Catholic identity and contraception
Letter to the Editor | Monday, November 13, 2017
In a reversal of its previous announcement, the administration revealed Tuesday its intention to continue offering faculty and students contraceptive coverage in University health insurance plans. It is quite a shocking decision given the money and effort poured into a four-year-long lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate. More than shocking, however, the decision is a disappointing cave to pressure in an apparent attempt to appease those who would condemn the University for operating in accordance with Catholic teaching.
Up until now, the University has provided and covered contraceptive medications to students and faculty when needed to treat specific medical conditions. This, of course, is an acceptable practice. What is illicit is the indiscriminate provision of contraceptives in faculty and student insurance plans.
The administration offered its defense of the reversal to “The Hill,” stating, “Recognizing … the plurality of religious and other convictions among [University] employees, [Notre Dame] will not interfere with the provision of contraceptives that will be administered and funded independently of the University.” Surely they knew students and faculty come from a diverse range of backgrounds prior to the reversal. So what changed? Protests from a handful of faculty and students sprung up, as well as an abundance of negative media attention. Perhaps donors expressed anger and student admission prospects declined. But, so it goes. Donation numbers and bad publicity are not reasons to act contrary to one’s conscience.
Further, the explanation begs the question, where is the line drawn? Could abortion be covered in University coverage if it was “administered and funded independently?” After all, there certainly exist pro-choice faculty and students at Notre Dame who hold a “plurality of religious and other convictions.” How could the University legitimately defend itself against this line of thinking given its own defense of this policy?
We both came to this University for many reasons, chief among them its strong Catholic identity. Therefore, it saddens us to see the administration chip away at this identity in decisions such as these. At a time when the University had the opportunity to explain Church teaching and provide a positive vision of what the Church has to offer in this realm, they instead gave in to worldly pressure under the guise of pluralism.
The Church has rich and beautiful moral teachings, all of which contribute to the flourishing of human life. Her teachings on artificial contraception are no exception. Our University ought to proudly declare its Catholic identity, not merely when it is easy, but also, and more importantly, when it is difficult.
Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, “There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.” He continued on to conclude, “If then, the hatred of the Church is founded on erroneous beliefs, it follows that the basic need of the day is instruction.” Erroneous beliefs about the Church’s teachings on contraception abound. But, it seems our University — blessed with abundant resources, a far-reaching network and esteem as a top tier institution — could play an important role in the instruction Sheen suggests. We have incredible opportunities to serve as a beacon of Catholicism to the world here at Notre Dame, and in many ways we do. But our example is greatly inhibited by very public decisions such as these that seem to place reputation above our Catholic faith.
We hope the administration will come to recognize the scandal caused by this decision and reverse course yet again. But beyond this, we pray it will lead our University in upholding its Catholic identity and providing a vision to the world of the goodness of the Catholic faith and all of Christ’s teachings.
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.