Notre Dame task force on life makes preliminary recommendations

Author: Dennis Brown

Notre Dame Blue Seal

The University of Notre Dame’s Task Force on Supporting the Choice for Life has submitted an interim progress report to University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., with preliminary recommendations that are designed to “broaden and deepen the pro-life culture in and among various constituencies in order to strengthen the Notre Dame community’s witness to Catholic teaching on life.”

The task force was convened by Father Jenkins in early September to consider and recommend ways in which the University can support the sanctity of life. It is co-chaired by Margaret Brinig, Fritz Duda Family Professor of Law; and John Cavadini, associate professor and chair of theology and McGrath-Cavadini Director of the Institute for Church Life.

“My charge to the task force in September was to make recommendations on ways in which the University could increase and manifest its own commitment to a culture of life across our campus and in partnership with other constituencies in the Notre Dame family, including our alumni,” Father Jenkins said. “I am pleased to report that the task force has been at work, engaging various of these constituencies in conversation and studying ways in which the University can articulate its commitment effectively and can encourage programming which furthers this commitment.

“The task force has now offered me a series of recommendations and expects, after further study, to refine them by the end of the academic year.”

Several task force recommendations already have borne fruit, including a statement on the University’s unequivocal support of Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life that appeared in a “What Would You Fight For?” commercial on adult stem cell research that aired nationally Nov. 7 on NBC and co-sponsorship with Notre Dame Law School of a panel presentation Dec. 3 on the development of a conscience clause for health care providers informed by Catholic teaching.

The preliminary recommendations include the following:

  • That the University formulate and adopt a policy statement indicating its support for Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.
  • That the University formulate and adopt a policy statement on charitable gifts or investments in order to avoid formal or immediate material complicity in evils such as abortion and torture.
  • That the University adopt strategies to make its current supportive policies toward pregnant students better known to the student body, the faculty and other members of the Notre Dame community.
  • That the president continue to witness for life through attending or sending a delegate to participate in the March for Life or a similar event focusing on the right to life beginning at conception, as well as analogous forms of witness across the spectrum of life issues.
  • That undergraduate research opportunities be made available through “witness to life research opportunities” (or a similar idea), with topics in theology, law, philosophy, sociology, biology and other disciplines across the spectrum of life issues.
  • That the University find ways to encourage the work of students explicitly engaged in pro-life activities across the spectrum of life issues. Further, that the University create and support educative efforts on campus – such as conferences, consultations and courses – intended to inform the campus community on issues pertaining to life, and to form an academic culture of witness to life as appropriate to any given academic venue.
  • That the University encourage alumni in pro-life witness, for example, in helping them to mobilize their own parish communities in support of women in crisis pregnancies or in assisting adoptions.
  • The task force, for the remainder of its charge, will serve to initiate collaborations with specific Notre Dame constituencies as appropriate in order to further the implementation of the recommendations above and consider further recommendations.

In addition to Brinig and Cavadini, members of the task force are Ann Astell, theology; Kathleen Kelley, student; Mary Ellen Konieczny, sociology; Rev. William Lies, C.S.C., Center for Social Concerns; and Rev. Mark Poorman, C.S.C., vice president for student affairs. Frances Shavers, chief of staff and special assistant to the president; and Todd Woodward, associate vice president for marketing communications, serve as task force liaisons.

Father Jenkins and several task force members will join Notre Dame students, faculty, staff and alumni Jan. 22 at the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Bishops John D’Arcy and Kevin Rhoades and Father Jenkins will concelebrate a send-off Mass for March for Life participants at 9 p.m. Jan. 19 in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on campus.

On the day of the march, Notre Dame participants will celebrate Mass at 10 a.m. at St. Agnes Catholic Church, 1910 N. Randolph St. in Arlington, Va. A Rally for Life will be held at noon at 7th Street and Jefferson Drive. The march, beginning at 1 p.m., will proceed from Constitution Avenue and 7th Street to the Supreme Court building, and a student and alumni reception will follow from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Smith & Wollensky restaurant, 1112 19th Street, N.W., in Washington.

Eucharistic adoration from noon to 4:45 p.m. and a Mass at 5:15 p.m. Jan. 22 at the Basilica will be open to members of the Notre Dame community who are unable to travel to Washington for the march.