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Lou Holtz and Notre Dame’s hypocrisy

| Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Last month, Lou Holtz spoke at the Republican National Convention. During his speech he called out former Vice President Biden for his support of abortion rights and lauded President Trump’s pro-life agenda. He said Biden and other Catholic politicians who held similar views are “Catholic in name only,” meaning radical pro-choice actions taken and positions held by politicians are inconsistent with Catholic teaching.

This apparently triggered Fr. Jenkins.

Holtz left Notre Dame almost 25 years ago, and he only referenced Notre Dame once to share a quote on a statue of himself on campus. No one watching would reasonably infer that Lou was speaking on behalf of Notre Dame.

Yet Fr. Jenkins felt compelled to issue a public statement from the University distancing itself from him.

Why was this?

Was it shame, because Lou strongly affirmed the right to life, and the leadership of Notre Dame, through its actions, has shied away from doing so?

Was it embarrassment, because Lou highlighted Biden’s actions as a politician as inconsistent with Catholic teaching, and yet Notre Dame chose to honor the former vice president with the Laetare Medal?

Or was it political?

Certainly each person’s faith is between themselves and God. Individuals hold personal and private beliefs, but those in positions of power (especially the presidency) enact policy, pass and sign laws and appoint judges. It is their actions, not their beliefs, which can be judged, because those actions have direct consequences on other’s lives and potentially the ending of those lives.

I may believe suicide is wrong and not do it myself, but if I hand a gun to someone I know to be actively suicidal, I am morally complicit if they take their own life, regardless of my beliefs.

Politicians who publicly claim to be devout in their faith, use it to their political advantage and yet act in a way diametrically opposed to a fundamental teaching of their faith, cannot expect to not be called out for their hypocrisy.

Neither can institutions.

Notre Dame proclaims itself to be the foremost Catholic university in the country and yet some of the administration’s very public actions have undermined the Church regarding the sanctity of life.

Most recently, the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Studies, under the leadership of Dr. Meghan Sullivan, hired former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg as a fellow to teach students about trust in politics. Buttigieg has very publicly pronounced his support for abortion rights; as mayor, he prevented by veto the establishment of a pro-life pregnancy help center adjacent to a South Bend abortion clinic.

There was no statement this summer from Fr. Jenkins decrying Buttigieg’s views and actions as being contrary to the Catholic values of the University. There was no distancing. He approved of and supported the hiring of Mr. Buttigieg.

Lou Holtz, a private citizen, spoke strongly for the unborn and called out hypocrisy and was disavowed.

Pete Buttigieg, a nationally known politician who promotes choice and blocked a pro-life pregnancy center, was hired to teach about trust.

The irony would be humorous if the implications were not so significant. While many faculty and students on campus work diligently towards re-establishing a culture of life in a country that desperately and obviously needs it, the administration sends vastly different messages with its actions.

When Notre Dame speaks and acts, the country notices. People actually still look to Notre Dame for guidance on profound moral issues.

The administration has squandered a golden opportunity to publicly and steadfastly put its full weight behind the culture of life … again.

Fr. Jenkins and the Board of Trustees have been entrusted with the stewardship of Notre Dame, which is, first and foremost, a Catholic university. If they continue to bow to political and societal pressure to conform to secularism and even actively promote it, they risk Notre Dame also being branded “Catholic in name only.”

“By your fruits they will know you.” Matthew 7:16

Stephen O’Neil, M.D

class of ’87

Sept. 3

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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