Alumni accuse Notre Dame prez of hypocrisy on pro-life values
An alumni group says it would be “hypocritical” for the University of Notre Dame’s president to attend the March for Life after the school declined to cut birth control from its health coverage.
President Trump announced on October 6 that the government would permit employers to forgo the Affordable Healthcare Act’s contraception mandate on religious grounds, prompting Notre Dame to announce that it would take advantage of the offer.
In a perplexing move, the Catholic university announced on November 7 that it had reversed its decision and would continue to offer third-party funded contraception and abortifacients, in line with a controversial Obama-era compromise that ND had previously sought to overturn by suing the federal government on religious freedom grounds.
“As I have said from the start, the University’s interest has never been in preventing access to those who make conscientious decisions to use contraceptives,” university President Father John Jenkins, CSC explained during his annual address to the faculty. “Our interest, rather, has been to avoid being compelled by the federal government to be the agent in their provision.”
A spokesman revealed that when the university announced that coverage would cease, it was under the impression that its insurance providers would no longer offer the independent coverage following Trump’s announcement. When the companies told the university they would continue the practice, Notre Dame chose not to interfere.
The university argued that the compromise had been objectionable because it required university officials to sign a government waiver acknowledging the provision of third-party coverage.
Alumni and students disagreed, arguing that the compromise and its allowance for third-party coverage of contraceptives and abortifacients violated Catholic doctrine.
“Is Notre Dame no longer committed to the Catholic values that it testified to holding?” wrote the Editorial Board of The Irish Rover, an independent student newspaper.
The Sycamore Trust, a Catholic values alumni association, recently sent a letter to the administration accusing ND of engaging in disingenuous litigation, with more than 60 alumni attorneys signing their names to the document.
“The representations to the courts that now appear to have been false were forceful, multiple, and essential,” they wrote, condemning the decision to accept a compromise that administrators had previously claimed violated their religious beliefs.
Sycamore Trust President William Dempsey told LifeSiteNews that “it would be hypocritical and a severe embarrassment to the students and faculty” if Jenkins were to attend the March for Life, an annual pro-life demonstration in Washington, D.C. that is set to take place Friday.
“I certainly hope he will have the grace not to accompany the students and faculty,” said Dempsey. “It is hard to imagine him delivering a pro-life homily after having turned the university into an agent for the distribution of abortifacients and contraceptives to students and employees.”
Notre Dame Assistant Vice President for News and Media Relations Dennis Brown refused to provide Campus Reform with any comment on the public criticisms, but a January 16 press release from the university announced that more than 1,000 ND students and 65 faculty and staff members, including Fr. Jenkins, will attend the March for Life. The release made no mention of the controversy and painted a rosy picture of the school’s commitment to pro-life values.
In light of the announcement, the Executive Board of the Notre Dame Chapter of University Faculty for Life (UFL) released a private November 29 letter it had sent to Fr. Jenkins protesting that the university has “left much unsaid and caused manifest confusion” over the decision and calling for a meeting to dicuss six related issues.
The faculty members’ concerns included the fact that “daughters of all ages are automatically enrolled in the contraceptive and abortifacient coverage,” and that “once the girl turns 13, her parents cannot view her contraceptives account unless she grants them permission.”
Calling into question the sincerity of the university’s legal testimony, UFL asked if the president was concerned about “not only the University’s witness in regard to sexual morality, but also in regard to truthfulness and integrity.”
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