Notre Dame Trustee Forced to Resign Over Pro-Choice Donations

Roxanne Martino, a graduate of Notre Dame University and a prominent Chicago businesswoman, was appointed to the Notre Dame Board of Trustees two months ago.  Since then, controversy over her history of donations to Emily’s List and other pro-choice advocacy organizations has forced her resignation.

“I dearly love my alma mater and remain fully committed to all aspects of Catholic teaching and to the mission of Notre Dame,” Martino said in a statement. “I had looked forward to contributing in this new role, but the current controversy just doesn’t allow me to be effective.”

Martino is the president and CEO of Aurora Investment Management, which manages $8 billion in hedge funds.  To say that she is a leader in the Chicago business community is thus an understatement.  But the revelation that Martino had donated over $25,000 to Emily’s List, an organization who supports pro-choice female politicians, created an enormous ruckus online and among conservative Catholics, led by the Cardinal Newman Society, which brought Martino’s contributions to light.  Of course, the issue at hand is the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion, which is obviously an issue for a Catholic university like Notre Dame.

The Board of Trustees made some rather lame attempts to defend Martino, by claiming that she didn’t know that the organizations to which she had donated were pro-choice.  This is a better excuse for the Chicago Foundation for Women, another one of Martino’s beneficiaries, which according to the Chicago Tribute “addresses domestic violence and economic equality,” but also has ties to Planned Parenthood.  But Emily’s List is plainly a pro-choice organization.

Jon O’Brien, the president of Catholics for Choice, said the controversy pointed to the “lunacy of the extreme uber-conservative Catholics who represent really a minority opinion within the church.”  And he’s right – after all, a recent study showed that despite the Church’s prohibition on birth control, most Catholic women use contraceptives, so surely some Catholics’ stances on abortion are likely to deviate from the Vatican’s.  Indeed, it might be healthy to have a person like Martino on Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees, to provide the perspective of a woman to whom Catholicism is plainly important, but who also donates to important pro-choice and pro-woman causes.

But given that it was controversial when, in 2009, the pro-choice and pro-stem cell research President Obama gave the commencement speech at Notre Dame, this may be too much to ask.  These conservative Catholic groups still have a great deal of power, which is dangerous in a time when members of the faithful have increasingly progressive political views.  Being pro-choice and Catholic are not incompatible – but as long as organizations like the Cardinal Newman Society have such a strong voice, pro-choice Catholics are unlikely to have much sway, at least within institutions like Notre Dame.

Photo from Paul J. Everett's Flickr photostream.


Sheri P.
Sheri P7 years ago

oh please.......

Deborah L.
Deborah L7 years ago

Mark F: From you comment, it looks like you believe that every abortion is late term, unlimited. This is just now true. Unfortunately lies are believed over the truth of a situation and abortion is overblown, false statistics have been floated all over the place. For almost 48 years of working and experience in the medical field and yes, some of that in obstetrics, I only know of 1 case where an abortion was needed to save the life of the mother and I was a child when that happened. The woman wanted the baby but it didn't survive and an abortion was the doctors diagnosis, this was before the days of Roe vs Wade. As it was considered illegal, the state governor had to sign the medical papers so the procedure could be done. The gov. was not a doctor and it is time for non-doctors quite practicing medicine without a license. I remember the woman saying that it made no sense for the gov. be the one who decided if she lived or died and she was panicked because if he decided to refuse to sign the medical order, she would die.

With all the real things the politicians should be working on, they have gone into overdrive on the abortion issue and launched a full scale war on all women since Jan 2011there have been over 1,000 bills to take away a woman's right to choose what is right for her and her body along with her doctor, not the politicians, religious fringe, total strangers and others who feel that "only they" have the right to dictate how other women in the world shall liv

Mark F.
Mark F.7 years ago

This is a sad situation between two sets of goods. The rights of women versus the rights of the unborn. I would hope that there could be a compromise in the "war". The Church is on the right side. You cannot have unlimted "savage" (partial birth) abortion and not see parallels to Nazi Germany.

Claire M.
Claire M7 years ago

Well now that we know where Notre Dame stands , let us not forget.

Jeanie Johnson
Jeanie Johnson7 years ago

Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale.

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal7 years ago

It may not seem fair, but:
Money talks, pro choice walks.

Christine S.

For pete's sake, it's not like she was donating money to women so they could have abortions...

Lynnette Bower
Lynnette Bower7 years ago

For those of you that believe Notre Dame adheres to all tenets of the catholic religion, learn to read. Especially the police reports concerning the behavior of the students. I live in their area and I loathe ND. They are ill behaved, poor excuses for human beings. The alumni are as bad as the students.

Michelle C.
Michelle C7 years ago

Good for Notre Dame. It is a Catholic University and anyone involved should abide by the doctrine of the Church. Anyone who leaves the Church never really understood the beauty and reasons for the teachings. It is the Church Christ instituted. Religion is not a cafeteria and not a free for all.

Paola C.
Paola C.7 years ago

Marianne C.

Do you believe that a square is a four-sided polygon, each side having equal length and each corner being a right angle? That is a universal truth. It does not change from century to century. If any belief system is based on truth, it does not need to, indeed, ought not, change.

My three points were meant to be sequential, the first being the primary premise. Do you disagree with the part about a baby being defenseless? If so, please explain. Do you disagree with life beginning at conception? If so, when does it start?

As to the article under discussion, Notre Dame was founded as a Catholic university. It's current charter states: "The essential character of the University as a Catholic institution of higher learning shall at all times be maintained, it being the stated intention and desire of the present Fellows of the University that the University shall retain in perpetuity its identity as such an institution." As long as it remains so, it is appropriate for the school to uphold its Catholic identity.