In late June the University of Notre Dame announced that Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend and sometime 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, had been named a 2020-21 faculty fellow at the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study. Meghan Sullivan, a professor of philosophy at Notre Dame and director of the institute, celebrated the appointment: Buttigieg, she said, was a “perfect fit” for the institute’s faculty cohort this year, which will focus on the “nature of trust….”
While Buttigieg grasped the advantages of serving as a public advertisement for the normalization of same-sex marriage and of advocating for a fulsome LBGTQ agenda, he also appreciated the need to demonstrate his bona fides (if that be the term) on the litmus test issue for every Democrat candidate: unrestricted abortion. This is the issue on which Biden quickly folded under pressure early in the campaign, and so retreated from his long-standing opposition to the use of federal funds to pay for abortions. Today’s Democrats cannot tolerate such opposition; they hold that abortion must be promoted as a public good and funded by the American taxpayer.
While still mayor of South Bend, Buttigieg skillfully and cynically signaled his support for the pro-abortion movement. He vetoed the South Bend Common Council’s favorable vote on a re-zoning request that would have permitted the highly regarded Women’s Care Center to open a crisis pregnancy office next to an abortion facility operating on the west side of the city (near minority neighborhoods, one might add). Buttigieg, the future lecturer on “trust” at Notre Dame, strained credibility by claiming that he acted out of concern for “the neighborhood” when he denied the community the loving support that the Women’s Care Center has provided for decades. Notre Dame president Father John Jenkins, who had worked amicably with Buttigieg on town-and-gown issues, criticized the veto and charged that “far from enhancing the harmony of the neighborhood, it [Buttigieg’s veto] divides our community and diminishes opportunities for vulnerable women.”
Most of this year’s Democratic candidates campaigned hard to establish their pro-abortion credentials, but Buttigieg seemed especially eager to please the Planned Parenthood crowd. In a notable exchange with Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, he made clear that he didn’t see much place for pro-life Democrats in the party. Most egregiously, Buttigieg also engaged in some discussion that revealed his support for late-term, partial-birth abortions. He even attempted to furnish his views with a religious gloss by suggesting that “there’s a lot of parts of the Bible that talk about how life begins with breath.”
Buttigieg’s extreme pro-abortion views directly oppose fundamental Catholic teaching prohibiting the destruction of human life in the womb. But Meghan Sullivan seems untroubled by this disparity. The present director of the Notre Dame institute is a capable analytic philosopher and a popular teacher who has fashioned a much-hyped course on “God and the Good Life,” which claims to allow students to wrestle with key questions concerning “happiness, morality and meaning.” She is an old friend of Buttigieg’s—they were in the same Rhodes Scholarship cohort. She often had him guest lecture in her classes during his mayoral days, and now wants to provide a good place for her pal from their Oxford sojourn. One must assume that her friendship for and desire to assist Buttigieg trumps any concerns about his views on abortion. My own questions as to whether a candidate who held positions contravening the Church’s teaching against racism would warrant an appointment at the institute have been met with silence. And Sullivan seems hesitant to examine the implications of Buttigieg’s fellowship for Notre Dame’s mission as a Catholic university.
One might expect that the aforementioned Father Jenkins would be more willing to do so, especially in light of his direct knowledge of Buttigieg’s betrayal of supporters of the Women’s Care Center. Sadly, no. While Father Jenkins concedes that Buttigieg disagrees with Catholic teaching on “some issues,” he asserts that the former mayor might make a contribution to the institute’s deliberations on the nature of trust. Rather than address the issue directly, Father Jenkins prefers to deflect by presenting the Buttigieg appointment as consonant with the recent teaching appointments at Notre Dame of former Senator Joe Donnelly (a Democrat) and former Speaker Paul Ryan (a Republican). Yet there are marked differences: Both Donnelly and Ryan were moving beyond direct involvement in partisan politics and neither injected himself into any current campaign. Most important, though they were of different parties, neither stood so radically in opposition to Catholic moral teaching as does Buttigieg.
Of course, those familiar with Notre Dame know well that the Buttigieg appointment is more of a piece with Jenkins’s honoring of Barack Obama in 2009 and his awarding of the Laetare Medal (recognizing a distinguished Catholic!) to Joe Biden in 2016….
The above comes from an Aug. 3 story in First Things by Wilson D. Miscamble.