Dear Father Jenkins

We are students and alumni of Notre Dame fighting for the protection of our consciences, our faith, and our university. We pray in a special way this Lenten season for the university to proclaim — boldly & unapologetically— the Catholic mission of Notre Dame.

We petition Fr. Jenkins to take action against the unjust HHS mandate imposed by our government with a series of letters over the 40 days of Lent.

April 7, 2012: As we arrive at Holy Saturday, the final day before our Lord’s glorious Resurrection on Easter Sunday, we submit the "Unacceptable" statement as a letter to Father Jenkins and prayerfully request that he add his signature to its closing.

Father Jenkins, throughout Lent we have prayed for your strength and the grace necessary to proclaim the “good news” by standing athwart the bad. — As the disciples rejoiced on the other side of these mysterious three days of the Triduum, encountering the Resurrected Christ and understanding, finally, the trial and suffering that had taken place, may you also receive this same abiding peace as encounter your unenviable mission. Our prayers will remain with you.

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Day 40- Notre Dame Faculty, Bishops, Leaders of Catholic Institutions

On February 21st, Notre Dame Law Professor O. Carter Snead, Professor Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard Law School, Princeton Professor Robert P. George, Yuval Levin of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and John Garvey, president of the Catholic University of America drafted a document entitled “Unacceptable,” which has since been signed by over 60 Notre Dame Faculty members, Cardinal Dolan, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, and a multitude of other Bishops and influential members of Catholic institutions nationwide. This letter, in succinct detail and direct language, protests the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate that requires employers to cover abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilizations.

As we arrive at Holy Saturday, the final day before our Lord’s glorious Resurrection on Easter Sunday, we submit this bold statement as a letter to Father Jenkins and prayerfully request that he add his signature to its closing.

Father Jenkins, throughout Lent we have prayed for the strength and the grace necessary to proclaim the “good news” by standing athwart the bad. And, as the disciples rejoiced on the other side of these mysterious three days of the Triduum, encountering the Resurrected Christ and understanding, finally, the trial that had just taken place, may you also receive this same abiding peace as you encounter your unenviable mission.

Dear Father Jenkins,

The Obama administration has offered what it has styled as an “accommodation” for religious institutions in the dispute over the HHS mandate for coverage (without cost sharing) of abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. The administration will now require that all insurance plans cover (“cost free”) these same products and services. Once a religiously-affiliated (or believing individual) employer purchases insurance (as it must, by law), the insurance company will then contact the insured employees to advise them that the terms of the policy include coverage for these objectionable things.

This so-called “accommodation” changes nothing of moral substance and fails to remove the assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience which gave rise to the controversy. It is certainly no compromise. The reason for the original bipartisan uproar was the administration’s insistence that religious employers, be they institutions or individuals, provide insurance that covered services they regard as gravely immoral and unjust. Under the new rule, the government still coerces religious institutions and individuals to purchase insurance policies that include the very same services.
It is no answer to respond that the religious employers are not “paying” for this aspect of the insurance coverage. For one thing, it is unrealistic to suggest that insurance companies will not pass the costs of these additional services on to the purchasers. More importantly, abortion-drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives are a necessary feature of the policy purchased by the religious institution or believing individual. They will only be made available to those who are insured under such policy, by virtue of the terms of the policy.

It is morally obtuse for the administration to suggest (as it does) that this is a meaningful accommodation of religious liberty because the insurance company will be the one to inform the employee that she is entitled to the embryo-destroying “five day after pill” pursuant to the insurance contract purchased by the religious employer. It does not matter who explains the terms of the policy purchased by the religiously affiliated or observant employer. What matters is what services the policy covers.
The simple fact is that the Obama administration is compelling religious people and institutions who are employers to purchase a health insurance contract that provides abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization. This is a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand. It is an insult to the intelligence of Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other people of faith and conscience to imagine that they will accept an assault on their religious liberty if only it is covered up by a cheap accounting trick.

Finally, it bears noting that by sustaining the original narrow exemptions for churches, auxiliaries, and religious orders, the administration has effectively admitted that the new policy (like the old one) amounts to a grave infringement on religious liberty. The administration still fails to understand that institutions that employ and serve others of different or no faith are still engaged in a religious mission and, as such, enjoy the protections of the First Amendment.

For a list of signatures, visit this link:

For the Irish Rover story on the “Unacceptable” letter, visit this link:

The President of Franciscan University, Fr. Terence Henry, TOR, responds to the HHS Mandate.

Day 39- Concerned Catholic Voices - John Murphy, Kelli Steele Adams, Brenda A. Baietto, Charles Atkinson

Throughout Lent, we have received a number of letters from individuals who are connected to Notre Dame through friends or family, who are interested in sending their children to Our Lady’s University, or who, by virtue of their membership in the Body of Christ, are deeply concerned about the protection and fortification of the Catholic voice of our beloved alma mater. This Good Friday, the day on which our Savior’s great act of self-sacrificial love compels each of us to choose to identify ourselves with Him, we feature a sampling of voices that deeply value that identification.

Dear Father Jenkins,

I beg you to support the Catholic Bishops stand against the HHS regulation issued by the Obama administration.  It appears in the beginning you opposed the regulation and are now willing to accept the so called “appeasement” offered by the Obama administration.  The Catholic Bishops have rejected this appeasement.  I compare your silence on this appeasement to Neville Chamberlains support of the Munich Accord.  When will you and people like you learn that you have to stand up and be counted as a true Catholic, who is in accord with our Bishops.

I hope you read Francis Cardinal George’s message of February 26, 2012  ( regarding this matter.  Cardinal George states four (4) choices for Catholic institutions if the HHS regulations are not rescended.  What choice will Notre Dame chose?  I believe that the following quotes from Cardinal George’s article are excellent and apply to any action or lack of action you take on this matter.  “behavior doesn’t determine morality.”, “Trimming morality to how we behave guts the Gospel”, “There have always been those whose personal faith is not adequate to the faith of the church.”, “Bishops don’t claim to speak for every baptized Catholic. Bishops speak, rather, for the Catholic and apostolic faith. Those who hold the faith gather with them; others go their own way.  They are and should be free to do so, but they deceive themselves and others in calling their organizations Catholic.”  Also, Timothy Cardinal Dolan stated in an article in the Wall Street Journal, concerning the so called appeasement rule “The rule forces insurance companies to provide these services without a co-pay, suggesting they are “free” - but it is naive to believe that.  There is no free lunch, and you can be sure there’s no free abortion, sterlization or contraception.  Ther will be a source of funding: you.”

Is Notre Dame and it’s administrators deceiving themselves by calling Notre Dame a Catholic University when the President of the University remains silent on this very important issues?  I hope that you learn from history that appeasement of evil laws and regulations has never been a solution to any problem.

John C. Murphy


Dear Fr. Jenkins,

I am a resident of Ave Maria, FL and I am just a regular person trying to live out my faith everyday.  Trying to show my love of God in my daily actions, my joy, my self-sacrifices, and my prayers.  I am not one to normally be political but I have been very concerned about the HHS Mandate.  I am troubled that our President, while trying to do what he believes is right, is forgetting that this country is based on a constitution that has protected the rights of religious people for hundreds of years.  I know that you know about the mandate.  I just want you to know that me and many of my friends here would be so pleased and honored if you took a stand against this mandate.  Think of the excellent example it would be to Catholics everywhere if the President of Notre Dame stood with the Bishops on this issue.  United we would be.  I pray that you will show unity with all Catholics and all other people in your support of our freedoms.


Kelli Steele Adams


Dear Father Jenkins:

I am not a student at Notre Dame nor an alumni.  I am a catholic.  As we are one body in Christ I appeal to you through the Body of Christ.  We are called to evangelize Jesus as Saviour and Lord.  I wish I did a better job of it every day but I try and reach out to Christ for the strength to not only proclaim Him but discern correctly how to do it.  Perhaps your heart is troubled and you are not certain how to proclaim Him in these most difficult times.  I ask you Father from my heart which belongs to Christ to your heart which belongs to Christ too - to seek Christ out and ask Him the best route for you to take with this issue.  I ask you to get up early in the morning - before dawn - as Christ did and go to the Father and pray for guidance.  Pray from the depths of your soul to the One who is Love and then trust in His will for you and the University for which you were entrusted in His Name.  

Thank you and the peace of Christ be with you.

Brenda A. Baietto


Dear Father Jenkins,

As a recent convert in 2009, I was confused by the clamour over the University awarding President Obama an honorary degree. So I paid a great deal of attention to his speech. The President made a point to emphasize that he would never create policy that would force people to act contrary to their conscience.

President Obama has chosen to go back on his word with the HHS mandate. Will you stand with President Obama or remain silent on the issue?

Charles Atkinson

Day 38- Cynthia Brenner ‘09

Dear Father Jenkins,

As an alumna of Notre Dame and a current grad student at Georgetown, the differences between the schools could not be more evident. Georgetown has announced that they will be following the HHS mandate, which does not shock me as the Catholic identity of the school is weak. But at Notre Dame, we do not hide our Catholic faith. We do not hand out condoms in student centers. And we do not reduce to our lowest common denominator. We are strong in our Catholic identity and now is the time to show it.

Before coming to Georgetown, I took for granted the strong presence of Catholic identity at Notre Dame. At ND, every classroom has a crucifix, every dorm a chapel, and mass on the quad is a regular, well-attended occurrence. In the past we have not been afraid to portray our faith; a government mandate is no reason to stop. 

The illegality and the unconstitutionality of the issue aside, it is time to put our faith into practice. We should not bend as other universities have; Catholic doctrine is clear and unwavering. Why aren’t we?

God, Country, Notre Dame,

Cynthia Brenner ‘09

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Day 37- Frank M. Guilfoyle ‘81

Dear Father Jenkins,

While I could probably write pages about my opinions regarding the outrageous HHS mandate, I would like to approach this from a different direction.  As an ‘81 Notre Dame graduate, I have longed for the time when my beloved University would be recognized as the de facto national and world leader in Catholic teaching.  Our Lady’s University should be a beacon of faithful Catholic higher education manifest with its fidelity to the Magesterium of the Catholic Church.

The different direction? Our second daughter is a Junior at Roanoke Catholic High School in Roanoke, VA.  All things equal, she has an incredibly strong interest in attending Notre Dame.  Our conversations with her regarding Notre Dame and whether or not it would be the best Catholic school for her have been somewhat awkward.  I simply can’t tell her it is the best Catholic college.  The tepid response of the University to the HHS mandate is just a current example of how Notre Dame is letting down our students, alumni and faithful Catholics around the world.  My daughter is an incredibly special young Catholic woman.  The discussion she and other students at her school are having regarding the current events surrounding the HHS and Catholic institutions is confusing to them.  Consequently, my wife and I are struggling in knowing how to give the best guidance and direction to our daughter. PLEASE help us and parents everywhere with staunch and faithful leadership.

Frank M. Guilfoyle ‘81

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Day 36- Raquel Falk, ‘13

Dear Father Jenkins,

My name is Raquel Falk, and I am a junior in the Program of Liberal Studies. Since my first Great Books seminar during my freshman year at Notre Dame, I have been continually amazed by the history and development of western civilization. I now believe in the fact that everything we hold to be true about humanity is the product of a long tradition of thought (aside from Divine Revelation, of course – I’m a theology minor, as well).

The power of the human voice to shape history can be frightening.  Some thoughts, thoughts not grounded in love, have had a much greater impact on our world than others. How many important voices have we missed because they were censored or erased from human history? In my opinion, far too many. But the idea that the voices of the past shape our future can also be inspiring. It implies that each one of us has the potential to add our thoughts and opinions to the great conversation of life in the hope that we will all come closer to the Truth.

The Great Books have shown me the power one voice can carry. As the fight for religious liberty continues, please consider adding yours.


Raquel Falk, ‘13

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Day 35- Denise Crowley Brenner ‘76

Dear Fr. Jenkins,

All around the perimeter of our campus are banners hanging from lampposts. These banners say, “Our Vision: To be a healing, unifying, enlightening force for a world deeply in need.”  Our world is in need of an enlightening force. Now is the time to speak out against the HHS Mandate regardless of the Supreme Court eventual decision.

The HHS Mandate clearly infringes on the separation of church and state. The University of Notre Dame and you, as its President, need to step up and be a guiding light in this period of darkness.  We cannot let the government dictate personal behavior and practices against our Catholic beliefs. Be bold, as Father Hesburgh was bold when he admitted me and other women to Notre Dame in 1972. The time is now to stand up and speak the truth. We need your voice as a beacon of Catholic mission and example.  We cannot equivocate or compromise on basic principles.

Here is my prayer for you during this difficult period:

Heal us from acquiescing to the demands of this secular society. Unite us in following the way of the Lord and His Mother. Enlighten us in the proper role of the Catholic Church in today’s world.

May the Holy Spirit give you guidance and direction to guard the Church, its beliefs and the practice of our religion without interference or dictate by government.

You are in my prayers.


Denise Crowley Brenner, 1976

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On February 27, the Catholic Information Center and the women’s web-magazine “Altcatholicah” cosponsored the panel discussion, “Women Challenging the HHS Mandate.” Here, panelist Gloria Purvis discusses how the HHS Mandate is anti-Woman and how Catholics need to get speak up on the issue.

Day 34- John Brown ‘56

Dear Fr. Jenkins, 

In this very brief note I encourage you to strongly protest President Obama’s administrations effort to force the HHS mandate upon any portion of the country. The defense of our constitution and the future of religious freedom are vital to the present and future of this country. We can not be deluded into believing the arguments that women’s rights are being violated if they do not receive free birth control and abortion pills.

John Brown ‘56       

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Day 33- Jerome H. Marcoullier ‘64

Dear Father Jenkins,

I am writing to make a request that others may have also made to you recently. I offer mine to point out the possibility that much good could come to you, Notre Dame, the Catholic church and our nation if you consent.

In his commencement speech to the Notre Dame class of 2009 President Obama said:

“Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our healthcare policies are grounded in clear ethics and sound science as well as a respect for the equality of women.”

Admittedly this statement illustrates an appeal to moral relativism in that Obama is saying that “clear ethics” can exist in the consciences of both those who are for legal abortion and those who consider it the killing of a real person, but at least he is promising those who oppose legal abortion that the obligations of their consciences would be respected. Three years later he repudiated this promise and perhaps the promise itself was just a lie. This conflict is between the secular moral relativism held by President Obama and his supporters and the Catholic Church with her mission to authoritatively interpret the unchanging natural law. It has, by Obama’s health directive, been mobilized into a war that will have to be settled now. I believe this battle will be notably historic, and will change our world for better of worse. I pray the Church will triumph.

My request is that you publicly state that you regret inviting President Obama to the University of Notre Dame, that he does not deserve the honors given him there because his policies violates God given human rights. A majority of Catholics voted for Obama because they were misled by him. People will understand that you are acting honorably in admitting to a mistake and will respect your humility. Silence will leave you on the wrong side.


Jerome H. Marcoullier

Notre Dame Class of 1964

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Day 32- Daniel J. Amiri ‘09

Dear Fr. Jenkins,

It was my faith that brought me to Notre Dame in the first place. In high school, while I discerned to what kind of life God might be calling me, I did determine that I would forgo a potentially lucrative career in aerospace engineering to pursue an education that seemed to me much more relevant to my apparent vocation: Theology and Philosophy.  And so I attended Notre Dame with the idea that I would receive the best education in Theology and Philosophy I could possibly manage. I challenged myself to take classes that were difficult, thought-provoking, and truly enlightening.  Because of the wealth of resources that Notre Dame offers, I was able to change my major in Philosophy to Classics, in which I learned to study the ancient minds in their own words. 

As a direct result of the process of being educated at Notre Dame, I grew in ways I still cannot comprehend. More valuable to me than gold, I became more the man God wants me to be. I became more “manly,” if you will, because it was my education at Notre Dame which taught me not to be afraid to stand up for what I believed. I know now that my faith is true and this is the foundation for everything I am and everything I do.  As a middle-child, I was nurtured to be a great compromiser and always found the truth in opposite positions.  But I refuse to compromise on my faith or the fruits thereof.  Notre Dame taught me this.

It was also because of my education that I refused to participate in my own Commencement. It was the year of my graduation that the University of Notre Dame, with a degree and central place in graduation proceedings, honored an unabashedly pro-choice President who promised you then that, even as he pursued his policies, there would always be reasonable compromises to be made with Catholic institutions. I participated instead in ND Response and was received by hundreds at the Grotto on the occasion of my commencement, which was a prayerful ceremony and the perfect conclusion to my life of faith at Notre Dame. At that time, I was commissioned in prayer to continue standing up for my faith. 

The sacrifice of not attending commencement at the Joyce Center was a small one compared to the many sacrifices I will have to make later in life.  But can it be true that my suffering will come primarily from the very same government that was founded, in part, to protect religious liberty?  I still believe the answer to that question is fundamentally no, but it is also my belief that no reasonable government would relegate freedom of religion to freedom of worship. It is still my belief that the government, in face of opposition, will pare down this most recent charge against faith. But it is only in the face of opposition, in reasonable minds speaking out for the truth, that the government will do so.

Respectfully, as Notre Dame challenged me, I must challenge you: Do you regret my education led me to be the man I am today? Would you have wished I learned differently, to have behaved differently?  Do I bring shame to the greatest Catholic university in the world?  You are a vicar of Catholic education, which works to perfect the mind, the soul, and the body.  Please stand with me to denounce this forceful intrusion into the life of the faithful. As a compromiser, which I firmly believe you are, you need not attack the President nor undermine his authority. You do not even have to say he is wrong-headed or ill-intentioned. But what you must say is that we believe our faith is true, that it is the right of Catholics to practice that faith, and that that right must be defended.

Notre Dame taught me never to compromise on the faith.  All I ask is that you do the same.

Most sincerely,

Daniel J Amiri, ‘09  

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Day 31- Matt Rossano ‘93

Dear Father Jenkins,

I am praying today for you.   I pray that you are open to the Holy Spirit and for your wisdom and courage to discern God’s will.


Matt Rossano
Class of 1993

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Day 30- David Florenzo, ‘92

Dear Fr. Jenkins,

I respectfully urge you to join Cardinal Dolan, Notre Dame’s own Professor Carter Snead, and the many other Catholic and religious leaders in publicly rejecting the supposed accommodation presented by President Obama.  What we now know is that this administration is pushing to enact policies that violate our basic First Amendment rights as Catholics, that this administration is deliberately seeking to divide the Church, and that this administration is deliberately peddling in base, religious bigotry for its own political gain.

Now is the time for you to speak.  The longer you remain silent, the more difficult our struggle becomes, and the more likely it is that the HHS regulations will require that Catholic institutions support actions that are morally objectionable.

David Florenzo, ‘92

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Day 29- Michael Baruzzini ‘05

Dear Father Jenkins,

There is an old Jewish joke: two men are arguing and, unable to compromise, they ask the rabbi for a judgment. He listens carefully as the first man makes his case, and then pronounces, “You’re right.” “Wait,” the second man objects, “You haven’t heard my case.” The second man then goes on to explain his contrary side of the story, after which the rabbi tells him: “You’re right also.” The second man’s wife, listening to the debate, scratches her head and asks, “Rabbi, how can they both be right?” The rabbi nods wisely and says, “And you’re right too.”

Sycophancy requires only one point of view. True dialogue requires two. Thus far in the issue of the new HHS mandate forcing Catholic institutions to fund contraception, Notre Dame has refused serious dialogue, opting instead for parroting the lines of others – echoing the episcopacy’s concern when the bishops first raised objections, and echoing the administration when it offered its “compromise.” Merely trotting out the opinions of others, Notre Dame’s voice as a Catholic university, a center of Catholic thought and worldly engagement, has been silent. Notre Dame has not yet spoken. Notre Dame has only quietly mumbled half-hearted agreement with whomever happens to be the nearest listener.  In the event, Notre Dame’s leadership has been markedly absent, replaced only by what seems to be a craven attempt to not make anybody mad.

In her history as the premier Catholic university in America, Notre Dame was not known for Catholic parochialism or isolation. Rather, Notre Dame believed that the Catholic Church has something true to offer to the world, something good to propose, and something noble to be announced. Notre Dame has been in the past a beacon of principle and truth. That light has been dimmed. Under the guise of dialogue, Notre Dame has lost its voice altogether. Engagement requires standing on principle. The message from the University has not been one of graciousness and principle, but rather one of obfuscation. The Church has warned that the government’s position is unacceptable; Notre Dame said, “You’re right.” The government offered a glib compromise that did not address the problem, and Notre Dame said, “You’re right.” The students and alumni now say to the University: they can’t both be right. Please don’t reply that we’re right too. Please reply by engaging the world with integrity and with Catholic truth, and with the privileged leadership a great Catholic university is able to provide.

Christ said that his teaching would comfort the weary and rouse the hopeless to life. Christ warned too that his teaching would be a stumbling block that would rouse the opposition of princes. This tension has been present in the Church since the beginning, and is always a part of Catholic identity. It’s time for Notre Dame to again embrace that identity, and that tension too, and stand for the challenge of truth. It’s time to reclaim the principle that Catholic identity and practice is not determined by the dictates of governmental power, but by eternal moral truths entrusted to the Church and given to her greatest teachers to impart and uphold.

In Christ,

Michael Baruzzini ‘05

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The nationwide Rally for Religious Freedom took place Friday, March 23rd.

140 cities, 40,000 protesters.

"They have awakened a sleeping giant…"

Keep standing, keep writing, keep speaking out, keep praying.

-Thank you to Marc Barnes at Bad Catholic for creating this video.