VATICAN CITY, January 30, 2014 ( – A week after a Notre Dame professor writing in the New York Times called on Pope Francis to reconsider the Church’s teaching on abortion, Pope Francis has called on the University to uphold the Church’s moral teaching. The Pope departed from his prepared text to stress the importance of Notre Dame guarding its foundational Catholic identity. “And this is important: its identity, as it was intended from the beginning. To defend it, to preserve it and to advance it!” he said.

The Pope told the Managing Board of the Indiana-based Catholic university that it is essential to uphold the “uncompromising witness of Catholic universities to the Church’s moral teaching, and the defense of her freedom, precisely in and through her institutions, to uphold that teaching as authoritatively proclaimed by the magisterium of her pastors.”

The University has been plagued with scandals calling into question its Catholic identity.  Most recently, Notre Dame has decided to comply with the Obama Administration’s HHS mandate after a court refused it relief from the penalties.

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The most well known scandal however came in 2009 when Notre Dame granted an honorary degree to President Barack Obama and had him deliver the commencement address.  After 83 bishops publicly voiced opposition to the move and hundreds of thousands of Catholics protested, the University in 2012 invited President Obama to speak again.

Pope Francis said, “It is my hope that the University of Notre Dame will continue to offer unambiguous testimony to this aspect of its foundational Catholic identity, especially in the face of efforts, from whatever quarter, to dilute that indispensable witness.”