Holy Cross priests express concern about Notre Shame

On the website of the University of Notre Shame’s newspaper, The Observer, 10 Holy Cross priests (that is, of the Congregation of the Holy Cross who run the university), published their letter of concern about the direction the university is taking.

My emphases and comments.

Work to maintain Catholic tradtions [sic]
Letter to the Editor
Issue date: 4/8/09 Section: Viewpoint

We write as priests of the Congregation of Holy Cross and as proud graduates of the University of Notre Dame to voice our objection to the University’s decision to honor President Barack Obama by inviting him to deliver this year’s Commencement address and by conferring on him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

We wish to associate ourselves with and encourage those courageous students and treasured alumni who, while deeply loving Notre Dame, vigorously oppose this sad and regrettable decision of the University administration.

It is our deep conviction that Notre Dame should lead by word and deed in upholding the Church’s fundamental teaching that human life must be respected and protected from the moment of conception. In so doing the University must take seriously the 2004 instruction of the U.S. Catholic Bishops 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."

We especially regret the fissure that the invitation to President Obama has opened between Notre Dame and its local ordinary and many of his fellow bishops. We express our deep gratitude to Bishop John D’Arcy for his leadership and moral clarity. We ask that the University give renewed consideration to Bishop D’Arcy’s thoughtful counsel which always has Notre Dame’s best interests at heart.

The University pursues a dangerous course when it allows itself to decide for and by itself what part of being a Catholic institution it will choose to embrace. [This is the key.] Although undoubtedly unintended, the University administration’s decision portends a distancing of Notre Dame from the Church which is its lifeblood and the source of its identity and real strength. Such a distancing puts at risk the true soul of Notre Dame.

We regret that our position on this issue puts us at odds with our brother priest in Holy Cross, Fr. John Jenkins, C.S.C. [I wonder if this implies that they had a not so pleasant exchange with Fr. Jenkins…] Yet, in this instance, for the good of Notre Dame and the Congregation of Holy Cross, we cannot remain silent. ["Cannot remain silent…"  So… entirely supposition on my part, but… could this imply that they were asked to be silent?  I’m just askin…]  Notre Dame’s decision has caused moral confusion and given many reason to believe that the University’s stance against the terrible evil of abortion is weak and easily trumped by other considerations[Can it be trumped without ease?  I know.. I know… that is not what they meant.]

We prayerfully request that Fr. Jenkins and the Fellows of the University, who are entrusted with responsibility for maintaining its essential character as a Catholic institution of higher learning, revisit this matter immediately. [I think that means "disinvite" Pres. Obama.]  Failure to do so will damage the integrity of the institution and detract from all the good work that occurs at Notre Dame and from the impressive labors of its many faithful students and professors.

We offer these views as we enter Holy Week, recalling the triumph of Christ’s holy cross. As "men with hope to bring" we are confident that Notre Dame may yet give true honor to its patroness, and witness to Her Son, through its commitment to the sanctity of life.

Wilson D. Miscamble, C.S.C.
Stephen M. Koeth, C.S.C.
Gregory P. Haake, C.S.C.
Daniel J. Parrish, C.S.C.
Michael B. Wurtz, C.S.C.
Mark R. Ghyselink, C.S.C.
Terrence P. Ehrman, C.S.C.
John A. Herman, C.S.C.
Ronald J. Wasowski, C.S.C.
Vincent A. Kuna, C.S.C.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Ricky Vines says:

    After the exhortations of the religious superiors, confreres, 24+ bishops,
    Fr. Jenkins persists in his error. What I don’t get is why doesn’t someone
    just relieve him of his duty? Why not go over his head and appeal to that
    higher authority? It is encouraging and edifying to see all this support
    for the principle and perception but it seems to be ineffectual. What we
    need now is action; otherwise, people may need to lay on the street to keep
    the purveyor of the culture of death from defiling the hallowed grounds
    of ND and the souls of the young.

  2. TNCath says:

    This is a very significant and noble development! It is not often for those in religious communities to publicly oppose the actions of their confreres. Let us pray for these courageous men: may God spare them any repercussions from their superiors.

  3. Mitch_WA says:


    I dont think that it means they were asked to be silent, but it may be believed by these CSC priests that they should not publiclly criticize a fellow memeber of their order or their decisions, that it should be handled in house. And when it can’t be effectivly taken care of in house (i.e. their opinions are perhaps given little creedence by Fr. Jenkins and others), speak out publically so that they can show that they do not want to be associated with this error by Fr. Jenkins.

    thats my 2 cents anyways

  4. Memphis Aggie says:

    The silver lining in this scandalous invite by Notre Dame are the collection of letters from Bishops and priests demonstrating what charitable correction looks like.

  5. momoften says:

    I am looking at all the furor raised over this -and am saying this…look at the fruit which has
    come from it. It is definitely bringing Catholics into dialogue about the abortion issue as well. I am incredulous why Father Jenkins would have even considered inviting and bestowing an
    honorary degree to someone with the credentials of abortion support as Obama has-but I am THANKFUL for those (esp Bishops and priests)who have spoken out against this coming event. We can only hope and pray this invitation gets withdrawn.

  6. Fr. Darrell Roman says:

    God Bless those 10 priests who wrote that wonderfu letter. May Our Blessed
    Mother keep them close to her Immaculate Heart, protect them and strenghten
    them in the days ahead.

  7. Rancher says:

    Good for them. That took courage. I doubt it will sway Jenkins and they may pay a price for their “disloyalty”…but they certainly did the right thing, are in our prayers, and will ultimately be rewarded for it.

  8. Tominellay says:

    …courageous of these ten to write in opposition to a member of their own congregation, and for publication in the university’s newspaper. They are credits to their alma mater…

  9. magdalene says:

    The rupture Fr. Jenkins has caused is throughout the faithful in thei country, the bishops, and his own order. Incredible.

  10. LCB says:

    Rabbit hole.

    That was then. This is now. The matter at hand is what we should consider.

  11. Fr. Bill Miscamble is former rector of Moreau Seminary at ND. He is a very good and holy priest, and a highly regarded historian and teacher, and there is no doubt as to his orthodoxy and regard for the Magisterium. If ND needs a new president, they need look no further than Fr. Miscamble. It would appear that the current administration has some serious public relations problems that will not be solved any time soon. I would not be surprised if the constant pressure upon Fr. Jenkins does not result in some major change. The US bishops, one by one, seem to be responding to this issue in solidarity with Bp. D’Arcy, the diocesan bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend. I have a question: has any member of the US hierarchy spoken out in favor of Fr. Jenkins’ invitation to President Obama?

  12. TJM says:

    I know some of these priests. One was an assistant pastor in my parish when I was growing up. They are all good men and good priests. This was courageous on their part because the left-wing loons in the Order and University will never forgive them. Tom

  13. amdg says:

    Fr. Miscamble is the only one of these priests on the ND faculty. (He is spending this semester in his native Australia). Most of the other priests who signed the letter were ordained in the last five years, and are either pursuing graduate degrees, teaching at Portland, or serving in parishes in other parts of the country.
    In general, the younger CSC priests are far more orthodox than those who are over 50, Fr. Miscamble being a notable exception.

  14. DJY says:

    I was a student alongside several of these men and they are holy, righteous men. One of them was our counselor for our marriage prep, and we were married by one of the oldest active Holy Cross priests on campus. Throughout this entire travesty I have alternated between extreme disappointment with my alma mater and a great feeling of pity for many of the good men on campus. As Jenkins has lurched from the Monologues to this, fouling up one scandal after the next, I have seen many of these men quietly try to keep a stiff smile as their public leader has betrayed the ideals of their order, all the while trying to maintain their vows of obedience.

    The saddest part has been watching those who do speak out be marginalized passed over by the various king-makers on campus.

    My hope lies with the smaller, but faithful cohort of recent ordinands on campus such as these.

  15. TJM says:

    amdg, Father Wasowski is a tad older than the rest. By now he’s probably in his sixties. But I agree with you that the younger CSC priests are
    quite orthodox and some even wear their habits! Tom

  16. CarpeNoctem says:

    Hmmm…. I have been asked to host a CSC priest for a mission co-op weekend in my parish, and I have seriously been considering dis-inviting them as a small rebellion against what I had mistakenly seen as a problem with the Congregation, rather than with ND itself. I do not want to burden a legitimate missionary effort beacuse of the bone-headed moves of a confrere who bears the initials CSC, but I still need to pray and think this through. This letter is moving my heart to do some more homework before making a final decision.

    For what it is worth, I have decided that I will write Fr. Jenkins my own letter of disappointment over this whole scandal. God help us all if this is our ‘premeire’ Catholic University in the United States.

  17. PJ says:

    I met Fr. Parrish in the Milan airport in 2005. He was recently ordained, and he really inspired me to pray about pursuing a vocation to the priesthood. He seemed wonderful.

  18. samba says:

    What does DNFTT stand for?

  19. Ricky Vines says:

    DNFTT Do not feed the trolls.

  20. michigancatholic says:

    This is very courageous of these ten faithful priests, because they could suffer repercussions within the order. We owe them a debt of gratitude for standing with all of us, and the thousands of others who are ashamed and confused about this invitation.

    I agree with someone above who said that the silver lining of all this is that a sizable number of bishops have written good letters urging the disinvitation of Obama. Good for them. We are proud and grateful that they have spoken out.

    Now all that is left is for Fr. Jenkins to come to his senses and act like he was ordained for the Catholic Church. Right now he’s acting like he was appointed something else entirely.

  21. ED says:

    Apparently Father Jenkins believes academic freedom ( a man-made thing) has priority over the 10 Commandments (thou shall not kill-Barack)God’s rule. I believe that Father Jenkins needs to be sent to a monasteryto relearn why there are Catholic priests in the first place,he is totally out of line.

  22. Supertradmom says:

    This note is one of the most significant to date, as it clearly shows that not all those involved in the life of Notre Dame approve of the decision, and in fact, want that decision to invite Obama changed. Like the Bishop quoted on the other blog, one hopes that a disinvitation occurs soon.

    It must be very painful for the Congregation to experience a split in its ranks. May God bless all the priests and brothers of the Holy Cross, and bring peace and a new perspective to the Administration.

  23. Br. Andre says:

    I know many of these guys. To my knowledge, they were NOT told by their superiors to remain silent. But there IS some peer pressure against them. It is a very painful time for them. There are others in the CSC who agreed with the letter but wanted to deal directly with Fr. Jenkins before they would sign on to a public rebuke. Everyone needs to respond in the way he feels is most appropriate.

  24. Mary Ann says:

    Coverage of this made “Most Popular Hightlight” on the Yahoo! News.

    The article they cite is AP’s story from tonight—“10 Holy Cross priests object to Obama invitation” by Ken Kusmer…

  25. Blint444 says:

    First time visiting your blog, having found it by googling “10 priests” etc. Fine site indeed. Keeping to the matter at hand: I am a member of a religious community, have been for many, many years, praise the good Lord. These 10 priests are taking a huge step and forever changing the course of their futures. The most difficult part is the big decision to go ahead and let everyone on the outside see that there IS great division in one’s community. No, let me change that: The most difficult part is hearing an inner voice repeating over and over, “A house divided cannot stand…” and agonizing over what to do. Members try so hard to put on the perfect united front, but inside, it’s such a mess, such a nest of uncharity. There seems to be no gentle, fraternal correction any more; no gentle pointing towards the better path. It has become all “us” and “them”, and I believe that it is like this in the vast majority of communities. I suspect that these 10 will be treated none too gently in the immediate future. Readers, pray for all superiors, as they have so much for which to answer in the next world.

  26. A Random Friar says:

    A personal note, letter or email of thanks may go a long way in helping to support the 10 priests here. If you do, I would encourage you to not use it a space for venting against their brethren, but for praising the actions of the 10.

  27. Bill in Texas says:

    A Random Friar — Father, I’m willing to send a note of thanks, and where would I send it? (I hope that’s not a dumb question, I don’t know any of the 10 priests or where they are located)

  28. TJM says:

    Br. Andre, your news is encouraging. I frankly wonder if Father Jenkins will survive this controversy. I never thought of him as a particularly strong
    leader or very inspirational from the very beginning. He may be in “over his pay grade.” Tom

  29. Bill in Texas says:

    I keep seeing the statement, “we respect the opinion of the pro-life Catholics, but …” And the word “opinion” keeps getting thrown into similar statements by (some of) the pro-abortion people. To me, opposing abortion is not a matter of “opinion,” particularly where it’s another Catholic using the word “opinion” that way, but even if it’s an atheist that I’m talking to. Saying abortion is wrong, intrinsically evil, a horrible act, isn’t an opinion. It’s opposition to what is clearly the taking of innocent lives.

    Using “that’s only your opinion” is not only an arrogant discount of those who are pro-Life, individually and collectively, it is also a complete and total rejection of Truth and of the value and dignity of life.

    Some of you here are very good with debate and with the right words to use. When someone says to me, “Well, that’s just your opinion, and I disagree with it,” what’s the best response? (remembering that the same person will say, “Well, that’s just the opinion of the Church/the Pope/believers, and you can’t force me to agree with it” if I reference the Church’s teachings to a non-Catholic/non-Christian)

    I need a “Well, actually, it’s not an opinion, it’s a fact, and here’s why: …” with the why in as few words as possible. These same people of course also hold that “Life begins at conception” is “just an opinion.”

    Honestly, this is making me crazy. I don’t think we can just let these folks continue in their hardness of heart, in their insistence on being blind to the truth.

  30. A Random Friar says:

    Bill in Texas: The Catholic Directory, or sometimes Googling their names will yield their current assignments.

  31. Bill in Texas says:

    A Random Friar — Thank you!

  32. A Random Friar says:

    Bill in Texas: This is the book that they should have in your local rectory: http://www.officialcatholicdirectory.com/print-directory.html It’s a great little book to have, although, a little… pricey, shall we say?

  33. Bill in Texas says:

    A Random Friar — thanks again! I did find email addresses for seven of the ten priests, although it took quite a while (Google searches bring up old outdated information as well as the latest, and it takes careful checking to find the latest email addresses). So when I sent the email of thanks, appreciation, and admiration, I asked the seven to please pass it on to the other three.

    So far I’ve received replies from two of the priests (though I wasn’t looking for replies), the content of which made me think they’ve not received a lot of emails expressing thanks, etc. If anyone else reading this hasn’t sent their bread and butter note to the Fathers, it would be a good weekend to do it.

    I’ve decided to say some Rosaries for these ten excellent priests between now and May 17. And to ask Our Lady’s intercession for more priests like them, willing to speak up for the unborn.

  34. Patrick McNally says:

    Friends…please note…even a secular, government university will not bestow an honorary degree on Mr. Obama, but Notre Shame does seems (if you’ll forgive the phraseology)Hell-bent to do so. See below:

    Arizona State University Denies President Obama Honorary Degree?
    By David Knowles
    Apr 10th 2009 10:10AM
    Filed Under:eRepublicans, Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama is set to be the commencement speaker at Arizona State University this year. Often, when a high-profile official provides this service, he or she is awarded an honorary doctorate. But ASU will not be giving Obama the ceremonial degree, because “his body of work is yet to come”.

    Depending on your perspective, that statement might mean, he’s too inexperienced, or his best days lie ahead. But considering all the other people that ASU has bestowed with honorary degrees, it seems hard to read this as anything but a slight.

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