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Sen. Feinstein questions Catholic judicial nominee: ‘Dogma lives loudly within you’ — Updated

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, spurred outrage about possible religious tests for judicial appointees when she questioned a Catholic judicial nominee Sept. 6 about what impact her faith would have on her interpretation of the law.

Reaction from Catholic leaders to the hearing for Amy Coney Barrett, nominee for a seat on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. was swift, with a leading archbishop calling the Senate hearing “deeply disappointing.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, is seen in Washington Sept. 7. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

In the hearing, Feinstein not only referred to Barrett’s speeches in the committee hearing, but also to a 1998 article by Barrett, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, about the role of Catholic judges in death penalty cases.

The Marquette Law Review article, co-authored by John H. Garvey, who is now president of The Catholic University of America, concluded that although Catholic judges opposed to the death penalty could always simply recuse themselves under federal law, “litigants and the general public are entitled to impartial justice, which may be something a judge who is heedful of ecclesiastical pronouncements cannot dispense.”

Feinstein did not question Barrett about capital punishment cases, but rather the upholding of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal.

“When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And, that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.”

Barrett addressed this issue early in the hearing, answering a question from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, by saying: “It is never appropriate for a judge to apply their personal convictions, whether it derives from faith or personal conviction.”

Richard Garnett, also a University of Notre Dame law professor, said Feinstein’s line of questioning seemed to say “because you’re a Catholic, you can’t be believed.”

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, said the hearing was “deeply disappointing” since a number of senators failed to “simply consider the professional achievements of a nominee for the federal judiciary” and instead “challenged her fitness to serve due to her Catholic faith.”

In a Sept. 8 statement, the archbishop said the line of questioning Barrett received was “contrary to our Constitution and our best national traditions, which protect the free exercise of one’s faith and reject religious tests for public office, they are offensive to basic human rights.”

Garvey was among the first to respond in print to the hearing.

“I never thought I’d see the day when a coalition of left-wing groups attacked a Republican judicial nominee for opposing the death penalty,” he wrote in a Sept. 7 opinion article for the Washington Examiner.

“Catholic judges are not alone in facing such dilemmas. An observant Quaker would have the same problem. And I like to think that any federal judge would have had moral objections to enforcing the fugitive slave laws Congress passed before the Civil War.”

Garvey and others accused Feinstein of echoing talking points from The Alliance for Justice, a liberal advocacy group that has prepared reports on all of Trump’s judicial nominees.

The Alliance report on Barrett said she “has avoided definitive public statements on Roe v. Wade” but added, referring to the 1998 article as well as other “positions and philosophies,” that she held “the astonishing view that judges should place their religious beliefs ahead of the Constitution when carrying out their duties.”

“Barrett (and I) said no such thing,” Garvey wrote. “We said precisely the opposite.”

“I suspect what really troubled (the senators) is that, as a Catholic, her pro-life views might extend beyond criminal defendants to the unborn. If true, the focus on our law review article is all the more puzzling. After all, our point was that judges should respect the law, even laws they disagree with. And if they can’t enforce them, they should recuse themselves.”

The report also criticizes Barrett for signing a letter, produced by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, that criticized the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate as “morally obtuse.”

Eric Rassbach, the Becket Fund’s deputy general counsel, issued a statement in response: “It’s not something you could sue her over, but Sen. Feinstein would break her oath to defend the Constitution, including the part about no religious tests, if she were to vote against Barrett because of her Catholic religious beliefs.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, D- Illinois, a Georgetown University graduate, added fuel to the fire when, after calling himself “the product of 19 years of Catholic education,” he brought up the use of the term “orthodox Catholic” in Barrett’s law review article. He asked Barrett to define the term and to say if she considered herself an “orthodox” Catholic.

Barrett explained that in the context of the article, the term was “a proxy” for Catholic believers, but she didn’t think it was a term in current use.

She added, “If you’re asking whether I take my faith seriously and am a faithful Catholic, I am. Although I would stress that my present church affiliation or my religious beliefs would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.”

Durbin responded, “I happen to think Pope Francis is a pretty good Catholic.”

“I agree with you,” Barrett responded, smiling.

Archbishop Lori said the questions to Barrett “sadly, harken back to a time in our country when anti-Catholic bigotry did distort our laws and civil order.”

He wondered if the senators’ questions were meant “as a warning shot” for future law students and attorneys not to discuss their faith in a public forum at a time when “we should be encouraging faithful, ethical attorneys to serve in public office, not discouraging them by subjecting them to inappropriate, unnecessary interrogation based on their religious beliefs.”

Meanwhile, Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, sent a letter to Feinstein Sept. 9 expressing “my confidence in her competence and character, and deep concern for your line of questioning.

He challenged Feinstein’s stated concern that “dogma lives loudly in (Professor Barrett)” when it pertains to “big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.” He wrote that “dogma lives loudly” in his heart as well as “in the lives of many Americans, some of whom have given their lives in service to this nation.” He said dogma guided the country’s founders, who believed citizens should practice “their faith freely and without apology.”

“Professor Barrett has made it clear that she would ‘follow unflinchingly’ all legal precedent and, in rare cases in which her conscience would not allow her to do so, she would recuse herself. I can assure that she is a person of integrity who acts in accord with the principles she articulates,” the letter said.

Christopher L. Eisgruber, president of Princeton University, also expressed concern with the line of questioning during Barrett’s hearing.

He wrote in a letter to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Sept. 8 that he was committed to free speech and that he felt that Barrett’s willingness to write “candidly and intelligently about difficult and sensitive ethical questions” makes her an even stronger candidate for the bench.

Archbishop Lori said the questions to Barrett “sadly, harken back to a time in our country when anti-Catholic bigotry did distort our laws and civil order.”

He wondered if the senators’ questions were meant “as a warning shot” for future law students and attorneys not to discuss their faith in a public forum at a time when “we should be encouraging faithful, ethical attorneys to serve in public office, not discouraging them by subjecting them to inappropriate, unnecessary interrogation based on their religious beliefs.”

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Stamp honors Father Hesburgh, former Notre Dame president

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A postage stamp honoring Holy Cross Father Theodore M. Hesburgh, president of the University of Notre Dame from 1952 to 1987, was issued during a ceremony at the school Sept. 1.

The hour-long event featured several speakers, including Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state and a 1975 Notre Dame graduate, Postmaster General Megan Brennan and Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, university president. Read more »

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Just-war tests not met in North Korea situation, ethicists say

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The just-war criteria that would justify armed conflict with North Korea over its nuclear testing and threats to launch missiles have not been met, said ethicists interviewed by Catholic News Service.

Those criteria include right intention, last resort and proportionality.

Lightning strikes near Minot Air Force Base in Minot, North Dakota, Aug. 8. The Pentagon has put all U.S. military installations on alert in the wake of North Korea’s threats about using missiles. (CNS photo/U.S. Air Force via Reuters)

“Preventive war in North Korea would be morally unjustifiable,” said Gerard Powers, director of Catholic Peacebuilding Studies at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. “That’s what the Trump administration is proposing, the preventive use of military force.

“As it was in Iraq, it is a major departure from international legal norms and ethics, and accepted ethical norms on the use of force,” he added. “Bellicose rantings by North Korea, or anyone else, don’t constitute just cause for the use of force.”

“Preventive was is a war of aggression. The possible use of nuclear weapons takes it to a whole new order of magnitude,” Powers continued. “The U.S. bishops have said for many years that nuclear war is morally impermissible. The Second Vatican Council said the destruction of whole cities, which is what would happen in a nuclear war, was a full condemnation. … That’s what would be inevitable if there were to be a nuclear war with North Korea.

“So a nuclear war would be morally reprehensible. Period.”

“If you look at the criteria of the (just-war) principles, there has to be just cause and the right intention. There has to be proportionality. We’re talking about going to war,” said Necla Tschirgi, a professor of human security and peacebuilding, at the University of San Diego.

“President (Donald) Trump has been threatening North Korea with extermination on the grounds that they have nuclear weapons,” Tschirgi added. “There’s a question of proportionality, a question of last resort, the criteria of probability of success, proper authority and all these things are really to be questioned very closely where we are in relationship with North Korea at this point in time.”

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, there are four conditions for a war to be just, all of which must be met: The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave and certain; all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; there must be serious prospects of success; and the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders greater than the evil to be eliminated.

Tschirgi said the Vatican is currently considering whether any war can be considered just, given the power of modern weapons of war, such as the nuclear missiles at issue with North Korea.

“North Korea has nuclear capabilities,” Tschirgi told CNS. “Many administrations have been dealing with this problem through different strategies.”

Those strategies have been met with limited success. Western nations have complained that North Korea is unpredictable, but North Korea expert Andrew Yeo, an associate professor of politics at The Catholic University of America in Washington, said North Korea’s mindset is not that of other nations.

That, according to Yeo, can be traced to the Korean War of the early 1950s. North Korea signed the armistice to end the war, but South Korea refused, lest it be seen as legitimizing the North Korean government. South Korea hopes for a reunified Korea, which is opposite of the intent of the ruling Kim family of North Korea; Kim Jong Un has headed the north since the death five years ago of his father, Kim Jong Il.

North Korea embraces an “us against the world” mentality that makes it look askance at most foreign aid. Even the 1994-98 famine didn’t result in an opening to other nations, but Kim Jong Il allowed his countrymen to grow crops on their land to sell at strictly regulated markets. Since pay for all jobs in North Korea is severely stratified and pretty much frozen in place, lower-income Koreans put in less effort at their state-given jobs and more in their entrepreneurial endeavors. Yeo said.

“Their rationale is to survive and the best way to do that is through nuclear weapons,” he added about the country’s leaders. Engagement doesn’t work “because usually the assumptions in the past are if you engage with North Korea you start with a freeze and you get North Korea to halt its nuclear tests. Over time you might be able to reward North Korea with economic aid or humanitarian assistance.” Until now, though, Yeo said, no one has been able to convince North Korea that “there’s a better way forward than being a nuclear pariah state.”

Still, said Joseph Capizzi, a professor of moral theology at Catholic University, “we’re not at the situation where we’ve exhausted diplomacy, which seems to be gaining some traction. The Chinese are interested in exerting diplomatic force. North Korea seems to be backing away from its mention of Guam” as a target for one of its nuclear missiles.

“The (just-war) criterion we’re thinking through here is last resort,” Capizzi said. “Are we at last resort where the only means is military means? No.”

Since it has been 72 years since the only nuclear weapons were ever deployed in warfare, most people in the world have little idea of the destruction such a bomb would wreak.

“On the other hand,” Capizzi said, “there are people in North Korea, South Korea and parts of Vietnam who lived through the experience of civilian bombing that was associated with those campaigns, that it was similar enough that it would be in their memories and provoke significant anxiety about any contest between the United States and North Korea. 

“That’s a very important factor that looms in the background about the force, or threat of force, either by North Korea or the United States.”

     

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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Amid political polarization, stay calm and reclaim civility

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Political polarization in America has recently peaked, according to surveys conducted by Pew Research Center and Gallup, among others.

In a time where such polarization threatens civility in public discourse, Catholic leaders in interviews with Catholic News Service called for respect and trust in dialogue and awareness of the opinions of those with whom one disagrees.

Protesters show their opposition to supporters of conservative author Anne Coulter and U.S. President Donald Trump at the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley, Calif. Political polarization in America has recently peaked, according to surveys conducted by Pew Research Center and Gallup, among others. (CNS photo/John G. Mabanglo, EPA)

Protesters show their opposition to supporters of conservative author Anne Coulter and U.S. President Donald Trump at the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley, Calif. Political polarization in America has recently peaked, according to surveys conducted by Pew Research Center and Gallup, among others. (CNS photo/John G. Mabanglo, EPA)

“There’s been a coarsening of the culture,” Gerard Powers, director of Catholic Peacebuilding Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, told CNS in a phone interview. “Civility requires a commitment to common social mores and social norms that undergird the culture. It’s not something you can legislate.”

Powers, who also is coordinator of the Catholic Peacebuilding Network based at the university, explained the importance of listening to opinions that may contradict one’s own.

“In most cases, violent conflicts end through negotiation and dialogue,” Powers said. “That’s why the Catholic Church has always placed such a high premium on faith and dialogue.”

Sister Patricia Chappell, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, who is executive director of Pax Christi USA, agreed that civility has declined in society today.

“I think that the media also plays into it,” said Sister Patricia. “But there’s a sense that we’re no longer responsible for each other as being our sisters’ and brothers’ keepers. There’s a sense that it’s OK to abuse, injure, destroy, damage other people.”

Pax Christi USA, Sister Patricia said, consistently facilitates dialogues between people who differ in their views.

“What we try to do is to actually try to really listen and hear what the individual is saying, and to do that in a way, in a manner that’s also with integrity and with respect,” Sister Patricia said.

John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, also argued that civility is about respect, adding that one must respect both differing viewpoints and the motives behind them.

“I think civility is about respect,” Carr said. “It’s about giving people the benefit of the doubt. It’s about not challenging people’s motives. It’s about trying to understand what people are saying before you go after them, and that should be the basics, but unfortunately we’ve lost that. We’ve certainly lost that in political debates of this country, and frankly some of that polarization in the country is spilling over into the community of faith, and that’s bad for all of us.”

Raised in a bipartisan household with a Republican mother and a Democratic father, Carr explained that through this upbringing he learned that those with differing political ideologies can find a great deal of common ground.

“I learned at an early age that we can express our convictions and act on our faith in different ways and different parties, and I guess I learned from there that no one side, no one party, no one perspective, is always right, and a little humility plus a little conviction, and we’d all be better off,” Carr said.

At times, however, it is more difficult to find common ground. If people are at odds, Sister Patricia explained, it is possible for them to disagree in a civil manner without moving toward personal attacks.

“I think there is such a thing as civil dialogue,” Sister Patricia said. “I believe in mediation, I believe in the ability we have to agree to disagree, but never should we denigrate or dehumanize another individual or a community or a nation of people.”

This tendency to dehumanize the other is not lost on Jesuit Father Michael Sheeran, president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. Though disagreement may be inevitable, he explained, one can disagree without belittling the other. To facilitate this civil disagreement, Father Sheeran explained the importance of viewing an opposing party as another human.

“Sometimes the dialogue needs to be even on a confidential level so that you can come to believe the other party is not made up of ogres,” Father Sheeran said.

For civil dialogue to be successful, Sister Patricia advocates for active listening informed by respect and integrity and being free of “fear of the other,” such as other races or religious beliefs.

This fear, Powers argues, often becomes exacerbated in times of national crises.

“Now when there are national security threats, it’s mostly a cause not for people to rally around the flag, but it’s an opportunity for polarization,” Powers said.

Though the nation is polarized, Sister Patricia retains hope for a future of civil discourse grounded upon the premise that more unites us as humans than divides us.

“I honestly believe that as human beings, we have more in common than we do differences,” Sister Patricia said.

The Catholic Church itself, Carr said, has unique assets to bring to the realm of civil public discourse, political or otherwise.

“First of all, we have a set of ideas,” Carr said. “We’ve been thinking about human life and dignity, about solidarity, about care for the poor, care for creation since Genesis.”

“We also have a lot of experience,” Carr said. “Think about it. Who feeds the hungry? Who shelters the homeless? Who educates young people? Who cares for the sick? We do.

“So we ought to bring our experience and our ideas in the public debate,” he continued, “and I think in an open forum we have a great chance to prevail because of who we are, because of what we believe, because we’re credible and consistent. And so we ought to welcome an open discussion. We ought to be against shutting down speech. We ought to be for a civil, principled, pluralistic discussion of who we are and what we believe, because we have a lot to bring to that discussion.”

— By Carolyn Mackenzie

 

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Backgrounder: Study of women becoming deacons won’t be the first, but it might find answers

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — When Pope Francis accepted a proposal at the Vatican May 12 to form a commission to study the possibility of women serving as deacons today, it generated plenty of buzz.

The pope’s agreement on the idea, raised by members of the International Union of Superiors General, the leadership group for superiors of women’s orders, was interpreted by some as a thumbs-up to women deacons and eventually women priests, which the Vatican spokesman was quick to rebut the next day. Read more »

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Hundreds at Notre Dame honor memory of Father Hesburgh

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Catholic News Service

NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Ryan Leahy of Chicago walked up to an employee on the snow-covered campus of the University of Notre Dame March 3 and asked her to take a photo of him and his family members in front of the school’s iconic gold dome.

Though the family reunion of sorts was chronicled with that snapshot, they came together for another well-known Notre Dame pillar.

Students wait in line March 3 outside the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of the University of Notre Dame  to pay their respects at a visitation for Holy Cross Father Theodore Hesburgh, former Notre Dame president. Father Hesburgh died Feb. 26 at age 97 in the Holy Cross House adjacent to the university in Indiana. (CNS photo/Barbara Johnston, University of Notre Dame)

Students wait in line March 3 outside the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of the University of Notre Dame to pay their respects at a visitation for Holy Cross Father Theodore Hesburgh, former Notre Dame president. Father Hesburgh died Feb. 26 at age 97 in the Holy Cross House adjacent to the university in Indiana. (CNS photo/Barbara Johnston, University of Notre Dame)

They traveled from different regions of the U.S. to attend two days of services honoring the life of their friend, Holy Cross Father Theodore M. Hesburgh, the longest serving president of the university, from 1952 to 1987, who died Feb. 26 at the age of 97.

As Ryan Leahy huddled with his brother Patrick and father James, both of who traveled from Yakima, Washington, they took a moment to discuss with Catholic News Service their family’s connection with Father Ted and his legacy.

“My father, who was Frank Leahy, the athletic director and head football coach here and Father Ted Hesburgh had a very interesting relationship,” said James Leahy, a 1969 graduate of Notre Dame.

When Father Hesburgh arrived at Notre Dame in the 1940s, the Indiana Catholic campus was best known for its football excellence, and when he became president of the school in 1952, he vowed to turn the university into great academic institution, “which of course he did,” James Leahy said.

“He and my father probably had conflict over the importance of football and academics,” James Leahy said, and the two men later concluded that both were important for the success of Notre Dame.

The Leahys were among hundreds of people who arrived at the Indiana campus on the cold and dreary day of March 3 to pay tribute to Father Hesburgh, who is not only credited with transforming Notre Dame into one of the nation’s premier higher-education institutions, he was considered a trailblazer in civil and human rights.

Father Hesburgh’s work with several popes and U.S. presidents was highlighted during an evening wake service March 3 at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the Notre Dame campus.

When he was appointed to serve on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who created it, the priest “did not have much experience in this great scourge on American rights,” said Holy Cross Father Edward A. Malloy during the wake service. “But, he was a quick learner.”

Father Malloy, who succeeded Father Hesburgh as Notre Dame’s president and served in the post until June 2005, recalled an image of Father Hesburgh linking arms with civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and singing, “We Shall Overcome”; his work on immigration reform; his realized vision to create an institute of peace at Notre Dame; and his tireless work for nuclear disarmament.

Throughout the course of his life, Father Hesburgh played a “providential role in the great events of our time,” Father Malloy told the people who packed the basilica for the wake.

A portrait of the late Notre Dame president was illuminated by flickering candles placed near the altar.

Faculty members, clergy, politicians, peace activists and Notre Dame alumni stepped up to pray in front of Father Hesburgh’s open casket, prompting Father Malloy to say how delighted he was to see such a cross section of society at the service and gathered on the campus.

His vision for great Catholic universities was a lifelong mission, Father Malloy said, and then quoted Father Hesburgh’s line that “a Catholic university is a place where the church does its thinking.”

The wake did not appear to be a sad event, but a celebration of life well lived.

Former President Jimmy Carter, his wife, Rosalynn, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were scheduled to speak during a March 4 tribute to Father Hesburgh, following a funeral procession from the basilica to the burial site at the Holy Cross Community Cemetery.

Above all, Father Hesburgh loved being a priest, Father Malloy said.

“He was a man of prayer,” he celebrated Mass every day and he would invite people of other religious faiths, atheists, Russian politicos and others to join him, Father Malloy said. “He tried to be a pastor to anyone who came into his presence.”

– – –

A related video has been posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=grKZd0DGIOM.

 

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Father Theodore Hesburgh, Notre Dame icon, national leader, dies — updated

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Holy Cross Father Theodore M. Hesburgh, who led the University of Notre Dame through a period of dramatic growth during his 35 years as president and held sway with political and civil rights leaders, died Feb. 26 at the age of 97.

Holy Cross Father Theodore Hesburgh, former president of the University of Notre Dame, died Feb. 26 at age 97 in the Holy Cross House adjacent to the university in South Bend, Ind. He is pictured in a 2006 photo. (CNS photo/Matt Cashore, courtesy University of Notre Dame)

Holy Cross Father Theodore Hesburgh, former president of the University of Notre Dame, died Feb. 26 at age 97 in the Holy Cross House adjacent to the university in South Bend, Ind. He is pictured in a 2006 photo. (CNS photo/Matt Cashore, courtesy University of Notre Dame)

As the longest serving president of Notre Dame, from 1952 to 1987, Father Hesburgh built the university from a small college primarily known for its prowess on the football field into one of the nation’s premier higher education institutions.

In announcing the highly regarded priest’s death, the university did not cite a specific cause.

 

A funeral Mass for Father Hesburgh was to be celebrated the afternoon of March 4 at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the Notre Dame campus, with the Mass also streamed on the university’s homepage: www.nd.edu. Classes beginning after noon March 4 have been canceled.

Following the funeral a procession was planned from the basilica to the Holy Cross Community Cemetery for his burial. The university also planned to hold a tribute ceremony that evening in Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center.

 

“We mourn today a great man and faithful priest who transformed the University of Notre Dame and touched the lives of many,” Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame’s current president, said in a statement. “With his leadership, charism and vision, he turned a relatively small Catholic college known for football into one of the nation’s great institutions for higher learning.

“In his historic service to the nation, the church and the world, he was a steadfast champion for human rights, the cause of peace and care for the poor,” he said.

Father Hesburgh was born May 25, 1917, in Syracuse, New York, to Anne Murphy Hesburgh and Theodore B. Hesburgh, an executive of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co.

He was educated at Notre Dame and Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University. He was ordained a priest of the Congregation of the Holy Cross in 1943 in Sacred Heart Church, today the basilica, on the Notre Dame campus. He received a doctorate in sacred theology from The Catholic University of America in 1945.

After doctoral studies he joined the university faculty, teaching in the religion department, and served as chaplain to World War II veterans on campus. In 1949 he was appointed executive vice president of Notre Dame. He became the university’s 15th president in 1952.

Under his presidency, the university budget grew from $9.7 million to $176.6 million while the endowment expanded from $9 million to $350 million. Enrollment increased from 4,979 students to 9,600 and the faculty expanded from 389 to 950.

In 1967, he oversaw the transference of governance of the school from the Congregation of the Holy Cross to a two-tiered, mixed board of lay and religious trustees and fellows. The school also admitted women to undergraduate programs beginning in 1972.

Father Hesburgh also played an influential role in national and international affairs both during and after his presidency. He held 16 presidential appointments over the years, tackling major social issues including civil rights, immigration reform, peaceful uses of atomic energy, campus unrest, treatment of Vietnam draft evaders and development in the world’s poorest nations.

He was a charter member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights when it was created in 1957 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He chaired the body from 1969 until 1972 when President Richard Nixon dismissed him over his criticism of the administration’s civil rights record.

The Holy Cross priest also served on President Gerald R. Ford’s Clemency Board, which was responsible for deciding the fate of Vietnam offenders.

His work on the two commissions led to the creation of the Center for Civil & Human Rights at Notre Dame Law School.

During a tribute on Capitol Hill in 2013, congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle honored Father Hesburgh days before his 96th birthday. Vice President Joe Biden said during the gathering that he ran for public office at the age of 29 in 1972 because of Father Hesburgh’s passion for civil rights. “You’re one of the reasons I’ve been so proud to be a Catholic,” Biden told Father Hesburgh.

Other elected officials at the event praised Father Hesburgh as an inspiration for all people in public office.

Father Hesburgh served on the Overseas Development Council, a private organization supporting interests in developing nations, beginning in 1971 and chaired it until 1982. He led efforts to overcome mass starvation in Cambodia in 1979 and 1980. From 1979 to 1981, he chaired the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy, which issued recommendations which became the basis of congressional reform legislation several years later.

During the Cold War in the early 1980s, Father Hesburgh joined a private initiative which sought to unite internationally known scientists and world religious leaders in condemning nuclear weapons. He organized a 1982 meeting at the Vatican of 58 scientists from around the world who called for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Father Hesburgh served four popes, including three as the Vatican’s permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna from 1956 to 1970. Blessed Paul VI asked him to build the Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem, which the university continues to operate. Father Hesburgh also served as head of the Vatican delegation attending the 20th anniversary of the United Nations’ human rights declaration in Teheran, Iran, in 1968. He also served as a member of the Holy See’s U.N. contingent in 1974.

In 1983, St. John Paul II appointed the Holy Cross priest to the Pontifical Council for Culture.

He also served as a trustee and chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation. He became ambassador to the 1979 U.N. Conference on Science and Technology for Development, the first time a priest served in a formal diplomatic role for the U.S. government.

In addition, Father Hesburgh served on several commissions and study groups in the field of education. He served as chairman of the International Federation of Catholic Universities from 1963 to 1970, leading a movement to redefine the nature and mission of contemporary Catholic education.

He holds 150 honorary degrees and was the first priest elected to the Board of Overseers of Harvard University, serving for two years, from 1994 to 1995, as president of the board. He also co-chaired the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics in its efforts to reform college sports, from 1990 to 2003.

Father Hesburgh wrote an autobiography, “God, Country and Notre Dame,” published in 1990 and three other books, including “The Human Imperative: A Challenge for the Year 2000,” “The Hesburgh Papers: Higher Values in Higher Education” and “Travels with Ted and Ned.”

He is survived by a brother, James. Three sisters preceded him in death.

The university said it was planning a tribute ceremony in Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center in the near future.

 

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Father McBrien, theologian and columnist, dies

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Father Richard P. McBrien, a retired professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame and who was chair of the university’s theology department for 11 years, died Jan. 25 at age 78 in his native Connecticut.

A Jan. 25 announcement by the university said Father McBrien had died after a long illness, but did not specify the cause of death.

Father Richard McBrien, moral theologian and retired University of Notre Dame theology professor, died Jan. 25 at age 78. Father McBrien had been seriously ill for several years and had moved recently from South Bend, Ind., to his native Connecticut.  (CNS photo/courtesy University of Notre Dame)

Father Richard McBrien, moral theologian and retired University of Notre Dame theology professor, died Jan. 25 at age 78. Father McBrien had been seriously ill for several years and had moved recently from South Bend, Ind., to his native Connecticut. (CNS photo/courtesy University of Notre Dame)

A wake and visitation for the priest was scheduled for the afternoon and evening of Jan. 29 at the Church of St. Helena in West Hartford, Connecticut. His funeral Mass was to be celebrated Jan. 30 at the same church. Notre Dame said a memorial Mass would be celebrated on its campus in the coming weeks.

In addition to his teaching, Father McBrien wrote 25 books as well as a weekly syndicated column, “Essays in Theology,” for the Catholic press for nearly 50 years.

His writings often raised hackles among Catholics from the pews all the way to Rome.

“While often controversial, his work came from a deep love of and hope for the church,” said a Jan. 25 statement from Holy Cross Father Jerry Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president.

Ordained in 1962 as a priest for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, Father McBrien joined the Notre Dame faculty in 1980. He also was a past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America and a recipient of its John Courtney Murray Award for “outstanding and distinguished achievement in theology.”

Among his books is “Catholicism,” first published in 1980 with a study edition issued shortly thereafter, plus a thoroughly revised edition in 1994.

In 1985, the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine praised the “many positive features” of the book but criticized its treatment of some points of church teaching and called for clarification and revision of several elements it found “confusing and ambiguous” or “not supportive of the church’s authoritative teaching as would be expected” in such a book.

After the 1994 edition was published, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asked the U.S. bishops to look into it. A staff review said the new edition gave insufficient weight to church teaching in some areas, including homosexuality, contraception and women’s ordination. It questioned use of the book as a text for beginning theology students, adding the new edition “had not corrected the ambiguities identified” in the second edition. Father McBrien criticized the doctrinal committee for turning down his request for a formal doctrinal dialogue he sought.

Other books of Father McBrien’s include 2008’s “The Church: The Evolution of Catholicism”; 1997’s “Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs From St. Peter to John Paul II”; 1996’s “Responses to 101 Questions of the Church” and 1995’s “Encyclopedia of Catholicism,” both of which won Catholic Press Association book awards for best popular presentation of the Catholic faith; and 1992’s “Report on the Church: Catholicism After Vatican II.”

A St. Francis de Sales Award finalist in 1993, Father McBrien received a certificate in 1991 for the 25th anniversary of his syndicated column.

Not that the columns were without controversy. Some readers of diocesan Catholic newspapers sought to have the priest’s column pulled from their pages.

One bishop, then-Bishop James P. Keleher of Belleville, Illinois, canceled it — the first time he said he had ever intervened as publisher in the business of his diocesan paper. “After many years of difficult reflection on the matter,” he said at the time, he pulled the column as “chief teacher of our local church,” because he felt it “frequently challenged what I want to be communicated to my people.” His decision prompted a published disagreement from the editor and a host of letters, most of them against the move.

Father McBrien weighed in on many topics affecting the church.

At a 1993 conference in Chicago, he said that without diminishing the pain suffered by victims of clergy abuse, those who claim that “we are the church” must address the injustices committed against those who actively minister and work for the church. Calling his approach a “consistent ethic of justice,” Father McBrien said the church must “practice in its own household what it preaches to others.”

In a 2002 address, Father McBrien said clergy sexual abuse was caused by deeper, compulsive and addictive behavior and by the “mystery of evil.” He said some Catholics insist that the crisis was caused by lack of fidelity to church teachings on human sexuality and that offenders are homosexuals encouraged by liberal seminary faculties.

If dissent were the cause of sexual abuse, he argued, why were “orthodox priests” accused of engaging in it? And if sexual abuse was linked with homosexuality, “what evidence is there that liberals are more inclined to be gay?” he asked.

 

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Pope tells Notre Dame trustees that Catholic identity must be clear

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Catholic universities must give “uncompromising” and “unambiguous” witness to church teaching and defend themselves from all efforts to dilute their Catholic identity, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis greets Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, during a meeting with members of the board of trustees and other Notre Dame officials at the Vatican Jan. 30. Catholic universities must give “uncompromising” and “unambiguous” witness to church teaching and defend themselves from all efforts to dilute their Catholic identity, Pope Francis said in his address at the meeting. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Catholic universities, “by their very nature, are committed to demonstrating the harmony of faith and reason and the relevance of the Christian message for a full and authentically human life,” he said in an audience with members of the board of trustees of the University of Notre Dame and other officials.

The pope met Jan. 30 with some 130 people representing the Indiana-based Catholic university, who were in Rome for the inauguration of the university’s new Rome center.

Speaking in Italian, Pope Francis praised the university, saying it “has made an outstanding contribution to the church in your country through its commitment to the religious education of the young and to serious scholarship inspired by confidence in the harmony of faith and reason in the pursuit of truth and virtue.”

He said the institution’s original vision, guided by its religious founders of the Congregation of Holy Cross, “remains, in the changed circumstances of the 21st century, central to the university’s distinctive identity and its service to the church and American society.”

Catholic identity and missionary discipleship are critical, the pope said, and need to be evident in the way Catholics live and in the workings of all Catholic institutions.

Catholic universities play a special role in being faithful missionaries of the Gospel because of their commitment to showing the compatibility of faith and reason, and showing how the Christian message offers people a fuller, more authentic human life, he said.

“Essential in this regard is the uncompromising witness of Catholic universities to the church’s moral teaching, and the defense of her freedom, precisely in and through her institutions, to uphold that teaching as authoritatively proclaimed by the magisterium of her pastors,” he said.

“It is my hope that the University of Notre Dame will continue to offer unambiguous testimony to this aspect of its foundational Catholic identity, especially in the face of efforts, from whatever quarter, to dilute that indispensable witness,” he said.

The pope then looked up from his prepared text and told his audience in Italian, “This is important: Your own identity, as it was intended from the beginning, to defend it, preserve it, carry it forward,” he said.

Though the pope made no references to any controversies, the University of Notre Dame had reignited a heated debate about maintaining the Catholic identity of U.S. Catholic institutions of higher education when it invited President Barack Obama to deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary law degree in 2009.

Several U.S. bishops and other critics said Obama’s support of legal abortion and embryonic stem-cell research made him an inappropriate choice to be commencement speaker at a Catholic university.

More recently, a Notre Dame professor, Gary Gutting, wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times Jan. 23 calling on Pope Francis to rethink the church’s absolute opposition to abortion. In many cases, abortions are immoral, the Catholic professor of philosophy said, but “this by no means implies that most abortions actually performed are immoral,” particularly in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape or when the life of the mother is in danger.

A group of university alumni have also expressed concern about the institution’s decision to comply with the federal Affordable Care Act, which requires employer-provided health insurance to include coverage of contraceptives, sterilizations and other types of birth control opponents say can induce an abortion, while the university continues its lawsuit against the mandate.

In the homily at Mass in the chapel of his residence that morning, Pope Francis focused on the importance of humility and fidelity to the church and its teaching.

“The first fruit of baptism is to make you belong to the church, to the people of God,” he said, according to Vatican Radio.

That’s why it is “absurd” to imagine a Christian who loves Christ, but doesn’t love, listen to or stay close to his church, he said.

People who follow the Gospel their own way without the church are living “a fantasy,” he said, “an absurd dichotomy.”

Humility is needed to feel part of the church, he said, because a person who isn’t humble “will hear what she or he likes” and not what God and the church really say.

“We receive the Gospel message as a gift and we have to pass it on as a gift, but not as something that is ours; what we give is a gift received” from Jesus, the pope said.

People need to be faithful “to the church, to its teaching, to the Creed, to doctrine, to safeguard doctrine” as they seek to live it and hand it on to others, he said.

Christians don’t “become masters of the Gospel, masters of received doctrine, to use it as we like,” he said.

 

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Reasons for hope in trying times for women

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — In what the organizer described as “an experiment in hope in trying times,” a prominent theologian and another speaker known for her work in international women’s rights told an audience at Georgetown University March 24 that there are reasons to think things can get better for women in the church and in the world.

University of Notre Dame theologian M. Cathleen Kaveny and Melanne Verveer, U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues, told a symposium sponsored by the Woodstock Theological Center of reasons for hope for women.

In opening remarks, Dolores Leckey, Woodstock senior fellow, said the idea for the symposium began forming at the time of the death of Monika Hellwig, a longtime Georgetown theology professor and former head of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. Hellwig had just begun a stint at Woodstock when she died in 2005. Leckey noted that many in the audience, the vast majority of whom were women, had longtime connections to Hellwig, to each other and to the two main speakers.

Verveer, who worked at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops along with Leckey more than 20 years ago, described learning firsthand about the struggles of women around the world through her position at the State Department and through her previous job as chief of staff to then-first lady Hillary Clinton.

Speaking at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, Clinton in a keynote address said “this is a time to break the silence” on the many ways women’s rights are abused around the world, Verveer said. She cited a litany of injustices to women including killings over inadequate dowries, murders of girl babies, slavery, child marriages, rape as a tool of war and others.

The message from Clinton’s speech then and the continual theme underlying the creation of Verveer’s position at the State Department, which Clinton now heads as secretary, is: “Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights,” she said.

Verveer said that ideal is far from being realized. Women and children make up the majority of the world’s people living in poverty and the majority with limited access to health care. Violence against women is a global problem, she said.

But where women are able to take positions of power they become agents of change for improving the lives of other women and others who are usually on the receiving end of grief, she said.

Verveer gave examples of women she’d come to know: A Moroccan whose dissatisfaction over lacking rights in a divorce led her to collect more than a million signatures to help change the law; a young Yemeni woman who started her activist career as 9-year-old who was married off to a violent older man, but got away by herself to find a woman lawyer who took up her case; and a Saudi woman who was one of the first to sue to end that nation’s guardianship laws and get the vote for women.

“Investing in women and girls is one of the most power forces for changing the globe,” Verveer said. “No country can get ahead if it leaves half its population behind.”

Kaveny, a civil lawyer as well as a theologian, addressed the issue of women in leadership from a church-focused approach. She told of trying to answer her young niece’s question on the eve of her first Communion about why some people don’t go to church.

Settling on the explanation that some people get mad at the church for different reasons, Kaveny said, she answered the girl’s follow-up question of “why?” by offering the example of “well, some people don’t like it that there aren’t women priests.”

“This was news to her,” Kaveny quickly learned, and it outraged the 8-year-old, who had never had a reason to consider that she only knew male priests.

Kaveny said the exchange is an example of the “cognitive dissonance” that is one of the barriers the institutional church has to deal with in contemporary society.

When she was growing up in the 1970s, Kaveny said, the news was regularly filled with stories of women breaking barriers — first female Supreme Court justice, first female astronaut, first female leader of one country or another.

The idea that women couldn’t be priests was a part of her consciousness from very early on, she said. The church holds that it has no authority to ordain women.

Younger generations haven’t grown up with the sense of societal barriers for women, Kaveny noted, suggesting the church needs to be aware of that change as it tries to appeal to today’s women.

“The role of women in the church hasn’t been one of straight progress,” she said, giving examples from ancient times when women elders in early societies of Christians were given equal stature with men in some roles in the faith.

The “order of widows” was an early church structure in which well-respected widows were given stature including as teachers in the church, Kaveny said. And there were other examples of status for women in those early days.

“Of the 28 people Paul greeted in his letters (recorded in the New Testament) 10 were women,” Kaveny said. “What happened?”

She suggested that when the church went from operating under a household model, where women customarily had power and authority, to that of a “public” organization in the third century, the church gave into pressure to restrict women’s roles in that more public sphere.

 

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