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Now there is a controversial triangle of topics.
A few recent news items caught my eye:
– The Amish and Muslims are exempt from Obamacare because both religious groups object to insurance. Two states are also exempt. Hmm. Anna’s Clue Tank points out that the health care package is unconstitutional as it denies equal protection and smacks of totalitarianism. It also seems, to me, as if these exemptions show favouritism to certain groups. Beyond that, it’s just a bad idea (and isn’t how the NHS works). IRS agents deciding whether you’ve got the right Obamacare plan, i.e. paying enough into government coffers? You couldn’t make it up. However, there is good news on the horizon, as a number of Protestant evangelicals support the 12 lawsuits Catholic organisations have filed against Obamacare.
– William Peter Blatty, the 85-year author of The Exorcist, might sue Georgetown University in Washington DC’s Diocese Court of Canon Law. Although he graduated from Georgetown in 1950, he has been unhappy with the Jesuit-run university’s drift away from Catholicism. The last straw for him was their inviting Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to be their 2012 Commencement speaker. The Archdiocese of Washington (DC) also found the invitation ‘shocking’. Shades of the University of Notre Dame’s inviting President Obama to be their Commencement speaker in 2009. The Diocese of Fort Wayne was also outraged but couldn’t do anything about it. They do not have direct control over religious orders, i.e. Notre Dame’s Congregation of the Holy Cross.
– Speaking of Notre Dame, the elderly priest Father Norman Weslin, who was so cruelly manhandled by security staff there after peacefully protesting against abortion during Commencement weekend in 2009, is now very ill. The priest has been living at an Alzheimer’s residence for the past two years but his health is deteriorating. Norman Weslin served his country as a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army. He started the Mary Weslin Homes for Pregnant, Unwed Mothers in memory of his late wife, also firmly pro-life. Father Weslin was ordained in 1986. Please remember him in your prayers.
– Back to Georgetown and the Washington Post article concerning William Peter Blatty. Anna’s Clue Tank picked up on number of Catholic comments against Blatty and in defence of Georgetown. As Anna rightly observes:
… since they are unsure of what the Catholic Church stands for and they don’t want to stir themselves on a Saturday or a Sunday to attend Mass, I suggest they buy a recent copy of a book called Catechism of the Catholic Church. It might do them a world of good. And when they questions they could talk to the parish priest. It could be an eye opening experience …
As for Georgetown (which covered up Jesus’s name for Obama’s team in 2009):
Perhaps they do need to get out the incense, Holy Water, crack open a Bible, and then examine themselves. Then they just might discover the log in their eye and remove it. Might find again the path St. Ignatius of Loyola set out for all Jesuits. And as a result – Go forth and set the world on fire.
We all hoped the same would happen at Notre Dame, unfortunately, it was business as usual.
For past posts on the 2009 Notre Dame commencement protests, click here.
On May 17, 2009, 90 people were arrested for protesting at the University of Notre Dame. They are pro-life Americans objecting to the University’s granting an honorary degree to President Obama, who has voiced ambivalent opinions regarding abortion.
The Revd John I Jenkins, CSC, the University’s president, has made no move to have charges dropped against the arrested protesters. Whilst it is true that the St Joseph County prosecutor is dealing with the cases, the University is the complainant and could ask for charges to be dropped.
In June, the Thomas More Society Pro-Life Law Center president, Thomas Brejcha, joined the case to help attorney Tom Dixon. On September 4, LifeSiteNews reported that Brejcha wrote an open letter to Fr Jenkins asking that charges against the 88 people be dropped. The letter reads in part:
With respect, Father, the future of these cases – if they must go on – is squarely in your hands. Notre Dame is the complainant. Its security personnel directed and/or conducted the arrests, pointing out those who would be arrested (pro-lifers) and those who would not (those carrying pro-Obama signs and/or taunting the pro-lifers).
Brejcha noted that, in the Society’s long legal battle against the National Organization for Women that ended in the Supreme Court, Notre Dame’s then-president Fr. Ted Hesburgh and other Notre Dame affiliates helped with the case.
‘Now the “Notre Dame 88” have asked us to take the lead in their defense,’ said Brejcha. ‘Not to spite Notre Dame but because we love it, we have agreed. America’s civil rights movement is ongoing, and the pro-life movement is its next phase.
‘Notre Dame should not only support this new civil rights movement but lead it. It should honor all who dare to speak out for the dignity of all human beings – born or unborn, wanted or unwanted, humble or exalted – not prosecute them!’
He plans to set up a new website FreeTheND88.org which will give more information about the situation.
Updates to follow as they happen.
An afterthought: How Christian is it for Fr Jenkins to act as if he just doesn’t care about sincere protesters? Why doesn’t he just do the decent thing and drop charges? Why not invite all 88 people to Notre Dame for a roundtable discussion? He’s a member of the elite like so many in academia and politics today. Does he care? Do we want to know the real answer to that question?
This handsome priest is the Revd John I Jenkins Jr, the President of the University of Notre Dame du Lac.
You may recall a few weeks ago that he was the front man for President Obama to receive an Honorary Doctorate of Law degree, going against Catholic teachings with regard to abortion. The campus and surrounding area attracted peaceful pro-life protesters from around the nation, a number of whom were arrested.
Fr Jenkins turned a blind eye.
LifeSiteNews (LSN) reported on June 10 that a number of those arrested returned to South Bend, Indiana, to appear in court. Fr Jenkins still doesn’t care. He is unwilling to see charges dropped. At right is a photo of Fr Norman Weslin being arrested.
Excerpts from LSN’s article follow:
The president of the University of Notre Dame has ‘no interest’ in interfering with the fates of over 80 peaceful pro-life protesters arrested on campus while protesting President Obama’s May 17 commencement speech, says the pro-lifers’ attorney. One of the arrestees, Lambs of Christ founder Fr. Norman Weslin, issued a statement Monday calling on University president Fr. John Jenkins to heed the arrested group’s requests to meet, which Weslin says Fr. Jenkins has ignored…
Attorney Tom Dixon told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) Tuesday that none of the charges have been dropped, and only two individuals accepted an offer to plead guilty in return for a sentence of time served and a fine. The rest face a maximum sentence of a year in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Asked about Notre Dame’s involvement in the case, Dixon said he has ‘not heard anything’ from the school, ‘except that they don’t have any interest in exploring ways to resolve these matters’.
Dixon says that he will attempt to have the cases dismissed based on his belief that ‘the law does not allow the University of Notre Dame to have these people arrested for trespass.’ Dixon cited an example of unfair treatment in the arrest process described by pro-lifers at Notre Dame: while some people refused to leave campus after being warned by Notre Dame police, he said, “There are others who will say that conversation never happened: ‘I just walked onto campus and they arrested me.'”
Pro-life activist and Lambs of Christ founder Fr. Norman Weslin, who was arrested twice at Notre Dame during commencement week, is also calling on Fr. Jenkins to stop turning a deaf ear to requests from the arrested pro-lifers to open dialogue. Weslin was in St. Joseph Superior Court Monday to be arraigned on two charges of criminal trespass.
The arrests, captured on video, have been viewed on YouTube over 200,000 times and have become symbolic of Notre Dame’s ironic treatment of pro-lifers while the school honored President Obama.
‘A person who comes to Notre Dame to pray for the right to life cannot be a trespasser,’ said Fr. Weslin in a statement. ‘We are not protesters, we are lay and religious Christians bearing witness to the truth of life.’
‘Cardinal George is right. Notre Dame has lost its understanding of what it means to be Catholic,’ he continued. ‘We, as the Church’s faithful servants, are trying to restore that understanding to Notre Dame, so it will again possess the grace to be a great Catholic Christian Institution.’
To read the article in full and find out what you can do to help, click here.
When I first wrote ‘Weird Notre Dame protest story’, I thought of the credit union where the pro-life Torres couple stopped on May 17, 2009. As I haven’t been to ND for several years, I didn’t want to say, ‘They must have been at the Notre Dame Credit Union’. The place is so built up now that it could have been another one.
Turns out that it was the Notre Dame Credit Union.
The thing I didn’t know was that the Notre Dame Credit Union is on campus property.
Folks, if you’re going to add fuel to a fire, well, you deserve what you get. There are so many places to stop around there which are off-campus — why ask for trouble?
What doesn’t seem fair, though, is to allow one set of people with pro-Obama signs yet forbid a peaceful opposing viewpoint. Even sadder is that the pro-Obama display was for his departure, as it was on the motorcade route. So, a group of people were there just to make him feel good. In other words, a Potemkin affair. Ugh. This is the man who said he didn’t want his daughters being punished with a baby. Hmm.
LSN reports that charges of criminal trespass against Karen Torres have not been dropped. She and her husband will return to South Bend on June 3 for an arraignment. The LSN article states in part:
Concerning Notre Dame’s conditions for criminal trespass, [Mr] Torres explained to LSN that pro-lifers were warned during the commencement that they were only allowed to enter the campus if they carried no signs. ‘We could not go in with any signs or any t-shirts or anything that spoke badly of Notre Dame or Obama,’ he said.
Most of the pro-lifers arrested that day purposefully entered campus grounds to be arrested, carrying symbols including a large cross, photographs of aborted children, and images of Mary.
Catherine Wilson, the media relations director at the South Bend prosecutor’s office, told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) today that none of the charges against those arrested have been dropped. Wilson declined to give further information on the cases, citing ‘ethical restrictions’.
Notre Dame Spokesman Dennis Brown did not return a request for comment from LSN.
Attorney Tom Dickson, who will represent the cases, told LSN that, ‘It’s a constitutional law question.’
Past cases cited in the article seem to indicate that ‘to the degree that a private institution opens its grounds to the general public, its right to curb their free speech activities is limited’.
We’ll keep you posted.
Commencement 2009 is over. Notre Dame graduates and their families have returned home. Fr Jenkins has read the papers along with his post and has prepared for interviews. President Obama headed to Indianapolis, where he had two fund-raising engagements. Randall Terry and Dr Keyes look at how the past few weeks of pro-life protests went and decide what to do next. (Maybe they can ask ND Response for some marketing advice.) Meanwhile, the blogosphere and national media opine.
Did any of this brouhaha make a difference? Here’s my take on it.
First, Fr Jenkins only has another year left of his five-year presidency of the University. Who knows what he will do next? It could be that by ingratiating himself to the Democrats he could gain a national advisory position of some sort which would be compatible with Holy Orders. He might be invited to speak at more high-profile places on the Catholic Church of the future. He will be okay. Even if he got unceremoniously removed from ND, he would still be okay. So, yes, he is more socially acceptable than the renegade priests of the 1970s, e.g. Berrigan brothers, and will have more opportunities open to him.
Second, Notre Dame itself will survive, although possibly a bit tarnished. A noticeable amount of contributions will dry up, but it will always have its supporters, especially among its alumni. The knee-jerk Democrat Catholic will always feel at home there, even if he is a fifth-generation American with a six-figure income. Furthermore, to be seen as relevant, ND will continue attracting more left-wing professors and students. The order of the Holy Cross will become like the Jesuits of Georgetown, consumed by social justice and 1960s causes. The people who were in a minority when I knew the place will now be firmly entrenched in the Establishment, which is decidedly left-of-centre. Its football team will be negligible, unlikely to achieve its former glory.
Finally, ND will lose its reputation as the ‘Catholic’ university in the US. As Joseph Bottum said in the Weekly Standard recently:
If Georgetown doesn’t appear Catholic to ordinary Catholics, that’s just Georgetown. But if Notre Dame is shaky–if the most identifiably Catholic place in America doesn’t seem Catholic–then the old connection between Catholic culture and Catholic institutions and the Catholic Church really is broken beyond repair. And where will Catholics send their children to school then?
When kids say, ‘My best friend goes to Notre Dame’, the response from their contemporaries is likely to be ‘Really? That’s nice’, rather than, ‘Cool! Wish I went there’. Saying one’s intended goes there will have a fair number of Catholic parents harrumphing or rattling the newspaper instead of waxing lyrical over the place. ND will become as inconsequential as Marquette.
And an Obama effect? A lot of the significance of his appearing there will depend on how his presidency goes. Yes, an uptick from Democrat alums and parents will probably enrich the coffers some. As far as Obama’s influence on ND as a Catholic institution goes, it wouldn’t surprise me if there were some legislation in future to secularise universities which met certain criteria, e.g. needed Federal funding to stay in existence. But, that could happen with any future left-of-centre administration. The Government could say, ‘These institutions still are Catholic, no change there. We are just asking them to be more inclusive in admissions and other policies if they wish to receive public funds.’ Uh-huh. Then, the whole set of values behind the institution is compromised and it becomes a secular university with a religious veneer. Scratch the surface and the glossy finish comes off pretty easily.
For the most part, though, many people will have forgotten about this in a couple of years time, especially once ND gets a new president. As for the rest of us, we’ll remember.
Energy Publisher has an opinion piece by Mary Ann Kreitzer called ‘Free speech is dead at Notre Dame’. Do read the whole story, excerpts of which are below (bold text mine):
I just spoke by phone with a friend, Sonny Torres, who went to Notre Dame this weekend with his wife Karen to protest the university giving Obama an honorary degree and a platform for promoting his policies which include murdering unborn children. Neither of my friends had any intention of getting arrested, but the Lord apparently had other plans.
After six hours of joining in the protests off campus, Karen and Sonny left to begin their long ride back to Virginia. But they got turned around and pulled into the parking lot of a credit union bordering the university campus to get their bearings. As they did, they noticed a group of police cars gathering and officers putting up barricades which appeared to mark the route of the Obama motorcade. So Karen and Sonny got out and Karen pulled out her sign, a half posterboard sheet, that read, “Shame on Notre Dame!”
A few minutes later a police officer came over and told them they’d have to move back 50 feet from the road which they did even though others were standing closer. As they walked back with the officer, they objected to being singled out and asked why those walking on the sidewalk weren’t being moved back. The officer spoke into his phone and a minute later they were surrounded by cops and Karen was summarily arrested, handcuffed, hauled off, and charged with criminal trespass.
Apparently none of those who came to worship at the feet of the abortion president was trespassing even though they gathered in the same place, even closer to the street, on ground forbidden to my friends because of Karen’s sign, an unwelcome form of speech.
… After talking to Sonny, I called the jail and spoke to Deputy Vawastowski (Is she a Polish Catholic?) who told me Karen was charged with criminal trespass and her bail was set at $250. She could not give me the statute under which Karen had been charged and said she had no other information, but it would be on the arresting officer’s charge sheet…
Now, let’s recap this and make everything perfectly clear. Approximately 100 people ended up milling around in the same area as my friends, some much closer to the street within the forbidden 50 foot zone. But the only individual singled out for arrest FOR TRESPASSING was a woman holding a sign that said, “Shame on Notre Dame!” Those bearing signs of approval were unmolested. If this isn’t a first amendment violation and a case of false arrest I don’t know what is…
A very strange and sad story, indeed. It would appear that the moral of the story is to stop in a place away from protesters and police. And try not to get riled, difficult as it is.
Shortly after the 2009 commencement and a warm handshake with President Obama, the Revd John I Jenkins lay himself to sleep.
After tornado warnings that weekend, a peaceful calm set over the Notre Dame landscape. He slept quietly for a few hours.
Suddenly, his window rattled slightly. He stirred slightly and snuffled. Perhaps it was a gentle late spring breeze. Nothing to be worried about. He rolled over in crisp cotton sheets and returned to sleep. Soon after, a gust of wind interrupted his rest. He could hear the curtains waving in the breeze. It was too much to bear. He turned towards the window.
A large aura shone before him. A blue aura surrounded by white and gold. ‘What is this?’ he wondered. He sat up in bed and pondered. Soon, his answer came.
‘Good evening, John. I am stopping by only briefly.’
‘Whaaa?’ He brushed his hair with his hands and attempted to raise himself.
‘There is no need to get up. I shall stay only a short while.’
The priest, now wide-eyed, sat up in bed. ‘But who are you?’
‘I am the mother of your Lord Jesus. I am Mary. Please, stay where you are.
‘I hope you have enjoyed your day. As for myself, I have been astonished. Astonished that you could have had the brass neck, as the English say, to give a pro-abortion President an Honorary Doctorate of Law Degree from a university named after me. How could you stoop to such depths?
‘You have been given many gifts. You have a highly superior intelligence. You are a handsome, engaging man. Above all, you have been ordained in the tradition of Melchizidek. You are a priest and, as such, are bound to uphold the laws of the Church.
‘Yet, you have turned from the Church’s teachings. You have curried favour with the political and secularist Establishment. You have sought material favours and prestige in my name.
‘You know that my husband Joseph, himself a saint, and I had a difficult time when I was with child. Now, of course, in England, they say “fell pregnant”. But we didn’t think of it that way. Nonetheless, it was difficult for my betrothed to explain to his family what exactly had happened. My parents, as faithful as they were to God, also needed time to accept that what I was doing was His will as conveyed by the Angel Gabriel.
‘But, you don’t need me to tell you how the story of Our Lord’s birth occurred. It was a difficult nine months for us. Joseph, of course, spent time considering how perfect our marriage could have been. I was not meant to conceive that soon. And to tell his nearest and dearest that he was not really the father. Well, you can imagine.
‘And, so, over the past few months, I began thinking. What would this holy priest, Fr Jenkins, suggest had he been alive at the time? “Don’t worry, Joseph and Mary, you can take care of it. Get rid of this burden. Mary, there are strong herbs and potions you can take which will render your womb inhospitable to birth.”
‘But, you see, I was willingly doing what God asked. What would have happened if I had purposely lost the child? You would not be where you are today, Fr Jenkins. You would be neither a priest nor ordained under the order of the Congregation of the Holy Cross.
‘You have a great responsibility. And you are the president of the last great Catholic university, at least as it is known to the public. We have lost Georgetown and Marquette to secular influences. Catholics look up to you, Fr Jenkins.
‘Now, you need to reflect on how you conduct your future. Be very careful. As the Lord says, “No man can serve two masters.” You need to choose.’
With this, Fr Jenkins began to crawl out of bed as if he were going to his knees. ‘O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.’
‘There will be no need of that — the kneeling,’ Our Lady said. ‘Yes, I shall continue to pray for you, as I have done over the years of your presidency. However, you must be careful about what you undertake in my name. Pray for guidance. I shall intercede on your behalf.’
Fr Jenkins reached out his hand, but the light was fading rapidly. ‘Our Lady, Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ,’ he whispered. ‘Conceived without sin …’
But, by then, the light was completely gone. His window slammed with a bang.
Breathless, he sat up, his hands clasped.
At the weekend, Damian Thompson’s Holy Smoke blog featured the video of Fr Norman Weslin’s arrest at Notre Dame.
You’ll want to check out the video if you haven’t already done so, as well as the comments from Thompson’s regular readers who are, by and large, British.
Fr Weslin and his late wife adopted two children early in their marriage. He entered the priesthood after his wife died and turned the marital home into a safe place for young pregnant women to stay. What started with one house soon turned into a whole network, called The Mary Weslin Homes.
Later in 1988, Fr Weslin founded the pro-life organisation, The Lambs of Christ.
Fr Weslin is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army.
Do you live in or near the Windy City and want a day out in South Bend on Sunday, May 17?
Notre Dame alum Tom O’Toole, organiser of the POPE Project, has buses scheduled for his alma mater. Register here if you would like transportation to the campus prayer vigil on South Quad which will take place simultaneously with Commencement. There are buses leaving from two Chicago locations. For those living in the outer suburbs, buses will be leaving from Central Catholic High School on Edgelawn Drive in Aurora.
If you prefer a lunchtime venue on Friday, May 15, you can join a group at the Archdiocese of Chicago on Rush Street. The meeting is scheduled for 12 noon.
POPE Project organisers emphasise that protests and vigils are to be peaceful and prayerful.
If you are unable to attend, the POPE Project welcomes your contributions.
For more information about the Notre Dame Commencement controversy, click here.
On Tuesday, May 12, Amy Proctor at Bottom Line Up Front reported that the University of Notre Dame might have to rescind President Obama’s invitation to speak at Commencement exercises on Sunday, May 17.
She picked up the story with ND alum Michael Voris who runs RealCatholicTV.com.
VORIS: ‘We’re not at liberty to release details, but it appears that events are taking shape aimed at correcting the abuses at Notre Dame. These plans may include the canceling of Obama’s appearance at the commencement.’
The ‘details’ revolve around a report that Archbishop Raymond Burke and Pope Benedict may be ‘correcting the abuses at Notre Dame’.
On May 11, Churchmouse Campanologist reported that Archbishop Burke criticised pro-choice Catholics as well as the Obama administration’s statements on matters relating to marriage and the family. He is the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Holy See’s highest court. Here’s a recap of what the Archbishop said at the national prayer breakfast for Catholics held on Friday, May 8:
As Catholics, we cannot fail to notice with the greatest sadness the number of our fellow Catholics who cooperate fully to the advancement of a national agenda which is anti-life and anti-family.
He pointed to several Obama administration decisions that he said have damaged ‘the fundamental society that is the family,’ citing the repeal of the conscience clause, which prohibits health care workers from refusing to participate in abortion-related services; repeal of the Mexico City policy, which allows federal funding to be used abroad to provide abortions; presidential support of the Freedom of Choice Act, which prevents government from in any way denying or interfering with a woman’s right to choose; and support of the U.S. Population Fund, which he noted supports China’s one-child policy.
He blamed loose morals for legislation that would allow same-sex marriages and repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which states have implemented to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
So far, we have no updates on whether Archbishop Burke can force the University’s president, the Revd John I Jenkins, CSC, to rescind the invitation. Douglas Gibbs at Political Pistachio also carries the story. We’ll post the latest news as and when.
Meanwhile, it transpires that Fr Jenkins serves on the board of directors for Millenium Promise, an organisation involved in contraception and abortion activity in Africa. Doug Lawrence explains here. The LifeSiteNews article to which he refers says in part:
Fr. Jenkins’ involvement on the board of the Millennium Promise was first reported by the Drew Mariani Show and PewSitter.com…Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, a Catholic education watchdog organization, responded to the news of Fr. Jenkins’ involvement in Millennium Promise, saying in an interview with LSN, ‘One has to wonder what Fr. Jenkins’ opinion is of the Church’s teaching on contraception.’
Millennium Promise’s mission is to enact the eight so-called Millennium Development Goals by 2015. However, the Millennium Development Goals have been widely promoted by pro-contraception and pro-abortion organizations, such as Millennium Promise, as including the goal of increasing access to contraception and abortion globally.
It’s interesting to note that Fr Jenkins is the only clergyman on Millennium Promise’s board of directors. Yet — and yet — he has written to ND seniors reiterating his support for Catholic teaching (emphasis mine):
I am saddened that many friends of Notre Dame have suggested that our invitation to President Obama indicates ambiguity in our position on matters of Catholic teaching. The University and I are unequivocally committed to the sanctity of human life and to its protection from conception to natural death.
Note the words ‘natural death’.
Finally, renowned Protestant theologian John Piper has a three-and-a-half minute film which has been making the rounds of the Web. It has a crisp, modern design and, although you don’t need sound, it’s worth listening to Revd Piper’s impassioned message to President Obama about abortion.
How is it that a senior Catholic priest falls short of his Church’s own teachings only for a Protestant theologian to so passionately defend new human life?
For all the main developments in the Notre Dame Commencement story, click here.