Friday, September 4, 2009

Book Review: What Happened to Notre Dame?

Notre Dame professor emeritus of law Charlie Rice is releasing his latest book, "What Happened to Notre Dame?," this month (with Forward written by Notre Dame professor emeritus of philosophy Ralph McInerny and Introduction written by Notre Dame professor of philosophy, Alfred J. Fredosso). I recently have received a review copy of the book and thus have had a chance to look through its contents. Not only is the book very thorough in its examination of the seeming rise and fall of Notre Dame's Catholicity, but it also includes a keen dissection of the what led up to and took place surrounding the controversial 2009 Notre Dame commencement. The following is an excerpt from the publisher's synopsis...

... What Happened to Notre Dame? by Charles E. Rice, with a Preface by Ralph McInerny and Introduction by Alfred Freddoso – three of Notre Dame’s most distinguished scholars, who together have served the University 124 years – first recounts the details of Notre Dame’s honoring of President Obama. It then examines the succession of fall-back excuses offered by the Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., and University publicists to justify Notre Dame’s defiance of the nation’s bishops and of Catholic teaching.

But Rice is not content with mere reportage. What Happened to Notre Dame? diagnoses the problem’s roots by first providing an overview of the Land O’Lakes Declaration, its inception and its aftermath, including the ways in which its false autonomy from the Church has led to an erosion of the Catholic identity of Notre Dame and other Catholic universities.

Then, it offers a cure. Christ, who is God, is the author of the divine law and the natural law. The book presents reasons why an acknowledged interpreter of these laws is necessary, and why that interpreter has to be the Pope exercising the
Magisterium, or teaching authority of the Church. And it shows why it is so important that we have such a moral interpreter for all citizens and not just for Catholics. The alternative is what Pope Benedict XVI calls the “dictatorship of relativism,” which the book analyzes. Even for those who do not share the Catholic faith, our reason leads us to conclude that the natural law is the only moral code that makes entire sense and points to the conclusion that the Vicar of Christ is uniquely suited to give authoritative interpretation to that law.

In the final chapter Rice shows why great good can come out of Notre Dame’s blunder in rendering its highest honors to such an implacable foe. Notre Dame got itself into such a mess because it attempted to be Catholic without the Church and
ended up defying the Church and disgracing itself. But good can result from the lesson here that roll-your-own morality is no more tenable than roll-your-own Catholicism.

Rice shows why what happened to Notre Dame is symptomatic of what’s happening in other Catholic colleges, indeed in colleges with non-Catholic religious affiliations. He shows how the abandonment of principle at the college level spills over tothe general culture, with devastating effect, as religious standards get pushed out of the public square. And, finally, he shows why people who have never seen the Golden Dome, never rooted for the Fighting Irish, and never graced a Catholic Church, also have a stake in what happened to Notre Dame...

(St. Augustine's Press, 224 pages, paperbound, $15.00; ISBN-13: 978-1-58731-920-4; ISBN-10: 1-58731-920-9; publication date: September 2009)

This book can be found at the following books sellers:

Barnes and Noble


John said...

I'm buying the book today. I am lucky to have been around these guys during my time at ND.

Christina said...

Somehow I don't think I'll be seeing this at the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore! More's the pity.

Thank you for the review. I shall put it on my to-read list.

Anonymous said...

I will be be picking this up. Definitely a must read.

By the way, after months of silence from the Board of Trustees, the Chairman, Richard Notebaert, has written a letter to America Magazine responding to Bishop D'Arcy's recent essay.

A disappointing letter I must add.

Details here:

Jim (ND Class of 1991)