There are more signs that Catholic leadership is out of step with its flock, especially on the issue of contraception.
Notre Dame students are circulating a petition opposing the University’s decision to file a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the contraception mandate in Obamacare. The petition, which includes signatures from approximately 140 students as of this week, faculty, staff and alumni, originated as a personal letter to University President Fr. John Jenkins from philosophy graduate student Kathryn Pogin. It argues for the University’s compliance with the mandate based on philosophical and legal principles.
According The Observer, petition organizers hope the petition is a starting point for dialogue and discussion and focuses on three main issues arising from the University’s lawsuit.
“First of all, it’s not clear to us that the University couldn’t comply with the mandate without remaining within Catholic practice,” she said. “In addition, even if there is a genuine conflict with freedom of religion, which we’re not convinced there is, at least with respect to contraceptives, we think the legal argument favors compliance with the mandate.”
Another point of concern for signatories of the petition is the current level of campus services available to families, Pogin said.
“Further, we believe Notre Dame would better serve its Catholic mission by focusing on improving campus services for families rather than embroiling itself in a legal challenge,” the petition states.
The petition points out that “many, if not all, graduate students at Notre Dame who have children insure them through the state of Indiana because they cannot afford the university-provided healthcare,” which Pogin said is a serious issue that deserves greater attention from Notre Dame.
“[The lack of affordable health coverage] is actually more of a problem than we outlined in the petition because state health programs are not available to international students, so some international students’ dependents go uninsured,” she said. “We think that’s a moral issue and an issue of Catholic identity.”
While the petition is not likely to have any immediate impact on the status of the litigation, it is encouraging to see students, faculty, staff and alumni question the motives and intent of school administrators and Catholic leadership here. While I doubt the Bishops and other Catholic leaders respect the challenge, it does illustrate that the once-proud social justice tradition within the Church is not dead yet, despite the Vatican and US Catholic Bishops best efforts.
Photo from Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com via flickr.