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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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

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