From Under The Rubble…Notre Dame, Obama, And The Death of Dialogue

It’s been four long years since Notre Dame welcomed Barack Obama to campus, awarding him an honorary degree and the opportunity to address the graduating class of 2009. Among the reasons for the award, according to university President John Jenkins, C.S.C., one was central: “He is a leader who has respect for the role of faith and religious institutions in public life.”

In welcoming Obama, Father Jenkins brazenly ignored his bishop, John M. D’Arcy, who objected to the invitation, boycotted the ceremony, and gave Jenkins a stern lesson in basic Canon Law.  But this was the new Notre Dame, where bishops are ignored but politicians are revered, so Fr. Jenkins was all smiles. He was fawning over Obama so obsequiously that some observers feared that Jenkins was going to canonize the most pro-abortion president in history right then and there.

The pro-lifers who protested Obama’s visit on campus received a different reception. Directed by Notre Dame Security, police arrested them and sent them to jail – 88 in all, including Father Norman Weslin, O.S., a disabled priest who was 79 years old, and Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff in Roe v. Wade. Their lawyer, South Bend attorney Tom Dixon, a Notre Dame alumnus, tells the Rubble that outside “Gay Rights” groups that similarly demonstrated on campus were not arrested or prosecuted. (After two years, with the threat of a civil suit approaching, the university finally agreed to request that the trespassing charges be dropped against all 88).

After Obama’s departure, Bishop Robert W. Finn of Missouri delivered the post-mortem: “The President of Notre Dame said that they had invited the President of the United States and decided to honor him for the sake of dialogue.[T]hen the president got up and said the differences that we have on abortion… were ‘irreconcilable.’ And at that moment, it would seem to me that the dialogue came to a screeching halt. Father Jenkins’ expressed desire for dialogue… got thrown back in his face.”

After he returned to Washington, Obama sent Notre Dame some $30 million in stimulus funds, which the university called a “milestone,” but the sweetheart deal didn’t last for long; as soon as Obamacare passed, the president unsheathed the terrible, swift sword of government power and aimed it directly at Notre Dame and the heart of the Catholic conscience.

So here we are, four years later, to find President Jenkins suing the Obama Administration because of the HHS Contraception Mandate that, in the words of Father Jenkins, violates “the freedom of a religious organization to live its mission.”

“Don’t Mess With Notre Dame Football”

Father Jenkins had hoped that Obama would put a feather in his cap, but instead he got a dagger at his throat. That makes the painful truth somewhat hard to swallow, however, so things at Notre Dame kept going downhill. The worst incident (of many, believe me) involved the death of Lizzy Seeberg,  a freshman at  Saint Mary’s College (across the road from Notre Dame).

In August 2010, Miss Seeberg reported to ND Campus Security that she had been sexually assaulted in a dorm by a member of the football team. She quickly made all the required reports.

Nothing happened. The police dragged their feet.

Were they intimidated?

Lizzy sure was. ““Messing with Notre Dame football is a bad idea,” a teammate of the accused assailant texted her. Ten days later, disconsolate and bereft of any support from the university, the young girl committed suicide. Only then did the police bother to interview her alleged assailant.

By then, Lizzy, having died, was unavailable to testify. The player she accused asserted his innocence and suited up for every game during the rest of his Notre Dame career.

A personal note: I grew up at Notre Dame and was baptized in the Crypt of Sacred Heart Church on the campus. I received my undergraduate and graduate degrees there. Every semester I get calls from the Development Office around dinnertime. Each time the caller is a young lady, usually a junior. After asking about their hometown, their major, and how they are doing in school, I ask if they know about Lizzy Seeberg.

Not one of them has ever heard of her.

But everyone has heard of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s “imaginary girlfriend” this past year. Egged on by NBC sportscasters, Irish fans everywhere shed copious tears for “her” when she “died.” The school played the story to the hilt, even covering up the truth until after the (disastrous) national championship game.

Tears for the fake girl, but no tears for the real one.

Apparently on the advice of counsel, Father Jenkins has never apologized or extended his condolences to Lizzy Seeberg’s family – thirteen members of which have attended Notre Dame over the years. The Seeberg family is apparently more charitable than Notre Dame, however: they did not file suit against the university.

But for the record, Lizzy’s memory has been stuffed down the Fighting Irish Memory Hole.

Notre Dame: Our Mother

Since 1967, Notre Dame has forgotten a lot. 1967 was the year that Notre Dame’s storied long-time President, Father Ted Hesburgh, led a group of Catholic educators in signing the “Land O’Lakes Statement.  It constituted a declaration of independence from the Catholic Church and allowed “Catholic” schools to turn their backs on Rome, embracing instead the values of secular cultural elites and, not incidentally, the attractive prospect of significant federal government funding. (Charles Rice, Professor of Constitutional Law Emeritus at Notre Dame Law School and Chairman of the Bellarmine Forum, ably recounts this episode and its consequences in What Happened To Notre Dame? [St. Augustine’s Press]).

Today, four years down the rocky road since the Obama fiasco, Notre Dame might be having second thoughts. This year’s commencement speaker offered them some encouragement along those lines when he turned their thoughts away from politics, football, and what Ralph McInerny, Notre Dame’s most published professor ever, called “the truly vulgar lust to be welcomed into secular society.”

Addressing the Class of 2013, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York and President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, firmly planted his standard far above the insipid “Rah Rah” routine that saturates most of the school’s propaganda these days. Echoing the words of a Jewish ND grad he’d met on the train the week before, he chose as his topic “The Secret Of Notre Dame.”

I’m going to speak of Notre Dame… Our Lady … Mary, the mother of Jesus.

One can make the point that she’s perhaps the most important human person ever. Even history itself is divided “before” and “after” the birth she gave to her firstborn. She was there at Christmas at His birth; at Cana, His first miracle; at the foot of the Cross; at Pentecost, the feast we celebrate today.

Now, as you complete years at this acclaimed university dedicated to her, you are asked the same pivotal question the Archangel Gabriel once posed to her: will you let God take flesh in you? Will you give God a human nature? Will He be reborn in you? Will the Incarnation continue in and through you?

Notre Dame challenges us to reply, Fiat! Yes! For, at her best, this university has the heart of Mary, meaning this university gives us Jesus and His Church, and clings to them both with love, loyalty, and service.

Here at Notre Dame we do not strive to be like Harvard or Oxford, but like Bethlehem, Nazareth, Cana, Calvary, and the Upper Room at Pentecost … with Mary, as the “Word becomes flesh” in the one who called Himself “the Way, the Truth and the Life.”

Here our goal is not just a career, but a call; not just a degree, but discipleship; not just what we’ve gotten but what we’re giving; not just the now but eternity; not just the “I” but the “we”; not just the grades but the Gospel.

“At her best, this university has the heart of Mary,” says Cardinal Dolan. But Notre Dame has not been at her best lately. Proud of her “independence” and renouncing her loyalty to the Church, she bet on government and the elites.

Now the government has betrayed her.

The Cardinal’s carefully crafted nudge bore within it a hidden invitation for a “turning around” worthy of the periagoge of Socrates’ Cave or the metanoia of Saint Paul.

Can Notre Dame pull it off? Can Mary’s university return to Mary? Can she give up that “vulgar lust” and embrace Mary’s humilitas?

It’s a hard teaching for the school that has long strived to be the Harvard of the Midwest, abandoning its Catholic character in the chase. But, unlike Obama’s, this teaching is a true one.



This article, From Under The Rubble…Notre Dame, Obama, And The Death of Dialogue is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
Do not repost the entire article without written permission. Reasonable excerpts may be reposted so long as it is linked to this page.

Christopher Manion

  • Jan+Baker says:

    This is very touching, and accomplishes nothing. The author has not analyzed the situation, has not determined where and when this departure from Catholic teaching and practice happened, and offers no solutions. The post joins hundreds and hundreds of others of the ‘feel bad’ variety, and that alone will get us exactly where we are today, powerless. But others have traced it down, and named the problem: Vatican II and the reversal of doctrine on the matter of the state and its responsibilities. The Council gave us this paradigm, that in their ‘freedom of conscience’ (not a Catholic teaching when referring to actions) trump Truth. Period. Reject the Council, along with others!

    • Christopher Manion says:

      May I suggest you read the analysis of Dr. Rice linked in the column. And that you follow, and perhaps join, the Sycamore Trust (at this link:, for extensive analysis of the decline of Notre Dame.

      Indeed, the brief (by necessity) column has accomplished something worthwhile: it has offered you the opportunity to follow these two leads, while allowing us to assure you that the Documents (not the “spirit,” mind you)of Vatican II call Notre Dame and all Catholics to a firm and thoroughgoing loyalty to the Magisterium.

      Apparently your admonition to “reject the council” implies that you have perhaps rejected that call to embrace the teaching authority of the Church. That is the same spirit that has brought Notre Dame so low: it is the warp and woof of the spirit of Land O’Lakes.

      A million words of analysis a day will not reconcile that rejection with the Faith as taught by Holy Mother Church, and so, let me assure you in charity and truth that I reject your rejection.

    • Athanasius says:

      I agree. We have to say the truth.

      TRUTH #1: There is ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC, and APOSTOLIC Church.
      TRUTH #2: There has been an unbroken succession of Popes up to Francis today.
      TRUTH #3: Most of the post v-2 Popes have been a pastoral and theological nightmare. They will share the same history as Liberius, Honorarius, and Alexander VI one day when The Lord restores The Church till it’s former glory.

      It is so sad, yet telling, that the author uses Dolan as the “hero” in his story. Dolan is a disgrace. He is Cuomo’s Cardinal in every way. Notre Dame invited a kindred soul to Obama when they invited Dolan.

      Dolan has attended so-called “gay masses” (where, among other things, the “kiss of peace” becomes living, breathing blasphemy against The Blessed Sacrament and, subsequently, sacrilege) and participated in award ceremonies during these same masses where “outstanding” members are recognized. There are several “gay” and “lesbian” masses advertised in countless parish bulletins.

      Dolan has refused to allow the Latin Mass in his diocese and persecutes Priests who ask.

      Dolan refused to disinvite Obama from the Al Smith dinner despite the misanthrope being the most ardent supporter of child-killing in the history of this country. Dolan thinks if he laughs hard, and appears to be a good sport (he kissed Comedy Channel’s Steve Colbert’s hand as a ‘funny”), he can some day, somehow be seen as another Arch-Bishop Fulton Sheen, whose sandals he will never be fit to untie!

      As we learned this week, Dolan’s diocese has been paying for abortion and contraception the past 10 years ( A union contract negotiated by a predecessor, Cardinal O’Connor, yet another v-2 pretender).

      The HHS lawsuit will be laughed out of court. Obama will rightly point out these, and many other, inconsistencies. I have no love for the marxist-muslim, but Obama has given The American Patriotic Church (Michael an out. HHS is leaving the Amish alone. If The American Patriotic Church would just hire Catholics, the merchants of death would have no case.

      The American Patriotic Church doesn’t believe you have to be Catholic to be saved. Being essentially modernist, the American Patriotic Church merely wants the choice of acting as they please when they choose. Modernism, drawing much from gnosticism, believes you can have a public face to meet the demands of a particular affiliation, while privately you do as you please.

      Due to the mistaken v-2 notion of “collegiality”, which essentially neuters The Primacy of Peter to “Bishop-of-Rome” status, each Bishop believes they are the Pontiff of their diocese.

      The Catholic-Right Establishment continue to adore The Emperor’s new clothes afraid of having their income and access severed.

      Those who love The Church want to wake up from this nightmare. We’re done with the hippie theology of the 60’s and the experimentation of the 70’s. We’ve had it with the masons, sodomites, cowards, and their allies, that infest The Lord’s Bride. We’re afraid of how Heaven intends to fix things. We shudder when we remember Our Lady of Lasallete’s words, Our Lady of Fatima’s warnings and requests, and The Immaculate Heart’s Bloody Tears at Akita.

      Every problem the Institutional Church suffers from presently was of her own design, every one!

      Yet, when urgent voices are raised all we get is the same figurative treatment Jeremiah received.

      May God have Mercy on us all!


      • Mister Heche says:

        “TRUTH #3: Most of the post v-2 Popes have been a pastoral and theological nightmare. They will share the same history as Liberius, Honorarius, and Alexander VI one day when The Lord restores The Church till it’s former glory.”



        I feel for you.

        You must find it a tremendous burden to be holier, more knowledgeable, and wiser than half a century’s worth of popes and so many bishops.

        Indeed, to always know the correct and best way to handle every pastoral and theological question that may arise, while pope after pope and so many bishops lead the flock astray, must be emotionally exhausting.

        But, I am encouraged by your strategy of anger and mean-spirited name-calling directed toward those who you disagree with. Your “my way or the highway” approach and your intolerance of human imperfection are sure to win many supporters to your side. Your comments just emanate Christian love and charity.

        I also can’t wait to hear your take on the failings of St. Peter and the other apostles who displayed so many imperfections and weaknesses in their following of Jesus. I mean Peter ACTUALLY KNEW Jesus in person, and yet he still denied him three times! Can you beieve that?

        Your comment makes clear your frustration with human imperfection. Just imagine how wonderful the Church would be if human beings were perfect, all-knowing, and sinless!

        Oh, let us dream!

  • Mister Heche says:

    I am very supportive of the Bellarmine Foundation’s work, and have found Mr. Manion’s writing to be insightful and thought-provoking over the years.

    I, like Mr. Manion, am also very critical of Notre Dame’s invitation to commencement President Obama.

    However, I am very disappointed in Mr. Manion’s comments on the Lizzy Seeburg situation.

    There are only two people who know what happened, and tragically one of them is dead. From the facts that are known, the allegation involved “inappropriate touching,” not rape as many people seem to take away from the phrase “sexual assault.”

    As reported in the ND?SMC Observer: “According to a Dec. 16 press release from the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office, Seeberg alleged sexual battery, or forced touching of her breasts. Seeberg did not make an allegation of rape.” Source:

    In commenting on the Seeburg situation, Mr. Manion should reserve his criticism to the facts that are known. Based on those facts, to argue that case was mishandled by the University is quite reasonable and perhaps even appropriate.

    However, without citing any evidence, Mr. Manion goes further and implies that the case was covered up and that investigators were intimidated by the University because the case involved a football player. Indeed, Mr. Manion cites a threatening text sent by a another student to Miss Seeburg as if that text is some how reflective of university policy. Really?

    Mr. Manion is also upset that the player has continued to play in games. What would Mr. Manion have had the University do? Expel the player based on an unproven allegation?

    Anyone who has followed Notre Dame football over the years knows full well that the University has often been criticized for being too strict in the discipline administered to football players. More than a few players (including valuable starters) have been expelled from the team and the University over the years for a variety of offenses. In fact, Notre Dame’s star quarterback has just been expelled for an academic violation.

    • Christopher Manion says:

      Thank you for your comment. In Indiana, unwanted sexual touching is a felony offense — felony sexual assault.

      The “investigation” by campus security into the Seeberg allegations was indeed delayed: they certainly didn’t waste any time in arresting the 88 pro-life demonstrators during Obama’s appearance on campus, which very public fact indicates that they can indeed act with alacrity when they so desire.

      Because the alleged assailant was an athlete, the investigators (at least at one point) complained that they were forced to go through the athletic department, which allegedly (or apparently) delayed their interview of the player. (Upon his departure from Notre Dame, former football coach Charlie Weis complained about having constantly to deal with admissions and the Dean of Students in order to acquire and to keep players on the team. His role was protector of the players: it was someone else’s job to protect the Lizzie Seebergs of the world.)

      The column included informative links to articles that go more deeply into the situation for those interested. They do not include one particular which I consider revelatory: the Dean of Students was fired summarily in 2010. Read here for further information on that, and how his departure made it possible for players with repeated alcohol offenses (including a DUI) and marijuana convictions to rejoin or stay on the team.

      As for the player continuing to play, see that article’s mention of Coach Weis’s “boys will be boys” attitude that seems to reign in his successor’s era as well. I note with interest that QB Tommy Rees stayed on the team, and is a likely starter in the coming season, after having been arrested in South Bend for illegal alcohol consumption and resisting arrest. That indicates that Weis’s low standard for character either abides, or that the current coach has allowed it to sink even further.

      The ultimate insult came when the news went by that the accused football player was somehow assigned to “mentoring freshmen.”


      Lizzie Seeberg was beginning her freshman year when she died.

      Isn’t that rubbing a little salt in the wound, perhaps? Perhaps not a legal, but a prudential and moral disaster of the first order?

      A close reading of Notre Dame’s student handbook, Du Lac, implies that the university does not smile upon, but does not expressly forbid, the activity described in Ms. Seeberg’s complain, whether it was consensual or felonious. The fact that Notre Dame seems to have sent the Seeberg case down the Memory Hole, and the other facts I mentioned (none of which you contradict), are indeed open to a variety of interpretations.

      On those, we may disagree. But in my view they reflect on Notre Dame, and badly.

      As for the departure of last year’s starting quarterback, one alum who has kept up with Notre Dame issues more deeply than I suggested – only partly in jest, I reckon – that “he must have threatened to blow up the football stadium” (the building of which my grandfather helped finance, and at the dedication of which my father was the MC, some 85 years ago).

      Once more, thank you for your note.

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