Thursday, November 30, 2017
IFI Staff
Notre Dame in Hot Water

The University of Notre Dame is facing criticism from faithful Catholics for its decision to continue providing employees with contraceptives and abortifacients next year.

The decision, which many view as contradictory to Catholic teachings, was made despite the Trump administration’s recent announcement that religious employers can apply for exemptions from the Obamacare birth control mandate.

Notre Dame sued the Obama administration in 2015 for relief from the regulation, which requires employer-provided healthcare plans to cover contraceptives and abortifacients. Lawyers representing the Catholic university claimed that the mandate forced Notre Dame to violate its religious beliefs.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced last month that it would allow nonprofits, private corporations, and schools with religious objections to apply for waivers from the birth control mandate.

Sycamore Trust, a Notre Dame alumni group committed to calling the university back to its “formative heritage and Catholic identity,” panned Notre Dame’s announcement as hypocritical, especially considering Notre Dame’s previous assertion that complying with the regulation would substantially burden their religious liberty: 

“On its face, this decision unmasks what now appears to have been a pretend lawsuit and accordingly a serious abuse of the judicial process…. It now appears that Notre Dame was perfectly willing right along to do what the government wanted it to do but told its outside lawyers — some of the best in the country — that it wasn’t. If that is so, the lawsuit was a sham.”

Other critics worry about how Notre Dame’s decision may impact future religious liberty cases. Dr. Rachel Lu, an alumnus of Notre Dame, worries that judges may take religious liberty less seriously in the future, “given that Notre Dame administrators have effectively admitted that their conscience claims were unserious.”

Notre Dame has increasingly aligned itself with the progressive left in recent decades. Its “Gender Relations Center” regularly hosts events that promote teachings contrary to the Church’s teachings on sexuality. Earlier this year, a large group of students walked out during the graduation ceremony in protest of Vice President Mike Pence for allegedly opposing LGBTQ “rights.”

William Dempsey, president of Sycamore Trust, worries that Notre Dame’s decision to extend birth control coverage for its employees deals “another blow to the university’s reputation as a Catholic university.”

“The result is likely to be more students and faculty who care nothing for Notre Dame as a Catholic school,” he wrote.

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