Once upon a time there was no air between the two, but that was long before the Age of Relativism and the ongoing struggle between the teaching and the university is expressed in no more loving way than in this superb column from Catholic Thing.
“The University of Notre Dame has always been blessed by loyal and generous alumni. This has never been truer than in the case of Project Sycamore, whose president is Bill Dempsey ‘52, retired after a most distinguished legal career that began with a clerkship under Chief Justice Earl Warren. Dempsey has rallied fellow alumni to address current campus outrages, and thousands of alumni have subscribed to the Sycamore website ( firstname.lastname@example.org ). The extremes of alumni sentiment might be called unquestioning, on the one hand, and carping, on the other. Project Sycamore, as evidenced by Dempsey’s letters to ND president Father John Jenkins and his analyses of university proposals, is a model of calm and reasonable yet unrelenting friendly questioning of recent events on the South Bend campus.
“The trigger for the Project was the incredible waffling of Father Jenkins about, and ultimate allowing of, campus presentations of the infamous and pornographic play The Vagina Monologues. The very title is an affront. Imagine Penis Ponderings, Malice Aforeskin or Anal Analyses. That such a patent effort to corrupt the young and to trash common morality, to say nothing of the enforcement and enlargement of that morality by Catholic moral teaching, should not require five minutes of reflection before being dismissed. Yet the unthinkable has happened, again and again. If only Father Jenkins had simply sought his mother’s advice, none of this would have happened….
“Notre Dame is not a secular university. It is a Catholic university, as indeed were all the original universities. Universities arose, as John Paul II pointed out, ex corde ecclesiae. What the times require is not for Catholic universities to become more like their chaotic secular counterparts, but to recover and celebrate the great tradition in which they stand. The future of Catholic universities could be even more golden than their past, but only if they set aside an indecent respect for the opinions of mankind and celebrate the complementarity of faith and reason.
“No one could imagine that Father Jenkins would take exception to this ideal. Only a churl would imagine that there is some plan to secularize Notre Dame. Our president is a good and holy priest, although a philosopher. Project Sycamore and Father Jenkins are children of the same mother, the lady atop the golden dome. She will bring them together in her historic roles as Advocata nostra and Sedes sapientiae.”