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Confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, began in the US Senate on Monday, October 12, 2020.

She is a brilliant woman and the polar opposite of Justice Ginsburg.

The Senate invited Laura Wolk to provide testimony in support of Amy Coney Barrett, who was one of her professors at Notre Dame Law School.

Laura Wolk is now an Appellate Attorney for the US Supreme Court. She is also blind.

When she entered Notre Dame Law School, she had been assured that she would receive certain equipment for the blind to help her with her studies. She did not receive anything.

Deeply concerned, she approached the then-Prof Barrett to tell her of her situation. She was worried about failing her courses.

She says that, unexpectedly, she poured out her anxieties to Prof Barrett and how her blindness affected her daily life. In her testimony, she says that it was not something she had intended to reveal, but those were the words that emerged.

Barrett got Laura Wolk the special equipment she needed in short order.

This is a moving five-minute video of the story:

What follows is important. Amy Coney Barrett told her:

I agree.

Laura Wolk also offers insights as to what it is like to be blind in an unfamiliar atmosphere: terrifying, on occasion. At the same time, she says, blind people act as normally as they can, adopting a stiff upper lip to get on in life.

William ‘Bill’ Pelham Barr is America’s current attorney general.

He has been in various government positions since the Reagan years in the 1980s.

Prior to that, he was a member of the CIA between 1973 and 1977, after having served as a summer intern in 1971 and 1972.

Between 1982 and 1983, he served in the Reagan White House as Deputy Assistant Director for Legal Policy on a domestic level.

He built his legal career at the law firm of Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge from 1978 to 1982, resuming after he left his position with Reagan in 1983. He remained with the firm until 1989.

During the George HW Bush years, he began working as assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel in 1989. In 1990, he became deputy attorney general before being promoted the following year to acting attorney general. Later in 1991, he was appointed attorney general after an unusually smooth two-day confirmation hearing. He served in that capacity until 1993.

In 1994, he re-entered the private sector and worked for GTE Corporation as executive vice president and general counsel.

In 2009, he joined the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis, then left to work as a consultant for various corporations, advising them on government enforcement matters and regulatory litigation issues. He rejoined Kirkland & Ellis in 2017.

During President Trump’s first two years in office, Barr, unsolicited, came to his aid, defending the president’s outspoken statements, including those about Hillary Clinton. In another unsolicited move, Barr sent a 20-page memo to the Department of Justice criticising the Mueller investigation, even though Robert Mueller and his wife are close friends of Barr and his wife.

In December 2018, Trump nominated Barr for the attorney general position to succeed Jeff Sessions. He was sworn in on Valentine’s Day 2019.

As for his personal life, both his father and mother were educators. His mother, Mary Margaret Ahern, lectured at Columbia University. She brought her son up as a Roman Catholic. She must have had a strong influence in matters religious at home, because Barr’s father, Donald, converted from Judaism and became a Catholic. He is probably best known for being headmaster at the Dalton School in Manhattan in the early 1970s.

Barr attended Columbia University, earning his BA in government in 1971 and an MA in government and Chinese studies in 1973.

He earned his law degree in 1977 at George Washington University Law School, graduating with highest honours.

Barr married Christine Moynihan in 1973. The Barrs have three daughters, all of whom have government jobs.

Barr is an avid bagpiper and is a past member of the City of Washington Pipe Band.

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On Friday, October 11, 2019, William Barr spoke at the University of Notre Dame, just outside of South Bend, Indiana.

He addressed the university’s law school and de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture.

These are the headlines:

I am most grateful to one of my readers, GA/FL, who supplied me with the link to the transcript of his talk at Notre Dame.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Barr began by explaining what America’s Founding Fathers had in mind for religious freedom. This differs to the false secularist narrative so prevalent today:

From the Founding Era onward, there was strong consensus about the centrality of religious liberty in the United States.

The imperative of protecting religious freedom was not just a nod in the direction of piety. It reflects the Framers’ belief that religion was indispensable to sustaining our free system of government.

In his renowned 1785 pamphlet, “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” James Madison described religious liberty as “a right towards men” but “a duty towards the Creator,” and a “duty….precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.”

It has been over 230 years since that small group of colonial lawyers led a revolution and launched what they viewed as a great experiment, establishing a society fundamentally different than those that had gone before.

They crafted a magnificent charter of freedom – the United States Constitution – which provides for limited government, while leaving “the People” broadly at liberty to pursue our lives both as individuals and through free associations.

This quantum leap in liberty has been the mainspring of unprecedented human progress, not only for Americans, but for people around the world.

He went on to say that this philosophy began to change in the late 20th century, continuing on to the present day. I was particularly struck by the ever rising rates of illegitimate births, statistics that rarely see the light of day:

I think we all recognize that over the past 50 years religion has been under increasing attack.

On the one hand, we have seen the steady erosion of our traditional Judeo-Christian moral system and a comprehensive effort to drive it from the public square.

On the other hand, we see the growing ascendancy of secularism and the doctrine of moral relativism.

By any honest assessment, the consequences of this moral upheaval have been grim.

Virtually every measure of social pathology continues to gain ground.

In 1965, the illegitimacy rate was eight percent. In 1992, when I was last Attorney General, it was 25 percent. Today it is over 40 percent. In many of our large urban areas, it is around 70 percent.

Along with the wreckage of the family, we are seeing record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of angry and alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence, and a deadly drug epidemic.

As you all know, over 70,000 people die a year from drug overdoses. That is more casualities in a year than we experienced during the entire Vietnam War.

I will not dwell on all the bitter results of the new secular age. Suffice it to say that the campaign to destroy the traditional moral order has brought with it immense suffering, wreckage, and misery. And yet, the forces of secularism, ignoring these tragic results, press on with even greater militancy.

Among these militant secularists are many so-called “progressives.” But where is the progress?

We are told we are living in a post-Christian era. But what has replaced the Judeo-Christian moral system? What is it that can fill the spiritual void in the hearts of the individual person? And what is a system of values that can sustain human social life?

The fact is that no secular creed has emerged capable of performing the role of religion.

Scholarship suggests that religion has been integral to the development and thriving of Homo sapiens since we emerged roughly 50,000 years ago. It is just for the past few hundred years we have experimented in living without religion.

We hear much today about our humane values. But, in the final analysis, what undergirds these values? What commands our adherence to them?

What we call “values” today are really nothing more than mere sentimentality, still drawing on the vapor trails of Christianity.

He cautioned that we should not consider this to be a short-term trend. It is becoming ever pervasive, with serious effects:

We have all thought that after a while the “pendulum will swing back.”

But today we face something different that may mean that we cannot count on the pendulum swinging back.

First is the force, fervor, and comprehensiveness of the assault on religion we are experiencing today. This is not decay; it is organized destruction. Secularists, and their allies among the “progressives,” have marshaled all the force of mass communications, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.

These instruments are used not only to affirmatively promote secular orthodoxy, but also drown out and silence opposing voices, and to attack viciously and hold up to ridicule any dissenters.

One of the ironies, as some have observed, is that the secular project has itself become a religion, pursued with religious fervor. It is taking on all the trappings of a religion, including inquisitions and excommunication.

Those who defy the creed risk a figurative burning at the stake – social, educational, and professional ostracism and exclusion waged through lawsuits and savage social media campaigns.

The pervasiveness and power of our high-tech popular culture fuels apostasy in another way. It provides an unprecedented degree of distraction

But, as Blaise Pascal observed, instead of grappling with these questions, humans can be easily distracted from thinking about the “final things.”

He also warned about our increasing dependence on government to resolve moral and social problems. Previously, individuals took it upon themselves to rectify their personal lives for the better:

But today – in the face of all the increasing pathologies – instead of addressing the underlying cause, we have the State in the role of alleviator of bad consequences. We call on the State to mitigate the social costs of personal misconduct and irresponsibility.

So the reaction to growing illegitimacy is not sexual responsibility, but abortion.

The reaction to drug addiction is safe injection sites.

The solution to the breakdown of the family is for the State to set itself up as the ersatz husband for single mothers and the ersatz father to their children.

The call comes for more and more social programs to deal with the wreckage. While we think we are solving problems, we are underwriting them.

We start with an untrammeled freedom and we end up as dependents of a coercive state on which we depend.

Interestingly, this idea of the State as the alleviator of bad consequences has given rise to a new moral system that goes hand-in-hand with the secularization of society. It can be called the system of “macro-morality.” It is in some ways an inversion of Christian morality.

Christianity teaches a micro-morality. We transform the world by focusing on our own personal morality and transformation.

The new secular religion teaches macro-morality. One’s morality is not gauged by their private conduct, but rather on their commitment to political causes and collective action to address social problems.

This system allows us to not worry so much about the strictures on our private lives, while we find salvation on the picket-line. We can signal our finely-tuned moral sensibilities by demonstrating for this cause or that.

And there is more to the story. We are using law as a weapon:

A third phenomenon which makes it difficult for the pendulum to swing back is the way law is being used as a battering ram to break down traditional moral values and to establish moral relativism as a new orthodoxy.

Law is being used as weapon in a couple of ways.

First, either through legislation but more frequently through judicial interpretation, secularists have been continually seeking to eliminate laws that reflect traditional moral norms.

At first, this involved rolling back laws that prohibited certain kinds of conduct. Thus, the watershed decision legalizing abortion. And since then, the legalization of euthanasia. The list goes on.

More recently, we have seen the law used aggressively to force religious people and entities to subscribe to practices and policies that are antithetical to their faith.

The problem is not that religion is being forced on others. The problem is that irreligion and secular values are being forced on people of faith.

This reminds me of how some Roman emperors could not leave their loyal Christian subjects in peace but would mandate that they violate their conscience by offering religious sacrifice to the emperor as a god.

Similarly, militant secularists today do not have a live and let live spirit – they are not content to leave religious people alone to practice their faith. Instead, they seem to take a delight in compelling people to violate their conscience.

For example, the last Administration sought to force religious employers, including Catholic religious orders, to violate their sincerely held religious views by funding contraceptive and abortifacient coverage in their health plans. Similarly, California has sought to require pro-life pregnancy centers to provide notices of abortion rights.

This refusal to accommodate the free exercise of religion is relatively recent. Just 25 years ago, there was broad consensus in our society that our laws should accommodate religious belief.

In 1993, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – RFRA. The purpose of the statute was to promote maximum accommodation to religion when the government adopted broad policies that could impinge on religious practice.

At the time, RFRA was not controversial. It was introduced by Chuck Schumer with 170 cosponsors in the House, and was introduced by Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch with 59 additional cosponsors in the Senate. It passed by voice vote in the House and by a vote of 97-3 in the Senate.

Recently, as the process of secularization has accelerated, RFRA has come under assault, and the idea of religious accommodation has fallen out of favor.

Because this Administration firmly supports accommodation of religion, the battleground has shifted to the states. Some state governments are now attempting to compel religious individuals and entities to subscribe to practices, or to espouse viewpoints, that are incompatible with their religion.

This is not restricted to adults. American schools are making certain sex education and identity politics courses mandatory, even for young children:

The first front relates to the content of public school curriculum. Many states are adopting curriculum that is incompatible with traditional religious principles according to which parents are attempting to raise their children. They often do so without any opt out for religious families.

Thus, for example, New Jersey recently passed a law requiring public schools to adopt an LGBT curriculum that many feel is inconsistent with traditional Christian teaching. Similar laws have been passed in California and Illinois. And the Orange County Board of Education in California issued an opinion that “parents who disagree with the instructional materials related to gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation may not excuse their children from this instruction.”

Indeed, in some cases, the schools may not even warn parents about lessons they plan to teach on controversial subjects relating to sexual behavior and relationships.

This puts parents who dissent from the secular orthodoxy to a difficult choice: Try to scrape together the money for private school or home schooling, or allow their children to be inculcated with messages that they fundamentally reject.

Some states are also restricting funds to religious schools:

A second axis of attack in the realm of education are state policies designed to starve religious schools of generally-available funds and encouraging students to choose secular options. Montana, for example, created a program that provided tax credits to those who donated to a scholarship program that underprivileged students could use to attend private school. The point of the program was to provide greater parental and student choice in education and to provide better educations to needy youth.

But Montana expressly excluded religiously-affiliated private schools from the program. And when that exclusion was challenged in court by parents who wanted to use the scholarships to attend a nondenominational Christian school, the Montana Supreme Court required the state to eliminate the program rather than allow parents to use scholarships for religious schools.

It justified this action by pointing to a provision in Montana’s State Constitution commonly referred to as a “Blaine Amendment.” Blaine Amendments were passed at a time of rampant anti-Catholic animus in this country, and typically disqualify religious institutions from receiving any direct or indirect payments from a state’s funds.

The case is now in the Supreme Court, and we filed a brief explaining why Montana’s Blaine Amendment violates the First Amendment.

Barr said that the only solution to this dangerous trend is go back to Judeo-Christian basics by addressing moral education at home, rather than depending on government institutions:

We understand that only by transforming ourselves can we transform the world beyond ourselves.

This is tough work. It is hard to resist the constant seductions of our contemporary society. This is where we need grace, prayer, and the help of our church.

Beyond this, we must place greater emphasis on the moral education of our children.

Education is not vocational training. It is leading our children to the recognition that there is truth and helping them develop the faculties to discern and love the truth and the discipline to live by it.

We cannot have a moral renaissance unless we succeed in passing to the next generation our faith and values in full vigor.

The times are hostile to this. Public agencies, including public schools, are becoming secularized and increasingly are actively promoting moral relativism.

If ever there was a need for a resurgence of Catholic education – and more generally religiously-affiliated schools – it is today.

In conclusion, Barr spoke these lines during the middle of his speech. However, they are to me the most enduring now and in future:

For anyone who has a religious faith, by far the most important part of exercising that faith is the teaching of that religion to our children. The passing on of the faith. There is no greater gift we can give our children and no greater expression of love.

I couldn’t agree more.

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.

Indeed.

We all hoped the same would happen at Notre Dame, unfortunately, it was business as usual.

Notre Dame admin bldg tripadvisorcomFor 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?

nd leadership-jjenkinsThis 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.

Fr Norman Weslin arrested at NDLifeSiteNews (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.

Notre DameCommencement 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.

ND golden dome flickrcomShortly 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.

Fr Norman Weslin arrested at NDAt 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.

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