The “Dear Father Jenkins” blog

Students and alumni of Notre Dame petition the university’s president during Lent regarding the HHS mandate

The “Dear Father Jenkins” blog reflects both the common currency of the new media and the way such social media is being used by Catholics to explain, defend, and, in this case, implore.

The blog’s home page states: “We are students and alumni of Notre Dame fighting for the protection of our consciences, our faith, and our university. We pray in a special way this Lenten season for the university to proclaim — boldly & unapologetically— the Catholic mission of Notre Dame. We petition Fr. Jenkins to take action against the unjust HHS mandate imposed by our government with a series of letters over the 40 days of Lent.”

One of the blog’s creators, Rozann Carter, who is Creative Director of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, explained the goal of the site:

The “Dear Father Jenkins” blog was created by young alumni of Catholic universities (four from Notre Dame and one from Ave Maria University) working for Word on Fire Catholic Ministries. After viewing Father Barron’ s video commentary on the “Anti-Catholic & Un-American” HHS Mandate, we felt compelled to use the proven power of social media to make a difference and act as advocates for the Catholic identity of Notre Dame and other Catholic institutions. It is our hope that these letters will create a unifying movement that will prompt Fr. Jenkins, and subsequently other influential leaders, to act boldly and apologetically in defiance of this frightening threat to our religious liberty.

Some excerpts from the letters:

You know what the Catholic Church teaches, and you are aware of your position.  Because of this, I implore you to use your influence as a role model and as a great leader of Catholic institutions in our nation.  You must declare your support of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (who, in turn, represent the universal Catholic Church) and renounce this unjust mandate.  Since Christ is for us, who can be against us?  You are already such an example for all of us.  Please, continue to be a pillar of faith not only for the Catholics but for the United States as well. …

Our current administration is essentially telling religious institutions that they can only be religious within the four walls of their churches, but when religion intersects with the public domain, it must be subject to government regulation.  Meanwhile, the University of Notre Dame extends, unlike any other university, into the public much further than its basilica, classrooms, dorms, and chapels as an ambassador of Christ.  By virtue of this fact, Notre Dame should not be apprehensive and feel more VULNERABLE to this threat.  On the contrary, it has more of an OBLIGATION to take a stand.  …

I know your Catholic beliefs infuse every aspect of your daily life at Notre Dame, but this truth must be visibly carried from your office as President of the foremost Catholic university in the United States directly into the public square.   The rest of the world needs your witness—and without delay.  I applaud you for your recent appointment of Fr. Bill Lies as Vice President for Mission Engagement and Church Affairs.  You and I know the commitment Notre Dame makes to our Catholic Faith, but we need the rest of the world to see that more clearly now to help curb the onslaught by this current administration and its overt anti-life and anti-family agenda. …

You have the uncommon and unenviable role as a central player in framing the debate and the outcome.  More than any Jesuit college or Catholic hospital, the media outlets have turned to your opinion as the bellwether for implementation.  Your response needs to be clear:  We cannot and will not comply!  You will get criticized, you will get fined and you may get imprisoned.  You will certainly be called to share in Christ’s suffering in a unique and visible way, but in doing so, you live up to the vision of the University and you honor the alumni in doing so.  “Blessed are you who suffer persecution for justice’s sake…” 

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About Carl E. Olson 1190 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.