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Pro-life task force presents proposals

AARON STEINER | Monday, January 18, 2010

A special task force initiated by University President Fr. John Jenkins last fall presented its preliminary recommendations last week on how best to “deepen the pro-life culture” and “strengthen the Notre Dame community’s witness to Catholic teaching on life.”

The initial recommendations given to Jenkins are described in a press release from last Thursday.

Among them are calls for the University to adopt a policy statement indicating support for Church teaching on life issues, for Jenkins to participate in the national March for Life in Washington, D.C., for undergraduate research opportunities on life issues and for the administration to support existing and create new pro-life events and initiatives on campus for the purpose of education.

Jenkins convened the Task Force on Supporting the Choice for Life last September, in part in response to the controversy over President Barack Obama’s 2009 Commencement visit.

Jenkins said in the press release the task force, made up of faculty, administrators and one student, was charged with making recommendations on how the University could increase its commitment to “a culture of life,” working with both campus constituencies and outside groups.

“I am pleased to report that the task force has been at work, engaging various of these constituencies in conversation and studying ways in which the University can articulate its commitment effectively and can encourage programming which furthers this commitment,” Jenkins said in the press release.

Task Force co-chair Margaret Brinig, professor of law and associate dean at the Law School, told The Observer in December the group would work until the end of the school year. The other co-chair is John Cavadini, professor of theology and the director of the Institute for Church Life.

The group has already worked to implement some of its ideas, including helping with a television commercial that aired nationally Nov. 7 on NBC during the football game against Navy. The commercial featured ongoing adult stem cell research at Notre Dame and a statement about the University’s support for Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life.
Also per the task force’s recommendation, Jenkins will participate in the March for Life on Jan. 22 alongside students from the University.

The task force also co-hosted, with the Notre Dame Law School, a panel discussion Dec. 3 on conscience clauses and Catholic teaching.

The recommendations listed in the press release suggest the University:


  • Adopt a policy statement on its support for Church teaching on the sanctity of human life and a policy statement on charitable gifts or investments that could be in conflict with Church teaching on life issues


  •  Make better known to students, faculty and others its supportive policies for pregnant students


  •  Make a public ” witness for life” through the University president’s participation in the March for Life or a similar event


  •  Promote undergraduate research opportunities that address life issues


  •  Support the work of students engaged in pro-life activities and support educative efforts like conferences or courses


  •  Encourage alumni to participate in pro-life activities

According to the press release, the task force will present an updated and revised list of recommendations to Jenkins at the end of the year.