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Friday, March 1, 2024
The Observer

Has anyone seen my old friend John?

Can you tell me where he's gone? There's about to be a very big vote on health care reform, and wouldn't you know that such reform includes funding for violence to the littlest among us. And despite the president's claim to the contrary, you know he's going to sign that bill if and when it's presented to him by the House and Senate. Can there be any real any doubt?

But let's get back to John. He's been as quiet as a church mouse ever since Commencement 2009, hasn't he?  Sure, there are now going to be Masses on the mall. Sure, there are going to be a blue ribbon panels and seminars and forums, and sure, we'll use "fair-minded words" and look for common ground and tell each other how we need to reduce the number of instances of prenatal violence to the waiting-to-be-born.

But what I'm not sure about is whether or not we're going to hear a public pronouncement by University President Fr. John Jenkins condemning the inclusion of funding for abortion in the health care reform bill. It's not that this bill necessarily reaffirms the legal right of a woman to have an abortion; it's that we are now going to be paying her to have one if the bill passes. I don't think it would take a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist or a PhD philosophy graduate to understand what the impact on public debate such an action of public condemnation could accomplish. Certainly, its effect would be felt a whole lot more than a hand-written, "heartfelt, Dear Barack letter" or a "What up, dude, ringy-dingy," I would think. We are all well aware of how the very-well-publicized Commencement 2009 shaped public opinion about Catholics in general and Notre Dame in particular.

Health Care Reform as presently proposed is a very bad bill, and the best thing that could seemingly happen would be for the process to start over so as to allow for it to get done right all the way through — but it doesn't look like that is going to happen now. Having said that, it's rare when any of us have the opportunity to make a real difference in life (or death) — certainly not on such a grand scale — so I'm urging you to seize the moment, Fr. John.

You know you have the platform at Notre Dame to demonstrate a true, courageous concern for the unborn if you were to go public with your thoughts, and that would be a message that would carry far and wide. But I know you're probably thinking that you don't want to bother the president right now during his "busiest ... week" ever. I know, Fr. John, that you were hoping for "deepened dialogue over time" on this matter, but what better place for such a message to emanate from than Our Lady's University and what better time than now?

But I know there are arguments against rocking the boat. You know what; it is important to get 30 million more Americans on health care, even if it is a very bad bill that can't sustain itself or the quality of care over time. And you know what else — those women who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy would probably get an abortion anyway — whether we pay for it or not. And they might even get it done in some back alley by some meth-addled, would-be Dr. Nick (if it weren't for the meth) using a coat hanger as a "surgical instrument" rather than by a board-certified, health care practitioner in a pristine, sanitized, hospital-type setting using the latest, most-up-to-datest, scientific, piercing, crushing, dismembering and suction equipment — but I digress.

And if imploring the president to do the right thing might prove to be a little too much for your tastes, is it unreasonable to expect a public vote of support — "We're with you, Bart" — for the courageous Michigan congressman who appears to be out there all alone in his fight for the most innocent among us?

But you never know, Fr. John, do you? Who's to say that a little help at this seemingly, most-opportune time would really save an innocent life or two — or maybe spare a would-be-mother a lifetime of grief. But this we do know. Despite words to the contrary, dead babies can never take care of themselves; they can not even take things off the shelves. Little voices many do not want to hear need a really big voice to speak for them — not tomorrow, not next week, not next month, not next year, but right now.

So, seize the moment, Fr. John — there will never be another one like this one. I guess it's all a matter of "what would you fight for?" I wonder what, and perhaps more importantly, who, Notre Dame, our Mother, would fight for.

Michael Sydlik
Class of 1973, 1975
March 18

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.