Notre Dame’s Catholic duty
Letter to the Editor | Monday, April 1, 2019
On Wednesday, the LGBT Law Forum at the law school hosted an event featuring Jim Obergefell, Greg Bourke and Michael DeLeon, plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, which mandated that every state recognize same-sex marriage. The talk was co-sponsored by student groups as well as the Mendoza College of Business.
It is the prerogative of the law school and its student groups to host events that expose students to a wide range of legal arguments and opinions. Holding such lectures is beneficial to the students and important for our professional development. However, the event went beyond discussion of the legal principles and implications of the case and was actually a school-sponsored celebration of a type of relationship that directly defies the teachings of Christ and the Catholic Church.
Barring the question of whether it is proper or good for a Catholic institution to invite speakers who disagree with certain tenets of the faith to campus, the main issue with this talk was the incorrect message the speakers put forth about Catholicism and the Church’s teaching on human sexuality.
M. Patricia Hackett, adjunct professor of law, introduced the panelists and offered opening and closing comments. In this role, Hackett spoke for Notre Dame, and in this capacity, she made several comments that incorrectly characterized or confused the truth, as put forth by the Church.
In her opening remarks, Hackett brought up Catholicism several times and insinuated faith either does not bear on the question of marriage or that Catholics should be supportive of the legal recognition of same-sex unions as marriages. For example, Hackett specifically noted that Justice Anthony Kennedy, the author of the opinion, is a Catholic, and she even asserted that Kennedy’s Catholicism was the reason for that opinion — an opinion that is blatantly contrary to the truth taught by the Church.
Furthermore, she unfairly associated the arguments for conjugal marriage with those against interracial marriage stating, “Many of these arguments may be offensive, but they sound familiar because they are the same arguments used in Obergefell.” This type of comparison falsely characterizes the reasons — especially those derived from natural law — why marriage can only be between one man and one woman, the very reasons the Catholic Church espouses, in her defense of marriage.
Hackett continually chanted “reason, evidence, science,” declaring (without further explanation) that these considerations require us to support same-sex marriage and falsely implying that the Church’s teaching on marriage runs afoul of “reason, evidence, science.” These claims were especially troubling because they incorrectly suggested to students that there is simply no reasonable, evidentiary or scientific basis to support conjugal marriage.
Also concerning was the fact that two of the plaintiffs, Michael DeLeon and Greg Bourke, throughout the talk repeatedly held themselves out as practicing Catholics (and Hackett ratified this position), even though they are publicly living in a way that defies the truth of the Catholic teaching on marriage.
Not only did DeLeon and Bourke refer to their faith in passing, but they highlighted, at several points, their active involvement in their Catholic parish and how their Catholic faith has played a role in their decision to live together in a same-sex union. For example, DeLeon and Bourke stated Catholicism was “the glue between them,” made light of the fact that the Church does not recognize same-sex unions and expressed how their parish is very supportive of their lifestyle.
In addition, after identifying himself as a Catholic, Bourke called the arguments for conjugal marriage “ludicrous” because “defending traditional marriage on the basis of procreation made no sense.” Yet, it is partially on this basis that the very Church to which Bourke claims he belongs defends the institution of marriage.
Finally, and perhaps most egregiously, at the conclusion of the event, Hackett directly addressed Catholics who actually follow Church teaching on marriage preaching: “In light of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the judgment and justice of God is love. They are not two different concepts. When one lives in the Spirit, justice and love are one. In the season of Lent … I encourage you to reflect on that point.”
With these comments, Hackett fundamentally misconstrued the Church’s teaching on marriage, insinuating that love compels us to recognize same-sex unions rather than assert God’s truth. This type of speech, coming from a person representing Notre Dame, is harmful to students because it maligns the Church’s true teachings and sows confusion.
The event as a whole — and Hackett’s comments in particular — put forth the mistaken notion that the Church’s teaching on marriage does not come from love and, instead, the loving position requires us to recognize same-sex unions.
Unfortunately, this argument is very common, and it is the duty of Notre Dame as an arm of the Church to correct this flawed view and instead proclaim the positive truth of the Catholic Church.
In accordance with the love of God, the Church espouses the truth that all persons possess dignity by virtue of their creation in the image and likeness of God, not because of recognition by government or public opinion. Love, though, requires not that we accept all the actions of our fellow men, but instead that we help each other to live virtuously so that we all may flourish and, one day, with God’s grace, live with Him.
Celebrating sinful behavior — far from being loving — reveals indifference for the good of the souls of others. Notre Dame has a particular obligation to ensure the souls of the students entrusted to her care are not led astray, but rather they come to know the fullness of the truth of the Church.
In hosting events where the moderator, seemingly speaking for the University, denigrated or at least called into question the teachings of the Church on this important issue, Notre Dame has failed to live up to her duty to assist her students to walk in the way of love and truth of Christ.
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.