Why Did Notre Dame End Donations to the Fund to Protect Human Life?

Opinion   |   Carter Snead   |   Mar 11, 2013   |   6:02PM   |   South Bend, IN

Many thanks to Steven Ertelt for the opportunity to offer my perspective (as Director of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture) on the future of pro life work at Notre Dame, in light of the university’s decision that it can no longer accept donations under the auspices of the original Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life gift agreement (owing to its general policies regarding structures of governance and accountability for university accounts).

I have been a member of the Fund’s steering committee since its inception, and it has done great good for the cause of life here at Notre Dame and in the public square.  While it is disappointing that the Fund cannot continue in its original form, it is imperative to underscore that this development will cause no disruption or diminution of Notre Dame’s pro life witness.

First of all, none of the projects sponsored by the Fund to Protect Human Life will be discontinued.  We at the Center have a proven, unwavering commitment to promoting the dignity of unborn human life through teaching, research, and dialogue, both here on campus and in the public square.

Since the inception of the Fund to Protect Human Life, the Center for Ethics and Culture has been its sole operational arm, and has planned, staffed, and publicized every initiative that it has underwritten.  Indeed, I was (and am) a member of the Fund Steering Committee long before I assumed by current responsibilities as Director of the CEC.  The Center will continue in this role as the balance of the Fund’s resources is allocated.  Moreover, all of the gifts to the Fund to Protect Human Life accepted before the university’s change in policy will be expended by the Fund Steering Committee, as provided by the original agreement.

To ensure, preserve, and extend the vitality of the pro-life initiatives supported by the Fund to Protect Human Life, we have created a new dedicated Right to Life Fund.  Going forward, this will be the principal mechanism for supporting the Vita Institute, the Notre Dame Evangelium Vitae Medal, the Bread of Life dinner/lecture series, ND’s University Faculty for Life chapter, the pro-life advertising campaign, and grants for students and faculty to attend the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.  We are available to assist any donor who would like help in working with the ND development office to craft gift language that ensures that funds will be spent exclusively on such pro life projects.

Second, in addition to maintaining all of the original Fund-sponsored programming, we are committed to expanding the Center’s pro life initiatives, both on campus and in the public domain.  For example, we are creating a new summer internship program in which Notre Dame students will have the opportunity to work for leading pro-life organizations (such as the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities at U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Women’s Care Center, and Project Rachel).  The Center is also creating a new public policy and communications initiative that aims to bring the voices of eminent pro-life scholars to the public square by way of white papers, Congressional testimony, monographs, media interviews, and the like.

We have created a new position within the Center exclusively dedicated to planning, coordinating, and overseeing all of our pro life efforts.  We are thrilled to announce that Angela Engelsen (who has previously served in this capacity for the Fund to Protect Human Life, in addition to her duties as Associate Director of the Center) has assumed this role as of March 1, 2013.

Third, and finally, I would like to offer a different perspective on Notre Dame’s institutional commitment to the sanctity of unborn human life, and what it betokens for the future.   In my judgment, now is not the time to be discouraged.  In fact, I believe that there are excellent reasons for optimism about the future.  This year, the Center has begun fruitful, ongoing collaboration with several institutional leaders at Notre Dame, including in the Alumni Association and the Office of Mission Engagement and Church Affairs.  We are in various stages of building partnerships with entities on campus such as the Institute for Church Life, the Kellogg Institute, the Center for Social Concerns, and the Nanovic Institute.  We are preparing shortly to reach out in similar fashion to Campus Ministry, Office of Residence Life, and the College of the First Year Studies, to explore possible cooperation.

While we at the Center take pride in the fact that we are responsible for the lion’s share of pro life activity at Notre Dame (and as Notre Dame in the public square), there are clear signs of pro life commitment elsewhere.  This past year, Notre Dame filed a lawsuit to block the Obama administration’s effort to compel it to facilitate the provision of abortifacients, contraceptives, and sterilizations.   In January, a record number of Notre Dame students (over 500) had the honor of leading the annual March for Life in Washington, where they were joined by 100 faculty, staff, and officers of the university (including Father Jenkins).  This academic year, committed pro life faculty have been appointed to lead powerful and high profile institutions on campus (see e.g., https://newsinfo.nd.edu/news/31125-paolo-carozza-appointed-director-of-kellogg-institute/).

There is an active university-wide Adult Stem Cell Initiative (of which I am a founding member) dedicated to exploring the scientific and humanistic dimensions of stem cell research in a manner that respects the dignity of human life from conception to natural death (https://adultstemcell.nd.edu/).  The Institute for Church Life’s University Life Initiatives (of which I am a fellow) is currently developing pro life teaching resources.   Resources for pregnant and parenting students are advertised all across campus.  In 2010, the university adopted a pro life policy on charitable giving and issued an institutional statement on the sanctity of life (https://newsinfo.nd.edu/news/15165-notre-dame-adopts-new-statement-and-principles-in-support-of-life/).



To be sure, there remains much to do.  For our part, we at the Center for Ethics and Culture are unshakably dedicated to helping Notre Dame to fulfill its mission as an indispensable, countercultural beacon for life within the community of elite universities and a voice in the great global public square on behalf of the dignity and matchless worth of every member of the human family.  We will remain focused on this goal as the future unfolds.  We welcome anyone who would join us in this vital effort.

LifeNews Note: Carter Snead is Director of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture.