As much as I beat up on Notre Dame...
...there are things like about the institution. Starting with the fight song, which happened to be my high school's. Even hearing the tune transports me back to Friday night football in the blustery October cold, with the constant buzzing of the lights and repeated glances at the ancient scoreboard perched along the fence line to the north of the stadium, often as not the remnants of a corn harvest visible from the sidelines.
And my senior season, I even got to play.
But beyond that, I am left with the distinct impression that an authentically Catholic identity still means something at ND, and a critical mass of students and faculty are bent on keeping it that way. If I have to grit my teeth and shell out cash to send my kids to a major Catholic university, I think it is very likely that ND is their best bet (sorry, Steubby fans).
Fr. John Jenkins, the newly arrived president of ND, reinforces that impression in a gutsy broadside delivered shortly after his inauguration:
"In all of American higher education, Notre Dame has a distinct position. It aspires to be, and is, among the leading universities ... It is at the same time the only one with religious character, with all respects to our friends at Boston College and Georgetown," he said, referring to the more liberal Jesuit schools. "The inertia is always to be like everyone else. To be different, you have to chart a course and have a clear idea about where you want to go."
Word is, the Jesuit leadership at those schools--especially BC--are a bit cheezed.
Good. Sorry, BC- and GT-ers, but I get the opposite impression from your schools. Not that there aren't solid Catholic faculty and Catholic ministries there, but there's entirely too much reflexive droning about "academic freedom," "diversity," "inclusivity" and other buzzwords which usually signal a red-shifting away from a meaningful Catholic identity.
Which is why I expressed dissent in this pro-BC discussion:
[BC defender]: I'm no fan on the Fighting Hunchbacks, but in fairness to Fr Jenkins, I think you've misread the quote. What he is saying is that of the leading universities--including BC and Georgedown--ND is the only one with a religious character.
If you define 'religious character' as Touchdown Jesus, the Golden Nipple, crosses in every classroom, single sex dorms, a student body that's almost entirely Catholic, and not trying to do anything about being ranked the most homophobic campus in America, then he is right.BC just happens to value religious diversity and "faith that does justice" over 24-hour rosaries and "faith-based" neoconservatism. We also have better taste when it comes to religious art on campus.
My gentle remonstration:
While I don't have much of a dog in this fight (I didn't attend either school and root for Michigan), ND has it all over BC.
True, in one sense, Fr. Jenkins was wrong. But if he'd substituted "Catholic" for "religious," he would have nailed it. BC is plenty religious, to be sure.
It's just the kind of religion that takes care never to offend NPR devotees and other secular pharisees who think slapping a "Hate is Not a Family Value" bumper sticker on the back of the Lexus is a brave prophetic statement.
While externals do not define the faith, the determination to deride them is telling.
And anyone who thinks ND has abandoned Catholic social justice principles is ignorant. The three word rebuttal: Fr. Michael Baxter.
Hmm...Two pro-ND posts in three days. Time for deprogramming.
[Thanks to BC loyal son Mark for the links. And sorry for the caning of your alma mater.]