Notre Dame: Where Intellectual Diversity is Dying

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Hattip to the Curt Jester. Dr. Charles E. Rice is a Professor Emeritus of Law of the University of Notre Dame.  (He is also a Marine, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, so you know he already has a warm spot in my heart.)  He has written 13 books and hundreds of articles.  He helped found the Conservative Party in New York.  He has been a champion of the pro-life cause.  In the old Notre Dame he fit right in.  The new Notre Dame, not so much.

Professor Rice writes a bi-weekly column in the student newspaper, The Notre Dame Observer, entitled Right or Wrong.  Here is a column he wrote recently remembering his late colleague Professor Ralph McInerny.

Recently Professor Rice wrote a column that you will not be reading in the student newspaper.  Here is the column:

Charles E. Rice
Right or Wrong?
March 1, 2010

A big issue at Notre Dame a few weeks ago was “sexual orientation” and the status of the Notre Dame Gay/ Lesbian/ Bisexual/ Transgender (GLBT) community. Enough time has passed to make it useful to review some of the governing principles as found in the teaching of the Catholic Church. That teaching includes four pertinent elements:

Homosexual acts are always objectively wrong. The starting point is the Catechism: “Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction to persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, Tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.” No. 2357.

Homosexual acts are doubly wrong. They are not only contrary to nature. They are wrong also because they are extra-marital. The Letter on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, issued in 1986 with the approval of John Paul II, said, “It is only in the marital relationship that the use of the sexual faculty can be morally good. A person engaging in homosexual behavior therefore acts immorally. To choose someone of the same sex for one’s sexual activity is to annul the rich symbolism and meaning, not to mention the goals of the Creator’s sexual design.” No 7.

Since homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered,” the inclination toward those acts is disordered. An inclination to commit any morally disordered act, whether theft, fornication or whatever, is a disordered inclination. “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies,” says the Catechism, “is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial.” No. 2358. That inclination, however, is not in itself a sin.

“[M]en and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies,” says the Catechism, “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” No. 2358. In a culture which tends to marginalize and disrespect those with physical or psychological disorders, it will be useful to recall the admonition of the 1986 Letter that “The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation…. Today the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she… insists that every person has a fundamental identity: the creature of God and, by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.” No. 16. The prohibition of “unjust” discrimination, however, does not rule out the making of reasonable and just distinctions with respect to military service, the wording of university nondiscrimination policies and other matters including admission to seminaries. As the Congregation for Catholic Education said in its 2005 Instruction on the subject, “the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’” No. 2.
“[M]en and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies…. are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives, and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition…. Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.” Catechism, nos. 2358, 2359.

The positive, hopeful teaching of the Church on marriage, the family and the transmission of life is founded on the dignity of the person as a creature made in the image and likeness of God. The “gay rights” movement is, instead, a predictable consequence of the now-dominant contraceptive ethic. Until the Anglican Lambeth Conference of 1930, no Christian denomination had ever said that contraception could ever be objectively right. The Catholic Church continues to affirm the traditional Christian position that contraception is intrinsically an objective evil.

Contraception, said Paul VI in Humanae Vitae in 1968, is wrong because it deliberately separates the unitive and procreative aspects of the sexual act. If, sex has no intrinsic relation to procreation and if, through contraception, it is entirely up to man (of both sexes) whether sex will have any such relation, how can one deny legitimacy to sexual acts between two men or between two women? The contraceptive society cannot deny that legitimacy without denying itself. Further, if individual choice prevails without regard to limits of nature, how can the choice be limited to two persons? Polygamy (one man, multiple women), polyandry (one woman, multiple men), polyamory (sexual relations between or among multiple persons of one or both sexes) and other possible arrangements, involving the animal kingdom as well, would derive legitimacy from the same contraceptive premise that justifies one-on-one homosexual relations.

It would be a mistake to view the homosexual issue as simply a question of individual rights. The militant “gay rights” movement seeks a cultural and legal redefinition of marriage and the family, contrary to the reality rooted in reason as well as faith. Marriage, a union of man and woman, is the creation not of the state but of God himself as seen in Genesis. Sacramento coadjutor bishop Jaime Soto, on Sept. 26, 2008, said: “Married love is a beautiful, heroic expression of faithful, life-giving, life-creating love. It should not be accommodated and manipulated for those who would believe that they can and have a right to mimic its unique expression.” Space limits preclude discussion here of the “same-sex marriage” issue, which we defer to a later column.

Professor Emeritus Rice is on the law school faculty

One would assume that presenting Catholic doctrine would be noncontroversial at a Catholic University dedicated to Our Lady.  Apparently not.  The Observer declined to publish the column.  Here is the text of an e-mail that Professor Rice received from the editor of the paper.

Dear Mr. Rice,

I wanted to first introduce myself as Matt Gamber, the new Editor-in-Chief of The Observer. Thank you for your continued hard work and contributions to The Observer’s Viewpoint section.

Second, I wanted to let you know why we chose not to run your most recent submission in Tuesday’s Observer. First, it far exceeded our word limit guidelines, which I understand our Viewpoint Editor, Michelle Maitz, has shared with you in the past. Our daily space limitations require that we enforce this word limit, and we would appreciate your attention to this limit in the future.

Also, I personally had some concerns with the content of the column, particularly considering The Mobile Party comic incident earlier in the semester at The Observer. While your piece was well-researched and I trust the information was factually correct, I did not feel it lent itself to creating a productive discussion, all things considered. I was a bit concerned with certain language as well.

In the future, if you would like to examine this topic, we thought it might be beneficial to do so in a point-counterpoint format, perhaps with an author of an opposing or differing viewpoint. That way, each “side,” to speak, would have the opportunity to present relevant facts, evidence and analysis to define its position.

As I began, I again thank you for your contributions to The Observer. Please let me know if you have any questions regarding this decision, and I look forward to working with you in the future.

Matt Gamber

My observations.

First, the e-mail should have been addressed to Professor Rice, not Mr.  Rice.  Perhaps Mr. Gamber was simply ignorant of common courtesy regarding the proper address to be accorded a member of the faculty, but I doubt it.

Then we have some rubbish about word limits.  The column could have been a two-parter if that was Gamber’s true concern which obviously it was not.

The true concern of course is that Mr. Gamber did not like what Professor Rice said:

While your piece was well-researched and I trust the information was factually correct, I did not feel it lent itself to creating a productive discussion, all things considered. I was a bit concerned with certain language as well.

Translation from weasel speak: I do not like your citing Church teaching that reminds people that homosexual acts are anathema to the Church.  That will upset our Gay readers.  It certainly upsets me.

Gamber goes on to suggest a point-counterpoint format, so that Observer readers can be reassured that no one really takes seriously the teaching of the Church regarding homosexuality, other than old men like Rice.

Professor Rice’s response to the e-mail:

Dear Mr. Gamber:

Thank you for your email informing me that my column presenting the teachings of the Church on homosexuality will not be published.  Since 1992, I have been privileged to publish every two weeks a column, entitled “Right or Wrong,” in the Observer.  I emphasize my appreciation for the unfailing professionalism and courtesy of the Observer editors with whom I have had contact over those years.

You mention the column “far exceeded our word limit guidelines.”  It is in fact significantly shorter than each of the three previous columns published this semester in the Observer.  I was not asked to shorten any of them.  The rejected column accurately presented relevant teachings of the Catholic Church on homosexuality.  I understand why you are concerned over the content of the column.  You further propose that if I examine the topic of homosexuality in the future, “we thought it might be beneficial to do so in a point-counterpoint format, perhaps with an author of an opposing or differing viewpoint.  That way, each ‘side,’ so to speak, would have the opportunity to present relevant facts, evidence and analysis to define its position.”

In a university that claims to be Catholic, I am not willing to restrict my presentation of Catholic teaching to a format that treats the authoritative teaching of the Church as merely one viewpoint or “side” among many.  If you require that future columns of mine on homosexuality comply with a format such as you propose, it will be inappropriate for me to continue writing the column for the Observer.


Charles E. Rice

Professor Emeritus

Notre Dame Law School

Ah Professor Rice, I admire your courage, but, as you know, Notre Dame is defending a new Orthodoxy now and it has little to do with Catholicism except when fundraising letters are sent to the alums.  More about the Rice column story here.

25 Responses to Notre Dame: Where Intellectual Diversity is Dying

  1. Art Deco says:

    The status of male homosexuals in the psychology of people who fancy themselves enlightened is something to contemplate. They are the ultimate mascot group.

    I am an occasional participant at the League of Ordinary Gentlemen, whose principals appear to be men in the latter half of their twenties. They give no consideration to, and can hardly seem to process, normative arguments on the subject of sexual conduct. A generation ago, Allan Bloom said that once universities produced educated people and that now they produce ‘unprejudiced people’; we can safely say they do not even do that.

  2. Tito Edwards says:

    Mr. Gamber faced his intellectual superior and got crushed.

    I guess we can continue to call Notre Dame, Notre Shame.

  3. Blackadder says:

    The background here is that the Observer ran a comic strip earlier this year that arguably advocated violence against homosexuals (this is the Mobile Party comic referred to in Mr. Gamber’s letter). I believe that as a result of the incident the previous editor was fired and Mr. Gamber has just started as his replacement.

    Given these events, it’s understandable that Mr. Gamber would be somewhat gunshy about taking on the gay issue in the Observer again. However, there was nothing objectionable in Prof. Rice’s column itself, and it should have been possible to work with him to address any legitimate concerns.

  4. Art Deco says:

    Given these events, it’s understandable that Mr. Gamber would be somewhat gunshy about taking on the gay issue in the Observer again.

    No it’s not.

  5. Blackadder says:


    The guy prior to Mr. Gamber just lost his job over the issue, and you can’t understand why he would be gunshy about tackling the issue again?

  6. “The background here is that the Observer ran a comic strip earlier this year that arguably advocated violence against homosexuals (this is the Mobile Party comic referred to in Mr. Gamber’s letter). I believe that as a result of the incident the previous editor was fired and Mr. Gamber has just started as his replacement.”

    That background probably isn’t deep enough. The comic itself was reportedly satirizing allegedly bigoted Notre Dame students, but was presented by critics as if it expressed the creators’ genuine sentiment.

    From the Jan 28, 2010 Irish Rover:

    “Like the April Fool’s articles,
    the Mobile Party cartoon was created
    with satirical intent. Both were
    meant to bring attention to particular
    attitudes that, unfortunately,
    are present in our campus community:
    namely, disrespect for women,
    those with homosexual orientations
    and those who defend unborn life.”

  7. Tito Edwards says:

    To some extent yes, but in the whole scheme of things, I’m sure he used the “Mobile Party comic” incident as gratuitous cover to protect his delicate sensibilities.

  8. Jay Anderson says:

    I must say that I’m dubious of the notion that the new editor feared that he might be fired for publishing a regularly published column by the University preeminent legal scholar that propounds on the Church’s Magisterial teaching on the matter.

  9. Art Deco says:

    Blackadder, I got a bridge I want to sell you.

    What’s his bloody volunteer position worth? It is a distraction from his studies. He has an obligation not to be a poltroon. (And that last presumes his missive to Prof. Rice was offered in all sincerity. The shuck and jive about the length of the column discredits that thesis).

  10. Jonathan says:

    It’s also worthwhile noting that the newspaper is independent of ND, other than carrying the name “ND.” That does not change the BS here, but it might be worthwhile noting that this newspaper does not report to the president of ND, etc….

  11. Dennis Larkin ND71 says:

    I consider ND to be America’s most prominent Protestant university.

  12. Mike Petrik says:

    I agree with BA. While I think the young man erred in his decision, I can understand and sympathize with the forces and considerations that led to it. It may be that he is just a politically-correct pro-choice journalist/tool, but I don’t think that it is fair to reach that conclusion based solely on this episode.

  13. Art Deco says:

    What he ‘is’ or ‘is not’ is not at issue. What he did and said is at issue. I cannot sympathize. He runs an op-ed page. He is perfectly capable of telling the folk who think Prof. Rice’s an argument unfit for publication to stew, and would likely do so were it just about any other pressure group. Even if you might consider some sympathy for his ‘position’, his unwillingness to be straight with Rice should cancel any such impulses.

  14. Joe Hargrave says:

    I find it shameful that in these times, three stupid, irresponsible students would sabotage the legitimate Catholic and Christian argument against homosexuality by publishing such a politically stupid and offensive cartoon.

    It’s so egregious that it makes you wonder if the students themselves weren’t gay. That’s how you de-legitimize an issue – you associate it with violence and extremism.

  15. Donald R. McClarey says:

    I used diversity Kevin because a new Orthodoxy is being imposed at Notre Dame. I find this amusing because the desire for intellectual diversity was one of the arguments used for Catholic universities hiring teachers who did not uphold Catholic doctrine.

  16. Joe Hargrave,

    Indeed there are whisperings about whether the offensive cartoon was intended to kick-start a gay rights campaign. See the aforementioned issue of the Irish Rover.

    On second look at this post, I wonder why “intellectual diversity” was used in the title. Diversity is a fallback position when unity has already been lost, or transferred to another authority. In ND dissenters’ case, unity with American cultural leadership is more important than unity with the Church.

  17. […] Professor Charles E. Rice, Emeritus Professor of Law at Notre Dame, wrote this letter to the President of Notre Dame, Father Jenkins: […]

  18. Gary L. Good says:

    Mr. Gamber is the Editor of an unendorsed student newspaper at a Catholic, some would argue the preeminent USA Catholic, University. The MBA program at ND has an ethical leadership focus. The school is founded and funded by Catholics. Professor Rice has written bi-weekly columns for 27+ years.

    If he wanted to protect himself and the paper, a simple statement of non-attirbution against the newspaper would have sufficed. Every op-ed section of major newspapers and magazines has that type of statement.
    Further, the comics rarely if ever do, so that is not a comparative.

    Mr. Gamber failed. He failed his newspaper. He failed his fellow students. He failed his faith. Best of luck in the future as he is faced with difficult situations. I will not allow my children to ever work for him.

    TheWriter @

  19. NJCitizen says:

    Professor Rice appears to have a view of what a Catholic university is that varies from the facts of the earliest European universities and Catholic universities today.
    Prof. Rice seems to think that a Catholic university is a Pontifical university in all but charter. There are Pontifical schools around the world, and they are by design organs of the official positions of the Catholic Church. This was not so of the original European university that is the ancestor of ours today. The original University of Paris was a consortium of STUDENTS, not faculty, who organized themselves to rent meeting rooms and invite (and pay) good professors to address them. Later, the profs took over the organization (not necessarily a good development). But even though the profs were for the most part Christians of the Middle Ages, they did not ask for or feel any need for a Church charter.

    The modern Catholic university is not owned or operated very often by the Church, or even by a religious order. It is a private corporation which uses the word Catholic in its description because for the most part Catholics control the shares of the corp. and the Board of Directors. When this Catholic university teaches math, it does not teach Catholic math–there is no such thing. The same for when it teaches natural science, sociology, foreign language, and a host of other disciplines. When this Catholic university teaches religion or theology it subjects the religion or theology topics covered to rigorous intellectual scrutiny. It is not the business of a Catholic university to rubber stamp Catholic doctrine or morals. It has NEVER been any other way, from Medieval times to the present (except in captive schools beholden in some way to the local see or the Roman see).

    Prof Rice has no beef with Notre Dame University. It is a rigorous intellectual place, including all of its departments. Catholics own and operate it, but not officials of the local or universal Church. If Prof. Rice wants to take up any issues with the Board of Directors and the President, he is free to do so. But he is not free to claim that Notre Dame must fit his personal ideas of a Catholic university in order to really be one. Stand down, Prof. Rice!

  20. Donald R. McClarey says:

    “It is a private corporation which uses the word Catholic in its description because for the most part Catholics control the shares of the corp. and the Board of Directors.”

    Rubbish. Father Edward Sorin dedicated Notre Dame to Our Lady when he founded it. The idea that he intended Notre Dame to be solely interested in academics and not to prepare Catholics to defend the teachings of the Church as a result of the education they received at Notre Dame is too silly for words. The current administration of Notre Dame has betrayed its founding. They should rename the place Notre Zeitgeist.

  21. Annoyed says:

    Seriously McClarey?? I am sick of critics of this school making ridiculous claims like “The current administration of Notre Dame has betrayed its founding.” Sure, Father Sorin dedicated it to Mother Mary. However NJCitizen makes possibly the most coherent point of anyone on this site. The University of Notre Dame is a University first and foremost. One does not go to Notre Dame to be made into some tool to be used by the church as a mindless robot regurgitating scripture with an obstinate mindlessness, but to gain a world renowned education while being influenced by the teachings of the church to lead a good life in the service of others. Notre Dame does a better job at that then any other institution in our nation. The University aims to provide spiritual development, NOT to enforce it. For if you truly believe that the focus should shift more to “Prepar[ing] Catholics to defend the teachings of the Church as a result of the education they received,” I suggest you send in a letter to the president requesting ND to kick out all the women and everyone else who isn’t Catholic and become a seminary. Stop confusing the roles of each institution. Notre Dame is an institution of education, not of brainwashing. I agree with the point of this article, the article should have been published. However don’t go off on these tangents about how Notre Dame is now evil and corrupt because they choose to analyze situations from all aspects as to get the entire picture, as one should, instead of blindly taking one stance and ignorantly beating it to death. Notre Dame breeds intellectuals, not radicals.

  22. Donald R. McClarey says:

    “Notre Dame breeds intellectuals, not radicals.”

    Actually I rather suspect that what modern Notre Dame breeds is contented members of the herd of independent minds who wouldn’t dare to not be in complete conformity with the popular prejudices of academia. That is why the administration of Notre Dame was happy to honor a pro-abort like President Obama, while I am sure they would rather eat ground glass than say honor a politician who upheld the heretical notion that perhaps there are sex differences when it comes to mathematical achievement. Notre Dame has always been a defender of orthodoxy, the only change is that the orthodoxy that they are now defending has nothing to do with Catholicism.

  23. Annoyed says:

    That change in orthodoxy is also the same change that brought about the inclusion of women at Notre Dame, along with incorporating a department solely dedicated to Catholic social justice as well as many other things. Many people so often focus on one aspect without looking at the entire picture of what Notre Dame is. Though you might believe Notre Dame has always been some stone temple of unwavering orthodoxy, you would do well to note that it is so often referred to as “The place where the Catholic Church does it’s thinking” for a reason. Father Hesburg, arguably one of the greatest presidents Notre Dame has ever had, is renowned for his promotion of forward thinking. To accuse it’s students of conforming to academic persuasion is very reminiscent of when the church would attack people for believing in evolution or in heliocentrism. Notre Dame gives it’s students by far one of the best educations in the nation, equipping them with the knowledge and ability to go out into the world and see things from multiple perspectives in order to bring about change in the most efficient way possible, which is most often in an educated manner. Equating ignorant outrage caused by mindless conformity to Catholic teaching to being a good Catholic is an incredibly faulty argument.

    Also, as a side note, good job in bypassing my entire argument of Notre Dame being first and foremost a University, as you just help prove my point on how often people choose one thing to start arguing on a tangent about.

  24. Donald R. McClarey says:

    No, my herd of independent minds comment which you largely ignored dealt with your pride in what an intellectually independent place the new Notre Dame is. What you call intellectual independence is merely adherence to the current transient academic zeitgeist. You would find more intellectual diversity in the nearest factory or Knights of Columbus meeting. Deadening ideological conformity of the secular left is the hallmark of most universities today, and Notre Dame is no exception.

    Tell me annoyed, did you develop your obvious distate for Catholicism at Notre Dame, or have you always had a chip on your shoulder regarding the Church and her teachings?

  25. […] brings in… the entire state of Texas with a nationwide following that is only eclipsed by the University of Shame Notre […]

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