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.

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