Notre Dame, R.I.P.
I love Notre Dame — the Notre Dame that I knew. My father graduated from Notre Dame in 1930, and he was proud to send his sons there. It was there that I matured in my faith and became devoted to the Blessed Mother. It was there that I met and courted the woman I married two months after my graduation. It was there that I formed permanent friendships that have endured for more than fifty years. But I am now convinced that the proudly Catholic university I have loved exists only in memory.
In May my wife and I were horrified and moved to tears at the video footage showing small groups of people silently praying the Rosary being handcuffed and arrested by Notre Dame police. The “lawbreakers” were of varying ages, some quite elderly, many of whom continued to pray aloud as they were handcuffed and led to the police vans. Most striking was the arrest of an 80-year-old Catholic priest in clerical garb who was forcibly carried off as he pleaded with his captors, “Think what you’re doing! I’m a Catholic priest! This is Notre Dame!” These scenes would have been abhorrent to any right-thinking Catholic even if they had taken place on the property of an abortion clinic. But watching them take place in the shadow of the Golden Dome on the campus we love was heart-wrenching.
Along with other Catholic alumni, we questioned why the university was doing this. Notre Dame has never been a closed campus, and the groups targeted for arrest were so small that they were outnumbered by the police; they were so quiet that they were scarcely noticeable in the daily hustle and bustle of campus life. What could be the reason for such extreme measures if not to send a message to “the One who is soon to come” that, in deference to its guest, U.S. President Barack Obama, Notre Dame would, like Georgetown, cover up any indicators of Catholicism that might draw the attention of the media. Our tears were in part tears of mourning, as though a loved one had died, but the sentiment went much deeper. It was not just a sense of loss, but a sense of betrayal.
Fr. Edward Sorin established Notre Dame more than 150 years ago as a place where the sons of poor Catholic immigrants could grow in their knowledge of God and their faith while maturing into adult Catholics prepared to live in the world as its “salt” and “light.” For this they were scorned and derided as “fighting Irish,” an epithet they proudly adopted as their logo. That name identified them with oppressed Catholics everywhere who, like generations of persecuted Catholics in Ireland, never compromised their faith or wavered in their witness of it. Such was the basis for the much vaunted “Spirit of Notre Dame.”
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