An Indiana bishop has expressed objections to Notre Dame University’s rush to extend benefits and housing to “same-sex spouses” after the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear appeals legalized same-sex marriage last week.
In a carefully worded column in the diocesan newspaper, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend expressed his displeasure with Notre Dame’s decision, implying that the university should have waited before moving to recognize same-sex married couples.
“I would like to see further study of what the law requires as well as what religious liberty protections Notre Dame and our other Catholics institutions have so as not to be compelled to cooperate in the application of the law redefining marriage,” he wrote.
Just two days after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of Indiana’s court ruling on the unconstitutionality of banning “same-sex marriage,” Notre Dame University announced that it would extend benefits and housing to same-sex couples.
Notre Dame emailed benefits-eligible employees about the change Wednesday evening, inviting them to take advantage of the new benefits.
“This means that the law in Indiana now recognizes same-sex marriages and the University will extend benefits to all legally married spouses, including same-sex spouses,” the email to employees stated.
“Notre Dame is a Catholic university and endorses a Catholic view of marriage. However, it will follow the relevant civil law and begin to implement this change immediately,” the email said.
Gerard V. Bradley, a Notre Dame law professor, was critical of his university’s eagerness to embrace the law. “Notre Dame has not identified the ‘relevant civil law,’ much less has it explained its decision to comply with it — whatever it is,” he said.
Bradley said it is especially tragic that Notre Dame “should so nonchalantly, and without a whisper of resistance or even protest, rush to comply with such an unjust law.”
In his column, Bishop Rhoades wrote that the legal redefinition of marriage poses major challenges to church institutions and religious liberty, and that he, “and many others,” had been worried about the issue for some time.
“As a Catholic university, it is important that Notre Dame continues to affirm its fidelity to Catholic teaching on the true nature of marriage,” he wrote, urging the institution to continue to work with the Indiana Catholic Conference, which is studying the issue and an appropriate response.
Rhoades cited official church documents that say the church views homosexuals and heterosexuals as “equal in dignity” and opposes “unjust discrimination” against homosexuals. But, he wrote, the church continues to view homosexual sex as wrong and opposes same-sex marriage because the “nature” of marriage requires opposite sexes.
This is not the first time Notre Dame University has run afoul of Church officials. In March 2009, just two months after the inauguration of Barack Obama, the University of Notre Dame invited the President to receive an honorary law degree and to be the featured speaker at the university’s 2009 commencement ceremonies.
Eighty-three Catholic bishops publicly criticized Notre Dame’s decision, which blatantly violated a 2004 policy of the U.S. bishops banning the bestowal of Catholic honors and platforms to people who oppose fundamental Catholic teachings.
Other local church-affiliated colleges and universities with stances against homosexuality have not been so quick to embrace the new law.
According to a report in the South Bend Tribune, neither Bethel College, affiliated with the Missionary Church, nor Mennonite-affiliated Goshen College plans to follow in Notre Dame’s footsteps.