Professor Michael J. Baxter speaks at Bread of Life Dinner

Notre Dame Theology Professor Rev. Michael J. Baxter, CSC, delivered a talk entitled “Ethics, Culture, and Life at Notre Dame: A View from the (True) Center” as part of the Bread of Life lecture series sponsored by the Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life. In his brief reflection, Baxter discussed beginning of life issues as well as just war.

Baxter explained how he derived his topic of discussion from a previous class he had taught. During one of the class periods, students began to share enlightening personal experiences. Each of the students related how his or her family had said no to abortion.

In one particular account, a student explained that her stepsister’s birth mother was told that she would die if she carried her pregnancy to term. The physician urged her to have an abortion, but the mother refused. Instead, the child was born, and the birth mother died. Baxter emphasized that in this story, we find a supererogatory dimension. This mother’s ability to give up her life for her child demonstrates that women are “glad to lay down their lives for their children.” Baxter said that mothers also acknowledge the personhood of the fetus in their language, commenting, “When a woman is pregnant, she does not say my fetus kicked me, she says my baby kicked me.”

Baxter argued that, historically, the topic of abortion has not been debated; it was considered unthinkable up until the last 50 years.

Rather than dismiss the topic of war, however, Baxter pointed out that people not only suffer in abortion, but that they suffer in war, too. Soldiers struggle with questions of engaging in warfare as an ethical act. He recalled overhearing personal stories of air force officials “dropping bombs in tears.”

Baxter underlined that as religious people, “we worship Christ, author of Life and Prince of Peace,” and the intentional attack of the innocent is wrong. Thus, he suggested, that there should be adherence to the just war tradition and avoidance of “tyranny of convention.”

The meaning and value of life, Baxter said, is an issue much “deeper than the partisan allegiance.” He pointed out that we live in a time of deep political conflict, a battle between the liberals and conservatives, and that it is “important to stay away from political cliché.” Baxter stressed that individuals “don’t feel comfortable in placing [themselves] in the agencies of the political parties” in regard to life issues.

As the dinner discussion neared an end, Baxter shared two closing thoughts. “Stop migration from the common sense,” he urged his audience. He then revealed to the audience that he was adopted, and that he “could not have been who he was” if it weren’t for his birth mother’s choice to say “yes” to life. Baxter stated that “stories hit people,” and there is a need to perpetuate the power of heartfelt storytelling.

Founded in 2009, the Bread of Life series offers faculty, students, and staff a chance to converse over an evening meal. A presenter first gives a short introductory lecture, and then dinner and table discussion follow. All participants receive a copy of the late Pope John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae at the end of the evening

Adriana Garcia is a junior theology/honors sociology major who believes that the song “Where is the Love?” really gets to the core of this article. Listen to it! She can be contacted at