The Strange Hypocrisy of the Notre Dame Protests

The Strange Hypocrisy of the Notre Dame Protests
Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP
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One would think that a graduation ceremony, where family and friends assemble to celebrate the grand passage from the youthful dependency of college to the presumed self-sufficiency of adulthood, would be marked by joy, rather than expressions of infantile behavior that should have been harnessed and unlearned some 20 years earlier.

Sadly, such was not the case at the Notre Dame commencement last Saturday where a small group of graduates (along with some of their parents) walked out of the proceedings in protest of Vice President Mike Pence.

Consider: they were not protesting anything the vice president said. They didn’t bother to stay to hear what he had to say. Preemptive non-listening is a favorite tactic of the radical left. Had they stayed, they would have heard Pence say: “Notre Dame is a campus where deliberation is welcomed, where opposing views are debated, and where every speaker, no matter how unpopular or unfashionable, is afforded the right to air their views in the open for all to hear.”

Why did they leave? According to their press release, the protestors said they were expressing solidarity with “marginalized people,” adding that “Mike Pence's policies target the most vulnerable groups in our society.” The organizers also cited Pope Francis’ “call upon the world… to support Syrian refugees, to acknowledge and respect the humanity of sexual minorities and to bring down all walls that separate us…”

Perhaps these students missed the Catholic doctrinal teachings on the most vulnerable group in our society: unborn children. According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: “As a gift from God, every human life is sacred from conception to natural death. The right to life is the first and most fundamental principle of human rights….”

So, one must wonder how it is that among the protest’s organizers were leaders of Planned Parenthood and the Indiana Reproduction Justice Coalition, who attacked Vice President Pence for his longstanding views on the sanctity of life, a fundamental Catholic doctrine.

The protestors selective citing of the pope also extended to Catholic teachings on marriage and those “sexual minorities” the students were invoking. Recall that Pope Francis disappointed the LGBT community in his issuance last year of a report in which he affirmed the longstanding Catholic doctrine on the subject of homosexuality and marriage: “…only the exclusive and indissoluble union between a man and a woman has a plenary role to play in society as a stable commitment that bears fruit in new life…(w)e need to acknowledge the great variety of family situations that can offer a certain stability, but de facto or same-sex unions, for example, may not simply be equated with marriage.”

The pope cited the 2015 report of the synod of Catholic bishops saying, “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”

And while the pope called on the church to provide “respectful pastoral guidance” to those experiencing “same sex attraction”, he stated clearly that from the church’s viewpoint, “God’s will” means people should not act on such attractions.

Oops. Protestors must have missed that class? In other words, these graduates justified their objections to Pence’s presence as the commencement speaker at a major Catholic university for mirroring Catholic doctrine.

And what about their claims about Syrian refugees? In 2015, Pope Francis called on every Catholic parish and community in Europe to take in Syrian refugee families to ameliorate the crisis of refugees from that country who were flooding into European countries. Rather than walking out of a speech on a totally different subject, perhaps these students and their protesting parents should have offered to sponsor, house and feed Syrian refugee families, which would be more in keeping with Francis’s appeal than a staged walkout.

The vice-president’s support for policies to ensure that all entering the United States undergo proper scrutiny to protect our citizens against terrorists is hardly an extremist or un-Christian view. Mike Pence is a kind and gentle man, a former Catholic, now an evangelical Protestant, who lives his Christian beliefs as a shining example of Christ’s love for all humanity. He is not afraid to express those values, whether in public or in private.

Perhaps these students should have spent some time studying the doctrines of the Catholic Church, whose university just conferred upon them their degrees. Perhaps they should have learned something of Vice-President Pence and his commitment to the most vulnerable in our society and his respect for others…even those whose preconceived notions about him subject him to their rudeness. 

Notre Dame administrators, faculty, and alumni and, indeed, the Vatican, should take note of the professed reasons for the students’ walkout and figure out how the university managed to so completely botch teaching these students what a great Catholic university is supposed to stand for.

The protestors may have gotten their desired recognition in the New York Times but there are other points of reckoning awaiting these misguided graduates. Hopefully, they will find their way to the path of truth as set forth in the Scriptures, rather than the gaudy self-righteousness they displayed last weekend.

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