Bishop Chastises Notre Dame for Event With Transgender ‘Abortion Doula’ - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Bishop Chastises Notre Dame for Event With Transgender ‘Abortion Doula’

SOUTH BEND, IN — The University of Notre Dame hosted a pro-abortion event on Monday titled “Trans Care + Abortion Care: Intersections and Questions.” Less than 24 hours after the event, the local Catholic bishop weighed in. 

Kevin Rhoades, bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, published a condemnation of the event in the diocesan newspaper Today’s Catholic. Rhoades described the event as an “explicit act of dissent” from the university’s stated commitment to the dignity of life. 

The act of dissent had immense institutional support behind it. The lecture is the most recent in a series on “reproductive justice” hosted by the Notre Dame Gender Studies Program and the Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values, a university institute that studies the intersection of science and culture. Additional supporters included Notre Dame’s Initiative on Race and Resilience as well as its Institute for Latino Studies, the St. Mary’s College Department of Gender and Women Studies, the Indiana University-South Bend Women’s and Gender Studies Program, and the South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center.

But that’s not all. Seven University of Notre Dame academic departments — American Studies, Anthropology, English, History, Political Science, Sociology, as well as Film, Television, and Theatre — also sponsored the series. The Office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Letters also threw its support behind the events. Perhaps most alarmingly, the Center for Social Concerns — a Notre Dame institute ostensibly dedicated to Catholic social teaching — is among the litany of sponsors.  

Pam Butler, Notre Dame’s associate director of gender studies who has done the important work of “transform[ing] the hand-knitting industry’s approach to gender and embodiment,” hosted the event, which featured two transgender pro-abortion advocates. It truly was a spectacle: a man pretending to be a woman speaking about abortion with a woman pretending to be a man. 

“For me, abortion is a type of birth. ‘Abortion and birth’ could be binary, but I believe that it is a binary worth busting, just like ‘man and woman,’” said speaker Ash Williams. 

Williams is a self-identified trans man and abortion doula who draws upon the experiences in her “black, trans, abortion-having life” to question supposedly oppressive structures like the gender binary. As an abortion doula, Williams provides “physical, emotional or financial help to people seeking to end a pregnancy.” She has a tattoo on her left forearm of an abortion tool used for “manual vacuum aspiration,” and she told NPR that she “loves the procedure because, ‘it’s one and done. It’s quick.’” 

That’s right. A Catholic university provided a platform to an activist who has devoted her life to the industrialized mass slaughter of the unborn. Understandably, Rhoades called the event “intellectually unserious and unworthy of a great Catholic research university.” (RELATED: Notre Dame Requires Gender Ideology Training Session)

Rhoades acknowledged that universities “regularly feature engagement with a diversity of voices” that interact in the scholarly pursuit of truth. But “Trans Care + Abortion Care: Intersections and Questions” could not be justified in the name of academic freedom, he said.

Rhoades wrote

Williams is not a scholar or even a prominent public intellectual. The Gender Studies Program and the Reilly Center (and the other units on campus supporting them) are simply providing Williams — a person who literally facilitates abortions — a platform for unanswered pro-abortion activism. 

Academic freedom is meant to create the space for free inquiry and intellectual exchange in service of pursuing and sharing the truth in charity. But this lecture is simply a conduit for activist propaganda that is not merely wrong, but squarely contrary to principles of basic human equality, justice, dignity, and nonviolence that the Catholic Church, Notre Dame, and many others (including non-Catholics) have affirmed for millennia.

For years, the university has navigated the issue of academic freedom with the “Common Proposal of Chairs of the College of Arts and Letters and Fr. Jenkins,” a 2006 document intended to provide guidance for academic events about controversial issues. The Common Proposal states that department chairs should provide a forum “in which multiple viewpoints and voices on controversial topics can be heard” while maintaining balance and presenting Catholic teaching “when a significant issue in the Catholic tradition is touched upon.” 

To fulfill the mandate of the Common Proposal, the organizers of the event emailed event registrants a list of Notre Dame’s pro-life resources and events, conforming to the letter — but certainly not the spirit — of the university’s policy. As Rhoades noted, “A timely and targeted rebuttal would, of course, be preferable in a matter of such grave moral concern.” 

Notre Dame student Kephas Olsson also felt dissatisfied by the event’s engagement, or lack thereof, with Catholic teaching. He told the Irish Rover, the university’s Catholic student-run newspaper: 

The lecture was incoherent, nonsensical, and took seeming pleasure in contradicting the views that the university professes to believe in. While Notre Dame’s policy allows for opposing views being presented, it stipulates that the Catholic position is to be articulated by the department. Clearly the Notre Dame Gender Studies [Department] feels no need to make a serious effort towards sincerely doing so.

“Trans Care + Abortion Care: Intersections and Questions” is not the only flashpoint in the ongoing clash between Catholic teaching and pro-abortion activism at the University of Notre Dame. Since the Dobbs decision, academic departments and individual professors at Notre Dame have voiced support for the continued slaughter of unborn children. Sociology professor Tamara Kay has received national attention for her support of abortion access — including her offer to help students obtain abortions. Other events sponsored by Notre Dame’s gender studies department, including “Post-Roe America: Making Intersectional Feminist Sense of Abortion Bans,” have openly contradicted Catholic teaching through their promotion of abortion. 

Now that Rhoades has broken his silence, the university may finally need to reckon with the culture war coming home to roost atop the Golden Dome. 

Mary Frances Myler is a postgraduate fellow with Notre Dame’s Center for Citizenship and Constitutional Government. Her writing has been published in the American Conservative, National Catholic Register, Law and Liberty, and the Federalist.

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