Pope Francis to Notre Dame: Be an ‘uncompromising witness’ to the Church’s moral teaching

Pope Francis met with a delegation from the University of Notre Dame Thursday, including Notre Dame President John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., members of his leadership team and the board of trustees. The visit marked the inauguration of Notre Dame’s new “Rome Center” and concluded a week of meetings in Rome with Vatican leaders in papal congregational offices and papal councils.

In his prepared address, Pope Francis commended the university for its “outstanding contribution” to the Church in the United States through religious education and “serious scholarship.”

He exhorted the university to remain committed to “missionary discipleship” and “the uncompromising witness” to Catholic moral teaching.

“Essential in this regard is the uncompromising witness of Catholic universities to the Church’s moral teaching, and the defense of her freedom, precisely in and through her institutions, to uphold that teaching as authoritatively proclaimed by the magisterium of her pastors,” said Pope Francis. “It is my hope that the University of Notre Dame will continue to offer unambiguous testimony to this aspect of its foundational Catholic identity, especially in the face of efforts, from whatever quarter, to dilute that indispensable witness.”

This strong call to faithfulness to the magisterium follows the University of Notre Dame’s decision to comply with the Department of Health and Human Service’s contraception mandate, which requires employers — even those affiliated with religious organizations — to provide contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion. By complying, the university will avoid paying large fines while it continues to pursue a lawsuit against the Obama administration.

According to the Cardinal Newman Society, an alumni group recently criticized the university for this decision, calling it a “scandalous disregard of its religious beliefs. Others see the decision as one made in the face of few options and far enough removed from moral responsibility.

Jennifer Rey is the web editor of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing.