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New Notre Dame Alumni Group Seeks Fr. Jenkins Removal

April 16th, 2009
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Father Jenkins is deliberately acting in contradiction to Catholic teaching. He should, in good conscience, resign.

SOUTH BEND (Catholic Online) - We have done all we can to keep our readers up to date on the continued news following the University of Notre Dame's decision to invite President Obama to speak at their commencement and receive an honorary Doctor of Law Degree. The work of the Cardinal Newman Society has been at the forefront of galvanizing the extraordinary reaction of Catholics, other Christians and people of good will to this invitation.Their petition has generated over a quarter of a million responses. Students have organized under the banner of NDResponse and a growing number of alumni under Project Sycamore.

Thursday, another group of Alumni has been formed called "Replace Jenkins. ND Alumni for Restoring the Catholic Tradition to Our Lady's University."

They have a web site: http://www.replacejenkins.com/index.html

We present their statement below:

"We believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a "Gospel of Life." It invites all persons and societies to a new life lived abundantly in respect for human dignity. We believe that this Gospel is not only a complement to American political principles, but also the cure for the spiritual sickness now infecting our society. As Scripture says, no house can stand divided against itself (Lk 11:17). We cannot simultaneously commit ourselves to human rights and progress while eliminating or marginalizing the weakest among us. Nor can we practice the Gospel of Life only as a private piety. American Catholics must live it vigorously and publicly, as a matter of national leadership and witness, or we will not live it at all." Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics (23):A Statement by the Catholic Bishops of the United States (1998)

"The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions." Catholics in Political Life (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2004)

We believe that a prestigious Catholic University such as Notre Dame must exercise moral leadership by its constant and faithful witness to the Gospel of Life and the teachings of the Catholic Church. This duty is especially important when it comes to the selection of a commencement speaker, since that person is held out to students, graduates and the community as someone worthy of being emulated. When the University goes one step further, and also bestows an honorary degree upon that individual, it further suggests admiration and support for that person. The question one must ask is whether a commencement speaker at a Catholic University, or a recipient of an honorary degree, is someone who should be set as an example for the faith community.

While the Catholic Church is fully committed to the sanctity of life, it is well known that President Obama supports abortion in the broadest possible context. For example, President Obama has already signed an order to allow funding for international groups that perform abortions and he has pledged to sign the Freedom of Choice Act which would federalize abortion, remove state restrictions, and potentially force Catholic hospitals to offer abortion services. President Obama recently proposed overturning an important federal regulation designed to protect the conscience of health care works who object, on religious or conscience grounds, to participating in procedures such as abortion and sterilizations. In short, President Obama has advocated, and is now actively advocating, an agenda which is hostile toward core Catholic teaching. For Father Jenkins to invite President Obama to deliver the commencement address at Notre Dame, and to award President Obama an honorary degree, is a scandal to the Catholic Church and to faithful throughout the world.

Some people have argued that concerns for academic freedom and free speech justify the University's decision to invite President Obama to deliver the Commencement address. Upon closer examination, these types of arguments lack weight. If we have any right at all, it is the right to advocate for the moral principles we believe in and stand for. Concerns for tolerance and academic freedom do not obligate a Catholic University like Notre Dame to dilute their fundamental moral beliefs in order to accommodate the culture, especially when we would expect that the commencement speaker embodies the same moral vision of the University.

Father Jenkins has also said that his decision to honor President Obama was motivated by a desire for dialogue and an exchange of views. While such an intention might be noble in other settings, one must wonder if such an argument makes any sense in a commencement setting. Will President Obama be giving a commencement address or will he be answering questions about his positions on life-related issues. Will he be receiving an honorary degree or will he be seeking to understand Church teaching? Clearly, a commencement setting is not one of dialogue. Moreover, selecting a man who is actively promoting an agenda that is counter to the Catholic Church’s teachings on life, and who is preparing to support legislation that will remove abortion restrictions, promote taxpayer funding of abortions, require Catholic hospitals to provide abortion services and force health care workers to participate in procedures which they hold to be immoral reflects, in our mind, horribly poor judgment on behalf of Father Jenkins.

As Alumni and donors to Notre Dame, we maintain a deep, personal and cherished responsibility to the University. At the same time, our first responsibility must always be to Jesus Christ and to the faith which He gave us. Our decision to request Father Jenkins’ replacement comes only after deep introspection and prayer. There is nothing we want more than to see a successful, thriving Catholic Notre Dame – one which is a beacon to the Christian community and our entire nation. We cannot, however, support a University which would use our donations to promote an agenda which is inconsistent with our faith. We believe that Father Jenkins has, in the best case scenario, shown incredibly poor judgment in honoring President Obama given the radical pro-abortion positions Obama advocates; in the worst case scenario, Father Jenkins is deliberately acting in contradiction to Catholic teaching. He should, in good conscience, resign. Alternatively, and with charity, he should be removed.

We welcome the day when we can feel proud of our University once again – and when the University of Notre Dame leads all Catholic colleges as one deeply committed to a culture of life, a role one would expect from Our Lady’s University.

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