Bp. D’Arcy on the Notre Dame Debacle… this is not over

I was told by an American bishop not long ago that, as far as the USCCB was concerned, the Notre Dame Debacle is not over.

Read the article by Bp. D’Arcy in America.

From CNA with my emphases and comments.

Bishop John M. D’Arcy (in photo)

.- Bishop John M. D’Arcy, whose diocese encompasses the University of Notre Dame, is not letting the issues raised by the university’s honoring of President Obama lie dormant. Instead, the Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend has penned a poignant article for the upcoming edition of America magazine that calls on the renowned university to evaluate the consequences of its failure to respect the authority of the bishops. [It is ironic that a Jesuit publication would be the instrument for this development, considering that the Jesuit university Georgetown covered over the Holy Name at the request of the White House.]

In an article that will be the cover story of the Jesuit-run America magazine on August 31, bishop D’Arcy writes that "as summer plays itself out on the beautiful campus by the lake where the young Holy Cross priest, Edward Sorin, C.S.C., pitched his camp 177 years ago and began his great adventure, we must clarify the situation that so sundered the church last spring: What it is all about and what it is not about."  [Qui distinguit bene docet.]

According to the bishop, who had asked Notre Dame’s president, Fr. John Jenkins, not to honor Obama, "it is not about President Obama… It is not about Democrats versus Republicans… It is not about whether it is appropriate for the president of the United States to speak at Notre Dame or any great Catholic university on the pressing issues of the day."  [This is mendactious.  What happened at Notre Dame was EXACTLY about honoring this President.  Notre Dame chose to bestow an honor on this President.   They bestowed on Pres. Obama an honorary doctorate.  And not just any doctorate!  This was not a doctorate in, say, Women’s Studies.  This was an honorary doctorate of LAW.  The invitation to the President to speak at the graduation ceremony need not have included the bestowal of this honor.  The secular Arizona State chose not to bestow an honor on Pres. Obama on the grounds that he had not yet done anything to merit it.  Fr. Jenkin’s needs to be held accountable.  Notre Dame needs to be held accountable for this public act.]

The response of the faithful, Bishop D’Arcy writes, "is not about what this journal [America magazine] called ‘sectarian Catholicism.’ Rather, the response of the faithful derives directly from the Gospel."

The real question posed by the situation is whether or not a Catholic university has a responsibility to give a public witness to the faith, D’Arcy states. "If not, what is the meaning of a life of faith[This all has to do with our Catholic identity.] And how can a Catholic institution expect its students to live by faith in the difficult decisions that will confront them in a culture often opposed to the Gospel?" he wonders.

"In its decision to give its highest honor to a president who has repeatedly opposed even the smallest legal protection of the child in the womb, did Notre Dame surrender the responsibility that Pope Benedict believes Catholic universities have to give public witness to the truths revealed by God and taught by the church?" the bishop also asks.

Bishop D’Arcy then takes Notre Dame to task for its multi-year sponsorship of the play "The Vagina Monologues." [Yet another scandal.]

"Although he spoke eloquently about the importance of dialogue with the president of the United States, the president of Notre Dame chose not to dialogue with his bishop on these two matters, both pastoral and both with serious ramifications for the care of souls, which is the core responsibility of the local bishop," he says.  [Furthermore, in spite of the words about dialogue, the Obama Administration still acts so as to expand abortion to every corner of the globe.]

"Both decisions," Bishop D’Arcy reveals, "were shared with me after they were made and, in the case of the honorary degree, after President Obama had accepted."

Noting that he has "never interfered in the internal governance of Notre Dame or any other institution of higher learning within the diocese," D’Arcy explains that "the diocesan bishop must ask whether a Catholic institution compromises its obligation to give public witness by placing prestige over truth."  [Do I head an "Amen!"?]

"The failure to dialogue with the bishop brings a second series of questions," he says.

"What is the relationship of the Catholic university to the local bishop? No relationship? Someone who occasionally offers Mass on campus? Someone who sits on the platform at graduation?" [The relationship was spelled out in the document Ex corde Ecclesiae… which, since the Notre Shame Debacle, seems to be an entirely dead letter.]

"Or is the bishop the teacher in the diocese, responsible for souls, including the souls of students—in this case, the students at Notre Dame? Does the responsibility of the bishop to teach, to govern and to sanctify end at the gate of the university?"

"In the spirit of Ex Corde Ecclesiae," he says, "I am proposing these questions for the university."   [Too little too late?  What actual force does Ex corde Ecclesiae have today?  Sure, it is still on paper a key documentBut, in reality – does it have any importance?   I tend right now to say "No.  It is a dead letter."  But the American Bishops, if they are willing, could still make something of it.]

Bishop D’Arcy then points to the strong spiritual life of many of the faculty members and students at the university, and acknowledges that "the theology department has grown in academic excellence over the years, strengthened by the successful recruiting of professors outstanding in scholarship, in their knowledge of the tradition and in their own living of the Catholic faith."

"Yet," he adds, "the questions about the relationship of the university as a whole to the church still stand, and what happened on campus leading up to and during the graduation is significant for the present debate about Catholic higher education."

Regarding the large number of students and faculty opposed to Obama’s commencement address and honoring, the bishop says that America magazine "and others in the media, Catholic and secular, reporting from afar, failed to make a distinction between the extremists on the one hand, and students and those who joined in the last 48 hours before graduation. This latter group [ND Response] responded with prayer and substantive disagreement. They cooperated with university authorities."  [Can we forget the video images of an elderly priest on the ground being being forcefully and physically manhandled from the grounds of the ND campus, at the direction of Fr. Jenkin’s administration?]

"In this time of crisis at the university," he notes, "these students and professors, with the instinct of faith, turned to the bishop for guidance, encouragement and prayer."

Although he had originally intended to stay away from the graduation ceremony, Bishop D’Arcy writes that "As graduation drew near, I knew I should be with the students. It was only right that the bishop be with them, for they were on the side of truth, and their demonstration was disciplined, rooted in prayer and substantive."

Bishop D’Arcy also takes aim at the university’s board of trustees for saying "nothing" when they met in April for their long-scheduled spring meeting.

"When the meeting was completed, they made no statement and gave no advice. In an age when transparency is urged as a way of life on and off campus, they chose not to enter the conversation going on all around them and shaking the university to its roots," he says.

What the board must do is "take up its responsibility afresh, with appropriate study and prayer… with greater seriousness and in a truly Catholic spirit," the bishop urges. [Remember: we are in a war for our identity as Catholics.]

D’Arcy concludes his article by posing some key questions to Notre Dame "and to other Catholic universities."

Bishop D’Arcy asks: [Get this…]

"Do you consider it a responsibility in your public statements, in your life as a university and in your actions, including your public awards, to give witness to the Catholic faith in all its fullness?

"What is your relationship to the church and, specifically, to the local bishop and his pastoral authority as defined by the Second Vatican Council?

"Finally, a more fundamental question: Where will the great Catholic universities search for a guiding light in the years ahead? Will it be the Land O’Lakes Statement or Ex Corde Ecclesiae?"

The Land O’Lakes Statement was signed in July 1967 by a group of Catholic educators led by then University of Notre Dame president Fr. Theodore Hesburgh. The famous Catholic historian Philip Gleason characterized the statement as a "declaration of independence from the hierarchy," adding that it divorced the Catholic university from the life of faith and set in motion the decline in Catholic identity of several major institutions of higher education.

Bishop D’Arcy describes the statement as coming "from a frantic time, with finances as the driving force. Its understanding of freedom is defensive, absolutist and narrow. It never mentions Christ and barely mentions the truth."

"The second text, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, speaks constantly of truth and the pursuit of truth. It speaks of freedom in the broader, Catholic philosophical and theological tradition, as linked to the common good, to the rights of others and always subject to truth."

"On these three questions, I respectfully submit, rests the future of Catholic higher education in this country and so much else," Bishop D’Arcy finishes.

WDTPRS kudos to Bp. D’Arcy!

Folks, there must consequences for Notre Dame.  The USCCB must make a statement.

But keep this in mind.  The USCCB is, ultimately, a limited body.  Individual bishops must make decisions in their own dioceses.  Don’t heap too much on the USCCB.  The USCCB is a helpful body for coordinating responses, for gaining insights and perhaps even being strengthened in their individual wills to act regarding the Catholic schools within each bishop’s diocese.  The USCCB can be effective in some ways, but individual bishops will have to shoulder this burden.

This is why what Bp. D’Arcy is doing is very important.  He deserves support.  Please give him your support at least through a prayer, perhaps the Prayer to St. Michael and by invoking Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Our Catholic Identity, SESSIUNCULA, The Drill, The future and our choices. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. JoeGarcia says:

    “St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle…”

  2. ckdexterhaven says:

    Thanks, Fr.Z, thanks Bishop D’Arcy.

    Fr. Z, a small correction, it was the secular Arizona State University , not University of Arizona. Ironically, ASU’s mascot is the Sun *Devils*.

    Prayers going up to St. Michael and Our Lady.

  3. Sotomayor at the DC Red Mass will be the next chance for our bishops (Wuerl) to punt. We’ll see how that’s handled.

  4. ckd: Thanks for the correction.

  5. EXCHIEF says:

    The University’s probable answers to the Bishop’s important questions should ultimately result in the Bishop stating for all the world to hear that UND is no longer a “Catholic” instituion and that any representation that it is constitues false advertising.

  6. Londiniensis says:

    However valid or beautiful the theology of collegiality of bishops might be, in real-world practice the introduction of national Conferences with their attendant bureaucracies has been nothing short of disastrous. What is needed is the return of national Primates – in peaceful times to advise and warn, perhaps to stiffen the flaccid backbones of comfortable bishops, in turbulent times to thunder like Jove, and at every time to show to the surrounding world one undivided Catholic face. What we have currently got is a triumph of the theoretical over the practical, ignoring the essential ingredient of human nature (and two millennia of experience of how organisations actually work in practice).

  7. Virgil says:

    Bishop D’Arcy is taking the correct approach by talking about instituting a set of clearer rules. The trouble with these sorts of situations is that they take people by surprise, even if they shouldn’t. D’Arcy’s big observation is that UND never asked his advice or judgment. It is the local ordinary who has ultimate responsibility to make it clear: What honor is appropriate, what is not.

    With a clear set of guidelines, with a clear PROCESS FOR VETTING ALL CATHOLIC HONORS, we can avoid situations like this in the future.

    To boko… The Red Mass and Sotomayor is not an appropriate comparison. Two reasons.

    (1) Neither she nor any of the other justices is receiving an award or honor. They are simply going to Mass to ask the blessing of the Holy Spirit. There is no scandal in doing that.

    (2) Every one of the Catholic members of SCOTUS has done and said stupid things. (Read much of Alito’s latest gaffe on capital punishment?) If Wuerl were to single out the newest justice for special attention, he would have a lot of explaining to do.

    Again, it comes down to D’Arcy’s implicit call for a vetting process.
    – What honors are appropriate to give to whom?
    – What policy actions, or descriptions of policy positions, are grounds for scandal?
    – How does the vetter himself (the local ordinary) minimize the impression of being unduly involved in partisan politics?

    Tough questions!

  8. a catechist says:

    According to the Sycamore Trust, an alumni organization dedicated to preserving the Catholic identity of N.D., the Fellows of the University had a meeting on 21 August. They are obliged by the charter of the univ. to uphold the mission and identity of N.D. I wonder if they received an advance copy of Bishop D’Arcy’s article? Or some version of it?

    We probably won’t ever know, but it strikes me that perhaps this was originally addressed to the Fellows, and then submitted to “America”. Just speculation, but it would make sense. Lots of sense, were I the bishop.

  9. Thomas G. says:

    “The failure to dialogue with the bishop brings a second series of questions,” he says.

    This is an excellent twist, turning the shibboleth of ‘dialogue’, which has always at the heart of ND’s excuse for honoring Obama, back on the University.

  10. Roland de Chanson says:

    It goes against the grain of the contemporary faddism of sentire cum mundo, but if the Church Militant does not militate for its infallible teachings, what respect does it deserve? Obama is laughing up his sleeve, having exploited the gutless Jenkins and knowing that his “health” care will require Catholics to pay for abortions.

    As the chief teacher in his diocese, Bishop D’Arcy should have clearly instructed Jenkins to conform to Catholic teaching. Should Jenkins have balked, D’Arcy could have suspended him and/or placed the university under interdict. Acta non dicta.

    A little show of force now and then is good for the troops. Keeps the Church Militant in fighting fettle.

  11. JJMSJ says:

    What a good bishop and teacher Bishop D’Arcy is.
    Would that each bishop spoke out as directly and forcefully when something of such importance takes place.
    (And I am glad that it is America publishing the article.)

  12. Kent says:

    Along the same lines, check out this article by Joseph Pecar at RenewAmerica.com. Unrelenting in his critisism of the US Catholic Bishops and their silence concerning the Notre Dame debacle. http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/pecar/090825

  13. Paul Q says:


    thank you for your comment about collegiality.

    For an interesting comment on British collegiality see the editorial in Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice at http://www.proecclesia.com/page_newsletter.htm


  14. Rob Cartusciello says:

    “D’Arcy explains that ‘the diocesan bishop must ask whether a Catholic institution compromises its obligation to give public witness by placing prestige over truth.'”

    For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul? – Mark 8:36

  15. JohnE says:

    I expect a very “nuanced” response will be forthcoming that attempts to preserve everything as it is and give up nothing.

  16. Bishop D’Arcy needs to make a public judgment on Notre Dame’s Catholicity, after some time limit to allow Notre Dame to respond. While the USCCB can provide support, the buck stops at the diocesan Cathedral.

  17. moon1234 says:

    Time for Notre Dame to be declared no longer a Catholic institution. There are many other more deserving schools in this country that can use Catholic benefactors.

  18. romancrusader says:

    I say remove the Catholic status from Notre Dame. When Pilate asked Christ if he were really a king, Christ answered him: (John 18:37-38) “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked Christ at that point the very same question that is now being asked, “What is truth?” People that mess around with God’s Truth deserve a worse place in hell then rapists and murderers. It is God’s truth, a truth that surpasses everything including commentaries, press conferences, political posturing and all else that has been occurring and will continue to occur around the Notre Dame fiasco. Those who attempt to mollify the evil forces in our age by bending this truth, softening it, misrepresenting it or ignoring it, while maintaining that they are Catholic, are doing such a grave disservice to the Church that there are no words to describe it.

  19. romancrusader says:

    Farthermore, such individuals that mess around with God’s truth, cannot bear to call abortion for what it is, murder! See, to them, it’s a “political issue”. Thing is, dissenters of the truth, I don’t think, can handle the reality of their sin. You can’t spit in the face of God and get away with it. People like Father Jenkins need to understand that you can’t have it both ways. It’s either one or the other. The Notre Dame scandal, while the most egregious I have seen at a supposedly Catholic institution, is not unique. As a matter of fact, the Obama invitation is simply the most horrific example of the decaying respect for Catholic truth that appears to have infected more than a few Catholic campuses.

  20. Bernard Leitrim says:

    Isn’t Bishop Jenky of Peoria a Trustee and Fellow at ND? Who is he supporting?

  21. Hans says:

    May I suggest, Fr. Z, that this portion of the text, “it is not about President Obama… It is not about Democrats versus Republicans… It is not about whether it is appropriate for the president of the United States to speak at Notre Dame or any great Catholic university on the pressing issues of the day.” should be read in the context of the bishops’ and the public’s reaction to UND’s scandalous act, rather than a description of what UND was doing. That, at least, is how I read it in the context of Bishop D’Arcy’s article. He would appear to be rebutting some of the criticism of the uproar in places just such as America.


    That is the case, Bernard, according to Bishop Jenky’s Facebook page (and, I think but didn’t check, his bio on the diocesan web site).

    So far as I’m aware, Bishop Jenky has remained silent in public about this matter (which would seem to be uncharacteristic of him).

    Thus, when it says, “Bishop D’Arcy also takes aim at the university’s board of trustees for saying “nothing” when they met in April for their long-scheduled spring meeting”, it would appear that he is also tweaking his brother bishop.

    Bishop Braxton of Belleville, who also has a connection with UND, and who was once my pastor, has also been disappointingly silent on this matter to my uncertain knowledge.

  22. Hans says:

    Rob Cartusciello quoted Mark in saying:

    For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul? – Mark 8:36

    That brings to mind Thomas More’s comment to Richard Rich (in Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons), “it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. … But for Wales!”

    But for Obama?!?

  23. Londiniensis says:

    It is instructive that in the same issue of America which carries Bishop D’Arcy’s article, there is also a long article by “letter to Obama” retired Abp John Quinn http://tinyurl.com/mrdvex a seamless-garment argument for, wait for it, the principles of cordiality.

    To jog your memories, his letter is here http://tinyurl.com/p3qcrj

  24. Dave N. says:

    Sadly, I think this probably is over.

    There will be a bit more bluster perhaps but I’m betting no real action. Bp. D’Arcy has the power to remove ND’s Catholic designation–so do it then.

  25. JohnW says:

    It was tragic that Notre Dame honored President Obama. Notre Dame is owned and operated by the Holy Cross order. This is where the problems should be fixed by addressing the order. How could the superior of the order allow this to happen.

    Notre Dame is a great school and has many things to be proud of . Every dorm has a chapel and daily mass. Every where on campus Our Lady is honored. We must not give up on Notre Dame to fix it’s problems.

  26. Sedgwick says:

    “America” magazine sure is a strange choice of venue for this article. Kind of like Ronald Reagan being celebrated at an ACLU annual dinner.

  27. irishgirl says:

    Bravo to Bishop D’Arcy!

    Now to back up the words with actions….

    Mary Immaculate, pray for us.

  28. MichaelJ says:


    I’m not buying it. In order for me to believe that bestowing an Honorary Law Degree on President Obama was a “gaffe” that could have been avoided by “clearer guidelines” I must alo believe that:
    1. Fr. Jenkins was *unaware* of President Obama’s clear and consistent record regarding abortion
    2. He was *unaware* of the Catholic Church’s teaching about abortion
    3. He *could not see* that there was a difference
    4. He *did not think* it inappropriate to honor a man who promotes such an evil
    5. It *did not occur to him* that a Catholic institution should not betray its reason for existence
    6. He chose to go ahead with this after being corrected by 80 or so Catholic Bishops who explained to him – clearly – how he was in error.

  29. Hans says:

    MichaelJ, what Fr. Jenkins said, if I recall correctly, was that he didn’t think that under the bishops’ guidelines it was inappropriate to honor a non-Catholic who promotes abortion, that it was only inappropriate to honor Catholics who promote abortion.

    That logic seems to me akin to saying one couldn’t honor Al Capone because he was Catholic, but one could honor John Dillinger because he wasn’t.

    But maybe that’s me.

  30. Jordanes says:

    Hans said: So far as I’m aware, Bishop Jenky has remained silent in public about this matter (which would seem to be uncharacteristic of him).

    Yes, he has remained silent about this matter — and I know why, but I am not at liberty to say why he has avoided making any direct public comments. It is worth noting, however, that at the time the Obama/Notre Shame controversy was raging, Bishop Jenky took the unusual step of issuing a letter for Easter in addition to the customary Easter message that he writes every year. Here is the text of that letter, titled, “The right to life and Easter” (emphasis added):

    The most fundamental of all human rights is the right to life. All other imperatives of justice and mercy are derivative of the great truth that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God and that all human life is sacred from the moment of conception until natural death. Any cooperation with the grave sin of abortion is intrinsically evil and would certainly imperil one’s eternal salvation.
    Although the clear majority of Americans oppose “abortion on demand” and especially the horrific act of murdering a child in the very process of being born, there is renewed effort today at the very highest levels of government to more widely enable and more generously fund the abortion of innocent human life in America and throughout the world. A dehumanized utilitarianism is now promoted as the only standard of scientific research. There are also serious legislative proposals to remove the rights of conscience for Catholic medical personnel and even to require Roman Catholic hospitals to perform abortions.
    I am certain that the priests, deacons, religious and faithful of our Diocese are determined to vigorously oppose these efforts, even to the point of civil disobedience if that should ever become necessary. For practicing Catholics, loyalty to Jesus Christ must always supersede all other loyalties, including our ties to political parties, elected officials, schools, other institutions and organizations, even families and friends. In this Easter season as we celebrate the Lord’s victory over death, I wish to strongly reassert our Faith’s unshakable commitment to the Gospel of Life. As an ancient hymn of the Roman Church proclaims: Christ wins! Christ reigns! Christ commands! — Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C., Bishop of Peoria

  31. Jordanes says:

    I’ll just add that I can affirm that Father Zuhlsdorf is absolutely right — the Notre Dame Debacle is not over. I can’t say anything more than that.

  32. Hans says:

    Thanks Jordanes, that seems more consistent with what I have read from Bishop Jenky. Peoria is my native diocese, so pay some attention.

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