Friday, October 10, 2014

Fr. John Jenkins and the politics of Notre Dame (and) Fighting Irish Football

fr-john-jenkins-katie-washington
University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.,
with 2010 valedictorian Katie Washington.
On the surface, it seems to be the height of absurdity to hire a board member (Katie Washington) to your Catholic university who vehemently disagrees with Catholic teaching on abortion and contraception at the precise time you are suing a government that shares the same vehement disagreement with this Catholic teaching because you claim it is forcing you to abandon your Christian conscience. Similarly, it seems ridiculous to deny University status to a student group (SCOP, or Students for Child Oriented Policy) that seeks to fight for policies supporting the traditional family at the precise time gay marriage and adoption needs to be fought. Well, welcome to the world of Fr. John I. Jenkins, a priest whose decisions are based not on Catholic theology or philosophy but politics and public opinionprecisely what the Church warns against.

Certainly, Jenkins' appointment of Washington flatly contradicts his claim that Notre Dame's paying for abortions or contraceptives bothers his conscience (if indeed he has one) but her hire must be great as a fundraising tool with the wealthy cafeteria-Catholics or outright agnostics for whom contraception is a way of life, and abortion nothing more than emergency contraception. Of course, Jenkins and Notre Dame changed course and allowed SCOP to operate (how freely, we shall see) within the University, but again it was all politics, correcting a miscalculation on how much they thought the rich orthodox Catholic alumni would objectand monetarily hold back. So while Jenkins' teaching is a bit...suspect, his politics, or ability to appease both sides, is often brilliant. And nowhere is this better seen than on the commercials about Notre Dame on NBC during the Fighting Irish football games.

To the casual fan, Notre Dame's award-winning,"We are the Fighting Irish!" commercials, which feature Domers roaming the remote corners of the world to bring the destitute villagers everything from heath care to computer hook-ups, seems noble enough. But notice they never promote alumni who are doing any good that could be specifically labeled Catholic, such as pro-life pregnancy clinics or missionaries that actually teach the Catholic faith. Similarly, the generic Notre Dame commercials (which never fail to mention the school's research accomplishments) are big on showing ND's religious landmarks like the Dome or the Basilica, but short of mentioning the significance of Lady and Man on top.

In other words, by often showing the statues and religious monuments in the media but never speaking of them, Jenkins at the same time appeases the religious alumni without offending those who aren't. While perhaps politically smart in the short run, Jenkins eventually has to answer to conservatives for his fast and loose adherence to Church doctrine, and his responses (as was his justification for inviting Obama to be honored at ND ) which have been all but laughable. In fact, Jenkins has looked so bad in his justifications to bypass Church teaching that lately (as when questioned about the appointment of the unorthodox Washington) he, like most politicians, merely dodges the question or changes the subject, almost daring the school's statues to contradict him.

It may be one thing to mock monuments in Washington, but far more dangerous to do so at Notre Dame. Jenkins' "let the statues speak" stance reminds me of a pentecostal preacher who not only repeated the tired lie that Catholics worshiped the Virgin, but used to publicly deface statues of Mary, invoking Her to stop him if She could. Still, this man was not Catholic, and thus he cannot be held as accountable as men like fallen Domer, Father Thomas Euteneuer. While Euteneuer was molesting a woman (during the rite of exorcism no less!) in Church before the Blessed Sacrament, she started to question whether this was right. Father Tom merely looked at her, then the Eucharist, and said, "Well, He hasn't stopped me yet."

James Anthony O'Toole on Father's Day, 6-15-14, with his son, Thomas Augustine (aka Fighting Irish Thomas).
Update: James Anthony O'Toole, ND '54, died Oct. 15, 2014.
Priests seducing bright young minds may not be as bad as those who sexually seduce troubled young women, but surely both bring God's wrath and Mary's tears. Know that no one would like Mary to leap off the Dome and confront Jenkins about his misdeeds more than I, or would love the orthodox ghosts who once spoke in Washington Hall (G.K. Chesterton comes to mind) to haunt Ms. Washington until she resigns. Until then, getting a Fighting Irish football hero to invoke Our Lady before Saturday's game, or better yet, after an upset of #1 Florida State on the 18th, would be a great start. For if that were to happen, I guarantee that my dad, no matter how much pain he was in, would die with a smile on his face.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Barring the door for Katie Washington: Who will lead Notre Dame Back?

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, women won't have to pay out-of-pocket costs for contraception. -Katie Washington
This appointment is inexplicable, insupportable, and incriminating. -The Sycamore Trust
In my last blog, I touched briefly upon Fr. John Jenkin's appointment of Katie Washington, the 2010 Notre Dame Valedictorian, to the university's board of trustees. Given her blatant pro-choice stances, it's difficult to argue with The Sycamore Trust's (the pro-Notre Dame organization that calls itself "the Guardian of the Grotto") assertion that she, according to ST, "surely cannot be thought committed to Notre Dame's mission as a Catholic university nor a reliable counselor on issues relating to the school's Catholic identity. Futhermore, it seems to be common sense that her appointment undermines Notre Dame's position in its lawsuit against the mandate," and, in light of her appointment, unlike Hobby Lobby, the courts would doubt Notre Dame  is sincere in its claim of conscience as regard to its contraception object to Obamacare--which is exactly what happened.

Once again, the outsider (or orthodox insider) looks at yet another distressing sign of the demise of Our Lady's University, wonders how in the heck did we get here? In the end it's hard to blame Ms. Washington (who is not even Catholic) for accepting the appointment any more than it is to blame Obama for accepting an honorary degree from Notre Dame. Again, it falls squarely onto the lap (and into the soul) of Notre Dame's damned President Fr. Jenkins, the Frankenstein-like creation of "Land-o-(fiery) Lakes" creator Fr. Theodore Hesburgh. In the end, by rewarding folks like Obama and Washington, Jenkins is merely surrounding himself with those lost souls who are a lot like himself; smartest-man (or woman) in-the-room types who claim to be loyal sons and daughters of Notre Dame (or God or country) but are false prophets at best and anti-Christs at worst.

And what do we have on the other side to fight such a vast army of the Culture of Death? Just a few loyal souls like "Sycamore" and a handful of players on a surprisingly determined underdog Irish football team who still get what "playin' for Our Lady" means. That is not to belittle the efforts of Sycamore; they were instrumental in getting another pro-choice appointee (Roxanne Martino) to resign from ND's board, not to mention getting the pivotal pro-family student organization SCOP (Students for Child Oriented Policy) accepted on Campus after Notre Dame initially turned them down.

Likewise, you can never underestimate pep-rally speeches like those of senior Fighting Irish safety Austin Collinsworth, whose declaration "With you [the fans and students] out there, my teammates by my side, and Our Lady watching up above, how can we lose?" Such simple faith has galvanized all three groups before, and there's no reason (if we have but similar faith) to not believe that it could happen again. With nearly all the powerful people at Notre Dame bent on her destruction, it would be accurate to say, using football jargon, that the truly loyal sons and daughters of Our Lady's University are down by four, facing a 4th and 11 with barely a minute left. But what's so funny (in an Irish sort of way) is that both players like Everett Golson and Suffering Irish, like my dad, are completely unfazed by that fact.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Dad, Notre Dame, and the Stanford "Miracle"

Indeed, it was my desire to chronicle the weekly relationship between my dad's cancer and the Fighting Irish football season. But as often happens, life interrupts,(especially when my other jobs pay and this blog doesn't) but in her mercy Our Lady "bought" some time for me to describe the latest Irish comeback to be added to Notre Dame lore. And while I don't know if it is the last Irish miracle finish my dad will experience, I was sure happy to be by his side just in case it was.

Surely, the opening blowout against Rice was nice, but quite expected. Similarly, me and dad thought the blowout win against Michigan seemed to be a statement game, but since then the Wolverines have imploded so badly I'm not sure if they could now beat a bowl of Rice Krispies, let alone the Rice Owls. Under-whelming night victories against Purdue and Syracuse not only saw the Domers dropping too many balls, but had my dad dropping off by halftime. Still, the number one ranked defense of Stanford would be Notre Dame's first test, and dad was both literally and spiritually up for this test.

Unlike the last two games where he never left the horizontal position in his bed, dad shook off the perpetual pain his cancer caused his body and was upright and alert in his chair for this challenge right from the start. Sadly, on this cold and rain-filled day, the Irish blinked first, as the Cardinal recovered an Everett Golson fumble on the Irish 13 and scored on a QB sneak two plays later. But dad's guy Golson then made up for his miscue, and after his nifty 33 yard scramble and 15 yard touchdown pass, and the Irish went into halftime of this defensively dominated game tied 7-7.

Many prayers and petitions (not to mention a few curses) crossed our lips as the Irish holder Hunter Smith dropped two placements for Irish kicker Kyle Brindza, costing the Irish two field goals and a chance for the lead. Finally, Irish coach Brian Kelly came up with the revolutionary idea of putting gloves on his holder to counteract the cold and rain...and on his next hold Hunter held as Brindza hit his next kick true and through the uprights for a 10-7 forth quarter Irish lead. But as often seems to happen in these epic back and forth games, Stanford scored again on its next possession on another run up the middle to make the score 14-10 Cardinal with only three minutes left in the game.

But rather than appearing downcast or disappointed, dad looked strangely focused on the task at hand, enough to make one wonder if his calm did not rub off on the uNDaunted Golson. For against the nation's number one defense, the born-again from suspension QB lead a Montana-esque final drive, converting on countless third downs, until that final frantic then fantastic forth and eleven TD pass to tight end Ben Koyack to give our Irish a 17-14 lead with a minute left. The Irish defense then sealed the deal, and as the team sang the Alma Mater to the fans and the Lady on the Dome, a little over a hundred miles away my dad and I (if not millions of other fans) were singing right along with them.

"And how was mom?" my brother Mike (who flew in from Boston attend the game and later see dad) inquired, recalling our invalid mother's penchant for interrupting the game.

"It was the usual; asking for her hat, a blanket, water, cough drops and whatever else every two minutes." I told him. "But when she asked me to leave the room just before Golson's throw to Koyak so that the nurse could change her in privacy, dad told her that normally I would--but today she would have to have the curtain drawn instead."

And so, the Irish are 5-0, and my dad looked as alive as he has for months. "Of course, if the Irish were 2-3, he'd probably be still asking to go see Jesus," I told my brothers with a smile. "But instead, he's really looking forward to the next game." Meanwhile, although I knew that Christ's suffering and death had saved the world, I now wondered if my dying dad's suffering could save a team--let alone a university. But with obstacles as diverse as Katie Washington (Fr. Jenkins' scandalous pro-choice nominee to the Board of Trustees) to the #1 ranked Florida Seminoles looming on the Irish horizon, I knew we, (with Our Lady by our side) would know soon enough.