Jesus Is Lord!
May 23, 2011
Most Rev. Daniel Jenky, CSC
Diocese of Peoria
Peoria, IL 61603
My Dear Bishop Jenky:
With countless Notre Dame alumni and friends, I have watched for four decades as the Catholic tenor, vitality and credibility of the University have slowly but surely diminished. Over the years, I have expressed my concerns in writing to various CSCs, to no avail. Like many others, my affection for Holy Cross has been life-long but my heart is now sore-tested, my trust exhausted by the inexplicable silences (with one exception) of so many members of Holy Cross in the face of morally precarious decisions by the University Fellows and the Jenkins Administration. Doubts are brought to a breaking point by the appointment by the Fellows of Ms. Martino, a supporter of abortion agencies, as a Trustee.
Many persons’ lives have been profoundly bettered by our associations with the University and the Congregation. Many of us have nurtured a spirit of fraternal respect, but now find it most difficult to believe in the leadership of the Holy Cross Fathers. A deeply troubling list of decisions by the Fellows leads us to conclude that ND is very close to being a fully secularized institution (with a Newman Club called Campus Ministry). To many of us, the loss of ND’s once-prophetic identity and mission falls squarely on the shoulders of Holy Cross Priests who serve (and have served) as University Fellows.
The Obama Incident was (or so we thought) a morally critical turning point in the credibility of CSC leadership at ND, but the appointment of Ms Martino heightens the stakes even more. It is inexplicable that the CSC Fellows – five priests and a bishop -- could possibly support the lay Fellows in this latest decision to bestow such influence on anyone who backs abortion. This is a morally astounding, morally inexplicable decision. To faithful Catholics who value ND and comprehend the profoundly evil act which defines abortion, this is an incredible insult to the Mens Ecclesiae, to the Magisterium and to Our Lady and Her history with the University -- yet there it is, with the approval of clergy.
Profound moral wonderment demands that one ask: How in God’s name could such a decision be made at a Catholic institution and approved of by Catholic priests and a bishop? How could this happen -- unless we have finally arrived at the point in ND’s history (as many believe) that the word “Catholic” is now a meaningless and cynical appendage, useful only for public relations and fund-raising purposes?
One cannot help but wonder if the Fellows -– clergy and lay -- are now so thoroughly hardened by the pursuit of academic celebrity, political correctness and world class research status that, as the Faculty Senate urged two years ago, the University no longer regards the University’s Catholicism as a priority when its academic status can be improved. Have the Fellows’ ambitions finally stifled fidelity?
I intend no undue disrespect to you or to your CSC confreres, good men all, I am sure. Nonetheless, a grave moral question lingers, a question about responsibility and accountability which you and other Holy Cross Fellows cannot escape and should answer: How can intelligent Holy Cross Priests possibly cooperate and concur in decisions which strike at the core of ND’s Catholicity?
The origins of ND’s secularization originate in the Land O’Lakes Statement of radical separation which was spearheaded by Fr. Hesburgh and signed by CSC’s leaders (including Frs. Kenna and Lalonde). Now, 45 years later, we see clearly the dispiriting outcomes of that unilateral separation of ND from its ecclesial roots. We have witnessed decades of the slow, but inexorable, ascendance of secular academic freedom and political correctness, while the Faith has been marginalized. We have seen the arrivals of new faculty and new Trustees, many of whom bring academic repute and business acumen but little or no knowledge of (and certainly no affection for or passionate commitment to) ND’s finest Catholic moral and intellectual traditions; no affinity with, nor priority for, fundamental First Principles. For years, we watched University leadership deliberately distance itself from the Magisterium (from your own brother bishops) with nonchalance and benignly-worded disdain. We note a distinctly diminished public regard for Catholic ideals and sensibilities, along with a distressing absence of visible respect for, and zealous commitment to, the Mens Ecclesiae.
Years of willing compromise seem to have resulted in the loss of moral influence by Holy Cross. The secularist mentality which now dominates the Fellows’ decision-making has brought us to the point at which Catholic beliefs are discounted, for example, by virtue of academic freedom which inspires a moral theology professor to openly defend abortion, without a single clarifying comment or a reiteration of Catholic principles from anyone in authority. Many similar events reveal ND’s waning Catholic status and raise disturbing questions about ND’s reported failure to impart a solid Catholic education to undergraduates. These and other serious issues have, slowly but surely, given birth to grave doubts and deep wonderment in the minds and hearts of very many persons who once placed unquestioned trust and confidence in Holy Cross leadership. We now realize how far things have truly gone, and we recognize that our hopes of a resurgence of vibrant and exemplary Catholic leadership at Notre Dame seem fruitless. The appointment of Ms. Martino bespeaks this entire sorry situation and underscores the absence of sensitivity to Catholic fundamentals which now characterizes ND’s leadership caste.
Nothing more I say can here will add clarification to the dangers which the University and its leadership (and, in the opinion of many, the Church) now face. The issues are clear or they are not, the solution equally so.
May God keep us and help us, one and all.
Daniel M. Boland
Daniel M. Boland, PhD