From Guardian of the Grotto, an alumni group interested in protecting Notre Dame’s Catholic identity:
ND and the Pro-Life ND88, the Pro-Gay Soulforce, and the Anti-ROTC Catholic Workers.
The prosecution of the ND 88 threatens serious harm to them. If convicted, they could be fined up to $5,000 plus costs and imprisoned for up to a year. Those with no prior convictions may enter a program under which, after successful completion of a year’s probation, the charges would be erased, but close to a half of the defendants do not qualify for this program. Moreover, while charges are pending there can be grave collateral consequences in terms of such matters as extension of credit and employment. One defendant and her husband have, in fact, been turned down as foster parents on this account.
Notre Dame has been involved in the design of this prosecutorial plan and thinks well of it. As Father Jenkins has written in response to alumni objections, “Notre Dame officials have been in regular contact with the prosecutor’s office on these matters” and believe the prosecutor’s decisions are “balanced and lenient,” even though the University “fully agrees” with the defendants’ pro-life position.
Notre Dame’s position has drawn widespread condemnation by the pro-life community, as we have pointed out in prior bulletins (Update on the ND88 and Notre Dame Washes its Hands). It has been described by leading pro-life organizations as a “source of the gravest scandal” and a further mark upon Notre Dame’s “tarnished image in the eyes of the pro-life world.”
The University’s position is bewildering, for there are many compelling reasons for the University to recommend to the prosecutor that he drop these cases. The University’s stance obviously impairs Father Jenkins’s post-Obama efforts to shore up Notre Dame’s pro-life credentials. The demonstrators are intensely dedicated and include many notably sympathetic individuals. By exercising compassion the University would not be thought to sanction the defendants’ alleged trespass. The event is long past, and peace and order were maintained. And it is the prosecutor, not the University, who decides what is in the public interest.
The question, then, is why the University persists in endorsing these prosecutions.
Initially, the University simply noted irrelevantly that it is not a party to the proceeding. More recently, in e-mail responses to inquiries, Father Jenkins has said the University should and does treat all trespassers alike.
The University cannot have one set of rules for causes we oppose, and another more lenient set of rules for causes we support. We have one consistent set of rules for demonstrations on campus – no matter the cause.
We doubted that any organization would saddle itself with such an inflexible policy, and so we asked the University about other recent cases. The two of special interest were the March 2007 trespass arrests of pro-gay and anti-military demonstrators.
The University replied that it “had no information on the disposition of these cases,” and accordingly we tracked down some of those who had been arrested. All said they had heard nothing further after the arrests.
Bill Dempsey relayed this information to the University:
I have interviewed by telephone two participants (one a priest) in the Catholic Worker anti-ROTC protest who were arrested by Notre Dame police in March of 2007 and one of the Soulforce pro-gay participants, together with the person in the Soulforce organization responsible for dealing with any consequences of these arrests. The participants all state that, after they were taken into custody and processed on the campus, they were released and heard nothing more. The Soulforce administrator confirmed this account. One of the Catholic Worker participants read to me the citation she received, a “Summons and Complaint” describing the premises and declaring that the individual would be obliged to appear in court when notified. In short, the cases were dropped after the arrests….[S]hould you wish to verify my report….I will furnish you the names of the persons with whom I spoke.
The University spokesman replied:
This exchange is no longer serving any purpose from our perspective, and, as a result, we have decided to discontinue communications with you on this topic.
We thereupon wrote Father Jenkins. His brief response was not encouraging. He seconded the spokesman’s termination of the discussion and he characterized as “not warranted” unidentified “inferences” and “assumptions” in Bill Dempsey’s wide-ranging exchanges with the University spokesman, but he did not dispute the facts respecting the Soulforce and Catholic Workers arrests. We responded that we nonetheless hoped that, upon reflection, he would relent, since the principle of equal treatment he had invoked required it.
The stark facts, then, are that the University has treated pro-gay and anti-military demonstrators far more generously than pro-life demonstrators and that it declines to explain why. The mystery of the University’s attitude toward the pro-life demonstrators deepens.
There is no mystery here. Jenkins and his forebears have acted with impugnity under the velvet glove of former Bishop John D’Arcy. In most respects, D’Arcy was an exemplary bishop. He suffered absolutely no priest abusers in his diocese, boldly stating that if a man otherwise would not have had a vocation as a husband and father, he had no vocation to the priesthood in the Fort Wayne and South Bend diocese. In that alone, he was a giant of Catholic Church history in the U.S. If he had a blind spot, it was his velvet glove approach toward the dissent, filth, and nose-thumbing that emanated from the campus.
Would that the recently installed new bishop of Fort Wayne and South Bend reserve an iron fist underneath that velvet glove.
FREE the ND88!