The Spectacle Blog

Notre Dame Can’t Stay Out of the News

By on 10.16.09 | 12:40PM

Some Notre Dame alumni, faculty, and students are again irate at the administration, this time for sponsoring the Progressive Student Alliance's participation in last week's gay pride march/protest here in D.C.

I wasn't going to comment on it because it seems like inside baseball and not a big deal. But today the Washington Times reported on the incident:

Five students belonging to the school's Progressive Student Alliance were given an undetermined amount from the university's student activities fund - from fees assessed to students - to drive to Washington, bunk with friends and participate in the National Equality March last Sunday. Thousands of participants marched from the White House to the Capitol to support gay rights.

[...]

Dennis Brown, spokesman for the university, did not answer questions from The Washington Times about why one of the nation's pre-eminent Catholic institutions approved the trip, although he did e-mail a brief statement saying the PSA sponsored the journey. And in a short phone conversation, he said the PSA only needed approval from a faculty adviser to spend money on the trip.

William Dempsey, the head of Project Sycamore, which is a Notre Dame watchdog alumni association with an enormous mailing list, told the list that, regarding the topic, "the response I have received from the University is so patently evasive as to be an embarrassment."

Of course it's in the university's best interests simply to evade on this one, and dodge the p.r. flack. As I said, it's not a big deal, and they can probably get away with it by simplying waiting it out. But the principles in question are very clear cut: there is no real middle ground between the university's Catholic position and the aim of the progressive group. This raises two points.

1. Notre Dame clearly didn't learn anything from their commencement debacle. They have tried to take some steps toward healing the rift with conservative/orthodox Catholics, such as having the president, Fr. John Jenkins, announce that he will attend this year's march for life in DC. But this most recent mini-scandal shows that they are still too wary of offending the liberal constituencies' sensibilities to throw the orthdox faction even the smallest bone.

2. The fact that there's not really a way for the administration to spin this at all points to the inherent contradiction between "gay rights" and religious freedom. The university cannot make the case that the PSA students were in DC for any reasons possibly consonant with university policy because, as the Washington Times article puts it, "The Roman Catholic Church has taken one of the strictest stands against homosexual acts of any Christian denomination, calling such acts sinful and homosexual desires "disordered.'" In the case of students protesting for the state to legitimize what the Church perceives as "sinful," there is no way for Notre Dame to claim that there is a common ground position or an opportunity for "dialogue," as they tried with President Obama at commencement.

The larger point is that there is an inevitable conflict between Catholics' (and Christians' generally) freedom of religion and legal gay marriage. From the evidence it seems that Catholics have been upfront about this. Even Notre Dame reluctantly asserts policies that admit of no common ground with gay marriage advocates (even if they don't uphold those policies).

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