The petition has thus far garnered more than 600 signatures
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A faithful Catholic group is pressuring the fellows and trustees of the University of Notre Dame to reverse its decision to cover birth control in its health plans.
Sycamore Trust, a group of alumni and friends striving to protect the Catholic identity of Notre Dame, released a petition to its subscribers Tuesday, urging the Catholic university's fellows and trustees to "immediately halt the provision of abortifacients and contraceptives to students and employees by the University's insurers" to prevent "a judicial inquiry as to whether Notre Dame lied to the courts in the mandate litigation."
Church Militant spoke with William Dempsey, president of the Sycamore Trust, who said, "It's up to the fellows and the trustees whether to invite a judicial inquiry by letting [university president] Fr. [John] Jenkins's action stand, thereby confirming the misrepresentations or end the matter by sticking with Notre Dame's long-standing policy of excluding contraceptives and abortifacients from all University health programs."
The petition also calls for the "exclu[sion] [of] abortifacients, contraceptives and sterilization from the university's flexible spending account program" while continuing to exclude "contraceptives from the university's health insurance programs."
Notre Dame's president, Fr. John Jenkins, justified the university's policy to cover "simple contraceptives" in an email to school employees on February 7.
"I have reached the conclusion that it is best that the university stop the government-funded provision of the range of drugs and services through our third-party administrator," he announced. "Instead, the university will provide coverage in the university's own insurance plans for simple contraceptives (i.e., drugs designed to prevent conception)."
The stated reason for retaining birth control coverage is so as not to "burden" students who use birth control and depend on the university for health insurance. He noted that the school would not cover abortion-inducing drugs or sterilizations.
However, the Sycamore Trust claims the school continues to push abortion by providing employees with "cut-rate abortifacients" and sterilization through its flexible savings account program and abortifacients to employees and students through Notre Dame's insurers until next July and August.
Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend criticized Notre Dame in a statement last month for funding simple contraception in its health plans:
I strongly disagree with Notre Dame's decision to provide funding for contraception in its health insurance plans, which involves it even more directly in contributing to immoral activity. The Catholic Church clearly teaches that contraception is an immoral action that contradicts the truth of marital love.
Dempsey continues, "The notion that there can be some justification for a Catholic school's distributing to its students and employees the means to commit serious sin is bizarre."
"The representations to the courts that now appear to have been false were forceful, multiple, and essential," Notre Dame alumni attorneys stated in their letter to Fr. Jenkins on December 16. "They were designed to show in the strongest possible language that the mandate imposed a substantial burden on Notre Dame's religious liberty. Unless it did, Notre Dame had no business in court."
The representations to the courts that now appear to have been false were forceful, multiple and essential.
The alumni ended the letter requesting an explanation from Notre Dame: "We seek an exculpatory explanation or, failing that, remedial action to restore a proper relationship between Notre Dame and the courts."
Besides an alleged abuse of the judicial process, the petition also claims Fr. Jenkin's decision is incompatible with the school's Catholic identity. Continuing, the Sycamore Trust states the ramifications of Notre Dame's policy:
Father Jenkins's action undermines Notre Dame's Catholic identity also because it gives scandal, especially to its students to whom it has a special obligation. Students and others are likely to infer that the university does not regard either contraception or the fornication and infidelity it fosters as seriously immoral, if immoral at all.
"The scandal will extend beyond the campus," declares the Sycamore Trust. "Notre Dame is an iconic Catholic institution and the nation's leading Catholic university. People will take note of Notre Dame's disregard of its bishop's, that is to say the Church's counsel."