Andrew Weiler | Monday, October 3, 2011
I applaud Fr. Jenkins’s recent petition to the Department of Health and Human Services for a more inclusive conscience clause. It shows a commitment to Catholic moral teaching and adds an influential voice to those of all religious groups seeking a conscience clause to protect their beliefs.
The Observer’s editorial (“Health insurance issue calls Notre Dame’s identity into question,” Sept. 30) is correct in asserting moral debates such as these bring Notre Dame’s Catholic identity into question: “Either they (Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s) must commit to being modern universities and accept all that entails, or they must commit to being primarily Catholic.”
Similarly, Mr. Caruso (“The government’s not-so-insensible ‘conscience clause’,” Sept. 30) implies Notre Dame must either become an “open university” or a “seminary.”
While Mr. Caruso’s option is utterly false (a university can be open to the exchange of diverse ideas while still being Catholic), The Observer describes an important crossroads faced by Notre Dame.
Unfortunately, The Observer does not define its idea of a “modern” university, but I believe it safe to assume most people would look to Notre Dame’s peer universities as examples.
Only one other top 20 school in the U.S. World and News Report, Emory, has any religious affiliation, and even Emory is officially nonsectarian outside its school of theology. Sadly, in the realm of religion, “modern” means a lack of any significant religious influence. In this sense, Notre Dame neither can, nor should, become like its “modern” peers.
The U.S. and its young people do not need one more secular university where religion has a nominal role. If anything, we have plenty of those.
Rather, what Notre Dame should be is a Catholic institution with the academic rigor to match its peers. Notre Dame must be a place where scientific discovery is pursued, but guided by Catholic morals; a place where Catholicism is faithfully taught and practiced, but where diverse viewpoints are welcomed and discussed.
Notre Dame’s Catholic identity sets us apart, and therefore, if this identity is embraced, Notre Dame can and will become a more powerful, and truly unique, force for good in the world.