Father Wilson Miscamble, a professor at Notre Dame, brings us this news, that, in morally saner times, would be regarded as a bad attempt at a joke:
Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees gathers on campus this week. Committee meetings will be held on Thursday, followed by the full board meeting on Friday, and then the much-anticipated football game against Stanford on Saturday. Not much is expected to emerge from the meetings themselves. It will be appear to be business as usual. But in fact, something deeply troubling will have happened.
Sadly, at Notre Dame – as indeed at many other Catholic universities – many board members are essentially passive bystanders selected mainly for their “giving potential,” as it is delicately put, rather than for their qualifications to fulfill the serious responsibility mandated for them in Ex Corde Ecclesiaeto maintain and strengthen the Catholic identity of the university.
Board members are usually not deeply familiar with Catholic higher education. They are easily “guided” by the administration to desired decisions. Whatever their limitations, however, many are no doubt committed Catholics who genuinely want Notre Dame to be an authentically Catholic institution. And most trustees have not damaged Notre Dame’s mission as a Catholic university.
This is about to change at the October meeting, when Ms. Katie Washington will take her “junior trustee” position on the board, to which she was elected last May. Ms. Washington was Notre Dame’s 2010 valedictorian and is now enrolled at Johns Hopkins Medical School.
In 2012, she joined several of her medical school colleagues in authoring an op-ed piece in the Baltimore Sun criticizing the Catholic Church’s position on the Obamacare contraception/abortifacient mandate. She revealed her belief that all religious employers should be required by law to provide contraception and abortifacient coverage whatever their religiously grounded objections.
Her op-ed singled out “national Catholic leaders” for reproach, and specifically criticized then Cardinal-designate Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore. Her animosity to the Church’s position – the very one which Notre Dame has embraced in its lawsuit against the Obama administration – was clear. She has not subsequently qualified or retracted her statement.
She presumably favors the continued federal coercion of those like the Little Sisters of the Poor whose conscience forbids them to agree to morally objectionable Obamacare provisions. Nonetheless, this supporter of the Obama Administration’s assault on the religious liberty of institutions like Notre Dame has gained appointment to the governing board of the university.
Regrettably, this appointment was made upon the initiative of University President Fr. John Jenkins and by vote of the twelve-member Board of Fellows, made up of six Holy Cross priests and six laypersons. It happened, however, without their being briefed on Ms. Washington’s hostility to religious liberty and Notre Dame’s claim of conscience.