Whither Notre Dame?

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Fathers Miscamble and Barron



Tom O’Toole has an interesting post up at Renew America on the future of Notre Dame:



After a stellar version of the standard salad, chicken and potatoes lunch, Fr. Miscamble began his talk, entitled, “What is the Future for Notre Dame?” Indeed, it was a sad tale I’ve both heard and written about many times before, yet there was something poignant about hearing it in person from the person perhaps most responsible for the University’s counter-reformation. Although I’m sure Miscamble realized that for the most part he was singing to the choir that day, he warned the rest that, “[i]f you’ve come to hear some carefully prepared PR fluff, you’ve come to the wrong place.”

Father began his lecture going from the general to the specific, noting that Notre Dame was part of an amazing push in the nineteenth and early twentieth century in which the Church built a massive Catholic culture of dioceses, schools and hospitals, “all at a time when Catholics had neither the wealth nor education they do today.” After that ironic statement, Father flashed forward to the subtly diabolical 1967 “Land O’Lakes” document, which promoted scholarly dialogue at the expense of magisterial obedience. “After a series of seemingly insignificant decisions, Notre Dame found itself both confused and lacking confidence in its Catholic identity,” so much that Notre Dame president, Fr. John Jenkins, and the ND Board of Trustees. could go against the directives of the bishops and forsake Truth for prestige by honoring the radically pro-abortion Obama.

While not denying that Notre Dame is at the crossroads of returning to its Catholic roots or becoming another Vanderbilt or Duke, former religious universities that are now almost completely secular, Miscamble, after acknowledging some positive steps the University has taken since the Obama disaster (not the least of these being “Notre Dame’s suing of the Obama Administration over clauses in the Affordable Heath Care Act”) offered four practical ways to return from Land O’Lakes to Ex Corde Ecclesiae, John Paul II’s “Magna Carta” on how a Catholic university should operate.

Although my one through four list of ways to save Notre Dame all involve naming Fr. Miscamble as Notre Dame’s president (an online petition, anyone?), barring that miracle, Father’s outline is the way to reform. First, Miscamble says you need a clear articulation of your mission statement. Noting that Notre Dame’s is actually pretty good, Father adds that a mission statement is “meaningless unless it shapes the University,” as was clearly not the case with honoring Obama and allowing annual campus performances of The Vagina Monologues, which, in Fr. Jenkins’ own words, includes “graphic descriptions of homosexual, extramarital…and auto-erotic [sex, including] the seduction of a sixteen year old girl by an adult woman,” or as Miscamble would add “reduces women to their body parts.”

Second, the Catholicity of the faculty is of utmost importance. Indeed, the hiring of faculty both “ambivalent” and “openly hostile” to Notre Dame’s mission may be the University’s gravest mistake to date. On the other hand, the hiring done during Miscamble’s brief five-year term as Chair of the History Department show it is far from impossible to turn a faculty around.

Thirdly, the curriculum must be re-examined. Of course, Father acknowledges that curriculum is intimately tied to the faculty, because even the finest selection of Catholic core courses (I myself am pushing Notre Dame to add one on the novels of Ralph McInerny) unless taught by the right teachers, could do students more harm than good.

Finally, Notre Dame needs to re-explore its choices regarding student life. While praising the great availability of the sacraments at Notre Dame, including daily Masses in all the dorms, Father says Notre Dame must do more to distance itself from the partying, hook-up culture of secular universities, and providing entertainment choices such as The Vagina Monologues, or bands such as the one that ended their concert my freshman year with a rousing rendition of “Let’s Get Drunk and Screw,” just isn’t cutting it.

After a  heartfelt round of applause, Miscamble gave way to his colleague, Fr. Robert Barron, narrator of the fine Catholicism TV documentaries and rector of Mundelein Seminary. Barron echoed many of Miscamble’s warnings, noting that between the “dumbed down, banners and balloons religion being taught in Catholic grade and high schools, and the Land O’Lakes Catholicism offered at many Catholic universities, Christ became just one of many options to follow, and Catholic theology was no longer at the center.” But “when Christ is no longer at the center, a center in which all other subjects find their meaning,” Barron noted that “something else will take His place.” Indeed, dialogue became god, and laws at many Catholic universities were no longer dictated by the Church but by the faculty or even the state, as Obama’s honorary degree of Law from Notre Dame sadly indicates.

Go here to read the rest.  Any attempt to make Catholic colleges and universities Catholic again in this country has to start with the basic premise that contemporary liberalism is an aggressive, intolerant ideology and unremittingly hostile to Catholicism.  Academia overwhelmingly has adopted contemporary liberalism as a substitute religion and that is the true faith held by most professors at most Catholic institutions of higher learning.  Until this fact is recognized and addressed, everything else is mere window dressing.

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  1. I unfortunately never knew Fr. Miscamble at Notre Dame (I’m too old). But, I would not attribute the History Department’s orthodoxy entirely to him. Back when I was a History major at ND the History Department was probably the most conservative academic department at the University. In the 50’s and 60’s you had Monsignor Phillip Hughes (Popular History of the Catholic Church) who taught and is buried on campus. When I was there in the 70’s one of his students Father Marvin O’Connell (close associate of Ralph McInerney) headed up the History Department and in his classes on the Reformation and England I learned more about the Catholic faith and its teachings than I ever learned in any Theology class. Many of his lectures were like mini sermons and his classrooms were always large and packed. If I ever contribute to my alma mater it will be a contribution restricted to the History Department.

  2. Before an addict can receive healing they must first admit that they have a problem. They must recognize the addiction and ponder the damaging effects of the addiction on themselves and upon the community since both have suffered much.
    I hope N.D. is in this first phase of healing. I will dedicate Thurs. mornings Holy Hour for it’s break from secular kool-aid addiction.

  3. Our English word ‘bishop’ comes from a word meaning ‘overseer’. Who were the Church’s overseers of all things Catholic in South Bend, Indiana while Our Lady’s great Catholic university was left to dry-rot?

  4. Bishop Rhoades, Ft. Wayne / South Bend diocese, was at the helm while N.D. danced to the drummer of Vagina Dialogues and Queer film festivals.
    No problem then to honor Obama, after all he fits the image of N.D. An image sculpted not from traditional catholicism, God forbid, but one crafted in liberal fashion. When the silence from the Bishops is overwhelmingly deafening, attach yourself to a humble orthodox church within your diocese and thank God. Thank him for the Priests that still teach sound Catholic doctrine unafraid of political correctness. Unafraid of the State.
    Pastors that are truly Jesus’ very own. Worthy to be called Catholic Priests.
    N.D. has a long way back, but it can and will happen. A return to holiness.

  5. This is a quote from Father Sorin the founder of Notre Dame, after a fire in 1879 destroyed the one building that really was most of the university:

    “I came here as a young man and dreamed of building a great university in honor of Our Lady,” he said. “But I built it too small, and she had to burn it to the ground to make the point. So, tomorrow, as soon as the bricks cool, we will rebuild it, bigger and better than ever.”

    I hope Fr Sorin is in a position now to intercede through Mary for Notre Dame, that it may come back better than before. The evangelistic mission of Catholic education seems more important than ever.

  6. “Any attempt to make Catholic colleges and universities Catholic again in this country has to start with the basic premise that contemporary liberalism is an aggressive, intolerant ideology and unremittingly hostile to Catholicism.”

    And these liberals run most of our Catholic grammar and high schools as well, let alone many a diocese and university. In my last teaching assignment at a Catholic High School I felt like the “mole” in hiding. I didn’t hide too well and while I was victim of the mindless policy, “last in first out,” (as student numbers deservedly faded) the motivation included fear of somebody who actually believed in what the Church, dare I say Magisterium, taught. (Meanwhile, religion teachers who sided with the liberal agenda and did not see the need to attend Sunday mass regularly, as well as another gay teacher, and others remained happily there.) And I should make it clear that I did not confront people, was popular with teachers and staff, wildly popular with the students to whom I never shied in teaching the truth to. My point is, liberalism acts without courage and behind a mask, never wanting to show its hand. Sadly, I even discussed the situation with the pastor who agree with all I said but merely responded, “What can I do? They barely talk to me. I think she (a nun) hates me.”

    We need to infiltrate our supposed Catholic schools again with faithful Catholics and charitably fight the good fight. As of yet, I am sorry to say I don’t see it happening anywhere around here.

  7. Kevin.

    Your living in this time for good reason, and you shall give great witness when the holy spirit opens the door “wide open”. It will happen and faithful Christians will help the blind to see clearly.
    The storm is far from being over.
    We are just now seeing the dark clouds gather overhead.

  8. Anzlyne, interesting you should post on Fr. Sorin– Fr. Sorin is being “celebrated” by ND right now, but sadly many right there on campus are taking the words “Our Lady” out of his quote, and emphasizing the “great university” portion. I too pray Fr. Sorin and Our Lady intercede for ND, and our Country.

    When I first saw this video of Fr. Weslin being arrested at ND http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=iiz4tfjSuPc I felt like I was punched in the stomach– how one “priest” could order this done to another Priest is more than frightening– it is unadultered evil. Fr. Weslin has now passed, and I often pray to him for help in saving the soul of ND and our country (Fr. Weslin was also in the military, you should read his bio, what a remarkable, genuine life he lived!)

    I have always wanted to contact the woman in the video that is saying “God Bless you Fr. Weslin” as he is being arrested and laid on the ground. If anyone knows who it is can you post it please? (The video’s producer did not know.)

  9. Philip, I believe you are being unfair to Bishop Rhoades. In the first place,
    he was not the Bishop of Fort Bend when ND chose to fluff Obama– that was
    Bishop D’Arcy. Bishop Rhoades was appointed to head the diocese the next
    year, upon Bishop D’Arcy’s retirement.
    Notre Dame acted badly then, and I’m not sure how Bishop D’Arcy could have
    handled it differently. ND deliberately blindsided the bishop with the news of
    its honor to Obama, telling the chancery just hours before releasing the news
    to the press– even though the university had been working for months to make
    Obama’s appearance at ND possible. ND president Fr. Jenkins claimed he’d run
    the idea past a crew of theologians to make sure honoring a militantly pro-
    abortion politician was hunkey-dory. As Bishop D’Arcy publicly pointed out in
    response, no one from Notre Dame had bothered to ask HIM what he thought
    about it. In the end, of course, Bishop D’Arcy chose to boycott the graduation,
    and good for him.
    Notre Dame has consistently made it clear that it doesn’t give a fig what any
    bishop thinks, and has precisely zero regard for any sort of oversight. I’m not
    sure what recourse under Canon Law any bishop has faced with such a faux-
    catholic university in his diocese. I presume he could forbid the public
    celebration of the Mass and the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in college
    chapels. He could revoke the incardination of various priests, and I suppose he
    could even order that whatever congregation responsible for the school pack up
    and get out of the diocese. I assume that dropping those kind of hammers on
    a school would require certain conditions to be met under Canon Law. But other
    than these drastic steps, what ammo does a bishop have dealing with duplicitous
    college boards like that of Notre Dame?
    I’d like to see our bishops fight to regain some oversight over Catholic colleges.
    After all, these colleges are claiming to speak for the Church outside their gates.
    They are forming hundreds of thousands of future citizens, members of the
    Church. It is outrageous that the bishops have allowed themselves to be
    sidelined from what is clearly part of their duty as shepherds. Land-O’-Lakes
    must go, for the good of the Church in this country. It breaks my heart to think
    how much better off this country would be if our supposedly Catholic colleges
    had actually been doing their job these past 40 or 50 years, instead of turning
    out so many expensively-educated pagans.

  10. Vile! How vile to arrest a priest protesting the murder of innocents in order that the pro abort emperor feel welcomed on this Catholic campus. Almost like viewing a Passion play. Was federal money really that important?

  11. Clinton

    Perhaps, one avenue of approach would be through the trust deeds?

    I have not read them, but, if they refer to the Catholic character of the university, the loss of that would deprive them of the right to the endowment.

    In the leading Scottish case of Bannatyne v Overtoun, a dissenting minority of the Free Church (the “Wee Frees”) successfully claimed the whole property of the Church, on the grounds that the majority had departed from the Church’s founding principles.
    The Lord Chancellor (Halsbury LC) allowed “the right of any man or any collection of men, to change their religious beliefs according to their own consciences” but he insisted that “when men subscribe money for a particular object, and leave it behind them for the promotion of that object, their successors have no right to change the object endowed,” for “there is nothing in calling an associated body a Church [or a university?] that exempts it from the legal obligations of insisting that money given for one purpose shall not be devoted to another.”
    The same reasoning would apply to a university.

  12. Michael PS, that is an interesting suggestion. I suspect that here in the States
    there are as many legal arrangements re:endowments and trust deeds as there
    are Catholic colleges and congregations in charge. But perhaps the idea that an
    Ordinary was willing to cause a straying catholic college the PR headache of
    taking it to court to cut off funds would make a few straighten up and fly right…

  13. Bishops do have oversight of the Catholic schools, colleges and universities operating in their sees. A religious order needs permission for an ordinary to set up shop.

  14. Penguins Fan wrote, “Bishops do have oversight of the Catholic schools, colleges and universities operating in their sees”
    There are exceptions, for example when a university is erected into a Pontifical Athenaeum, which is immediately dependent on the Holy See.

  15. Cam: “Vile! How vile to arrest a priest protesting the murder of innocents in order that the pro abort emperor feel welcomed on this Catholic campus. Almost like viewing a Passion play. Was federal money really that important?”
    A public place like the university belongs to the “public”. That the priest was arrested for trespassing on his own property tells us of a gulag, a usurpation of freedom and the destruction of the dignity of the sovereign person as a citizen. Time to sue for false arrest. The government does not own Notre Dame, nor the priest.

  16. Mary De Voe, ND is a privately-owned institution. The administrators
    of that once-Catholic university chose to have all prolife protesters
    arrested for tresspass, even though they were well away from the graduation
    ceremony/Obama celebration. It was the legal right of the Notre Dame
    administration to have the prolife protestors arrested– but their decision to
    do so proves just how very far that formerly Catholic university has fallen.
    If ND was a state school or otherwise a publicly-owned institution, I believe
    the matter could be very different. But, since ND is essentially private property,
    like any other privately-owned business, it is able to have people charged
    with criminal trespass. It is staggering that a supposedly Catholic institution
    would choose to press charges on prolife demonstrators. Staggering, but
    completely legal.
    Any time you encounter people who try to defend ND, who insist that it is still a
    rock-solid Catholic university, remind them of this decision by its administration.

  17. Mary: “That the priest was arrested for trespassing on his own property tells us of a gulag, a usurpation of freedom and the destruction of the dignity of the sovereign person as a citizen. Time to sue for false arrest. The government does not own Notre Dame, nor the priest.”

    Unfortunately Fr. Weslin is no longer on this earth to sue. I read his bio. He overcame many obstacles and accomplished much in his long life. He was profoundly pro-life before and after his later in life ordination. He had Alzheimers at the end, but I believe that he protested that day not because he had it, but in spite of it. He was a man called to action throughout his life.
    True, the government does not own Notre Dame; however, if it had not been for the U.S. Navy establishing a training program during WWII, the university would probably would not exist. The payback for that is the annual Navy- UND football contest. Notre Dame receives federal money. One example of federal largess: since 1999 its faculty has received more National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships than any other university in this country. There are always strings attached to federal money. I see the order for the arrest of Fr. Weslin and fellow pro-life protestors that day as a marker being called by the Administration.
    We sang “Immaculate Mary” at the Feast of the Annunciation Mass. Next time we sing that hymn I won’t be remembering May Processions on the tarmac at St. Thomas More School, I’ll be remembering and praying for Fr. Weslin and aborted babies.

  18. Penguins Fan, you are correct– a religious order needs the permission of an
    Ordinary to ‘set up shop’ in a diocese. As I mentioned earlier, one of the nuclear
    options available to a bishop is to demand that a congregation pack up and take
    their business elsewhere. I have absolutely no idea what requirements must be
    met under Canon Law before a bishop may legally do such a thing, but it is

    Years ago, Cardinal O’Connell of Boston expelled the Sulpicians from his diocese.
    Not only did he toss them all out, but he also ordered them to “take your dead
    with you”– they had to dig up the members of their congregation buried in
    their local cemetery, and remove them also. Ouch.

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