In his great encyclical, “The Gospel of Life,” Pope John Paul II wrote about the dramatic struggle between the “culture of life” and the “culture of death” in our present social context. He called for “the renewal of a culture of life within Christian communities themselves” and wrote of the specific contribution that Catholic universities should make in building a new “culture of life.” I believe that the efforts that the University of Notre Dame is making in this regard are important for the Church and for society.
Notre Dame’s Institutional Statement supporting the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death is an important foundation for the implementation of concrete actions and plans to teach and serve the Gospel of Life. In his apostolic constitution on Catholic universities, “Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” Pope John Paul II listed as one of the essential characteristics of a Catholic university “an institutional commitment to the service of the people of God and of the human family in their pilgrimage to the transcendent goal which gives meaning to life.” An explicit and strong pro-life commitment strengthens the Catholic character of the university. It is an expression also of another essential characteristic of Catholic universities: “Fidelity to the Christian message as it comes to us through the Church.” — cf. “Ex Corde Ecclesiae” 13.
Our Catholic universities are in a unique position to promote the renewal of a culture of life in our society. Being actively pro-life in teaching and research, pastoral ministry and service, Catholic universities indeed contribute to the renewal of our society and to the promotion of the common good. I am grateful to Father Jenkins and to the Notre Dame Task Force on Life for the efforts they are making to serve the Gospel of life. I pray that their work will bear much good fruit. -- Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, April 8, 2010