Friday, April 28, 2006

Bishop D'Arcy issues "Pastoral Response"

Shortly after University of Notre Dame president Holy Cross Father John L. Jenkins issued his "Closing Statement" in the months-long dialogue regarding the relationship between academic freedom and his Catholic college's religious identity, Bishop John D'Arcy of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend issued a brief response. It can be read here.

More recently, Bishop D'Arcy has issued a more lengthy "Pastoral Response" to Father Jenkins' Closing Statement. It can be found here.


My pastoral concern is not only because of the decision not to ban the play, but because of the rationale that accompanied the decision. It fails to give room to the great truths of the faith. The teaching of the church on sexuality, on academic freedom, on the relationship between a man and a woman and on the human body is hardly mentioned, except to admit that the play stands apart from, and is even opposed to, Catholic teaching. The truths of faith seem not to have been brought to bear on this decision. Is this an omission that will mark the future of such decisions for this school so blessed by Our Lady and by countless scholars and students over the years? I pray that it not be so; for that would, indeed, mark it as a mistake of historic proportions. As a shepherd with responsibility to Notre Dame, I must point out to her leaders that this judgment and the way it has been explained calls for further, more informed consideration.

Holy Cross Father Wilson Miscamble, an associate professor of history at the University of Notre Dame, has joined the list of other Notre Dame faculty members who have made public responses to Father Jenkins' Closing Statement. Father Miscamble's open letter to Father Jenkins can be found here.


You must know that in taking this decision you have brought most joy to those who care least about Notre Dame's Catholic mission. You have won for yourself a certain short-term popularity with some students and certain faculty but have done real damage to our beloved school and its distinct place in American higher education. By your decision you move us further along the dangerous path where we ape our secular peers and take all our signals from them. Knowing you and having conversed with you on matters relating to Notre Dame's Catholic mission in the past, I suspect that you recognize this in your own heart. Yet, you seemingly have let the possibility of some protest cause you to back off your own stated position. You were called to be courageous and you settled for being popular. This is not your best self. This is not genuine leadership.

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