By James Tillman
South Bend, IN, October 19, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com)—The Notre Dame Board of Trustees has re-elected Fr. John Jenkins to a second five-year term as president of the university, despite severe and widespread criticism of his role in inviting pro-abortion President Obama to speak and receive an award at Notre Dame's graduation this past year.
On the occasion of his election last Friday, both the Board of Trustees of Notre Dame and the Fellows of the University issued resolutions supporting Fr. Jenkins and praising him for his commitment to the Catholic faith.
The Board of Trustees lauded Fr. Jenkins for helping make Notre Dame a place where “the Catholic faith and intellectual tradition are celebrated and lived.” Similarly, the Fellows of the University sung their appreciation of Fr. Jenkins' commitment to the “Catholic character of the University.”
Despite such lavish praise from Notre Dame's own institutions, many continue to criticize Fr. Jenkins for his decision to allow President Obama to speak at Notre Dame's commencement on May 17th, despite the protestations of over eighty Catholic bishops who opposed the invitation. Many of those bishops argued that invitation ran contrary to the document “Catholics in Political Life,” issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which explicitly states that “Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”
Patrick J. Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, said in a statement issued today: “Notre Dame has suffered terribly in recent years because of a lack of leadership and commitment to its Catholic identity. The Board of Trustees has once again neglected their responsibility to uphold Notre Dame's Catholic mission by reelecting a president who has displayed public disrespect for the bishops and has permitted repeated scandals including the honors to President Obama and performances of The Vagina Monologues.”
“The Vagina Monologues,” a play that many call pornographic, casts group masturbation, sex between a female adult and a minor, and lesbian activity in a positive light. Bishop John D'Arcy, whose diocese contains Notre Dame University, has criticized Fr. Jenkin's continuing refusal to prevent the showing of “The Vagina Monologues” at Notre Dame, which he called a “sad and immoral play, offensive to the dignity of women.”
Bishop D'Arcy also opposed President Obama's appearance at Notre Dame, leading an evening rosary at Notre Dame the day before Commencement. He recently asked in a public letter if Notre Dame has given up its responsibility to “give public witness to the truths revealed by God and taught by the church?”
Shortly after the decision to have Obama speak and receive an award at Commencement was announced, a group of Notre Dame alumni launched a website devoted entirely to ensuring that Jenkins was replaced as the president of the University. The creators of the site, replacejenkins.com, said that, “Although we love Notre Dame, our conscience requires that we withhold all financial support from our University until such time as Father Jenkins is replaced as Notre Dame's President with someone who will be more loyal to the teaching of the Catholic Church.”
After its launch, numerous pledges to withhold funding from the university until Fr. Jenkins was replaced poured in. The administrators of replacejenkins.com claimed to have personally verified many of the pledges with the would-be donors, and in April said that the amount of funding lost by the university over the Obama scandal added up to over $8.2 million.
However, Richard C. Notebaert, Chairman of the university's Board of Trustees, defended Fr. Jenkins' decision to invite President Obama as providing “an opening for dialogue on those issues on which the Catholic Church and our president are not in agreement.”
Reacting to his re-election, Fr. Jenkins said that he was humbled to have the confidence of the board and said that he would ensure “that our Catholic character informs all that we do.” Such statements echo the statement made at his first inauguration, on September 23, 2005, when he said that his presidency would “be driven by a wholehearted commitment to uniting and integrating these two indispensable … strands of higher learning: academic excellence and religious faith.”
Fr. Jenkins recently announced that he will establish a Task Force for Supporting the Choice for Life, and that he will attend the next March for Life in Washington, DC.
Many, however, have said that these words and deeds are empty gestures meant simply to pacify his critics, especially given Jenkins' continued unwillingness to seek leniency for the 88 pro-life protesters arrested on Notre Dame's campus on the day of Commencement. Thomas Brejcha, President & Chief Counsel of the pro-life law firm, the St. Thomas More Society, suggested that Jenkins' participation at the pro-life protest in Washington could be seen as ironical, given his attitude toward the 88 protesters and the fact that one of those arrested is Norma McCorvey, the “Roe” of Roe vs. Wade.