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Pro-life group submits letter to Jenkins, faculty

Sam Stryker | Friday, April 27, 2012

On Thursday morning, pro-life activist Randall Terry visited Notre Dame’s campus to host a press conference and deliver a letter to University President Fr. John Jenkins.

The document was also submitted to over 100 University faculty and professors who signed a letter earlier this week addressing controversial statements made in an April 14 homily delivered by Bishop Daniel Jenky of the Diocese of Peoria, Ill. Jenky is a member of Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees and serves as a University Fellow.

In his homily, Jenky compared the dispute over President Obama’s healthcare reform to challenges the Catholic Church has faced in the past. He cited Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin as examples.

The letter signed by at least 143 Notre Dame professors and faculty was addressed to Jenkins and University Fellow and Chair of the Board of Trustees Richard Notebaert. It called for a public statement distancing Notre Dame from Jenky’s statements. The professors and faculty also requested for Jenky to renounce his statements or resign from his positions at the University.

In Terry’s response, he and the 13 other cosigners call on the professors and faculty who submitted the letter to Jenkins and Notebaert to repent or “have the decency to resign.”

“You clearly have little honor, and even less regard for innocent human life,” Terry’s letter stated. “There was not one word – not one syllable – in your letter that condemned or confronted the atrocities being committed by Obama. By your words and your omissions, you show your own treachery against innocent human life, and the teachings of the Church.”

In the version submitted to Jenkins and Notebaert, the letter requests “immediate action” be taken against the signing professors and faculty “who have unethically cast aspersions upon a holy bishop.”

Gary Boisclair, press agent for Terry and one of the letter’s signees, said the visiting group was looking for a response from the faculty who reacted to Jenky’s homily.

“[We look to] the faculty’s call to repentance and to apologize to Bishop Jenky for their damaging statements to this humble, holy leader of the Church,” he said.

Boisclair said the group believes Catholics must protect Jenky and the remarks made in his homily.

“It is necessary for Christians and Catholics to stand up when a bishop proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ so clearly,” he said. “If they are being calumniated by people within a Catholic institution, it is the Christian’s responsibility to stand up and defend the bishop.”

As of Thursday afternoon, Boisclair said the group had not received a response from anyone their letter was submitted to.

“I’m not holding my breath, to be honest,” he said.

In addition to hosting a press conference, Boisclair said the group submitted their letter to professors and faculty through the Mail Distribution Center. He said the group also personally delivered a copy to Jenkins’ secretary in the University president’s office.

University spokesman Dennis Brown declined to speak on the visit or the letters delivered.

“We do not comment on the personal views of our Trustees, or what others think of them,” he said. “We do, however, support the First Amendment right of parties on all sides of this issue to express their views.”

According to a press release from Randall Terry Media, Terry and his team followed their visit to the University with a press conference in Fort Wayne, Ind., in front of the offices of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend “in solidarity with Bishop Kevin Rhoades.”

Six of the signees of Terry’s letter, including Terry himself, identify themselves as members of “ND 88,” the group of 88 individuals arrested in May 2009 for protesting Obama’s commencement address at the University.