The Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life sponsored the semi-annual Bread of Life dinner on October 30 in the Oak Room of South Dining Hall.
The event features a short presentation by a faculty member followed by dinner and discussion. Since 2004, the dinner has provided students, regardless of their faith commitment, the chance to engage in faith-based discussion over dinner with peers and professors. The evening began with a prayer by Reverend Wilson D. Miscamble, CSC, and was followed by an introduction of the evening’s featured speaker by Erin Stoyell-Mulholland, undergraduate assistant at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture. Making his first “official” appearance as a member of the Notre Dame faculty, Professor of Political Science Patrick Deneen spoke on “Life Issues in the Public Square.”
Deneen opened with a reminder of the difficult task to which all Christians are called: to judge constantly. Above all, we must judge our own actions before we judge the actions of others. Submitting ourselves to this “ferocious self-examination” is not only in line with the teaching of Jesus but also a vital component in fostering a culture of life. Deneen cautioned that we must take care that when we stand up for the unborn we are not ourselves guilty of Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 7:3, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
Deneen suggested that pro-life advocates may focus too much on the political and legal battlegrounds of beginning-of-life issues. He admitted that decisions such as Roe v. Wade were unjust, and that it is good to seek the reversal of such laws, but to simply attack these issues in the political sphere falls short of fostering a true culture of life. Deneen argued that the reversal of Roe v. Wade would not change the culture; people would still seek abortions and many individual states would retain provisions for the legality of abortion. The permeating culture of death in America today would not change in response to a change in the law, he said, a fact which he said would be evidenced by a lack of substantial decline in abortions performed annually.
In a true culture of life, people would eschew abortion, legal or illegal, simply because it is wrong. Deneen urged the audience to continue to foster a true culture of life, even in the face of the difficult challenge to change the fabric of a culture and the way people think. He called for each and every member of society to be subjected to “ferocious self-examination,” necessary to alter the very fiber of a culture and turn it around. Although it is difficult to know where to start, Deneen suggested that all should seek to live out a greater respect and care for the sanctity of human life on the individual level.
Deneen concluded his talk by asking that all continue to pray about this grave matter, and to work toward the difficult end of creating a culture of life and overcoming a culture of death. He also evoked John Paul II’s message in Evangelium Vitae that it is the duty of every human being to protect life from conception until natural death.The talk sparked fruitful dialogue over dinner at every table and provided an opportunity for faculty members and students alike to share their thoughts and ask questions of others. The evening concluded with a brief question and answer session for Deneen. Questions ranged from inquires about the allowance of abortion for cases of pregnancies resulting from violent crimes, to disagreement about the importance of the law in shaping a culture’s values, to questions about how faculty can better support the acceptance of unchosen obligations.
Among the 50 students and faculty present at the event was sophomore Marco Cerritelli.
“The Bread of Life dinner serves to generate discussion within the Right to Life cause, which is important because it creates enthusiasm in those attending as a result of coming together and building relationships with people who seriously support that cause,” said Cerritelli. He was attending for the first time, and was drawn to the event not only because it promised great food, but because it provided “the opportunity to engage my beliefs and religious convictions intellectually with others.”
The next Bread of Life dinner will be held this spring. The organizers of the event are happy to welcome students who have not attended in the past, and one goal of the dinner is to involve students with different perspectives in the conversation. If you are interested in learning more about the Bread of Life series or other Center for Ethics and Culture events, visit http://ethicscenter.nd.edu/.
Tim Bradley is a freshman theology and economics major who experienced bacon-wrapped chicken for the first time at this event. To discuss the finer details of this succulent meal, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.