Dear Fr. Jenkins,
I consider the four years I spent at Our Lady’s university to be the best of my life. A great reason for this has been Notre Dame’s outstanding ability to combine free thought and exploration of ideas with a strong foundation in the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church. During my time at Notre Dame, I had the good fortune to converse with giants of decidedly anti-Catholic thought such as Hume, Nietzsche and John Stuart Mill while I bolstered my faith with Mass and confession available each day. The balance of free thought and Catholic tradition is what makes Notre Dame a beacon of light, reason and faith throughout the world. It is why I am proud to call Notre Dame home.
But, in order to maintain this balance, which is vital to our University’s mission, freedom of conscience with a firm basis in Catholic teaching has been and must be paramount.
You are obviously aware of the uproar surrounding the White House’s mandate requiring all employers to provide and purchase a health care plan that would pay for certain procedures and prescriptions that would directly violate the consciences of millions of Americans of all faiths and ethnicities. The required violation of conscience is unprecedented in the history of the United States. It goes against everything the Founding Fathers stood for. You showed your dedication to both the mission of the Catholic Church and to the basic tenets on which our nation was founded by speaking out against the mandate. In doing so, you showed courage and strength in your convictions as a leading voice for freedom of religion and economy.
President Obama responded to the criticism showered upon him by you and others by proposing an accommodation.
Let us be clear. This supposed compromise changes nothing and is an insult to everyone who objected to the mandate in the first place. You know it. I know it. It is an accounting gimmick that will only fool the dense and the thoughtless. I have heard you speak. I know you are neither dense nor thoughtless.
Please. Speak out again.
You are the leader and the face of a school that is the most recognized Catholic institution in America. Your voice on this issue will be heard throughout the nation. This puts you in a position that is both enviable and unenviable. It is enviable because you have a chance to shine as a courageous advocate of freedom and faith. You can be a great example for goodness in our country. It is unenviable because by speaking out against the White House you will endure a great deal of criticism from those who do not understand what is at stake. This will be immensely difficult.
Unfortunately, what is right is often difficult. Look to the saints. They stand out in history because of their ability to confront challenges with grace and fortitude.
Take courage. There are many who will support you as you make the right choice, and who are already praying for you. You know what is right. Make the choice. Speak.
You are the president of a school that proudly names itself the home of the Fighting Irish.
Jack Thornton ‘11
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