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Protesters gather outside J.A.C.C. to make statement against cardinal’s presence at forum

Maddie Hanna | Friday, September 23, 2005

Five hundred leaflets protesting Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga’s presence on campus were quietly distributed to the throngs of people who flocked to Thursday’s Notre Dame Forum at the Joyce Center.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) president Barbara Blaine said members wanted to make a statement against Honduran archbishop Rodriguez, who accused U.S. media in 2002 of covering the Church’s sex abuse scandal in ways “reminiscent more of Stalin and Hitler.”

“We are really concerned that Cardinal Rodriguez is being honored to speak here on Notre Dame’s campus,” Blaine said, criticizing Rodriguez for never apologizing for his “disparaging remarks.”

Blaine said Rodriguez’s presence at the Forum was made worse given Notre Dame’s character.

“Notre Dame is holding itself out as a university that fosters or values inquiry or discussion,” she said. “We believe that statements like Cardinal Rodriguez’s do just the opposite. It’s deterred other victims from coming forward.”

R. Scott Appleby, Forum organizer and director of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, said Rodriguez was chosen by the Inaugural Committee as a representative from the internal Catholic hierarchy.

Appleby said Rodriguez, “a friend of the University for some time,” had not been expected to create controversy.

“It’s unfortunate that the comments he made in 2002 have obscured a lifelong commitment to social justice and care for the poor,” Appleby said.

Although Appleby said Rodriguez’ past comments did not pertain to the Forum’s topic, “Why God? Understanding Religion and Enacting Faith in a Plural World,” Blaine disagreed.

“It’s interesting,” Blaine said. “There is a concern for Catholic values outside of the Church, but not within the Church … We are the faithful Catholic sons and daughters who were raped and sodomized by priests that our parents trusted.”

Blaine said SNAP, a national organization with 5,700 members and chapters in 60 cities, did not contact Notre Dame directly about its plans, but did inform Appleby “out of courtesy.”

University spokesman Matt Storin said “while in an ideal world” protests would not happen during University President Father John Jenkins’ inauguration, the University was not concerned.

“It’s perfectly within their [SNAP members’] rights to do so,” Storin said. He noted that SNAP was not targeting Notre Dame or Jenkins.

While SNAP members did not enter the Forum – “We don’t disrupt,” Blaine said – they thought it was necessary to get out their message.

“I would hope that Catholics who are committed to peace and justice would demand that the University do something,” Blaine said.

Students who received the leaflets seemed largely confused, many crumpling and tossing the pieces of paper into a trash can while laughing to friends, “I thought this had to do with the forum!” or “He owes me a personal apology.”

Others studied the leaflets carefully and offered their opinions.

“I agree that the media has definitely been skewed in many ways, and I don’t doubt that all these scandals happened,” graduate student Levente Borvak said. “But I support [the inclusion of Rodriguez on the panel] fully.”

Freshman Ashley Williams, who had not heard of the controversy before Thursday, said she had “mixed feelings” due to the Forum’s topic.