Kathleen Gilbert

Pro-life dead at Notre Dame since Obama visit? Not by a long shot

Kathleen Gilbert
Kathleen Gilbert
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NOTRE DAME, Indiana, November 17, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Wandering among crowds of professors, scholars, and students at the University of Notre Dame for the 12th annual conference of the Center for Ethics and Culture (CEC) for the first time, one can get a little overwhelmed.

Sit down with a Baptist scholar with a thick Southern accent, and he may just start talking to you about the richness of Catholic social teaching, and Marian tradition.

Or you might just run into the “Orthodox posse,” a group of Eastern scholars often hovering near ethicist Tristram Engelhardt, who may buy you a scotch and ask just why exactly you haven’t converted to the true faith.

In any event, the first thing that’s clear is that the CEC annual Fall conference is no ordinary scholarly conference. The second, is that this conference forms an intellectual catalyst for advancing the culture of life virtually unparalleled at any other university in America. 

This year’s conference, “Radical Emancipation: Confronting the Challenge of Secularism,” drew upon words of Cardinal Ratzinger in 2005 warning against the encroachment of militant secularism. 

Near the shadow of the Golden Dome, several presentations probed questions about the sanctity of life, sexuality, and moral ethics. One particularly eclectic panel consisted of a paper on the ethics of Live Action’s undercover sting operations against Planned Parenthood. Another discussed the temptation of abortion when a child has been diagnosed with a fatal anomaly. 

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But perhaps even more important were discussions on renewing the Christian intellectual atmosphere: a panel of university presidents on Friday discussed “the language of comeback” for Christianity at American campuses. 

Ralph Wood of Baylor University told LifeSiteNews.com that the effect of the conference on other Christian colleges universities has been “unbelievable.”

“We go back [to our institutions] and say, look what can happen,” said Wood, whose says his own school was turned around by the example set at Notre Dame. “Rather than surrender our Christian convictions ... we can go back now and see that our distinctiveness lies in the way in which we can make Christianity the core.”

Founding director David Solomon, a Protestant who joined the Notre Dame community in 1968, explained simply that he began CEC in response to key John Paul II encyclicals that “had the goods on the modern world,” and which touched him deeply.

“I couldn’t see why the University didn’t immediately reorganize itself around these encyclicals writings,” he said, to chuckles from the audience (Notre Dame had infamously joined the Land O’ Lakes statement, which emancipated major Catholic universities from the authority of the Catholic Church, in 1967.)

“And since it truly wasn’t going to do that,” he said, “I thought we should try to do it on our own.”

A crisis of identity

Since its inception, the CEC community has grown into its role as a silent haven for what some call the true spirit of Notre Dame, whose reputation for authentic Catholic intellectual life has become shaky at best.

The biggest blow to that reputation in recent memory was the honor bestowed on Barack Obama in 2009, an event that dramatically split the Notre Dame community, with a large crowd of students leaving their friends and classmates behind to attend a protest ceremony in the Grotto, instead of the official commencement ceremony. Among many others who recalled the event at last weekend’s conference was Bishop emeritus John D’Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend, who described the gravity of the scandal. 

“Irish politics a generation after [the Easter Rising] consisted of, ‘where were you in 1916’? Well, it’s like that: where were you the day Obama came?” he said.

Holy Cross Father Wilson Miscamble, whom Solomon pegged as Notre Dame’s moral backbone, told Kathryn Jean Lopez in August that the school “certainly has not” recovered from the Obama honor. “Notre Dame’s honoring of a president who is deeply committed to the terrible abortion regime which prevails in the United States today damaged its reputation and credibility as a Catholic university,” he said. “Notre Dame is still struggling to overcome the harm done.”

That struggle included noticeable damage-control measures by the administration to rebuild a pro-life image, including attending the 2010 National March for Life in Washington and setting up a Task Force on Supporting the Choice on Life. Miscamble expressed gratitude for those measures, but said that they didn’t represent the real renewal at Notre Dame.

“The main pro-life efforts on campus continue to be those pushed by the students and by those faculty associated with the Center for Ethics and Culture, some terrific folk in our law school and the Faculty for Life group,” he said.

Other reactionary measures were less helpful, and even shook Notre Dame’s pro-life leadership to its core: friends of the Center were devastated when Bill Kirk, the only administration member to stand with pro-life students against Obama’s visit, was abruptly sacked by school leadership despite a long and dedicated service to the University. 

And despite being the largest and most successful in its history, with over 500 registrants, this year’s conference was unmistakably bittersweet thanks to another blow: David Solomon, whose larger-than-life personality formed the gravitational center of the CEC community, was informed by Notre Dame officials last year that his time with the Center was to come to an end.

“David Solomon had the courage to speak in opposition to Notre Dame’s honoring of President Obama. This stance certainly seems to have led to recriminations against him,” said Miscamble. 

“The administration seems to want to neuter the person who has been the leader of our pro-life efforts at Notre Dame. It is little short of a disgrace.”

A rebirth to pro-life

Yet CEC leaders uniformly expressed relief and excitement that officials had wound up selecting as a replacement someone whom Solomon called the “best possible result that we could have”: law professor O. Carter Snead, the former general counsel for the President’s Council on Bioethics and a faculty member at Notre Dame since 2005. 

Thanks to the survival of CEC, Notre Dame will continue to witness the development of another boon to the pro-life movement on its home soil: the Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life. Also chaired by Solomon, this fund was established in September 2008 under CEC’s administrative purview “to educate Notre Dame students in the rich intellectual tradition supporting the dignity of human life.” The fund lies at the center of Notre Dame’s self-renewal as a leading advocate for the life of the unborn. 

“Many alumni and friends of Notre Dame who have become disaffected with the administration … have found, in the fund, a vehicle whereby they can continue to financially support their beloved university,” alumnus William Dotterweich told Kathryn Jean Lopez.

Among the Fund’s initiatives is Project Guadalupe, a pro-life and service-based educational program aimed at developing pro-life curriculum, an interdisciplinary master’s program for pro-life leadership, as well as the Notre Dame Vita Institute, which was held for the first time this summer. The Institute is a two-week summer program fostering pro-life leaders in areas including medicine, education, politics, and family apostolates. 

The Fund is also responsible for the Evangelium Vitae Medal, whose inaugural recipient last year was Richard Doerflinger, Associate Director of the US Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro Life Activities.

For all the negative coverage surrounding Notre Dame in the pro-life world, friends of the University say that the success enjoyed by CEC and its conference would not have been possible anywhere else.

“It’s because Notre Dame is such an intellectual powerhouse that it’s able to draw the biggest names in the academic world,” said alumnus Rocco Galizio. Ralph Wood of Baylor said Solomon simply recognized all the true spirit of Notre Dame could offer the culture of life. 

“He saw that we’re doing something good at Notre Dame, but it’s got to be larger than Notre Dame,” said Wood. “It’s got to reach out to everybody.”


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Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey 99% of respondents with Down syndrome described themselves as "happy." Shutterstock
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‘Sick and twisted’: Down’s advocates, pro-life leaders slam Dawkins’ abortion remarks

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By Dustin Siggins

Advocates on behalf of individuals with Down syndrome, as well as pro-life leaders, are slamming famed atheist Richard Dawkin’s statements made on Twitter earlier today that parents have a moral responsibility to abort babies diagnosed in utero with Down’s.

During a shocking Twitter rant, Dawkins responded to questioners saying that it was "civilised" to abort Down Syndrome babies, and that it would be "immoral" to choose not to abort babies diagnosed with the condition.

He said that his goal is to "reduce suffering wherever you can," indicating that unborn children cannot suffer, and that unborn children don't "have human feelings."

In addition to being scientifically challenged - unborn children can feel both pain and emotions - Dawkins' comments drew criticism for his callousness towards children with disabilities.  

"A true civilization – a civilization of love – does not engage in such cold and ultimately suicidal calculus"

“It's sick and twisted for anyone to advocate for the killing of children with disabilities,” Live Action President Lila Rose told LifeSiteNews. “Dawkins's ignorant comments serve only to further stigmatize people with Down syndrome.

“While many people with Down syndrome, their families, and advocacy groups are fighting discrimination on a daily basis, Dawkins calls for their murder before they are even born,” she said. “Those with Down syndrome are human beings, with innate human dignity, and they, along with the whole human family, deserve our respect and protection.”

Carol Boys, chief executive of the Down's Syndrome Association, told MailOnline that, contrary to Dawkins’ assertion, “People with Down’s syndrome can and do live full and rewarding lives, they also make a valuable contribution to our society.”

A spokesperson for the UK disabilities charity Scope lamented that during the “difficult and confusing time” when parents find out they are expecting a child with disabilities, they often experience “negative attitudes.”

“What parents really need at this time is sensitive and thorough advice and information,” the spokesperson said.

Charlotte Lozier Institute president Chuck Donovan agreed with Rose’s assessment. "Advocates of abortion for those 'weaker' than others, or of less physical or intellectual dexterity, should remember that each of us is 'lesser' in some or most respects," he said.

According to Donovan, "we deliver a death sentence on all of humanity by such cruel logic."

"A true civilization – a civilization of love – does not engage in such cold and ultimately suicidal calculus" he said.

One family who has a child with Down syndrome said Dawkins was far from the mark when he suggested that aborting babies with Down syndrome is a good way to eliminate suffering.

Jan Lucas, whose son Kevin has Down syndrome, said that far from suffering, Kevin has brought enormous joy to the family, and "is so loving. He just has a million hugs."

She described how Kevin was asked to be an honorary deacon at the hurch they attend in New Jersey, “because he is so encouraging to everyone. At church, he asks people how their families are, says he'll pray for them, and follows up to let them know that he has been praying for them."

It's not just strangers for whom Kevin prays. "My husband and I were separated for a time, and Kevin kept asking people to pray for his dad," said Jan. "They didn't believe that Kevin's prayers would be answered. Kevin didn't lose hope, and asking people, and our marriage now is better than ever before. We attribute it to Kevin's prayers, and how he drew on the prayers of everyone."

"I don't know what we'd do without him," said Jan.

Speaking with LifeSiteNews, Kevin said that his favorite things to do are "spending time with my family, and keeping God in prayer." He said that he "always knows God," which helps him to "always keep praying for my friends."

"I love my church," said Kevin.

Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey 99% of respondents with Down syndrome described themselves as "happy." At the same time, 99% percent of parents said they loved their child with Down syndrome, and 97 percent said they were proud of them.

Only 4 percent of parents who responded said they regretted having their child.

Despite this, it is estimated that in many Western countries the abortion rate of children diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome is 90%, or even higher. The development of new and more accurate tests for the condition has raised concerns among Down syndrome advocates that that number could rise even higher. 


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Asked about Iraq on his return flight from South Korea, Francis replied that 'it is legitimate to halt the unjust aggressor.' Shutterstock
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Pope Francis: steps must be taken to halt ‘unjust aggressor’ in Iraq

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Pope Francis and his emissary to Iraq’s persecuted non-Muslim minorities, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, have both called on the United Nations to act in concert to protect Iraqis Christian and Yazidi minorities from the radical Islamic forces of ISIS.

Asked about Iraq on his return flight from South Korea, Francis replied that “it is legitimate to halt the unjust aggressor.”

He added, however, that “halt” does not mean to “bomb” and lamented “how many times with the excuse of halting the unjust aggressor…have powerful nations taken possession of peoples and waged a war of conquest!”

He also cautioned that no single nation could determine the right measures. Any intervention must be multilateral and preferably by the United Nations, he said.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Foloni, who is visiting Iraq on behalf of Pope Francis, issued a joint statement this week with Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako and the Iraqi bishops that urged the international community to “liberate the villages and other places that have been occupied as soon as possible and with a permanent result.”

The statement also urged efforts to “assure that there is international protection for these villages and so to encourage these families to go back to their homes and to continue to live a normal life in security and peace.”

Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the Vatican nuncio to Iraq, was also asked by Vatican Radio earlier this month about the U.S. airstrikes in Iraq.

“This is something that had to be done, otherwise [the Islamic State] could not be stopped,” the archbishop said. 

Although Pope Francis’ own remarks about an intervention in the war-torn country were carefully guarded, Catholic commentator Robert Spencer, author of such bestselling exposes of Islam as “The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion,” told LifeSiteNews he believes the pope was clearly calling for an “armed intervention, though a very limited one.”  

“Only a fool would think there is another way to stop an ‘unjust aggressor,’” he said.

Spencer expressed concerns that both Francis and Pope John Paul II before him have both referred to Islam a “religion of peace,” which Spencer says is “completely false.” However, he suggested that Francis’ remarks calling for action in Iraq are a sign of a more realistic attitude towards Islam.   

On this, Spencer would likely have the support of Amel Nona, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul, who issued a letter last week warning the West in stark terms about the encroaching threat of Islam.

“Our sufferings today are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer,” Nona warned. “Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here.

“You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims. Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles,” he said

“You think all men are equal, but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home.”


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'Apparently I'm a horrid monster for recommending WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS to the great majority of Down Syndrome fetuses,' said Dawkins. 'They are aborted.' Shutterstock
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Richard Dawkins: it’s ‘immoral’ NOT to abort babies with Down syndrome

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By Dustin Siggins

In a bizarre rant on Twitter earlier today, atheist Richard Dawkins wrote that choosing not to abort a child with Down Syndrome would be "immoral."

The conversation started when Dawkins tweeted that "Ireland is a civilised country except in this 1 area." The area was abortion, which until last year was illegal in all cases.

A Twitter user then asked Dawkins if "994 human beings with Down's Syndrome [having been] deliberately killed before birth in England and Wales in 2012" was "civilised."

Dawkins replied "yes, it is very civilised. These are fetuses, diagnosed before they have human feelings."

Later, Dawkins said that "the question is not ‘is it 'human'?’ but ‘can it SUFFER?’"

In perhaps the most shocking moment, one Twitter user wrote that he or she "honestly [doesn't] know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down Syndrome. Real ethical dilemma."

Dawkins advised the writer to "abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice."

According to Dawkins, the issue of who should be born comes down to a calculation based upon possible suffering. "Yes. Suffering should be avoided. [The abortion] cause[s] no suffering. Reduce suffering wherever you can."

Later, however, he said that people on the autism spectrum "have a great deal to contribute, Maybe even an enhanced ability in some respects. [Down Syndrome] not enhanced."

When Dawkins received some blowback from Twitter followers, he replied: "Apparently I'm a horrid monster for recommending WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS to the great majority of Down Syndrome fetuses. They are aborted."

It is estimated that in many Western countries the abortion rate of children diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome is 90%, or even higher. The development of new and more accurate tests for the condition has raised concerns among Down syndrome advocates that that number could rise even higher. 

Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey 99% of respondents with Down syndrome said they were "happy." At the same time, 99% percent of parents said they loved their child with Down syndrome, and 97 percent said they were proud of them.

Only 4 percent of parents who responded said they regretted having their child. 

A number of Dawkins' statements in the Twitter thread about fetal development are at odds with scientific realities. For example, it is well-established that 20 weeks into a pregnancy, unborn children can feel pain. Likewise, unborn children have emotional reactions to external stimuli -- such as a mother's stress levels -- months before being born. 

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