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Monday, May 27, 2024
The Observer

Fr Miscamble

Fr. Miscamble details legacy of Fr. Hesburgh

Fr. Wilson Miscamble spoke at the Law School on Thursday evening about his book, “American Priest: The Ambitious Life and Conflicted Legacy of Notre Dame’s Father Ted Hesburgh.”

Miscamble, an Australian who joined the Holy Cross priesthood, is a professor of history. He studied history at Notre Dame, later serving as chair of the history department at Notre Dame from 1993 to 1998.

“I'm trying to connect his story to a larger story about the race of Catholics and in particular about Catholic higher education, how Catholics have been engaged and been influenced by the world,” Miscamble said. 

Fr. Theodore Hesburgh served as University president for 35 years from 1952 to 1987, advising multiple presidents of the United States during that time. 

Miscamble said Heburgh’s pragmatism and ability to seize opportunities equipped him well to lead Notre Dame during a “remarkable period of American higher education.”

Hesburgh was known for his charisma and larger-than-life personality, Miscamble said.

“I argue, he became caught in the embrace of an increasingly secular liberal establishment, especially through his membership of the board of the Rockefeller Foundation, which he eventually chaired,” Miscamble said. 

According to Miscamble, there was an understanding that Hesburgh would abstain on issues regarding contraception, sterilization and abortion when he was appointed to the foundation’s executive committee in 1966.

“I think we can say he was an extraordinary institution builder, dramatically enhancing today's size, wealth and reputation to store the major decisions, to transfer ownership from the Congregation of Holy Cross to the board members and to admit undergraduate women to the University,” Miscamble said. 

Miscamble was asked a question about the dismissal of sociology professor Tamara Kay’s lawsuit against the Irish Rover. 

“I probably took sinful delight,” said Miscamble, who is a faculty advisor for the publication, causing the crowd to erupt in laughter. 

Miscamble was also asked how he thinks Hesburgh would feel about hiring professors who have opposing values to Notre Dame’s mission. 

“I would say a criteria of hiring should be commitment to the mission and that includes non-Christian faculty, as well as non-Catholic faculty. Deep commitment on the part of some Jewish and Muslim faculty members to Notre Dame's mission [provided] they buy into it,” Miscamble said. 

Miscamble said Hesburgh pushed for academic freedom during his tenure, including hiring a history professor that was widely known as being pro-Fidel Castro. He hired professors who he believed would improve the University's academic standing. 

“The Catholic university has a crucial duty to prepare faithful and thoughtful men and women who have a capacity to think clearly and act courageously so that they do not really conform to the world but hold true to their faith convictions," Miscamble said of Hesburgh’s vision for the University. "He wanted Notre Dame to play a key role in shaping such men and women, needed more than ever during these challenging times."