In an interview in the summer of 2011, Fr. William Miscamble, a beloved history professor and Holy Cross priest at Notre Dame who was among those who protested President Obama’s being honored there in 2009, told me:
Notre Dame’s honoring of a president who is deeply committed to the terrible abortion regime which prevails in the United States today damaged its reputation and credibility as a Catholic university. It strained the university’s relationship with the institutional Church. You would recall that the president’s visit brought forth criticism of Notre Dame from over 80 bishops, from literally thousands of Notre Dame alumni, and from hundreds of thousands of committed Catholic folk who love Notre Dame and expected more from her. Notre Dame is still struggling to overcome the harm done. While it has undertaken some “damage limitation” measures, it certainly has not regained its previous treasured place in American Catholic life. Notre Dame’s reputation as a Catholic University is still in need of repair.
There are good things happening at Notre Dame. During yesterday’s commencement address, New York’s Cardinal Dolan reminded graduates of “the secret” of the place: the model of Mary, Mother of God, honored in the university’s name and at its famous grotto.
Talk about mission. It’s in the name! It should be no secret.
There will continue to be a mixed bag there, no doubt — mission renewal takes dedicated and sustained work. And it absolutely requires the kind of authenticity, born of real faith and prayer and sacrifice, that yesterday’s speaker emphasized.
Christianity in America – and in the West — is at a “get real“ point right now. So much of what has gone terribly wrong in the Church and in the world has its roots in people’s not taking their faith seriously, not being faithful to teachings, not teaching, not giving others the best of themselves in love and sacrificial service out of love for God. Taken for real – and not as merely a cardinal’s priestly sentiments about a woman you see in gold when you’re landing in South Bend — it’s as radical a proposal as there is, and to everyone’s ecumenical benefit.
More thoughts here.
UPDATE: Text of the commencement address is now up here.