Notre Dame Ignores Catholic Teaching to Promote Gender Ideology

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by Kristine Christlieb  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  February 27, 2020   

Ignores pleas of alumni to cancel or postpone youth event

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Through its Gender Studies Program, Notre Dame University officials are allowing transgender ideology to be promoted —unchallenged — to its students.

In early February, the university's Gender Studies Program hosted a panel discussion, Affirming Care for Gender-Diverse Youth. Two of the panelists were from Indiana University's Kinsey Institute.

Though it is not clear how Liana H. Zhou, the institute's director of library and special collections, is an expert on transgender youth, she was a featured panelist. She presides over what Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb called the "largest library of pornography of its kind in the world."

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The panel's heavy hitter was J. Dennis Fortenberry, Chief Professor of Adolescent Medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine. The Irish Rover reported that Fortenberry told the audience, "Get used to men with breasts, men with uteruses, men with ovaries, men with vulvas, men with vaginas, women with penises. All those things are important rearrangements."

In explaining his commitment to transgender youth, Fortenberry asked his audience to "think about the joy of masturbation, and being so upset by the organs you are masturbating with that you can't even enjoy it. This is why I do what I do."

All of the panelists "agreed that gender is 'multidimensional and non-binary.'" None of the panelists represented Church teaching or presented alternative scientific information on the topic.

Administration Ignores School Policy

Officially, the university promotes exposing its students to diverse views, and on controversial topics, including traditional Catholic teaching. From the Office of the President:  

[Departments] should aim at ensuring that a forum is provided in which multiple viewpoints and voices on controversial topics can be heard, an appropriate balance among viewpoints is maintained, and, when a significant issue in the Catholic tradition is touched upon, that tradition should be presented. 

But in practice, the university behaves differently. Writing to Sarah Mustillo, Dean of the College of Arts and Letters, and copying President John Jenkins prior to the event, Bill Dempsey, chairman of the Sycamore Trust, a Notre Dame alumni group supporting traditional Catholic teaching, asked for the event to be canceled or postponed:

Since the Church's teaching will not be defended in the presentation, the implication will be that the Gender Studies Program does not hold to that teaching. Indeed, we have a copy of an e-mail from the Associate Director of the Gender Studies Program describing the event as a rebuttal of a presentation sponsored by the student organization SCOP in support of Church teaching.

Neither President Jenkins nor Dean Mustillo responded.

Dean in Ideological Conflict of Interest

Dean Mustillo is a graduate of Notre Dame's Gender Studies Program. When Church Militant called the university to confirm that and request a statement, the dean's assistant, Karin Dale, denied the dean was a graduate of the program. When confronted with contradictory information, Dale ultimately confirmed the university's website statement that Mustillo graduated in "1996 with a bachelor's degree in sociology and gender studies."  

Sociology has become a haven for political activists who often let their political ideology override their loyalty to scholarship.

Both gender studies and sociology have come under fire as legitimate academic disciplines. Zsolt Semjén, a deputy to Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orbán, told the international news agency Agence France-Presse, gender studies "has no business [being taught] in universities," because it is "an ideology not a science."

Noted American sociologist Irving Louis Horowitz, similarly indicted the field of sociology when he said "sociology has become a haven for political activists who often let their political ideology override their loyalty to scholarship" and "in lining up with extremist liberal-Marxist ideologies, sociology has alienated itself from mainstream society and thus lost its legitimacy and credibility with the public."

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J. Dennis Fortenberry

Writing in Michigan Quarterly Review, Princeton sociologist Yu Xie found himself reluctantly agreeing with Horowitz. "There are some sociologists who are interested more in liberal ideologies than in understanding society."

Notre Dame's Long-Standing Support

Established in 1988 in the early days of  Rev. Edward "Monk" Malloy's tenure as president, the Gender Studies Program is a firmly entrenched part of the school's curriculum.

When three women faculty members from the departments of English, theology and sociology came to him with the idea, Malloy gave his approval and offered these words of encouragement: "You are to be congratulated for taking the initiative on this. It is surely consonant with some of the concerns that I have tried to express in some of my public presentations. All the best."

Theodore Hesburgh, president of Notre Dame from 1952–1987, was photographed with members of the gender studies program in 2009.  

In a recent reunion of gender studies graduates, one student offered this opinion. "Notre Dame is the perfect place to be if you really want to grapple with these hard conversations our country is having, because there are so many different viewpoints at the University.” 

Bill Dempsey disagrees. He told Church Militant: "Neither the Dean nor Fr. Jenkins replied [to a request to cancel or postpone the event]. The short of it is that they knew of the event beforehand, the event plainly collided with the school's policy that Fr. Jenkins highlights on his website, and ... they did not enforce the policy."

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