Joe Scheidler on campus with fellow Notre Dame alumnus and pro-life
activist Jim Finnegan for the Center for Ethics and Culture’s Vita Institute [Photo by Ann Scheidler]
With a long history of trying to return the University of Notre Dame to its Catholic roots through pickets, protests, speeches, billboards, leaflets, flying banners, registered letters, graphic pictures, intrigue and other activities, I was finally invited to come back to Notre Dame by Dr. David Solomon to talk to students in the Vita Institute program June 15.
Dr. Solomon asked me to talk about the early days of the prolife movement and the successes—and failures—of pro-life activism.
The Vita Institute is a two-week program of intensive training in Catholic theology and the means of spreading the Gospel message, sponsored by Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture. The volunteer program is underwritten by the Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life. The students—including Paige Scarlett, the Pro-Life Action League’s new development director live on campus and attend classes there.
Prior to my presentation, my wife Ann and I joined Dr. Solomon, his assistant Angela Pfister and Fr. Kevin Flannery, S.J. for dinner at the Morris Inn. Fr. Flannery, who spends most of the year teaching at the Gregorian University in Rome, was a visiting professor for the week at the Vita Institute.
Sharing Pro-Life History at Notre Dame
With forty years of activism to talk about, I was glad to accept Dr. Solomon’s invitation to address the Vita Institute students. I related many of my experiences as a pro-life activist, along the way explaining my strategies for turning Americans away from abortion as a solution to unplanned pregnancy, and restoring us as a nation that respects and welcomes every life.
The students’ questions at the end of my talk impressed me with how strongly they support life, and what deep knowledge they already have of the abortion issue.
But much as I was impressed by the Vita group, and glad that my talk was well received, what impressed me most was the strong determination of the Center for Ethics and Culture leadership to create projects like Vita through which to inject their own enthusiasm and strategies into others to, as they put it, “save Notre Dame’s Soul.”
The Center for Ethics and Culture is made up of Notre Dame professors, attorneys, priests and other staunch supporters of Notre Dame who are fighting what a few years ago looked like a losing battle but is now truly a work in progress. They are determined to bring Notre Dame back to teaching the faith and are doing what has to be done to accomplish that dream.
Through their example they hope to engender similar movements at Catholic campuses that have strayed from the fold, and the group’s efforts at Notre Dame are being watched by Catholic leaders across the nation.
Those of us who love Notre Dame, and yearn to see her and all Catholic colleges begin teaching sound doctrine in faith and morals, are encouraged at what is going on behind the scenes at Notre Dame.
The ultimate solution to bringing unorthodox schools back to life is to change the teaching pool. Hire orthodox professors and dismiss the agnostics, atheists and nihilists. Encourage them to retire early or take a higher paying job somewhere else. Then replace them with authentic Catholic scholars until they are in the majority. Projects like the Center for Ethics and Culture are helping to achieve this change.
History Still Unfolding at Notre Dame Following my talk some of us reminisced about the greats who taught at Notre Dame during the golden years. We spoke of men like O’Malley, Stritch, Sullivan. But we also talked of the greats on the campus now, as the process of saving Notre Dame is taking place.
We recalled that at the 2009 graduation, while Barack Obama was talking in Joyce Hall at the main graduation, a cadre of Notre Dame graduates, professors and priests were instead in front of the Rockne Memorial listening to Fr. Wilson (Bill) Miscamble, C.S.C. lay the groundwork for a renewed university.
And the same is going on in other troubled Catholic schools, where men and women are working to bring them back to their Catholic roots. Who knows? there may even be hope for Georgetown.