Skip to comments.More Cracks in the Golden Dome - The University of Notre Dame’s ongoing confusions
Posted on 06/10/2011 5:33:32 PM PDT by neverdem
More Cracks in the Golden Dome
The University of Notre Dame's ongoing confusions
In 2001, the University of Notre Dame hired George O’Leary as its football coach: a position regarded by some alums, boosters, and board members as only slightly less significant than that held by the university’s president, and by others as of undoubtedly greater importance. Shortly after the hire, the Manchester Union Leader disclosed that O’Leary had engaged in some serious résumé padding, including claims for a master’s degree he had not earned from a university that did not exist. O’Leary’s tenure as head coach of the Fighting Irish ended three weeks after it began.
It now seems that, over the ensuing decade, Notre Dame didn’t learn much about due diligence, even as its leaders forgot a few more things about integrity and honesty.
Late in the spring term, Notre Dame announced that one of its alumnae, Roxanne Martino, a prominent Chicago investment manager, had been elected a member of the university’s board of trustees. Such a seemingly routine appointment — wealthy alum joins university board — would have drawn little notice at a less contentious moment in Catholic higher education. But by its 2009 decisions to make an unabashedly pro-abortion Barack Obama its commencement speaker and to honor him with an honorary doctor of laws degree, Notre Dame invited intense scrutiny by Catholics determined to hold the country’s flagship Catholic university to a standard of Catholic identity it seemed unwilling to maintain by itself. Thus, shortly after Ms. Martino joined the Notre Dame board, it came to light that she had been a longtime and significant contributor to Emily’s List, one of the nation’s premier pro-abortion lobbies.
Emily’s List does not mask its agenda behind a blizzard of euphemisms. Its website asks the visitor to “HELP US ELECT PRO-CHOICE DEMOCRATIC WOMEN.” The What We Do part of the site makes the organization’s goals quite clear: “We’re a full-service political team with a simple mission: to elect pro-choice Democratic women.” It would take a very dim observer of the contemporary political scene not to know what Emily’s List is all about. One might barely imagine that a Chicago donor who reflexively gives to the usual Democratic causes could write a check to Emily’s List under the impression that the organization was some sort of generic feminist lobby — although imagining a generic feminist lobby that is not pro-abortion takes even more, er, imagination.
Faced with the revelation that one of its new board members — one of those charged with guiding Notre Dame into the future — was in the habit of writing large checks to a pro-abortion lobby, the Notre Dame administration tried to wriggle out of the bind by claiming that Ms. Martino hadn’t realized that Emily’s List did what Emily’s List does. When that invited the obvious rejoinder that no one so unaware of elementary political reality had a claim to help guide a major university into the future, board chairman Richard Notebaert tried to save Ms. Martino, doubling down while clumsily changing the subject.
In an e-mail to the Wall Street Journal’s William McGurn, a Notre Dame alumnus who was on the case, Notebaert harrumphed that the fact that Ms. Martino “erred in not knowing completely about two of the many organizations to which she makes contributions does not in any way diminish the exemplary way in which she has lived her life and faith.” Moreover, the chairman averred, this is precisely “the sort of person we want on our board”: someone who is “a Notre Dame graduate, loving parent, dedicated to national and international service, a highly regarded professional in her field, and committed to all Catholic teachings.” (Memo to Mr. Notebaert: If those are your criteria for Notre Dame board membership, your letter inviting an alumnus of Notre Dame who is a distinguished journalist, a former presidential speechwriter, and a loving husband and parent to join the Notre Dame board should be in the mail today; I’m sure Bill McGurn will consider the possibility carefully.)
A week or so into the controversy, it seemed clear to all except the university’s board chairman and its president, Fr. John Jenkins, that Ms. Martino was unsalvageable: Either Notre Dame had a significant donor to an aggressive pro-abortion lobby among its trustees, or it had a board member whose judgment in making donations “on the basis of a recommendation from others” (as Notebaert put it to McGurn) raised severe questions about her competence to serve the university and its Catholic mission. Yet the dissembling continued and the implications of it for Notre Dame’s governance were briskly identified on June 4 by Fr. Wilson Miscamble, CSC, a distinguished diplomatic historian on the Notre Dame faculty.
In an address to a group of Notre Dame alumni concerned about the university’s Catholic identity, Miscamble said that board chairman Notebaert seemed “to have supplanted Fr. Jenkins in determining university policy” in the Martino affair. Then Miscamble, an Australian given to plain talking, cut to the chase: “If [Notebaert] can’t understand the damage that an appointment like this does to Notre Dame’s credibility and reputation as a Catholic university, then his credentials and capabilities to lead the board must surely be questioned.” And lest he be thought excessively clerical in calling out a lay board chairman, Father Miscamble immediately went on to lament the six members of his own religious order, the Congregation of the Holy Cross, who had acquiesced in Ms. Martino’s appointment.
After Father Jenkins had met with Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne–South Bend, this sad affair came to a formal end on June 8 when Ms. Martino resigned from the Notre Dame board, telling the Chicago Tribune that “the current controversy doesn’t allow me to be effective.” Yet the fallout from the Martino affair continues, and one finds some rather depressing indicators about Notre Dame’s future while sifting through the wreckage.
At no point during the controversy did the formidable Notre Dame publicity machine do the obvious and honorable thing: admit that due diligence had not been done; admit that a serious mistake had been made and that the mistake was deeply regretted; then state that Ms. Martino had been asked to remove herself from the board. Those watching from a distance could only conclude that Ms. Martino, Mr. Notebaert, and perhaps Father Jenkins simply did not understand what the fuss was about, and yielded only under unbearable pressure. That impression was strengthened by the affair’s untoward end game, which Father Miscamble described in a public statement after the Martino resignation:
I am grateful that Mrs. Martino had the decency to resign from the Board of Trustees but very disappointed that she included no apology in her statement for her sad record of donations to Emily’s List and other virulently pro-abortion PACs like Illinois State Personal PAC. I am further disappointed by the very limited press release from the University of Notre Dame and by the remarks of the board chairman, Mr. Richard Notebaert. He neither gives an apology for his earlier misleading statements concerning Mrs. Martino’s donations nor expresses regret for his failure to vet this appointment with appropriate diligence. Further, he gives no assurance that contributing in any way to explicitly “pro-choice” organizations in incompatible with service on the Notre Dame Board of Trustees.
The obtuseness displayed by the university administration and board chairman over the past two weeks suggests that neither the administration nor the board has learned the primary lesson it should have learned from the controversy over the Obama commencement in 2009: that an unambiguous, indeed happily robust, pro-life position, embodied in action and not just in abstract declarations of adhesion to Catholic teaching, is now the cultural marker of seriousness about Catholic identity in the American public square.
That this fact of 21st-century American Catholic life makes things difficult for Catholic tribal Democrats is undeniable. But efforts to dilute the weight and density of that cultural marker by, among others, Notre Dame faculty who find in Barack Obama the living embodiment of Catholic social doctrine now look ever more farcical, as indeed they seemed highly implausible before the administration’s policies began to crumble. (Republicans tempted to gloat here should be very careful: Catholics determined to strengthen, not dilute, Catholic identity in Catholic institutions will turn their fire on squishy members of the GOP just as readily as fire has been turned on Democrats.)
Irrespective of the politics involved, though, what is really disturbing about all this from a Catholic point of view is just how out-of-it Notre Dame’s leadership seems to be. The administration and board of a university that has long imagined itself on the cutting edge of Catholic culture in the United States seem to have completely missed the great sea-change that has taken place in the public life of U.S. Catholics since Roe v. Wade, Blessed John Paul II, and the emergence of the pro-life cause as the prime, although surely not sole, indicator of Catholic seriousness amidst the sundry contentions of the public square.
A month or so before the Martino affair broke, the Notre Dame faculty senate voted down a proposed resolution commending the president, Father Jenkins, for his efforts to strengthen Notre Dame’s pro-life commitment in the wake of the Obama commencement. That was weird enough. But windy faculty senates with little real power often do weird things. What is so striking about the Martino case, however, is that it makes clear that Father Jenkins’s modest efforts to demonstrate the university’s pro-life commitment since the 2009 Obama commencement have been largely in vain. Things have gotten worse, not better, since 2009.
If an Emily’s List contributor is considered a fit member of Notre Dame’s board of trustees by, among others, members of the religious congregation that founded Notre Dame, and if the Notre Dame board chairman flails about defending such a decision by suggesting that the nominee in question is an ideal Domer trustee, then the Catholic learning curve in South Bend remains a steep one.
— George Weigel is distinguished senior fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.
The only good thing about ND having all of its football games televised, is watching them lose. Bring back Jerry!
Give me a break...this is the university that gave a student tailgating ticket to a 38 year old Gulf War Era veteran (who was a grad student at the time) about 10 years ago and refused to apologize. They didn’t give one to the others who were not students(many of which were much younger) or the student’s parents, some of which were his age. Stupid idiots.
Gosh, I didn’t even know this school was still in business. Didn’t they disappear right around the time Milli Vanilli had to give up their Grammy award?
The long and the short of it is that those of us who are ND alums and pro-life Catholics are looked down upon with real contempt by Jenkins and his buddies. I had a discussion about this with the executive director of the ND alumni association about 15 years ago, and he called me and others who think like me “single issue Catholics”.
This guy Notebaert is a real joke. He’s not an ND alumnus, but rather a CINO secular humanist and ruthless corporatist who graduated from Wisconsin-Madison (Notebaert was the CEO of Qwest, the big telephone company which operates between the Pacific Northwest and Lake Michigan). Obama was invited to ND because of Notebaert and Fr. Hesburgh (who, although 95 years old and has not been president of ND since 1986, is still in the middle of most things that go on there). Notebaert’s wife was involved in some sort of civic venture with Michelle Obama.
The sad thing is that ND will probably look for another trustee who believes what Martino believes but isn’t dumb enough to give to Emily’s List or Personal PAC. They’ll never pick pro-life conservative Catholics to sit on the board. One of the great pro-life crusaders in this country is ND alumnus Joe Scheidler. He’s got a snowball’s chance in hell of ever being asked to join the board, although he would be a fantastic addition.
Recently, it seems that when a leading position opens up at ND, and there is a pro-lifer and a pro-abort seeking that position, the pro-abort gets picked, and the pro-lifer gets the bum’s rush. The head football coach, the dean of the law school, the former dean of the Arts & Letters college, all of these are pro-aborts. I’m guessing Marianne Corr, the general counsel, is a pro-abort; she was directly responsible for the brutalization and arrest of pro-life crusader Father Norman Weslin; in the ND hierarchy, she is the “chief law officer” and is over the ND Security Police (who, under Indiana state law, have police powers, including arrest).
I’m guessing that Bishop Rhoades, who has struck me to date as pusillanimous, finally laid down the law to Jenkins. What Bp. Rhoades needs to do next is get Cardinal George of Chicago involved, and pressure Notebaert to quit. While Rhoades cannot excommunicate Jenkins as Jenkins is a member of a religious order which is not under the control of the diocese (the superior of the order lives in Rome and is supposedly obedient to the Pope), he could declare him persona non grata in the diocese.
Another ND guy who is complicit in bringing the university into disrepute is the Most Rev. Daniel Jenky, CSC, the Bishop of Peoria, Illinois. Jenky is an alum and was once the rector of the spectacular Basilica of the Sacred Heart on campus. Jenky appears to have gone along with the pro-abort trustee and the pro-abort appointments on campus.
Notre Dame is a fantastic place with really flawed leadership. It ought to be the single greatest university in the country, and they should not care a whit what the Ivy League thinks. We have the money, the facilities and the prestige. We’ve got a great student body, and great parents behind the kids. All we need is sound, principled leadership. If the board of trustees had a modicum of decency, they would all resign. Fr. Wilson Miscamble ought to be given the opportunity to run the university for a while. A new group of life fellows and a new board of trustees, 100% Catholic, 100% pro-life and 100% committed to the Catholic faith and tradition, need to be installed yesterday.
Jerry must mean “Gerry” Faust, who succeeded Dan Devine as head football coach in the 1981 through 1985 seasons. He once managed to beat the #1 team in the country on the road (Pitt, 31-16 in 1982 when Pitt had Dan Marino as QB), but managed to lose back to back games 36-6 and 58-7 to Penn State and Miami in 1985. Gerry wore his Catholicism on his sleeve, but was barely over .500 for his 5 years. Lou Holtz succeeded him, and won the national championship in 1988.
Can anyone fill me in?
I have little doubt that Jenkins actions were indeed "modest" but what has Jenkins done to "demonstrate the universitys pro-life commitment"?
I used to have respect for Notre Dame..... not any more.
Excellent piece by George Weigel.
After it was deduced by ND beancounters that they had lost $120 million in donations as the result of the day of shame on May 17, 2009, they hastily arranged for Jenkins to walk in the March for Life on January 22, 2010. He supposedly also marched this past year. In my view, it was a phony, empty gesture—he probably went back to his hotel and took a shower to wash off the pro-life aroma.
Jenkins continues to endorse the Vagina Monologues, homosexual film festivals, liberal politicians, etc., etc. And, like I noted above, when a position opens and they have a choice between a pro-lifer and a pro-abort, you know who they are going to hire.
Thanks, That’s about what I figured Jenkins’ pro life actions would have entailed.
>> Article: Notre Dame faculty who find in Barack Obama the living embodiment of Catholic social doctrine now look ever more farcical, ...
And its enabler Jenkins forever an ass in my book.
Yup, this is just another example of leftists making their long march through the institutions. Just as I have read of charities, foundations, and societies being slowly taken over by leftists getting hired on staff and then hiring others of their ilk and slowly taking over.
But, sight unseen, it looks more like this started at the top and stayed there.
I know the article was not about football, but I have to get it off my chest that I’ve read some very convincing exposes about college football programs, i.e. that they should be regarded in the same light as municipally-funded white-elephant stadiums.
Can’t give you chapter and verse, but I’ve read that the big-time athletics programs in general and football in particular eat up far more time and treasure than they give back. “Prestige” notwithstanding.
This is not even to mention the ugly corruption and exploitation of student athletes that these programs inevitably give rise to.
A real act of academic seriousness would be for an institution of higher learning to dump these things and concentrate on scholastics. Alumni howls notwithstanding.