The University of Notre Shame

By John Zmirak Published on November 9, 2017

Notre Dame University in Indiana has long been one of the flagships of Catholic education in America. But that school just made a shameful, scandalous, but most of all ludicrous decision. The issue? Contraceptive coverage for employees of the school.

The Catholic Church teaches that we can know by reason alone that contraception is evil. It also points to a long, unanimous and ecumenical consensus on the issue. Right up through the early 20th century. If you believe that teaching, you think that buying someone else contraceptives is wrong. 

Standing Up to Uncle Sam

In light of that teaching, Notre Dame had joined a high-profile lawsuit against the U.S. government. The goal? To avoid the Obamacare mandate that it pay for employees’ contraceptives. The Trump administration has suspended that mandate. Religious orders like the Little Sisters of the Poor had already won exemptions.

Now the point was made. So the University has decided to go ahead and pay for employee contraception anyway. Why? Supposedly because its insurer said so.

As the National Catholic Register noted:

Just over a week ago, the university notified its employees that the cost-free coverage, which was initially introduced through the Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate, would end Jan.1. But Nov. 7, the university said it would provide the coverage.

“Notre Dame, as a Catholic institution, follows Catholic teaching about the use of contraceptives and engaged in the recent lawsuit to protect its freedom to act in accord with its principles,” the university informed its employees in a Nov. 7 email.

“Recognizing, however, the plurality of religious and other convictions among its employees, it will not interfere with the provision of contraceptives that will be administered and funded independently of the university.”

In an email message responding to the Register’s request for further clarification, Paul Browne, Notre Dame’s vice president of public affairs and communications, explained that the university changed its policy after it received updated information from Meritain Health/OptumRx, the insurance provider that manages health benefits for Notre Dame’s employees.

Do we really believe that a school with the financial heft of Notre Dame can’t find another insurer? There are even religiously-based “health share” companies. Believers founded them to protect their 1st Amendment right not to act against their conscience, especially on abortion. Such companies would get a much-needed boost for their worthy missions if large customers such as Notre Dame contracted with them. They certainly deserve the help. They have every right to expect it. Progressive, leftist and gay organizations make sure to support the companies that adopt their favored policies. But Catholics? Nah, that’s too much to ask.

Cowering Before an Insurance Company

Notre Dame has decided to twist itself into a contortionist yoga pose. It affirms the (official, if unpopular) Church teaching that contraception is intrinsically evil. From that, what logically follows? That it’s wrong for the university to choose an insurance company that funds contraception. Especially when there are alternatives. Think something is evil in itself? Then you think that it’s bad for anyone. Even if he doesn’t know it. To help someone do what you know is wrong is wrong. It’s bad for his soul, whether he knows it or not. But since you know better, it is deadly for yours.

Imagine a pagan emperor demanding that Christians worship him. Then he relents. But the Christians instead kneel down to worship … an insurance broker.

When the U.S. government demanded this course of action, Notre Dame said no. Now a measly private contractor issues a memo and the university backs down. Imagine a pagan emperor demanding that Christians worship him. Then he relents. But the Christians instead kneel down to worship … an insurance broker.

The Innocence of Serpents, the Wisdom of Doves

There are only two logical possibilities here.

The first is this: Notre Dame believes that if there is one level of remove between it and an evil action, its hands are clean. Let’s test that out. Notre Dame rightly would not practice racial discrimination. Would it choose a contractor that did? Even if the school could avoid any legal liability? Of course not.

The second is: Notre Dame does not in fact consider the Church’s teaching on contraception true and binding on Catholics. For instance, its administrators. It won’t come out and say that. That would be yet another black eye for its Catholic “identity.” And that appeals to donors, parents and students. But it’s just for public consumption. Red meat for the rubes.

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The school’s choice to wink at its founding Church’s teaching is already winning it praise. The Los Angeles Times just lauded it for “re-entering the 21st century.”

Hiring Old Podesta Pals

None of this should surprise us. As Catholic educational watchdog group the Cardinal Newman Society reported just this summer:

The University of Notre Dame has named Denis McDonough, former chief of staff to President Barack Obama, as an executive fellow of the Global Policy Initiative in the university’s new Keough School of Global Affairs where he will teach graduate students, The South Bend Tribune reports.

McDonough has called Obama “our most Catholic of presidents,” despite his strident support of abortion, same-sex marriage, embryonic stem cell research, the HHS contraception mandate, and transgender policies.

Before becoming chief of staff, McDonough was a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, John Podesta’s infamous leftist lobbying group that was exposed in leaked emails to be attempting to undermine the Catholic Church.

McDonough once wrote a piece arguing against excommunication for pro-abortion politicians, and in another one, he argued that Catholic bishops should not support criminalizing abortion.


Can we imagine Notre Dame hiring, say, Steve Bannon? Perhaps to teach about immigration policy? On that topic, Bannon is actually in line with the official teachings of the Catholic church. 

Remember when Notre Dame honored rabidly pro-abortion President Barack Obama? Notre Dame is still straddling the fence between heaven and hell. It wants the lingering prestige that comes with the Catholic academic heritage. It just doesn’t want the pesky moral reasoning that’s central to it. Apparently, Catholicism for Notre Dame is now mostly a branding opportunity.

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  • “The Catholic Church teaches that we can know by reason alone that contraception is evil.”

    It therefore goes without saying that conscientious, observant Catholics would shun contraception. So if Notre Dame only employed Catholic staff and enrolled Catholic students, this wouldn’t be an issue. And if Notre Dame is a private Catholic university that accepts no public funding whatsoever, they can employ and enroll only doctrinaire Catholics if they so choose.

    But they don’t choose to do that. And they do not require non-Catholic students and staff to abide by official Vatican pronouncements. So calm down.

    • Zmirak

      Actually not true. They take plenty of federal financial aid, which subjects them to Title IX and many other regs. But they could hire only Catholics for religiously relevant subjects, yes. And I’m perfectly calm, in fact placidly scornful.

      • I actually was quite sure that Notre Dame accepts plenty of federal financial aid, but they don’t have to if they don’t want to, right? They can avoid being subjected to Title XI and all those other pesky regulations if they want to, right?

        • cestusdei

          Great, so do I get to withhold my part of my taxes that go to pay for those pesky regulations? The real goal here is to eventually make the Church pay for abortion and to end all opposition to the culture of death. Religious freedom? That’s on the chopping block.

      • Karen

        That’s his point. ND takes federal money and hires non-Catholics who couldn’t care less about the idiotic contraception ban. (Which is logical only to people who hate women and sex, in that order.)

        • James

          Most non-Catholics at ND don’t care about the contraception ban.
          Most Catholics at ND don’t care about the contraception ban.

          Most of the leadership in the Catholic Church is not from the United States and doesn’t understand why ND has to pay for their employees’ health care in the first place. Nor do they understand why government money changes anything (the Establishment Clause is a uniquely American thing).

        • cestusdei

          Yeah we need more people who love women and respect sex, just like in Hollywood.

          • Karen

            And just like the Catholic Church that things we are too disgusting to be priests AND that the bestest thing we can do is die rather than have sex like Maria Goretti or that we should die from easily-treatable diseases in pregnancy like Gianna Molla. Also, I have two healthy sons precisely because I used the Pill when I was younger and not ready for motherhood.

          • cestusdei

            So you would force people to marry. And you attack a rape victim. And a woman who died for the sake of her child. Wow, what morality you have. Your sons are lucky you didn’t abort them for being inconvenient. Millions of other children were not so lucky as their moms shared your disdain for life and love.

          • Karen

            Where do you get that I would force anyone to marry? As for Goretti, she was canonized for the appalling reason that it’s better to die a virgin than live as a rape victim. The Catholic hierarchy shames rape victims, not me. Dr. Molla already had two kids, one of whom her widower allowed nuns to neglect to death, and should never have had to make such a decision. Treatment should have been available that would have saved her life without endangering the pregnancy. Since she already had kids, she should have had the surgery to save her life. Make her a saint tells all women that your church thinks we’re better off dead.

          • cestusdei

            You demand that priests marry. You blame a girl for trying to fight off her attacker. No sympathy for the victim from you at all. St. Gianna sacrificed herself for her child and you think that’s terrible. I guess your sons are out of luck if they are in danger. You would not risk yourself to save them. Your faith tells you that YOU are the most important thing in the world and that you need not sacrifice for others. You make a fetish out of your selfishness and ridicule real virtue wherever it is found.

          • Karen

            My sons are teenagers. As for Dr. Molla, she already had children living. She should have regarded her living children as more important than a pregnancy. Note than one of her daughters died at boarding school with nuns when the poor girl was six years old. Doesn’t that little girl count?

          • cestusdei

            So you still would not risk your life to save them or even one of them. Or you would let one drown because you have a spare at home. Nice. I guess no child counts in your family.

          • James

            How do you know that Dr. Molla didn’t want another child? Parents risk their lives for their children every day. She was perfectly clear that she knew the risks and she wanted to carry the pregnancy to term.

            Second, while carrying the pregnancy was risky, it was far from certain death. Both mother and child survived the delivery, but she died of a post-operative infection. The girl is now a woman in her 50s.

            Finally, what, if anything, do you see as being worth Dr. Molla risking her life over?

          • Karen

            I don’t demand priests marry; I think the church should ordain women as well as men. Failing to do so says that women are inferior to men.

          • cestusdei

            That’s what you said. You demand that Catholics change their religion to suit you. Note that Muslims don’t ordain women, are you Islamophobic too? I demand that Protestants accept the papacy because…well I said so. I guess you can’t object to that since that is what you do to us.

          • Karen

            Are women inferior to men?

          • cestusdei

            No. Are unmarried people inferior to married people? Are Catholics inferior to atheists? Are Christians inferior to homosexuals? Are white people inferior to other people? Are unborn children inferior to other children? Are conservatives inferior to liberals? Are you better then everyone else?

          • Maggie Sullivan

            Karen, it is clear you have a lot you are dealing with. Is it a past abortion? God will forgive and heal you if you repent……….pray to St. Maria and Saint Gianna, they will offer your prayers to the Father.

            As for using the pill when you were younger……we all know the use of the pill destroys relationships. Were you sleeping around? Are you divorced? The pill destroys life and love and if early abortions took place in you because of the pill you have many more daughters and sons who not allowed to live… will meet them in eternity.

          • Kathy

            Yes, God will forgive and heal you if you repent and put your trust in Him, Karen, but you can go directly to Him in prayer.

          • Karen

            Other than using the Pill when I first married, I have lived by your sexual ethics. And they made me miserable. My husband is the only person I ever had sex with. He’s a grouch who mostly shouts at me and never has kind word for me or my children.

          • Maggie Sullivan

            That is heartbreaking.

        • Maggie Sullivan

          Wow, calling God idiotic………it is God’s contraception ban. You see most oral contraceptives act as abortificiants…..God does not like it when you murder His children.

          Karen, have you destroyed your children using contraception?

          • A blastocyst (a differentiated ball of cells that forms about five days after a mammalian egg cell is fertilized) is about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. You will have little success convincing people that it has “rights.”

          • Maggie Sullivan

            God loves all of His children and form the moment of life in the womb of her mother, from the very first moment God love the person He directly and intentionally created.

            You see, I don’t have to convince anyone of the facts. They will have to explain to God why they used contraception to destroy life, to destroy, love, to eliminate a person God loves………….contraception is anti-life, anti-God, and anti-person.

          • Linda

            So all the pedophile Catholic priests that chose boys as their victims, at least didn’t have to worry about evil contraceptives

          • Maggie Sullivan

            Your right, the sexual abuse scandal in the Church was caused by homosexuals.
            We all must do a better job of keeping homosexuals away from children and teaching homosexuals that sodomy is a demonic crime against God and humanity……at least we can agree on this point that homosexuality is a horrific perversion and disorder and we need to help people overcome the same-sex attraction that led to the abuse of so many children..

          • Linda

            I imagine that the Catholic church does teach that homosexuality is a perversion while large numbers of their male leadership excuse themselves and violate young boys anyway, adding pedophilia to their sins. Same way the Catholic church apparently teaches that contraception is a sin, while millions of Catholics use it anyway.

          • Maggie Sullivan

            You nailed it again Linda……..sodomy and contraception are both mortal sins that destroy lives and souls……

          • TBP100

            And yet he set up a human reproductive system in which at least 60%, and quite possibly up to 90%, of fertilized eggs fail to come to term all on their own, without any human intervention whatsoever. They either fail to implant at all, or the body expels them naturally later. Given that, and considering what infant mortality rates were before modern medicine (and still are among people who don’t access to that medicine), it’s really hard to me to see how your first paragraph could possibly be true.

          • Maggie Sullivan

            Either you don’t believe in God or your god is so small and meaningless it is of no consequence.

            In physical creation a very rough estimate tells us we have 10 trillion galaxies in the universe. Multiplying that by the Milky Way’s estimated 100 billion stars results in an estimated: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars, or a “1” with 24 zeros after it.

            Do you think God has any problem caring for an loving all His billions of children? God loves all life.

            The problem is when people destroy life through contraception, murder, abortion, war, genocide, etc they send their own souls to hell – unless of course they have a true repentance.

          • TBP100

            I have absolutely no idea what point you are trying to make here, or how it relates to my observation.

          • Dan Ruf in indiana

            Very good response, and many will have to answer for Not speaking the Truth in this matter.

          • PalaceGuard

            Viewed from the orbit of say, Uranus, we’re all less than the size of that blastocyst. You’d have little success convincing Uranians that any of us have “rights”.

          • TBP100

            Years ago I was listening to the local Catholic radio station. Someone was interviewing a priest about the Church’s opposition to birth control. The host asked the priest, obviously expecting an actual answer, to cite scripture in support of the Church’s position. You’ve never heard such hemming and hawing in your life. It was on the radio, so I could only imagine the hand-waving. Ultimately, he couldn’t cite a single scripture that was on point. In watching this debate for decades now, I have NEVER seen anyone cite a genuinely relevant scripture to support the ban on birth control.

          • Maggie Sullivan

            Easiest question I have ever answered………………………………onanism – Genesis 38

          • TBP100

            Nope, not even remotely on topic. It isn’t about contraception in general, but about a specific instance of disobedience to a specific law (another OT law that is completely ignore by believers today, by the way).

          • Dan Ruf in indiana

            Very good question, many priests could learn from asking this of the ones in their charge.

    • Super Genius

      All of what you say is beside the point. Mr. Zmirak is not criticizing ND for failing to impose Catholic morality on students and staff covered by its health insurance benefit (a decision to exclude contraception from insurance coverage, after all, would leave policy beneficiaries completely free to contracept to their hearts’ delight, though on their own dime); he’s criticizing it for failing to live up to its own morality.

  • James

    Meanwhile in Rome, the Pope wonders why the United States doesn’t have universal healthcare like every other civilized country in the world.

    • Maggie Sullivan

      Do you mean the Pope who calls a abortionist who murdered thousands of children a “great” person, the Pope who has filled the Pontifical Academy for life with abortion supporters, the Pope Pope who invite the worlds leading population control advocates (who advocate murdering babies to save the environment) to the Vatican to speak on the environment, the Pope who appointed a man who appears in homo-erotic art as head of a pontifical Academy.

      That Pope is questioning America? Hummmmmmmm………..

      • James

        His predecessor has the same opinion.

  • cestusdei

    Notre Dame is a Catholic university? Could have fooled me.

  • Linda

    I guess that’s why all those Catholic pedophile priests chose boys as their victims

  • PalaceGuard

    Inasmuch as Notre Dame seems intent upon taking a knee before the Powers of this world, perhaps an empty stadium at a Fighting Irish game or two might get their attention.

  • Kaz

    The core problem: College presidents are just as subject to peer pressure as all human beings are. The president of Notre Dame isn’t thinking “Is this the right or Christian thing to do?” He’s thinking “What are the presidents of Harvard and Yale and Princeton doing?”

  • davidrev17

    “The Catholic Church teaches that we can know by reason alone that contraception is evil. It also points to a long, unanimous and ecumenical consensus on the issue.”

    Hmmm… It sure is strange then, or paradoxical, how something believed to be so blatantly obvious to human reason – i.e., the moral evil associated with contraception – can nonetheless prove to be such an elusive, or slippery notion to not only rational/moral Homo sapiens in general, but for so many professing Catholics themselves; not to mention the collective Catholic brain-trust at the University of Notre Dame. Maybe the Catholic Church is missing part of the theological picture, huh??

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