Jan 29, 2010 Print this article

Why does Fr. Jenkins refuse to dialogue with pro-lifers?

Father John I. Jenkins, President of the University of Notre Dame, defines himself as man of dialogue. This is why he invited President Obama to deliver the graduation speech at that Catholic university and granted him the title of Doctor Honoris Causa, in spite of his clearly pro-abortion position.

Dialogue: “acts of courtesy and gestures of respect”

As the priest stated during the ceremony, dialogue provides “a chance to come together” that would serve as a basis for solving problems. “Dialogue,” he explained, “is an ongoing process made possible by many acts of courtesy and gestures of respect, by listening carefully and speaking honestly.” In his opinion, dialogue requires honoring one’s interlocutor: “If we want to extend courtesy, respect and love – and enter into dialogue – then surely we can start by acknowledging what is honorable in others.”1

Why not dialogue with pro-lifers?

Strangely enough, however, Fr. Jenkins fails to apply his theory to pro-lifers. For reasons difficult to figure out, his desire to dialogue (which entails “many acts of courtesy and gestures of respect”) does not apply to those who, consistent with their Faith and their baptism, oppose abortion too emphatically.

For example, why does Fr. Jenkins not call for a dialogue with the 88 fearless pro-lifers now being prosecuted for having stepped onto Notre Dame’s campus to oppose abortion? Why does he not call a press conference to give an explanation to the 19,300 people who signed a petition asking him to drop the charges against these 88 pro-lifers?

The petition states that Fr. Jenkins, “on behalf of Notre Dame, could publicly request that the charges against the ND 88 be dropped.” Such an action would have far-reaching effects: “Not only is such a request likely to be heeded by the prosecutorial authorities, but it would go a long way to restoring Notre Dame's tarnished image in the eyes of the pro-life and Catholic world.” 2

Coldness with Joseph Scheidler at the March for Life

This year, seemingly for the first time, Father Jenkins, decided to attend the March for Life. In itself, that could indicate the beginning of a change.

Instead, even after marching along side throngs of pro-lifers the priest did not change his peculiar understanding of “dialogue,” a fact confirmed at the March for Life as he met the prominent pro-life leader Joseph Scheidler, national director of the Pro-Life Action League.

In an interview with LifeSiteNews, Scheidler − himself a former student and professor at Notre Dame − recounts his failed attempt to establish a dialogue with Fr. Jenkins:

“Scheidler told LifeSiteNews (LSN) that he told Fr. Jenkins ‘that many, many of my friends wanted me to talk to him about removing the charges of the Notre Dame 88. So [Father Jenkins] said, 'Well, now you've told me what they want,' and that was it."

"So I thought, 'Well, that wasn't very good,' said Scheidler. ‘So I went back and I said, 'You know, I not only was a student at Notre Dame but I taught at Notre Dame, and I'm very fond of Notre Dame. And I am really concerned that these 88 people were arrested for simply going on the campus doing something that they should do,' or something to that effect. And he said 'Alright, now you've said that.' And he was very off-putting." 3

Nothing could be more opposed to dialogue than the curt answers Fr. Jenkins gave the veteran pro-life leader who has every right to be treated with courtesy, respect and honor.

How does one explain Fr. Jenkin’s twofold attitude – on one hand, tripping over himself to dialogue with those who act contrary to natural law and Church doctrine, and on the other, brusque and intolerant behavior toward his own brothers in the Faith?

While not judging the conscience of the President of the University of Notre Dame, I am nevertheless perplexed by his attitude.

Sign the ND petition here

1. All the quotes from Fr. Jenkins’ speech are from http://fratres.wordpress.com/2009/05/18/full-transcript-fr-jenkins-notre-dame-speech/; Cf. Luiz Sergio Solimeo, Dialogue at Notre Dame: Undermining the Abortion Debate, http://www.tfp.org/tfp-home/catholic-perspective/dialogue-at-notre-dame-undermining-the-abortion-debate.html.
2. Petition to University of Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins, https://secure.lifesitenews.com/np/clients/lifesitenews_us/campaign.jsp?campaign=19.
3. James Tillman, Scheidler: Jenkins Remains Utterly Immovable on ND 88
Says talking to Jenkins about the issue like talking to a "stone", http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/printerfriendly.html?articleid=10012505.