New Survey Shows Notre Dame’s Ongoing Loss of Catholic Identity

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by William Mahoney, Ph.D.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  November 5, 2019   

From Obama to pro-abortion trustees, the erosion continues

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A new survey conducted by Notre Dame reveals that the university named after "Our Lady" has continued to lose its Catholic identity, which one pro-Catholic, pro-Notre Dame group ascribes mainly to a lack of Catholic representation on the faculty.    

Church Militant reached out to William Dempsey, a Notre Dame graduate and chairperson of the board for Sycamore Trust, an organization of Notre Dame alumni and friends that seeks to protect "the school's formative heritage — its Catholic identity and its sustaining relationship to the Church." 

"The survey is statistically meaningless because the participants were not selected randomly or representationally," said Dempsey. "Since alumni who are happy with the university were more likely to respond than those that are indifferent or disaffected, the percentages presented are likely to be skewed in Notre Dame's favor."

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Even if the survey was skewed in Notre Dame's favor, the results are still troubling, said Dempsey, noting:

1. 26% of those responding don't feel good about the school. One cannot tell why but it is suggestive that

2. Only 59% felt "good" about Notre Dame's "Catholic character," and

3. "Catholic character" ran a close second to "Academics" among alumni "Passions," with, surprisingly perhaps, "Athletics" lagging well behind in fourth place.

Dempsey explained that Fr. John Jenkins of the Congregation of the Holy Cross who has been the president of Notre Dame since 2005 is one of the primary factors in this disaffection.

These results, which almost surely understate alumni disaffection, do at least strongly suggest that  events during the Jenkins tenure have undermined the support of alumni who treasure Notre Dame for its Catholic character. How could it be otherwise? The condemnation of Notre Dame by 84 cardinals, archbishops, and bishops across the country for honoring President Obama, the most formidable adversary of the Church on abortion and religious liberty, alone must have badly dented Notre Dame's standing among many alumni. 

Representation of the Catholic Faith among the faculty of Notre Dame has also declined substantially. 

Dempsey noted that many more alumni would be concerned if they knew about this decline: "And if all alumni knew the extent to which Catholic representation on the faculty has fallen over the years, many more would be concerned."

"It is unlikely that many, if any, alumni who aren't Sycamore Trust subscribers know that Notre Dame no longer meets its own test of Catholic identity because of the radical attenuation of Catholic presence on the faculty," he added.

Notre Dame's Fall from Grace

The performance of the "Vagina Monologues" at Notre Dame in 2002 marked the public beginning of the university's fall from grace, which continued in 2004 when the university's Hesburgh Library became the site of Notre Dame's first Queer Film festival

If all alumni knew the extent to which Catholic representation on the faculty has fallen over the years, many more would be concerned.

In 2009, Notre Dame invited Barack Obama to speak, igniting outrage and a petition signed by almost 90,000 people demanding the speech be canceled. The bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend at the time, Bp. John D'Arcy, had vowed to boycott the event, saying:

This will be the 25th Notre Dame graduation during my time as bishop. After much prayer, I have decided not to attend the graduation. I wish no disrespect to our president, I pray for him and wish him well. I have always revered the office of the presidency. But a bishop must teach the Catholic faith "in season and out of season" and he teaches not only by his words — but by his actions.

In 2011, Roxanne Martino resigned from the university's board of trustees when some exposed the notable donations she had made to pro-abortion political action committees.

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Fr. John Jenkins, Notre Dame president

Notre Dame News published the following statement at the time: "Roxanne Martino has resigned from the University of Notre Dame Board of Trustees, effective immediately, in the wake of reports criticizing donations she has made to organizations that characterize themselves as pro-choice."

Despite the controversy with Martino, Notre Dame hired Dorene Dominguez in 2018, another person who donated to a political action committee tied to Emily's List, an organization dedicated to electing pro-abortion politicians. 

The list and details go on, but at the root of all this, according to Sycamore Trust, "is the dramatic shrinking of the Catholic faculty," which "measured by its own standard, Notre Dame has lost."

Hope for restoration is not lost, however, as Sycamore Trust maintains: "[I]t could over time regain its footing if those in governance were to act promptly and decisively. The time is opportune for alumni and others of the Notre Dame family to express both their intense concern and their support of actions designed to strengthen Notre Dame's Catholic identity."

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