It is a sad day for Catholic education when a Catholic institution of higher learning ignores core doctrine. It is worse yet when it happens to be the leading Catholic institution of higher learning. Recently The National Catholic Register reported that the University of Notre Dame voluntarily offered a student health insurance program that pays for the contraception and abortion services required by the HHS mandate. In essence, the University has thrown in the towel in its fight against the mandate's encroachment on religious liberty. This move is particularly strange given the University's pending lawsuit against the federal government.
In 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a mandate derivative of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires all employers to provide, free of charge, a number of contraceptives and abortifacient drugs to their employees. On May 21, 2012 the University of Notre Dame filed an official legal complaint against the federal government because funding contraception and abortifacients is contrary to the school's identity as a Catholic institution. Since then, all requests for an injunction on the mandate have failed. The HHS has made eight revisions to the initial contraceptive mandate all of which have been summarily rejected by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The revisions fail to address underlying religious liberty conflicts in the ACA. Although Notre Dame's lawsuit is still pending, the University has decided, nonetheless, to comply with the mandate of its own accord.
Catholic doctrine expressly forbids the intentional use of contraception or abortion:
"Every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil (CCC 2370)."
"Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law…Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense (CCC 2271-2272)."
Whether Notre Dame or any other Catholic university ignores this teaching is no indication of a change in Church doctrine. This violation of Church doctrine is yet another illustration of the collapse of doctrinally sound Catholic education. Notre Dame is following in the footsteps of many other Catholic institutions which have acted contrary to Church teaching. One does not have to look far for examples of this. St. John's University recently slated Hugh Evans, a strong contraception advocate, to receive an honorary law degree at commencement. Loyola Marymount University earlier this year named Dr. Robbin Crabtree (who previously served on Advisory Board and Media Relations Committee of Planned Parenthood) dean of the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts. The University of San Diego's drag show created such shockwaves within the Church that the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education called them out on it saying the event caused "scandal." Purportedly Catholic universities acting contrary to the Magisterium is so widespread that Pope John Paul II years ago issued an apostolic constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae to remind Catholic universities of their identity, mission, and general norms.
As education goes, so goes the next generation. The Church and all its members have the right and the duty to pass the time-tested teachings and traditions on to next generation. Let us work to promote Catholic institutions of higher learning grounded in sound Church doctrine and morals.