WashPost Piece on N.D.-Alabama Game: Catholic Church Is ‘Dogmatic, Frustrating Change and Stifling Dissent’

By Terence P. Jeffrey | January 5, 2013 | 7:38pm EST


The Golden Dome over Notre Dame's administration building and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. (Wikimedia Commons photo/Michael Fernandes)

(CNSNews.com) - Two days before Notre Dame will face off against Alabama in college football’s national championship game, the Washington Post has published a piece--“Should American Catholics cheer for old Notre Dame?”--in which author Michael Leahy discusses his understanding of how Catholics might view the game and expresses his belief that the Catholic Church is “dogmatic, frustrating change and stifling dissent.”

Leahy is a Washington Post reporter, and his article about the Notre Dame-Alabama game—posted in the opinion section of the paper’s website--notes that he is the author of a book about basketball great Michael Jordan.

Leahy explains why he and some other Catholics, who were friends of his when he grew up in Southern California in the 1960s, rooted against Notre Dame. Their attitude toward Notre Dame’s football team, he said, was influenced by their views on such things as “abortion rights.”

“But our coolness toward Notre Dame,” Leahy writes, “also reflected fissures within the Catholic Church, cracks widening to this day over birth control, abortion rights and the broader matter of whether any dissent--particularly tough questions of the Vatican--will be tolerated by the Catholic hierarchy.”

Now, he says, Notre Dame is attracting resentment from “politically moderate” Catholics because it has sued the Obama administration over the administration’s contraception mandate. This is the administration regulation that seeks to force Notre Dame and other Catholic institutions--as well as Catholic business owners and individuals--to pay for health-care plans that cover sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs, all of which violate the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Last year, the Catholic bishops of the United States unanimously approved a declaration stating that the administration's contraception regulation was an "unjust and illegal mandate" that forced Catholics to act against their consciences and the teachings of their faith. In its lawsuit against the administration, Notre Dame argues that by commanding it to provide sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs in its self-insured health-care plan the administration is forcing the Catholic university to act against its faith and thus is violating the school's First Amendment right to "free exercise" of religion.

“And last year,” writes Leahy, “the university filed suit against the federal government, seeking to overturn a requirement in Obama’s health-care law that employers offer insurance plans including contraception coverage--a move that more politically moderate church members resented, concerned that Notre Dame would seek to deprive women, Catholic or not, of such coverage.”

Things like Notre Dame's suit against the contraception mandate, Leahy says, makes it easier to understand why Catholics might not be enthusiastic about Notre Dame’s football team.

“Add the consternation over the school’s effort to impose its views of contraception on non-Catholics under the health-care law, and it is easier to understand the ambivalence today about Notre Dame, both the institution and its gilded team,” writes Leahy.

“In such instances, Fighting Irish certitude looks like censorship, and the university becomes an apt symbol of the church that guides it--dogmatic, frustrating change and stifling dissent,” he says.

Leahy writes that, like his Irish ethnicity, he did not really choose his religion, but was born into it. “… I never so much chose an ethnicity and religion as I was born into them,” he writes.

Leahy says he believes Alabama will beat Notre Dame by two touchdowns.

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