"ND 88." The phrase used to be one of pride, joy, and triumph. Formerly, this phrase conjured up images of Tony Rice running wild, Chris Zorich wreaking havoc, and Pat Terrell tipping away passes. It used to take my breath away as I thought of a freshman appropriately named "Rocket" blasting off into college football lore. "ND 88" woke up the echoes with a National Championship that cemented a boyhood infatuation and gave bragging rights to a young dreamer in the 8th grade. 12-0. Perfection. Greatness. This confirmed you could do things the "right" way and still be successful. The University of Notre Dame was different. It was Catholic Disneyland. A beacon of truth and inspiration. It was Our Lady's team and training ground for her army.
Twenty-two years later, much has changed. Turns out, even then, this was false advertising. In 8th grade I didn't know it, of course. Sixty-two football games, 2 degrees, and 2 years of employment under the Dome and I still didn't know it. For the last half century, the true university colors of the Blessed Mother and truth have morphed into hypocrisy blue and calf gold... or perhaps even Satan's favorite color of gray. [By the way, a few people have requested a summary of this timeline of betrayal, so it will be coming soon here it is.]
Countless Catholics have followed and fought against this trend every step of the way. No doubt most of them would excuse my ignorance and the blindness of others in the past. However, the cat is out of the proverbial bag. The era of successful cover up should be over.
And how ironic that the same glorious moniker, ND 88, is now what represents the new, not-so-glorious reality. "ND 88" is the name given to those heroic soldiers of Christ arrested before/during the Obama fiasco on the campus of Our Lady's University for certain "criminal" acts like praying the Rosary and singing Ave Maria. Seriously. So apparently those who wish to provide prayerful, peaceful witness to the sanctity of human life are no longer welcome at Notre Dame.
Most people have never heard about this or do not realize that the case is still going on, if not just heating up. Despite loud calls to drop the charges, Fr. Jenkins and Notre Dame have hidden behind the line, "It's out of our hands." But everybody knows the prosecutor would take seriously the wishes of the so-called victim.
The defendants include a few famous activists. While Fr. Jenkins joined the D.C. March for Life in protest of Roe v. Wade for the first time ever, convert Norma McCorvey (aka "Jane Roe") was ironically facing trespassing charges for doing the same thing at Notre Dame. "ND 88" no longer makes me think of Lou Holtz, but Fr. Norman Weslin. The heart-breaking video of the frail 80-year-old, long-time pro-life warrior being hauled off to jail while asking "Why would Notre Dame arrest a Catholic priest for trying to stop the killing of a baby?" tells you everything you need to know about a place that has become a wolf dressed in sheep's clothing.
However, most of the defendants are your average, every-day pro-life activists. As a result of the arrest, one such faithful couple has lost their license to provide foster care.
Eye-witness accounts of the festivities tell of an ND police force arresting pro-life demonstrators while giving pro-abortion/pro-Obama demonstrators free reign of the campus. Nevertheless, this did not stop Jenkins from boldly defending the arrests by saying, "We can't have one set of rules for protestors with whom we disagree and another set for those whose cause we happen to agree with."
This statement prompted Sycamore Trust President Bill Dempsey to do some research on the execution of this alleged policy. What he found is quite disturbing. In March of 2007 two sets of protestors were indeed treated quite differently than the pro-lifers. So called "gay-rights" and anti-ROTC activists were arrested on campus and told they would later hear about their court dates. They never heard anything. Dempsey asked ND spokesman Dennis Brown if the charges were dropped, and he responded, "This conversation no longer serves any useful purpose." The South Bend Tribune later corroborated Dempsey's findings.
The most recent major ruling in the case was not good news for ND. The judge will allow defense attorney Tom Dixon, '84 JD'93 to subpoena university documents in an attempt to uncover their inconsistencies while dealing with protests.
Fr. Jenkins clearly just doesn't get it. In the wake of honoring the Commander-in-Chief of the Culture of Death, Jenkins has been attempting to bolster the pro-life reputation of the University. Following the executive style of his prized honoree, he appointed a task force to solve the problem. It doesn't take a task force or special commission to figure out that any weak attempts to appear pro-life mean nothing as you continue to bring down the hammer on the ND 88.
Why doesn't he drop the charges? What evil is at work here?
Many are shocked to discover my 180 regarding good ol' Notre Dame. "Ryan has really lost it." One extreme to the other, I know. It took a while, but I eventually found profound peace with my position. How can you turn your back on a place you've loved so much for so long? I've often been asked. But I believe my protest is an authentic act of love. To love means wanting what is best for the beloved. What is best for Notre Dame is to return to her true character and mission.
If I had the chance, I would have paid a visit to campus last spring. And then we'd be talking about the ND 89. The University has rejected me. More importantly, she has rejected the source of her strength - Jesus Christ, his Church, and his mother.
God is love, so what is the "loving" response? I pray every day that Our Lady will take back her university, and ND will recommit fidelity to her Son's Church. Until that day comes, I see no other option than to follow the guidance of our Lord by "shaking the dust from my feet in testimony against them" (Lk 9:5).
[UPDATE: In May of 2011, the University finally settled with the infamous "ND 88". Fr. Jenkins said that he was "sincerely pleased that the charges have been dismissed" and that "everyone involved has been in complete accord on the sanctity of human life from the start." Why the sudden change of heart, two years later? Well, it just so happened that the defendants were preparing damage lawsuits against the University, and their time to file was about to expire when the University decided to settle. As part of the settlement, the defendants had to agree to drop these lawsuits. Read more here.]