On Thursday Pope Francis delivered a statement to the University of Notre Dame in the United States that it should be an “uncompromising witness…to the Church’s moral teaching,” and to resist “efforts, from whatever quarter, to dilute that indispensable witness,” said a Vatican Radio translation.
Pope Francis said:
Essential in this regard is the uncompromising witness of Catholic universities to the Church’s moral teaching, and the defense of her freedom, precisely in and through her institutions, to uphold that teaching as authoritatively proclaimed by the magisterium of her pastors. It is my hope that the University of Notre Dame will continue to offer unambiguous testimony to this aspect of its foundational Catholic identity, especially in the face of efforts, from whatever quarter, to dilute that indispensable witness. And this is important: its identity, as it was intended from the beginning. To defend it, to preserve it and to advance it!
“This runs contrary to the media narrative that Pope Francis is somehow unconcerned about fidelity,” Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, told Breitbart News. “Not only is he calling on Notre Dame to authentically live out its Catholic identity and to remain true to the Church’s moral teachings, but he expects the University to be engaged in evangelization–to be more than Catholic in name and in obedience, but to proclaim the Catholic Faith to the world!”
Reilly added that Pope Francis has “met Notre Dame at a crossroads, where it must choose between its current course of compromise and infidelity and its founding mission as a Catholic university.”
“The Holy Father has clearly called Notre Dame to the better path, as have hundreds of thousands of American Catholics who treasure faithful Catholic education,” he said.
According to a report by the Cardinal Newman Society, a Notre Dame delegation met with Pope Francis as part of a celebration of the University’s new Rome Center. A photo of Notre Dame’s president Father John Jenkins, C.S.C. with the pope suggests he was present as part of the delegation.
In 2009, at least 83 bishops publicly decried the University’s decision to honor President Barack Obama despite his active support throughout his political career for abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Over 367,000 individuals signed The Cardinal Newman Society’s petition that opposed honoring Obama.
The Sycamore Trust, Notre Dame’s alumni publication, contains a quote from the University’s Faculty Senate from April 9, 2008, which states, “The University should not compromise its academic aspirations in its efforts to maintain its Catholic identity.”
In response, The Sycamore Trust said:
The fading of the Catholic presence on the Notre Dame faculty is the most important issue bearing on the increasing secularization of the school…
History demonstrates that the secularization of a religious college or university is the product of the secularization of the faculty. While the outward signs of religious practice typically continue well after the faculty has been transformed, in the end only traces of that religious identity remain…
The future of Notre Dame as a Catholic institution, then, depends upon a decisive reversal of the hiring policy of recent decades. The barrier is the faculty, to which hiring has in recent years been largely committed, for a solid majority believe hiring should be based primarily, if not exclusively, on secular values.