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D’Arcy’s oxymoron

Observer Viewpoint | Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I’ve been reading with great interest the discussions on academic freedom and the expression of diverse points of view at the University. As one of The Observer articles rightly states, this is not a new debate; we struggled with this issue in the early ’80s as well. A few years ago Notre Dame Magazine printed an alumni reunion special of “Molarity,” a popular Observer cartoon strip back then. Visiting campus for the first time in years, the alums are questioning their tour guide. She gleefully boasts about the student population at Notre Dame: “Yes, there is diversity here: You get to meet Catholics from all over the country!”

Unfortunately for faculty and students, there is no bright light in questions of academic freedom and the pursuit of enlightenment. Right or wrong, as long as the University maintains its Catholic ties with its core doctrines and beliefs, Notre Dame remains subject to the edicts of the Vatican through its local prelate, in this case Bishop John D’Arcy of Fort Wayne/South Bend. And he has not been afraid to keep his hands out of the theological cookie jar that is Notre Dame, as his ecclesiastical handprint is emblazoned on all the issues that have stirred this discussion. Father John Jenkins is merely articulating that the University will toe the Vatican line, now in the firm hands of the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, whose previous post in the Curia was that of head of the Inquisition … er, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The real question for current students and faculty: Given this set of circumstances, can you reconcile your core values and beliefs and function as a vibrant, contributing member of a university community with an administration that has reiterated its intention to adhere to church teaching at the expense of dialogue and open debate? “Academic freedom” as we have always known it is an oxymoron at Notre Dame.

Eduardo MagallenezalumnusClass of 1983Jan. 30