Saturday, April 12, 2008

WSJ: Fr. Jenkins: Catholicism, Inc.

The article linked in this post's title appeared in today's Wall Street Journal. I couldn't figure out what NOT to include, so it appears below in its entirety.

"He is a person who could easily hold an endowed chair at Notre Dame."

Sitting in a spacious office on the top floor of Notre Dame's gold-domed administration building, the university's president, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, pays Pope Benedict XVI what might be the ultimate compliment around here. In fact, Father Jenkins recounts the story of how in the 1960s his famed predecessor, the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, actually offered such a position to "a young promising theologian" named Joseph Ratzinger, "who graciously declined."
[Catholicism, Inc.]

With that theologian set to embark on his first papal visit to the United States this week, it might be a good time to ask whether such an offer would have been made today. And – more significantly – whether someone with the pope's beliefs about Catholic higher education could accept. In a much-anticipated speech at Catholic University of America in Washington on Thursday, the pope will address the leaders of the nation's more than 200 Catholic colleges and universities, and Father Jenkins will be listening closely.

Asked to speculate on what Pope Benedict might say, Father Jenkins tells me, "The greatest respect we can show him is to let him speak and then reflect." But the president, who himself has a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford, says that the pope is "a subtle thinker [who] doesn't think in slogans." Father Jenkins is worried that "people with various interests will pick out a line or a phrase," and misunderstand the pope's message.

Just who those nefarious-sounding interests are might be a little confusing to those not paying attention to the divisions in American Catholicism. But Catholic colleges are on the front lines of a battle for the soul of the church. The conservative Cardinal Newman Society, for example, recently published a guide to Catholic colleges for parents, and Notre Dame did not even make their list because of faculty members who were critical of church teachings and social programs on campus for gay students.

"The Newman society has no ecclesiastical standing and no academic standing," Father Jenkins says. "For me, it resembles nothing more than a political action committee."

With a student body of more than 11,000, a Division I athletics program, one of the most vocal alumni groups in the country, a faculty that has grown by 500 members in the last two decades, and a religious order (the Congregation of the Holy Cross) that still exercises control over the school, Father Jenkins has more constituencies to satisfy than most congressmen. And with a school endowment of $6.1 billion, he is also, for all intents and purposes, in charge of a sizable corporation.

American Catholicism has changed a lot in the last half-century, and Notre Dame is a microcosm of that shift. Father Jenkins, a trim, soft-spoken man who looks younger than his 54 years, took over his position in 2004. He is part of a generation of priests who received their education not only after the liturgical reforms of Vatican II (1962-65) – he graduated from Notre Dame in 1976 – but after the so-called "Land O' Lakes" statement. Signed in 1967 by a group of Catholic educators (including Father Hesburgh), the document was read by many as a declaration of independence from the Vatican. It read in part: "To perform its teaching and research functions effectively the Catholic university must have a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself."

Catholic universities have since become less tethered to the church. Their faculties and student bodies include many more non-Catholics. They no longer need money from the Vatican to survive. But the tug of war for control of Catholic institutions of higher education continued.

In 1990, Pope John Paul II issued Ex Corde Ecclesiae, an encyclical whose provisions included a requirement that theologians teaching at Catholic schools receive a stamp of approval from the church (a "mandatum"), and that the campus environment should be supportive of a Catholic way of life.

Father Jenkins calls Ex Corde a "superb document" that he has read "many times." But most Catholic college leaders, including Father Jenkins, have not implemented it to the extent that they or others expected they would have to. The mandatum provision, for instance, was met at the time with outrage by college faculty and administrators, who found it to be an infringement on academic freedom. But since then, Father Jenkins explains, "positions softened a bit on that. Misunderstandings were eliminated."

The way the mandatum controversy was resolved is this: Local bishops give their approval to some theologians and not others. But no one besides the bishop and the theologian knows who has it. So Father Jenkins can claim total ignorance about which members of his own theology department are approved by the church.

Other intellectual battles seem to have been resolved in the university's favor as well. Despite the Vatican's clear condemnation of liberation theology, a Marxist approach to Christianity, the doctrine is still proudly taught at Notre Dame.

Father Jenkins says the situation is not so clear cut: "Liberation theology is a label for a family of views and concerns . . . [a set of] theological reflections in light of certain social and economic conditions." In other words, no violent revolutionaries here.

Despite the large presence of liberal faculty members, Father Jenkins complains that in some circles, the school is not considered radical enough. People on the left say that "we're too tied to the Republican party. We don't advocate enough for women's ordination. You name the socially divisive issue and we're criticized that we're not on the front on [it]." And it is true that on the spectrum of Catholic universities, Notre Dame is considered somewhat middle of the road – still less radical than its Jesuit brethren like Georgetown, Fordham and Boston College.

But that may be changing. Father Jenkins recently made headlines with his decision to allow the college to sponsor a performance of Eve Ensler's "Vagina Monologues" during the week leading up to Easter. He is not the first Catholic college president to accede to campus demands for this play, but his nod of approval is deeply symbolic. The local bishop, John D'Arcy, condemned the play as "an affront to human dignity, as Catholic teaching understands it." But Father Jenkins defended his decision to go forward with it (providing an academic panel was convened afterward) on the grounds that "a Catholic university is a place to confront controversial issues and a Catholic teaching should be sympathetically presented."

So is there a line Father Jenkins won't cross when it comes to such material? "There are things," he is certain, "that fall below the line of serious intellectual contribution and reflection," but this one did not.

Despite what seems to be a slow drift toward secularization, Father Jenkins insists that Catholic institutions in general, and Notre Dame in particular, have something distinctive to add to American higher education. "With all respect to great academic institutions in this country, they've shed their religious tradition, and with it a certain kind of overarching moral view of education. They do great work. I don't mean to demean them. But we have the opportunity to be the place that combines the highest level of reason and inquiry with living a religious faith."

About 30 students walked out of the Vagina Monologues in protest after the first scene. And people familiar with the university are not surprised that it was the kids, not the grown-ups, who registered the strongest objections.

The students are probably the most religious part of Notre Dame. They live in single-sex dorms, attend mass frequently, protest abortion on campus and in Washington, etc. Despite – or perhaps because of – the fact that a greater percentage of the students have not attended Catholic school or grown up in a mostly Catholic community, Father Jenkins sees among them "a kind of yearning for tradition."

That younger Catholics tend to be among the more conservative ones is not the only demographic shift going on in the church. According to a recent Pew study, one third of native-born Americans who were raised Catholic have left the church. But the Catholic population has remained steady due largely to an influx of Hispanic immigrants. And those immigrants look to be the future of the church.

Latinos, who tend to go to more conservative churches, account for almost half of Catholics under 40. This shift, too, is evident at Notre Dame, where the Hispanic population has grown by 50% in the last 10 years. (Today almost one in 10 students is Hispanic.) Our Lady of Guadalupe observance has become one of the more popular campus celebrations.

Father Jenkins reflects on this change. He recalls reading the letters of the Rev. Edward Sorin, the Frenchman who founded Notre Dame in 1842. Father Jenkins notes, "He was complaining about the Irish immigrants. They don't work very hard; they're not very good students. Germans are the hard workers."

Father Jenkins laughs at the irony: "Of course we came to be dominated by the Irish." He credits waves of immigrants with "reinvigorating" the church in this country, and he expects that Hispanics will continue that tradition.

That students would make up the heart of the school's religious life was probably inevitable. Only half the faculty is Catholic now, and there are about 40 priests left on campus.

Father Jenkins believes the church needs to involve the Catholic laity more in religious responsibilities. Notre Dame, for instance, runs a program called the Alliance for Catholic Education, which sends laypeople to teach at Catholic schools in poor areas. Father Jenkins tells me that it would be "unwise . . . to sit around waiting" for an increase in the number of people going into vocations. And he points to the university as an example of how this can work well. "If you came here 50 years ago, the administration would have been Holy Cross priests. . . . Now we have very talented, faithful lay people who have taken on some of those positions. The university has benefited, no doubt."

In fact, Father Jenkins insists that the education at Notre Dame has improved in the last few decades. Compared with when he was a student, he observes, "there is a richer intellectual life now." Certainly the level of Notre Dame students has risen. It holds a U.S. News ranking in the top 25. And the school no longer has that scrappy image of immigrants struggling to fit in. Again, it is symbolic of the status of American Catholics, who have become so well assimilated that, according to a Pew poll done last year, if a presidential candidate had to pick a religion that would make him most likely to win votes, it would be Catholicism.

There are still plenty of football fans who may see the school as the underdog, though. Especially after it won only three games in the 2007 season. "Football is a symbol," says Father Jenkins, who dismisses last year's problems as the "vicissitudes of winning and losing." "The fact that we graduate 99% of our players who stay around for four years – people see that and they think 'Oh, they do it the right way.'"

Notre Dame has a contract with NBC to broadcast every one of the school's home games through 2010. Father Jenkins won't say whether he thinks the agreement will be renewed – he tells me that "viewership has stayed strong." But if Notre Dame really wants to increase its market share, Father Jenkins might think about changing the team's name to the Fighting Latinos.

Ms. Riley is the Journal's deputy Taste page editor.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Let's hope it goes somewhat differently...

The rockin' new just today updated its carousel of videos. I don't usually spend my time watching them, but tonight they caught my eye...

The main feature, probably until next week, is "Benedict in America," a short Q&A video with ND experts on the papal visit.

It begins with different questions about why the pope is visiting America, what is significant about the Church in the US, what Benedict might say to President Bush about the war or about immigration, etc.

But more than half-way through the video, I was left wondering: What about that visit he's going to have with the presidents of Catholic universities in America? Why aren't we asking the 'experts' about that? What might he say to them? Will it be different than the praising words about Notre Dame spoken by Benedict in St. Peter's Square just a few years ago?

Three-quarters of the way through the video, my question was answered.

"Why did the pope decide to meet with Catholic university presidents and educational leaders?" appears on the screen.

Prof. Lawrence Cunningham, of the Department of Theology, responded:

He himself is an academic, he is a true intellectual. That is, he reads widely in a number of different languages. He knows contemporary philosophy, he knows political theory, he knows theology. He’s a student of history. He thinks that the universities in America, some of them—and I would exclude ND from that list—have not really put their strongest emphasis on maintaining the Catholic character of their universities. He’s probably going to say something about that. I suspect he will not scold the university presidents, but he will probably talk about this intimate connection between faith and reason and the role of catholic universities in the world of Catholicism today.

So you don't think he's been talking to his bishops in the US about the goings-on at the pre-eminent Catholic university in America?

Notre Dame stands 'above the pack' of American Catholic universities in many ways--but she in no way enjoys an inviolable position. To be in open denial about recent events on this campus and their repercussions seems to be indicative of the hubris often displayed by students, faculty and administrators under the Golden Dome, especially when it comes to ND's relationship to the universal Church and Her hierarchy.

Beer versus Global Warming

I came across this article while taking a break from my thesis (which is due in less than 24 hours and not yet finished) but I had to post it.

It seems the frenzied efforts of The Goracle and company to stop global warming by promoting the use of biofuels (besides being simply counterproductive) are driving up the price of beer!'s worth making sure that environmentalists fully appreciate the law of unintended consequences here: Policies designed to increase use of biofuels contribute to global warming, reduce the planetary food supply, destroy the rainforests—and, oh yes, drive up beer prices. And yet both the U.S. and Europe are spending tens of billions a year on subsidies. Maybe we should grab a drink, while we can still afford one.

If all this shenanigans about impending environmental cataclysm is true, I for one would at least like to go out with a nice cold, reasonably priced pint of Guinness in hand.

Anti-Discrimination Clause Already Voted Down

In 1999, Notre Dame voted against an extension of the Anti-Discrimination policy which would have prohibited discrimination based on "sexual orientation."

Brewing on campus at the moment is a new petition to reverse this vote, complete with posters approved by the University.

For a little context, here's a good article from several years ago.

Expect there to be more and more discussion about this as the weeks go on, but I thought I would just share a little knowledge before everyone unleashes the rhetoric.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Does this frighten anyone else?

One of my friends--a self-proclaimed Republican who plans on voting for Obama in November--recently changed her facebook profile picture to this image.

Nice photoshop job, but it freaks me out more than a little, and I think is indicative of the cult of personality surrounding this particular candidate.


shameless promotion of one's employer

Watch this video to see Brit Hume talking about the Campus Outrage Awards given by the Collegiate Network, of which the Rover is a member. The title of this entry links to the CN Youtube channel. This clip is from the Grapevine segment of Special Report (which, by the way, is worth watching daily). The top award this year went to Duke Univ. for the hypocrisy of sponsoring a public performance of the Sex Workers Art Show, featuring prostitutes and strippers, even though the University has officially condemned stripping ever since the fallout from the lacrosse "rape" party.

Interestingly, the Sex Workers Art Show, whose motto is "new whore order," seems to follow the successful V-Monologue method of bringing trashy events to college campuses.

The jester appearing in this clip is actually the trophy we send to the president of the offending college. I wonder what President Broadhead will do with his--I hope it doesn't end up in a landfill. We have a shelf full of more Jester statues just waiting to make their way to the offices of college presidents nationwide.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Dantley Named to Hall of Fame

Adrian Dantley, who was a dominating force for Notre Dame's basketball team in the 1970s, has finally been elected into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Here's the article on the story that was just released by John Heisler, Notre Dame's Senior Associate Athletics Director for Media and Broadcast Relations.

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Two-time University of Notre Dame basketball first-team All-American and 1976 national college player of the year Adrian Dantley today was named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

The announcement was made in San Antonio, Texas, in conjunction with the NCAA men's basketball Final Four.

Dantley had been named one of 15 finalists for 2008 back in February (in conjunction with the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans) - and he previously had been a finalist in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Dantley joins the seven-member 2008 induction class that also includes Hakeem Olajuwon, who led the University of Houston to three straight NCAA Final Fours and the Houston Rockets to back-to-back National Basketball Association titles; Patrick Ewing, a two time Olympic gold medalist, 1984 NCAA champion at Georgetown and 11-time NBA All-Star; Pat Riley, head coach of the Miami Heat who has captured a total of five NBA championships as a coach with the Heat and Los Angeles Lakers; ESPN sportscaster Dick Vitale; Detroit Pistons and Detroit Shock owner Bill Davidson; and women's basketball pioneer and former Immaculata University coach Cathy Rush.

A finalist needs 18 of 24 votes from the honors committee for election into the Hall of Fame. The class of 2008 will be enshrined Sept. 4-6, 2008, during festivities in Springfield, Mass. Tickets to the 2008 Enshrinement Gala and all weekend activities are available by calling the Hall of Fame at (413) 781-6500. Ticket information is also available on line at

"This is a tremendous tribute to Adrian Dantley's accomplishments, both at Notre Dame and in his professional career. We couldn't be more pleased that he now can call himself a Hall of Famer," said Notre Dame athletics director Kevin White.

"Notre Dame basketball has had a great connection over the years to the Washington, D.C., area, and one of the reasons is the success that players like Adrian Dantley have had," said current Irish coach Mike Brey.

"Adrian Dantley was a dominant college basketball player. He was more than capable of taking over games by himself, and he was an absolute fierce competitor," said former Irish coach Digger Phelps, who coached Dantley at Notre Dame.

Named national player of the year as a junior in 1975-76 by the United States Basketball Writers Association, Dantley was a two-time first-team All-American in 1974-75 and 1975-76. He also was a member of the United States Olympic basketball team that won the gold medal in Montreal in 1976.

Dantley averaged 18.3 points per game as a starting forward as a freshman for the Irish in 1973-74. He finished second nationally in scoring as a sophomore with a 30.4 average, ranked fourth nationally in scoring as a junior in '75-'76 with a 28.6 average and served as captain of Phelps' Irish team as junior. He played on teams that finished 26-3, 19-10 and 23-6, earning mention on NCAA all-regional teams as a sophomore and junior.

Dantley ranks second on the Irish career scoring list (behind Austin Carr) with 2,223 points. He posted a 25.8 career scoring average and a 9.8 career rebound average and made more free throws (615) than any player in Irish history. He also ranks as the last Irish player to average 10 or more rebounds in successive seasons.

After passing up his senior season to make himself available for the NBA draft, Dantley returned to finish his degree requirements at Notre Dame by 1978.

Sixth overall pick in the '76 NBA draft by Buffalo Braves, he was named the NBA rookie of the year in '77 with a 20.3 scoring average and a 7.6 rebound mark. He played 15 seasons in the NBA, averaging 24.3 points per game. He led the league five times in free throws made in a season and led the NBA in scoring in '81 at 30.7 and '84 at 30.6. He twice was a second-team all-NBA pick.
His 23,177 career points still ranks 18th all-time in the NBA. In all but four seasons as a professional, Dantley averaged 20 points or better, including topping the 30-point mark four straight years (1981-84). The six-time NBA All-Star (1980-82, 1984-86) was named NBA Comeback Player of the Year in 1984, the year he led the league in scoring (30.6).

Dantley played with Buffalo in '76-'77, with Los Angeles and Indiana in '77-'78, with the Lakers in '78-'79, then seven years with Utah ('79-'80 through '85-'86), and Detroit in '86-'87 and '87-'88. He was traded from Detroit to Dallas midway through the '88-'89 season, played all of '89-'90 in Dallas and later played with Milwaukee Bucks at the end of the '90-'91 season.

He was an assistant coach at Towson State for two seasons from 1993-95 and currently is an assistant coach with the NBA Denver Nuggets. A scholastic All-America player at DeMatha Catholic High School (Md.), he was born Feb. 28, 1956, in Washington, D.C.

Dantley becomes the sixth individual with Notre Dame connections to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He joins George E. Keogan (enshrined in 1961), Elmer H. Ripley (1973), Edward "Moose" Krause (1976), Raymond J. Meyer (1979) and J. Walter Kennedy (1981).

Keogan spent 20 seasons as Notre Dame's head coach between 1923 and 1943 and amassed 327 victories, while losing only 97 times for a .771 winning percentage. His teams won Helms Foundation national titles in 1927 and 1936.

Ripley served Notre Dame as head coach in only one season, finishing 17-4 in '45-'46. He played for the Original Celtics and coached at Georgetown, Yale, Columbia, Army and Regis. He coached the '60 Canadian Olympic team and also coached the Harlem Globetrotters for three seasons.

Krause began as a three-time All-American as Notre Dame's center in the early 1930s, won 98 games as Irish head coach for six years- and spent 32 years as Notre Dame's athletic director.

Meyer, a '38 Notre Dame graduate, was a two-time Irish basketball captain as a guard on the '36-'37 and '37-'38 squads. He was named head coach at DePaul in 1942 and retired following the '83-'84 season after 42 seasons in that position. His 724-354 career record makes him one of only a handful of coaches in Division I history to reach the 700-victory plateau.

Kennedy, a '34 Notre Dame graduate, served as Notre Dame's sports information director prior to a 12-year stint as commissioner of the National Basketball Association.

In addition, Carr in 2007 became Notre Dame's first representative into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, located in Kansas City, Mo.

The Physical Future of Notre Dame

This morning I was awoken by the harsh sounds of construction: the beeping of trucks backing up, engines roaring, dirt being moved (yes, it does make a sound), etc. I live in Keough Hall, located on West Quad, once the outer ranges of the school, now the hottest neighborhood for growth. With Duncan's bay windows having just been installed, the law school's steel skeleton obscuring my view of Notre Dame Stadium, the big dig of the new engineering building, and the utter destruction of the field and trees which separated my home from the bookstore for the newest dorm, construction is a topic of conversation betwixt me and most of my companions. We bemoan the loss of our field, our open expanses are being lost. McGlinn Shamrocks already despise the loss of their volleyball and basketball courts. This newest construction is necessary, indeed welcomed in many cases, but will it continued unbridled as our (and our Lady's) University continues to keep up with the Ivies?

We are continually fighting against the loss of what makes Notre Dame unique, what makes Notre Dame our Notre Dame. These issues are all alive and its a multifaceted discussion: the Catholic nature of our faculty, the loss of an arts/letters focus, the growth of research interests, the Vagina Monologues, even the commercialization of our football schedule are all topics which address the fears of our alumni, of our students, and of our fans.

For now, I may be peeved by the roar of backhoes and bulldozers awakening me at 8am, however, this is merely a visible sign of a deeper and fundamental discussion over the future of Notre Dame as THE Catholic institution of higher learning.