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viewpoint

The Irish Rover and its discontents

| Friday, October 29, 2021

The Irish Rover does great work for Our Lady’s University. I had the privilege of writing several articles for the Rover during my undergraduate years, and as a law student I still read the paper on a somewhat regular basis. I should also acknowledge that I am friends with a few members of the Rover editorial board, though I have no insight into the Rover’s internal decision-making.

The Rover caters to conservative Catholics like myself, yet its influence and importance are much deeper than its niche readership suggests. Even folks on the left have declared this. Notre Dame’s Catholic identity has long been under siege from several directions. That there is a Notre Dame student newspaper expressly committed to “1. Defend the Faith and honorable traditions of this great university; 2. Articulate conservative principles; (and) 3. Engage in collegial debate” should be praised by both liberal and conservative Catholics.

Nevertheless, I was disappointed to read that the Rover rejected Jed Mariano’s article touching upon LGBT topics for publication in its Culture section. Although it lacks the conservative tilt characteristic of most Rover articles, Mariano’s draft article does not contravene the Rover’s core commitments to defend Catholic principles and Notre Dame’s Catholic identity. Nowhere, for example, does Mariano argue for the legalization of same-sex marriage.

I am a staunch conservative, yet I think that Mariano does a nice job in his article of faithfully tying Olivia Rodrigo’s song to the truth that all “are created in the image and likeness of God,” including LGBT individuals. In our campus’ and our nation’s polarized political environment, it is both difficult and rare to find individuals willing to bridge divides and offer alternative viewpoints in ideologically tilted publications like the Rover. These faithful efforts should be encouraged, not rejected wholesale and with inconsistent justifications.

I sense that the inconsistent justifications given for the rejection (did one editorial board member object peremptorily, or was the “social commentary” concern shared by others?) are a product of the broader and longstanding intramural discord among conservative Catholics at Notre Dame. As Mariano highlights, it was precisely a member of the Rover editorial board who encouraged him to write his article, yet other(s) actively discouraged and rejected his effort. What explains this tension? Are we conservative Catholics at Notre Dame open to alternative viewpoints? Or are we more inclined to behave like the American Political Science Association and bar these viewpoints from our institutions? Are we willing be vulnerable to “collegial debate” within the walls of a playground that is Catholic truth?

Perhaps we are just confused? There is a certain degree of internal incoherence and unhealthy intransigence among Notre Dame’s Catholic conservatives which has reared its ugly head in times past: the unnecessarily divisive power politics involved in past elections of the Rover editorial board and Knights of Columbus officer corps; the Students for Child-Oriented Policy’s puzzling decision to reject the opt-in pornography filter on campus Wi-Fi offered by the University administration; the refusal by several attendees at various Basilica daily Masses last spring to wear a mask despite the admonitions of presiding priests and Basilica staff (including myself). I sense that the combative and reactionary impulse lurking behind these contentious moments of intramural discord is the same impulse that led to Mariano’s article being rejected.

Still, these points of tension tend to arise because of the reactionary tendencies of a minority of peculiarly forceful conservative Catholics, not the behavior of the whole body. Hence, I would disagree with Mariano’s assertion that the Rover “would rather weaponize their faith to sow the seeds of hate and division amongst the student body.” In my personal experience, the Rover as an institution has always been an excellently reputable and open-minded institution. The real problem is not that “they” are prejudiced, but that there are peculiarly powerful pockets of Notre Dame’s conservative Catholic community averse to the constructive contributions of alternative perspectives. That Mariano’s friend on the Rover staff encouraged him to write the article and saw it through the editing process should be evidence enough that knee-jerk reactionism does not characterize the Rover entirely and at all times.

Each side of the political spectrum should consider well-intentioned, alternative viewpoints and treat others, both within and outside of shared campus circles, with dignity and respect as brothers and sisters in Christ. “Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12).

Brennan Buhr

Notre Dame Law Class of 2023

Oct. 19

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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