Tuesday, May 03, 2016

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Catholic Education Daily


Is ND's Chair Unfit to Serve?

Wildly succesful businessman and philanthropist Richard C. Notebaert was elected to a three-year term as chair of the University of Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees in 2007. He was elected to a further three-year term in 2010. But Fr. Bill Miscamble, CSC, a professor of history and influential voice at Notre Dame, worries that he may be unfit to lead Notre Dame. Fr. Miscamble wrote in the student publication the Irish Rover that he questioned whether the Chair of the Board of Trustees at the college was suitable because he does not possess a firm grasp on the Catholic identity and mission of Notre Dame as a Catholic university.
This painful reality became patently clear at the end of last academic year when the fellows of Notre Dame elected Roxanne Martino to the board of trustees. Ms. Martino, a Chicago businesswoman and an ND alumna had given over $25,000 to the pro-abortion PAC, EMILY’s List.  She also donated to a group largely dedicated to advancing abortion rights, the Illinois State Personal PAC. Clearly, a significant failure was made in the vetting of Ms. Martino. But instead of a quick and honest admission of a mistake and a request for her to stand down, Notebaert sought to defend Ms. Martino, claiming that she was simply unaware of the purposes of EMILY’s list. That pathetic explanation could not withstand scrutiny, and, eventually, Ms. Martino decided to stand down. Surprisingly, Notebaert appeared willing to allow a significant donor to “pro-choice” organizations to hold a seat on the board which sets the policies and broad direction for the university. He emerged as the main defender of Ms. Martino and seemed to supplant University President Fr. John Jenkins, CSC, in determining university policy on the matter. He appeared not to understand the damage that an appointment like this would do to Notre Dame’s standing as a Catholic university. Notebaert offered a quite misleading statement on the matter, and subsequently he offered no apology for either his apparent dissembling or for his failure to vet this appointment with appropriate diligence. He has yet to give any public assurance that contributing to explicitly “pro-choice” organizations is incompatible with service on the Notre Dame Board of Trustees.
But there's more. Fr. Miscamble also worries about Notebaert's "limited understanding" of the importance of Pope John Paul II's document Ex corde Ecclesiae as a foundational document for the college.
His limitations in this regard were publicly displayed in the rather cavalier response he offered to Bishop John D’Arcy’s pastoral reflection written in the aftermath of Notre Dame’s honoring of President Obama at its 2009 commencement.  In his superb article (published in AMERICA, August 31, 2009), Bishop D’Arcy noted his responsibility to call institutions like Notre Dame “to give public witness to the fullness of Catholic faith.” He went on to note the silence and inaction of Notre Dame’s board of trustees during the Obama episode, and he concluded by posing some “critical questions” regarding the relationship of Notre Dame to the Catholic Church.  Most fundamentally he asked: “Where will the great Catholic Universities search for a guiding light in the years ahead?  Will it be the LAND O’LAKES STATEMENT or EX CORDE ECCLESIAE?” In his response Notebaert embarrassingly stretched to defend Notre Dame’s honoring of President Obama on the grounds that it provided an opening for dialogue.  He paid no attention to the damage that the Obama invitation inflicted on Notre Dame’s standing in the broad Catholic community, and he breezed past any serious consideration of the relationship between Notre Dame and the Catholic Church.  He ended, however, with an apparent endorsement of the LAND O’LAKES STATEMENT as the guiding charter for Notre Dame. Herein lies the problem and it is one  that must be faced honestly by Mr. Notebaert and his fellow trustees.
Will it be the Land O'Lakes Statement or Ex corde Ecclesiae for the future of Notre Dame? Whoever is the Chair of the Board has a large say in answering that question.

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