To this role we can add another name, Dr. Charles E. Rice of the University of Notre Dame Law School, a friend of CESJ and the Just Third Way who has written an analysis of the decay of ethical standards and the virtual rejection of the natural law at Notre Dame, as exemplified in the decision by the Trustees and President of the University to confer an honorary degree on President Barack Obama in open defiance of a clear directive to the contrary issued by the American bishops. The book, What Happened to Notre Dame?, published by the St. Augustine Press in South Bend, Indiana, is a 192-page study of the state of American Catholic higher education and what it means for everyone. This is epitomized by the case of Notre Dame and its public humiliation of thousands of students, alumni, and supporters, Catholic and non-Catholic, Christian and non-Christian, who believe that there are principles by which humanity is constrained to live if we want to develop more fully as human beings in a manner consistent with our own nature. By the action of its president and board of trustees, Notre Dame betrayed what many people of all faiths, even none, considered the school's tacit apostolate to represent what it means to be a Catholic in America, a good citizen, and a decent person, as exemplified by the University's motto, "God, Country, and Notre Dame."
As we have stated previously on this blog, we had and continue to have no substantial objections to President Obama as a commencement speaker, at Notre Dame or anywhere else. We believe that there may have been, and probably were, better choices to represent what Notre Dame claims to represent. The selection of a speaker, however controversial, is a matter of prudence; the objective good or evil of the invitation to President Obama is not a matter for human judgment. Father Jenkins and the Notre Dame Trustees, according to their own Catholic belief, will be held accountable for their actions and the scandal they have given not by man, but by God, and punished or rewarded according to their true motives.
Conferring an honorary degree on Mr. Obama, however, is a matter for human judgment. It was a public act in open defiance of a clear directive that Father Jenkins and the Notre Dame Trustees affected not to understand, or reinterpreted for their own convenience and glorification, equivocating in a series of obviously self-serving and self-congratulatory justifications that fooled nobody. The repercussions of this decision on Catholic higher education in America are the subject of Dr. Rice's What Happened to Notre Dame?, an important contribution to the study of the state of the natural law in the world today. Dr. Rice's previous book on the natural law, Fifty Questions on the Natural Law: What is It and Why We Need It (1999), is still one of the better selling books on the subject, but does not get down to cases as does What Happened to Notre Dame?
Nor is Dr. Rice alone in his analysis or conclusions. Two of Notre Dame's most eminent writers and natural law philosophers have joined with Dr. Rice in his efforts to "wake up the echoes" and focus the attention of the public at large on exactly what has happened, not just to "Catholic America," but to all America, as well as the rest of the world, by the widespread abandonment of the natural moral law. Dr. Ralph McInerny, who holds the "Grace Chair of Philosophy" at Notre Dame and is the author of a large number of philosophical works and novels, has written a brief preface. (By mere coincidence over the past week and a half I have been rereading Dr. McInerny's noted "Father Dowling" murder mysteries when I should have been working on my book on money, credit, banking, and finance.) Dr. Alfred Freddoso, the "John and Jean Oesterle Professor of Thomist Studies" at Notre Dame and author of many scholarly works (but, alas, no murder mysteries), has written the introduction.
To gauge the effect that Father Jenkins's and the Trustees' act has had on the Notre Dame community and the public at large, some selections from a review of What Happened to Notre Dame? by Dr. Samuel Nigro, another friend of CESJ and supporter of the Just Third Way, are revealing. Anyone who knows Dr. Nigro will probably be able to see where we toned down some of the rhetoric and deleted some incisive but inflammatory passages, but have hopefully left his righteous — and justified — anger intact. (Needless to say, Dr. Nigro's opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of this writer, other contributors to this blog, CESJ, or the Just Third Way. They do, however, offer a valuable barometer of feeling among members of the Notre Dame family.)
The title of this book is a question I have been asking for a long time. I graduated from Notre Dame in 1958. Three of my children are graduates. But about 20 years ago, I gave up on Notre Dame. It was not easy to do. My family has been heavily involved in Notre Dame since Knute Rockne. My uncle was Knute's roommate when both were students and remained best friends. My uncle began the Rockne Club that went on for 40 years after Knute's death. When I was a student, my uncle would take me for a pre- and post-game feast at Bonnie Rockne's house. There, a very old South Bend Tribune sports writer told me that it was my father, Charley Nigro, on the train ride back from the 1924 Army game who pushed and prodded that the just-named "Four Horsemen" be photographed on four horses. It was not easy to give up on Notre Dame. But sometime in the late 1980s, I began to ask "What happened to Notre Dame?" Not even sports scores mattered any longer. Well, this book tells all.We have not had a chance yet to read What Happened to Notre Dame? As readers of this blog are aware, we're a "little" involved in a number of other literary projects, such as the republication of Dr. Harold Moulton's 1935 classic The Formation of Capital, a compendium of the more important short writings of Father William Ferree, S.M., Ph.D. (Introduction to Social Justice, 1948, and Discourses on Social Charity, 1966), our own paper and book on money, credit, banking, and finance (untitled as yet), a possible new edition of another book by William Cobbett, Dr. Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir's prison reminiscences, and so on.
Notre Dame lost its soul. That is, it is no longer committed to the Catholic transcendentals of Truth, Oneness, Good, and Beauty, but to economics, public relations, and relativism, i.e., a sales effort using the Catholic Church as its pitchman. Professor Rice details four decades of Notre Dame undermining the Natural Law, and discarding the protective umbrella of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord).
The book was published within three months of Notre Dame's conferring an honorary Doctor of Law Degree onto President Barack Obama. That the scholars (sic) of Notre Dame saw nothing wrong in this is proof that Notre Dame cares nothing about truth, the oneness of humanity, the common good, or the beauty of the universe — only for the bottom line.
This is a depressing book as it chronicles the degeneration of Notre Dame from the Catholic University which educated me, to the quisling 1967 Land O'Lakes Declaration wherein some universities declared their independence and "autonomy" from the Vatican and, at the same time, double-spoke their "Catholicism." Thankfully, Professor Rice tells what needs to be done, and all can hope that, after this crucifixion, there will also be a resurrection. Until then, however, Notre Dame is a façade of Catholicism, a "Pretender of the Faith," and a traitor to its origins. It stands for nothing but contemporary showbiz and the commercialization of truth. Notre Dame may have the money now, which is what they wanted, but it does not have the Faith nor the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to deserve its name as the one-time greatest Catholic University in America.
Judging from the current condition of society, however, What Happened to Notre Dame? should help wake up people to the basic problem of modern society — the near-total abandonment of the natural moral law as the basis of a just social order — and make them more receptive to possible solutions embodied in the proposals of the Just Third Way, such as Capital Homesteading, the Abraham Federation, and the large number of specific proposals detailed on the CESJ website.
Dr. Charles Rice's What Happened to Notre Dame? can be ordered online from:
Amazon ($10.20, list $15.00)
Barnes & Noble (List, $15.00, online, $12.00, member, $10.80)
We strongly suspect (although we could be wrong) that What Happened to Notre Dame? is not covered by the new definition of "academic freedom," and is probably not available at the campus bookstore.
Naturally we can't recommend somebody else's book without putting in a plug or two for our own publications. In Defense of Human Dignity (2008) might prove useful in orienting readers to realize that there are natural law solutions to today's problems that are financially and economically feasible as well as morally sound. It can be purchased online from:
Barnes & Noble (List and online price, $20, member price, $18)
And, of course, you will want to read Capital Homesteading for Every Citizen, available as a free download from the CESJ website, along with Louis Kelso and Mortimer Adler's The Capitalist Manifesto, 1958, and The New Capitalists, 1961, with the all-important subtitle, "A Proposal to Free Economic Growth from the Slavery of Savings." Capital Homesteading is also available from:
Barnes & Noble (online price, $18; member price, $16.20)