Two Notre Dame Rebuttals

My post yesterday defending Notre Dame produced a mostly interesting comment box — including some classic Petrine wit. I also received several e-mails, all of them very thoughtful and honest, regardless of their opinion on the matter. As a result, I realize that I ended up casting too wide a net, trapping fish I never intended to catch, and also weaving a net with too wide a mesh, conveniently letting certain fish pass through that perhaps do not deserve it.

And then there is this: Sycamore Trust.

Let me be more clear: I only wanted to address my kin — the know-nothings. Those of us who didn’t go to Notre Dame, don’t know much about it other than the folklore of the Golden Domers on Saturdays, the egg-headed lore of its academic brand name, and the meager bits we get from the news. There are lots of us running around and I think all my points still apply to that motley crew. But there are others that I, being a know-nothing myself, did not consider. There are also a few other things I’m mulling around and might post about later.

In the meantime, here are two fine rebuttals from very different critics: an 82 year-old Jesuit alumnus and an early-twenties medical student.

Dear Mr. Rocha:

I can appreciate your remarks about some of the malcontents who are in criticism of Notre Dame.  I do not believe that the criticism is against the football team; primarily fotsome of the decisions the University has made pertaining to the invitation of speakers and social programs.

It may be difficult for you to believe but the majority of those who make criticism of Notre Dame are alumni of Notre Dame as I am.  We are extremely happy about the success of the football team; we recognize the high academic achievements made by the University, but, we still take to task some of the decisions made by the Administration.

Yes, I was one who truly objected to the presence of the President to speak at a commencement address.  The President is  probably one of the most pro-abortionist Presidents we have ever had.  As a Catholic and more as a Catholic priest, it would be hard for me to approve one who approves of an intrinsic evil as stated by the Church.

Mr. Obama also fabricated his love and understanding of  the teachings of the Church in his address.  Yet , it is he who is getting ready through the HHS mandate to bring about some difficult times for the Church.

In summary, most of the people are not really malcontents.  Even though you have a problem with Catholic identity, I do not.  I am not a right wing extremist priest; nor am I an activist.  I am an 82 year old alumnus, Jesuit priest, who dearly loves the school.  I was at the University at the time of Frank Leahy and Ara Parseghian.  So, I am for excellence in football, academic and  yes, Catholic Identity.  Let us both pray that they can win the National Championship.

I am yours in Our Lady,

Father Joseph LeBlanc, SJ


You are missing the point about ND by such a small amount. It is a wonderfully Catholic place. As you yourself say, being Catholic is not about being perfect. It is about constant conversion. Conversion demands confession. Thus, we must ardently root for Notre Dame and condemn her faults (inviting Obama is probably not one of the faults – and if it is then inviting Bush was too – you know where I stand). But a huge problem of the Football culture is that it becomes the religion of so many lovers of Notre Dame. Now this is not bad in all cases, my grandfather will probably die if they win the National Championship – seriously. But the main is a wonderful lover of God and faithful Catholic.

Furthermore Notre Dame’s football prowess can cause us to miss her faults which we should expose and seek to rectify. One difficulty is that the football culture itself is broken. Have you ever been to a home game? Have you ever stood there as two fucking fighter jets Fly over the stadium? Over the basilica? Over the golden dome? Over our mother? That is terrifying.

I think in a certain sense your love of sport blinds you a bit here.




Thanks to all for your remarkably charitable comments and correspondence.

Oh, one last thing: if ND really is in desperate need of faithful Catholics with academic credentials, then, I might know a guy who’d absolutely LOVE to work there. Just sayin’.


  • Pingback: Two Notre Dame Rebuttals |

  • Bill Dempsey

    Thank you for your reference to Sycamore Trust (, an organization of Notre Dame alumni and other friends of the University concerned about the weakening of the school’s Catholic identity in recent decades. It is the price paid for the school’s quest for acceptance by, and ranking with, the Harvards and Yales and Stanfords of secular academe. As I said in my preceding comment, the root problem is not episodes like the honoring of Obama or the Vagina Monologues or the Queer Film Festival. They won’t topple the Golden Dome, lamentable though they may be. The root problem is the shrinking of Catholic representation on the faculty to the point that the school doesn’t come close to its own requirement — what it says in its Mission Statement is essential to its Catholic identity — a majority of committed Catholic faculty members. Let me add a few additional comments on that point: First, the blight is not across the board. The Law and Business schools meet the faculty standard — the Law School by a very comfortable margin — and are truly Catholic. Also, as you pointed out, despite some serious weak spots, holdovers from a former era, the Theology Department is very strong and a source of fine graduate students for other schools. However, because of the secularization of the curricula together with the assignment of instructors, this means very little to most undergraduates. They are required to log only six hours of theology, and some 80% of the sections of the only theology course required of everyone, the Foundations course, are taught by graduates and special research assistants and the like.
    Overall, then the inescapable judgment remains: Notre Dame is a Catholic place, but no longer an authentically Catholic university. It can probably recapture its Catholic identity, but only under determined leadership ready to confront the strong objections of entrenched faculty. (Steubenville will understand, if I have it right as to what happened there.) And I add, with all respect, that it does not really serve the interests of higher Catholic education, which I know you hold dear as do we, to attempt to inform others about Notre Dame through the attributes that are the stuff of the university’s public relations endless emissions. They are for the most part true and they are not unimportant, but taken by themselves they are greatly misleading. As one of the school’s fine scholars and most popular teachers, Father Wilson Miscamble, the former chair of the history department and rector of Moreau Seminary, characterized them in America, they serve as the fronts for Notre Dame’s Potemkin Village.

    • Petro

      My primary concern is who is determining what is and is not “authentically Catholic.” I know little about the issues at Notre Dame beyond what is available from the standard sources on such matters. If alumni are concerned about the lack of Catholic faculty at Notre Dame, then they are well within their rights to ask that these concerns be addressed. Nevertheless, aggrieved Notre Dame alumni do not seem to me to be the correct arbiters of what is and is not authentically Catholic.

      Having every individual who professes the faith and follows its precepts act as determiner of what is and is not authentically Catholic is a dangerous road for us to go down. We should right the wrongs that we see, but we should be careful to not appoint ourselves judges over the faithful, the Church, and her institutions.