Dear Father Jenkins,
The University of Notre Dame has before itself the opportunity to be “as a city upon a hill.” The eyes of the nation are truly upon us. Our Lady’s University has long been held as a bastion of Catholic identity. Are we not to uphold this identity, amidst a blatant affront to our religious liberties and conscience rights?
The current HHS mandate and its subsequent “accommodation” are seemingly no more than strategic deceit. In the last election, President Obama successfully divided Catholics and managed to win our majority vote. Through the recent mandate, Catholics balked and were united in unprecedented fashion, only to be divided once again by the resultant accommodation. The immediacy of this revision only substantiates Obama’s strategy to subvert Catholic principles. If the current administration were brazen enough to manipulate our religious liberties so overtly and make such a miscalculated step in the early stages of another presidential campaign, what are we to expect in another 4-year term? I, for one, would rather speculate than find out.
What disturbs me most is how quickly Obama rendered this unity temporary by divisively appealing to certain groups of Catholics. You, on the other hand, when notified of the revision, were admirably among the first to defer commentary to the legitimate voice of the Catholic Church in the United States, Timothy Cardinal Dolan. Furthermore, you expressed your anticipation in “joining the US Bishops and leaders from other religious institutions to work with the administration” in resolving the issue of the mandate’s ambiguity. Well, it looks like your entreaty fell on deaf ears. Chief of Staff Jack Lew has declared the issue closed, a done deal. That doesn’t sound like the common ground and dialogue we were promised by President Obama at my graduation. Consequently, Cardinal Dolan has now urged all Catholic institutions to firmly reject this breach of religious boundaries. What’s stopping us from following Cardinal Dolan’s lead this time around?
Our current administration is essentially telling religious institutions that they can only be religious within the four walls of their churches, but when religion intersects with the public domain, it must be subject to government regulation. Meanwhile, the University of Notre Dame extends, unlike any other university, into the public much further than its basilica, classrooms, dorms, and chapels as an ambassador of Christ. By virtue of this fact, Notre Dame should not be apprehensive and feel more VULNERABLE to this threat. On the contrary, it has more of an OBLIGATION to take a stand.
Father Jenkins, while you may also feel the utter disregard felt by many Catholics, you must understand the potential weight of your words. Our university’s namesake, the Blessed Virgin Mary, has always been a symbol of hope to the persecuted and oppressed. By vocalizing your dissent, you, as a representative of the University of Notre Dame, can give life to this hope for a persecuted Church.
Jon Kearney ‘09
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