The Corner

Politics & Policy

Pete Buttigieg Takes a Faculty Post at Notre Dame

Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg attends a campaign event in Rock Hill, S.C., February 27, 2020. (Eric Thayer/Reuters)

The University of Notre Dame has announced that Pete Buttigieg, failed presidential candidate and former mayor of South Bend, Ind., will be taking a post at the university for the coming academic year.

Buttigieg will be a 2020-21 faculty fellow at Notre Dame’s Institute for Advanced Study (NDIAS), taking part in a cohort that is set to focus on the “nature of trust.” In October, the former mayor will release a book on just that subject, called Trust: America’s Best Chance, “interweaving history, political philosophy, and affecting passages of memoir [to explore] the strong relationship between measures of prosperity and levels of social trust.”

In a recent column at First Things, Fr. Bill Miscamble — an accomplished historian, Notre Dame professor, and a good friend of mine — put a fine point on some of the reasons one might object to the university offering Buttigieg this position:

While still mayor of South Bend, Buttigieg skillfully and cynically signaled his support for the pro-abortion movement. He vetoed the South Bend Common Council’s favorable vote on a re-zoning request that would have permitted the highly regarded Women’s Care Center (WCC) to open a crisis pregnancy office next to an abortion facility operating on the west side of the city (near minority neighborhoods, one might add). Buttigieg, the future lecturer on “trust” at Notre Dame, strained credibility by claiming that he acted out of concern for “the neighborhood” when he denied the community the loving support that the WCC has provided for decades. Notre Dame president Father John Jenkins, who had worked amicably with Buttigieg on town-and-gown issues, criticized the veto and charged that “far from enhancing the harmony of the neighborhood, it [Buttigieg’s veto] divides our community and diminishes opportunities for vulnerable women.”

Most of this year’s Democratic candidates campaigned hard to establish their pro-abortion credentials, but Buttigieg seemed especially eager to please the Planned Parenthood crowd. In a notable exchange with Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, he made clear that he didn’t see much place for pro-life Democrats in the party. Most egregiously, Buttigieg also engaged in some discussion that revealed his support for late-term, partial-birth abortions. He even attempted to furnish his views with a religious gloss by suggesting that “there’s a lot of parts of the Bible that talk about how life begins with breath.”

Buttigieg’s extreme pro-abortion views directly oppose fundamental Catholic teaching prohibiting the destruction of human life in the womb. . . . [NDIAS director Meghan] Sullivan seems hesitant to examine the implications of Buttigieg’s fellowship for Notre Dame’s mission as a Catholic university.

One might expect that the aforementioned Father Jenkins would be more willing to do so, especially in light of his direct knowledge of Buttigieg’s betrayal of supporters of the Women’s Care Center. Sadly, no. While Father Jenkins concedes that Buttigieg disagrees with Catholic teaching on “some issues,” he asserts that the former mayor might make a contribution to NDIAS deliberations on the nature of trust.

Fr. Miscamble’s thoughts are well worth reading in full, but in my view, Notre Dame’s choice to employ Buttigieg is yet another example of university leadership seeking worldly prestige at the expense of the school’s Catholic mission. While there is some merit to opposing views on this subject, my own opinion is that the individuals any school chooses to hire — whether for administrative or faculty positions — are necessarily a core component of advancing the school’s identity and mission.

There’s much to be said for diversity of thought and ecumenism, but those values should never be taken so far as to excuse the employment of public figures such as Buttigieg who, aside from having little to offer in the way of intellectual rigor or genuine expertise, have repeatedly and in the most public way possible contradicted and flouted Catholic doctrine on key, non-negotiable issues such as abortion and the nature of marriage.

Buttigieg clearly was offered this position not because of any academic work he’s conducted but because of his political career, a career during which he’s routinely espoused positions that undermine the most fundamental parts of the Catholic Church’s view of human nature, sin, and social justice. On the subject of trust, the matter on which the university claims he’s expert, the former mayor hasn’t much to offer aside from a new book and more meaningless pablum about bipartisanship, an overrated virtue that he did little to practice during both his mayorship and his presidential campaign.

Instead, he ran a campaign centered around the notion that he alone possesses a clear-eyed view of what Christianity demands of our politics, and, by extension, that anyone who disagrees with him is not only wrong but an immoral hypocrite.

I’ve touted my alma mater time and again, both publicly and in private, as a worthy institution for any student seeking an authentically Catholic education, and I stand by that view. But with this appointment, Notre Dame has signaled once again that many of its leaders care more about improving the university’s standing in the eyes of a secular world than they do about offering that world an undiluted witness to the powerful message of the Gospel.

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