the university’s student pro-life organization in trying to find an appropriate protest to Obama’s appearance. The League led the largest protest in South Bend on graduation day with over 300 activists on site holding graphic abortion signs and signs reading Shame on Notre Dame and Obama = Abortion.

Marching Not Enough

Fr. Jenkins never admitted that the choice of Obama was a mistake, but he apparently realized that he had offended enough people that he needed to do something to try to heal the wound. Last, year, the university issued a statement listing all the pro-life initiatives at the institution, interestingly omitting the student Respect Life group. And Fr. Jenkins announced that he would be attending the annual March for Life in Washington on January 22 with students from Notre Dame.

League director Joe Scheidler also attended the March for Life. It was Scheidler’s 37th March, Jenkins’ first. Scheidler introduced himself to Fr. Jenkins as a Notre Dame alum, former ND teacher and founder of the Pro-Life Action League. Fr. Jenkins was polite but distant.

Scheidler told Fr. Jenkins that friends had asked that he retreat from his position that pro-lifers who were arrested during protests leading up to the commencement address be prosecuted. Fr. Jenkins’ only response was that he received the message. He still has not indicated that he would advocate leniency toward the “ND88” who were arrested on campus.

Mary Daly Good Choice for ND Pro-Life Director

Apparently Fr. Jenkins’ appearance at the March for Life was not enough to establish his pro-life bona fides. Now Fr. Jenkins has taken another step to try to prove he is pro-life. He has created a director of pro-life activities at the University. And he has hired Mary Daly to fill that position. Daly served as president of Notre Dame Right to Life and helped coordinate Notre Dame Response, an ad hoc coalition that opposed to Obama’s appearance at her commencement.

The Pro-Life Action League is pleased to learn that Notre Dame will take more active steps to make the campus a pro-life environment. But we will reserve any outright applause until we see what actually happens at Notre Dame. Is this new position just politically expedient? Or does the University really want to contribute to the pro-life effort?

Jenkins Should Drop Charges against Pro-Lifers

We think the creation of a salaried position for a director of pro-life activities is a tacit admission that the University has been deficient on the issue of abortion and that the Obama invitation did far more harm than they are willing to admit.

But we will have to see some significant pro-life initiatives before we are convinced that Fr. Jenkins is sincere. Dropping the charges against those who got arrested for praying on Our Lady’s campus would be a good start.

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