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ND reaffirms pro-life stance

Madeline Buckley | Monday, April 12, 2010

In response to a recommendation of the University’s pro-life task force, Notre Dame has issued an institutional statement to affirm its commitment to the defense of human life, the University announced Thursday.

Notre Dame also clarified its position on charitable gifts in the principles on charitable activity, another recommendation of the task force.

The Task Force on Supporting the Choice for Life was created by University President Fr. John Jenkins in September, partly in response to controversy over Jenkins’ invitation to President Barack Obama to deliver the 2009 Commencement address.

The statement on the defense of life reads: “Consistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church on such issues as abortion, research involving human embryos, euthanasia, the death penalty and other related life issues, the University of Notre Dame recognizes and upholds the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.”

According to the University’s Initiative on Adult Stem Cell Research and Ethics, Notre Dame does not engage in embryonic stem cell research, but scientists currently conduct research related to adult stem cells.

University spokesman Dennis Brown said under the principles on charitable activity, Notre Dame will not contribute to or support organizations that engage in research that conflicts with Church teaching.

Brown said Notre Dame does not anticipate any “dramatic changes” resulting from the new statement.

“The statement and principles affirm what always has been the case at Notre Dame, that the University fully supports Church teachings on the sanctity of human life,” Brown said. “What they do is, in the case of the statement, provide a clear and unequivocal University position on life and, in the case of the principles, provide a consistent foundation for how best to direct our charitable giving.”

The adoption of the statement in support of life is the first time the University has officially documented the position, Brown said.

Margaret Brinig, law professor and co-chair of the pro-life task force, said the task force wanted to formalize the University’s position in support of life.

“The task force felt that having a written statement, rather than simply an unstated policy, was important to both reaffirm and make explicit the University’s commitment,” Brinig said. “As a Catholic institution, we felt it important to re-articulate the centrality of our mission and its connection to the Church.”

A document with criteria for the implementation of charitable activity based upon the principles in the statement is forthcoming, a University press release said.

 “I am grateful to the task force for recommending the creation of these documents and helping us compose them,” Jenkins said in the release. “The new principles provide standards for the University and its representatives in making determinations on giving in a way consonant with our beliefs.”

Brinig said she also does not foresee any large changes as a result of the new statement.
“We do not anticipate dramatic changes to University life since this statement simply re-affirms and makes explicit our standards so that we can apply them consistently,” she said. “Both documents reaffirm what always has been Notre Dame’s institutional position: We unequivocally support Church teachings on the sanctity of human life.”