Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Open Letter to Father Jenkins of Notre Dame

Father Jenkins, Mr. X forwarded to me your reply to him regarding the arrests at Notre Dame last May.

I am not a lawyer and am not versed in the various legalities of who has what authority to drop charges or who has what property rights over the campus of Notre Dame. I do believe that these are minor questions, and perhaps even red herrings to avoid dealing with more fundamental issues.

We all know that on campus at that time were people of many various opinions regarding the decision to honor President Obama. Many of these individuals expressed their opinions by wearing clothing, carrying signs, etc. I speak not only of the Catholics protesting Obama’s appearance, but those individuals who approved of Obama’s appearance. Yet only those people who opposed Obama’s appearance were barred from campus and subsequently arrested. Obviously there were distinctions made on basis of expressed opinions. You mentioned that the police were professional in their demeanor. Given that, there is no way that the police would have made distinctions concerning who would be admitted to campus and who would not be granted such admission; they lacked the authority to do so, and they knew it. They had to receive instructions from some other authority. That authority, Father, could have come only from your office.

The response you gave to Mr. X is the same pathetic cop-out that you have given to many others. It is an attempt to play Pontius Pilate by washing your hands of this matter while trying to pawn responsibility to Indiana legal authorities, when these Catholic people were plainly arrested at the behest of Notre Dame authorities. It is utter nonsense to claim that you are unable to at least ask that the charges be dropped, when those charges exist because you forbade them to come onto campus. Let me be plain, and please direct this to the Board of Directors and to the Trustees of Notre Dame. By extending that ill-advised invitation to one of the most pro-abortion presidents in United States history, Notre Dame seriously besmirched its very identity as a Catholic institution. Will you continue to bring shame upon Notre Dame by prosecuting these people? What have you to gain, Father, by doing so? Do you think your seared conscience will somehow be assuaged by your vindictive pursuit of these charges against good Catholic people? Why not urge the authorities to drop those charges and retain at least some shred of dignity and honor for yourself and Notre Dame?

Father, this letter to you is open. It appears in the blog, under a posting with the date of this email. Any replies – or lack thereof – will likewise be posted. Please do the right thing and have these charges dropped.
Praying that God will bless you with common sense and wisdom regarding this matter, I am

Janet Baker, President, Faithful Catholics of MD/DC, Inc.

Here's the email from Fr Jenkins that occasioned this open letter:

(begin quote)
Thank you for your email regarding Notre Dame’s response to the arrests of protesters on campus in connection with the commencement exercises in May.

As I understand, you are calling upon Notre Dame to “drop the charges” against those arrested for criminal trespass. It is important to note that these protesters were arrested for trespassing, not for expressing their pro-life position; we agree with them and uphold the Catholic Church’s position on the sanctity of human life.

Under Indiana law, however, Notre Dame is not the complainant in these matters and so is not in any position to “drop the charges.” Nevertheless, Notre Dame officials have been in regular contact with the prosecutor’s office on these matters, and, in consultation with the University, the prosecutor has offered Pre-Trial Diversion to those for whom the May incident was a first-time offense. As described by the prosecutor, this program does not require the individual to plead guilty or go through a trial; rather, the charges are dropped after one year so long as the individual does not commit another criminal offense. We understand that most of those arrested have chosen not to take advantage of this offer and obviously we cannot force them to do so. In essence, the choice of whether or not to go to trial belongs to the defendants.

Finally, it must be stated that the police who were on duty during this time were professional and respectful in carrying out their responsibilities to protect private property. Each person was given fair warning to leave the campus prior to any arrests.

Hopefully, this information provides you with a greater understanding of the issues involved in this matter. Again, thank you for writing. (end quote)

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