When Notre Dame decided to honor Barack Obama at the 2009 commencement, both the President, Father John Jenkins, and the Board of Trustees took pains to insist that the invitation should in no way be taken as endorsement of the President's position on abortion or indeed indifference to Catholic teaching on life. Now we have a new issue: one of the newest members of the board, Roxanne Martino, has a record of contributing to Emily's List -- a group designed to support pro-choice Democratic women for office. This week the chairman of the ND board, Dick Notebaert, has now sent out an email to board members that suggests that it's not just Ms. Martino's judgment that is called into question. It's his too. The note reads as follows:
Response: Roxanne Martino
First, it’s inaccurate to characterize Roxanne Martino as pro-choice. Ms. Martino (along with her husband, Rocco) is a Notre Dame graduate, and she is fully supportive of Church teaching on the sanctity of life.
She has through the years contributed to organizations that provide a wide range of important services and support to women. She did not realize, however, that several of these organizations also take a pro-choice position. This is not her personal position, and she will now review all of her contributions to ensure that she does not again inadvertently support these kinds of activities in the future.
Let's take these one by one. First, he says it is "inaccurate" to call Ms. Martino pro-choice, but the only evidence he presents is that she is an ND grad and supports church teaching. This general assertion, however, is belied by her actions, in particular her support for Emily's List.
In big capital letters -- some of them in red -- on the home page of it's website, Emily's List asks you to "HELP US ELECT PRO-CHOICE DEMOCRATIC WOMEN." Pace Mr. Notebaert, this is not a group that "also takes" a view on abortion. Abortion is the issue here. Emily's List has no other purpose. This is America's premier group for electing pro-choice Democratic women. If Ms. Martino in her innocence truly did not realize that elementary fact about an exceptionally well-established political group that she chose to give her money to, is this a person who belongs on a university's board of trustees? And what does her decision to support that group over several years say about Mr. Notebaert's claim that she is not pro-choice?
If you click on the "What We Do" section inside Emily's List, it goes on to say "We’re a full-service political team with a simple mission: to elect pro-choice Democratic women." Let's underscore those words: simple mission. Maybe Mr. Notebaert didn't do his homework on Emily's List either. What does it say about his judgment as the board chairman. And what does it say about his view of the intelligence of the Notre Dame board that he would put out something so dissembling?
Maybe he's right about the board: that these aren't men and women who are going to ask tough questions. Maybe they'll be happy with a spin that 20 seconds on the Emily's List website would dispel. Mr. Notebaert's little email about Ms. Martino sure seems, however, to raise rather than dispel questions about the kind of judgment that prevails on the Notre Dame board.