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Advertising Notre Dame: Spot sends wrong message

Observer Viewpoint | Monday, September 12, 2005

The Notre Dame “Candle” video, shown during the ND-Pitt game, was an embarrassment to the University.

First, the “institutional spot” is theologically unsound. Its message – if you light enough candles, the payoff will be admission to Notre Dame – is what the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoefer called the myth of “cheap grace.” It is a simplistic message unworthy of a university aspiring to greatness. One doubts that Notre Dame’s theology department, or its Campus Ministry, would support the theology underlying the video. It is unimaginable that Georgetown University or Boston College, Notre Dame’s peer institutions in the Catholic academy, would promote themselves in this fashion.

Second, the video mischaracterizes Notre Dame’s admissions process. From our own experiences, we know that admissions officers base their decisions on academic achievement – not on whom one knows, or how many candles one lights. The process is professional and correct. It is an insult to the Admissions Office to suggest otherwise.

Over 11,000 students apply annually to ND; fewer than 4,000 are accepted. Did God turn a deaf ear to the prayers of the other 7,000 applicants?

We speak from experience, having had one son admitted to ND and another not, plus a daughter applying this year. Our belief is, and our prayer is, that God will show our children, and us, what direction He wishes their lives to take – and that they will have the courage and grace to accept God’s will in their lives – whether or not that includes a Notre Dame education.

The video was created by slick PR professionals who have little appreciation of what Notre Dame is really about. That the University would allow it to be shown to a national audience is very disappointing. Those who defend the video on the grounds that they were merely pointing out the University’s unique Catholic character haven’t a clue about what being “Catholic” really is.

Kevin KearneyalumnusClass of 1972, Masters of Theology 1976Rector of Sorin Hall 1977-1978

Mary MullaneyalumnaClass of 1973, law class of 1977Sept. 10