Father William Dailey reflects on U.S. politics and the Catholic faith at spring Bread of Life Dinner

Father William Dailey, CSC, spoke at the spring semester Bread of Life Dinner hosted by the Center of Ethics and Culture on February 25. Father Dailey is the Center for Ethics and Culture’s Thomas More Fellow, a lecturer in the Notre Dame Law School, and rector of Stanford Hall. His topic was “Truth, Freedom, and the Gospel of Life.”

He began with a discussion of the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the difficulty of overturning Roe v. Wade with the current vacancy, and the uncertainty surrounding the appointment of Scalia’s replacement in the Supreme Court. He observed that the prospect of another pro-choice president taking office and the looming retirements of many of the aging Supreme Court justices makes for an “extraordinary and fraught time.”

Father Dailey then expanded on current threats to human dignity. The first example was the rise in the number of physician-assisted suicides in the Netherlands. He told the story of a patient identified as “2014-77,” who had been abused as a child, was diagnosed with autism, and had requested and was granted a physician-assisted suicide after several attempts to take his own life.

For his next example, Fr. Dailey described encounters he had as a seminarian with Catholic parents who chose to abort their babies, including one situation involving a child who had been diagnosed with spina bifida and Down Syndrome in utero. In these circumstances, he realized the parents “were not confused about (the humanity of the unborn), but … had a deeply distorted sense of life’s worth.”

He then discussed the dangers of the phrase “dying with dignity,” frequently promoted by progressives. Father Dailey pointed out that this mentality has spread beyond the Netherlands, as society as a whole has begun to devalue the lives of the seriously ill and dying. He diagnosed this as the reason that “the fundamental culture is so askew … and not one in which the simple vindication of facts about human life is going to be sufficient to build a culture of life.” However, Fr. Dailey still found reasons for optimism amidst these difficult battles.

He noted the rich history of the pro-life movement even before the Roe v. Wade decision as a “bright spot.” Father Dailey described the way in which many Catholic physicians joined with groups such as the Black Panthers to oppose the eugenics movement popular in the U.S. during the early 20th century. He went on to label it as “a movement that cared about the poor and marginalized, a movement that was not against women, but in favor of them.”

Father Dailey also connected the prevalence of the “Playboy” mindset and the identification of abortion as a men’s liberation movement to the “decoupling of any sort of moral strictures which includes any connection to life of people’s sexual liberty, which remains at the heart of this dispute.” He observed that abortion in America is seen as a “backup means of birth control” and individuals have always wanted the option to remain open, even if they recognize it as immoral.

He concluded by explaining the importance of preaching a Gospel of Life and working for a greater appreciation for the beauty of life, found throughout Scripture and culminating in the Easter season. Father Dailey stressed the importance of “expanding the moral imagination,” which currently consists mostly in the Golden Rule and should be understood instead as true love of neighbor.

He noted the timelessness and relevance of the Christian story in the past, present, and future, because it is “about a God who ever is, who ever was, a beauty ever ancient, ever new, who breathed life into us and invites into life for eternity through Easter, which is not an end.” He compared the current atmosphere for Catholics in the U.S. to that faced by the disciples in the Upper Room to whom Christ appeared and comforted with the words “Peace be with you.” In conclusion, Fr. Dailey encouraged the dinner attendees to remember this peace Christ granted, even in the midst of the chaotic 2016 election cycle.

Mackenzie Kraker is a freshman living in McGlinn Hall. She finds peace in both the Gospel of Life and her large stash of fruit snacks. If you are in need of some, contact her at mkraker@nd.edu.