Awakening on Catholic Campuses

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

The Obama Administration’s ruling that Catholic institutions, including schools, provide birth control, sterilization and abortificants on demand may have had a unifying effect they never bargained for—of Catholics against the policy.

Hundreds of Catholic college professors signed onto an open letter protesting the policy as a blatant breach of religious freedom. The signers were not swayed by the “compromise” suggested by the White House that institutions do not have to provide all of the above directly.

“T he Obama administration has offered what it has styled as an ‘accommodation’ for religious institutions in the dispute over the HHS mandate for coverage (without cost sharing) of abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception,” the letter reads. “The administration will now require that all insurance plans cover (‘cost free’) these same products and services.”

“Once a religiously-affiliated (or believing individual) employer purchases insurance (as it must, by law), the insurance company will then contact the insured employees to advise them that the terms of the policy include coverage for these objectionable things. This so-called ‘accommodation’ changes nothing of moral substance and fails to remove the assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience which gave rise to the controversy.” The Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty distributed the letter.

Two hundred and fifteen professors and administrators from Catholic colleges and universities signed the letter. Most notable were the 89 signatories from Notre Dame alone, particularly the Gary Anderson, the Hesburgh professor of theology at ND.

The Hesburgh chair is named after the long-time president of Notre Dame, Father Theodore Hesburgh, who, in the 1960s chaired a conference at Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin in which the presidents of the major Catholic colleges and universities announced their independence from authority, lay and clerical—a categorization that encompassed both the U. S. government and the Vatican.

Since that time, Notre Dame has invited every U. S. president to speak on its campus, including the avowedly pro-life Ronald Reagan and the determinedly pro-choice Bill Clinton. It is a favorite speaking spot of our current chief executive, much to the consternation of traditionally Catholic pro-life alumni.

Thus for the professor who holds the position that is named for the president who, arguably, helped lead Catholic colleges and universities away from the Vatican to sign onto what amounts to a Catholic declaration of conscience indicates a seismic shift on Catholic campuses. Arguably the trend is toward a more traditional understanding of the mission of Catholic education.

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

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