By Kathleen Gilbert
SOUTH BEND, Indiana, June 10, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - 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.
Pro-lifers from across the nation, including states as far away as New Mexico, Colorado, New Jersey, Florida, and Texas, have been travelling back to South Bend in recent weeks to face arraignment, and will return again to face individual trials later this year.
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 explained that, due to ethical obligations, he was unable to contact University President Fr. John Jenkins directly, but instead spoke to the office of Notre Dame's general council. Fr. Jenkins became a central figure in the Notre Dame scandal as he forcefully rebuffed the criticisms of over 80 U.S. bishops and 360,000 petitioners concerning the Obama invitation, insisting that Notre Dame was "tremendously proud" to honor the deeply pro-abortion President.
"The general council's office of Notre Dame has responded to me by saying that Fr. Jenkins has no interest in discussing these matters any further," Dixon told LSN. The attorney said he sought help from Notre Dame's Bishop John D'Arcy to intercede with Fr. Jenkins, but has gotten no reply from the bishop's office.
Dixon said he does not think Jenkins "has any idea just how oppressive are these cases to these people."
"I just have to think that if he did have any idea, he would make some statement about how he doesn't desire to see them prosecuted," he added.
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.
Police first arrested Weslin as he carried a cross and prayed aloud while entering campus, and again as he prayed the rosary and carried a banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe onto campus two days later.
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."
Noting Fr. Jenkins' professed belief in the importance of "dialogue," Fr. Weslin said: "We have sought dialogue with Father Jenkins on these issues that are core to our shared faith. ... To date, Father Jenkins has refused our request to meet, opting instead to let the legal system insulate him from dialogue with his brother and sister members of the mystical body of Christ.
"We again call on Father Jenkins to meet with us to try to heal these wounds and to explore ways to prayerfully move forward in reclaiming Notre Dame’s Catholic identity," said Fr. Weslin.
To contact University of Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkins:
See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Notre Dame Not Seeking Leniency for Arrested Pro-Life Protesters: Thomas More Lawyers Now on the Case http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/jun/09060406.html
Pro-Life Protesters Arrested on ND Campus to Return to South Bend to Face Charges