“In matters of truth, the fact that you don’t want to publish something is, nine times out of ten, proof that you should publish it.” – G.K. Chesterton

More than two years ago, I co-authored a defense of the Irish Rover’s work after an article by then-Editor-in-Chief Mary Frances Myler initiated campus controversy.  

Myler’s article, “No Man Can Serve Two Masters,” succinctly defended Church teaching on marriage and sexuality and considered how Notre Dame had failed to promote this teaching. The outrage inspired by this charitable and straightforward articulation made all who were then writing for the Rover realize the important role of our reporting and writing—a fact that is easy to forget. 

I nevertheless wish to close my time at the Rover on a simpler note. Whatever objective goals we have accomplished over the past four years—growing our staff, increasing our reporting bandwidth, and expanding our reach on and beyond campus—the individuals involved with the paper certainly benefit more than the reader.

Writing for a campus paper teaches valuable lessons of clear communication, meeting deadlines, and standing firm for the truth once you have reported it. Student journalists usually experience a slow learning curve to the first two of these. But for the last—standing firm for the truth—one simply needs to prepare for an unexpected barrage of pressure whenever it may come.

As we noted in our defense of the Rover two years ago, “The Rover’s editorial team did not anticipate such an explosion of campus controversy” upon publishing “No Man Can Serve Two Masters.” Neither did I think two years ago that our writing would be discussed in hundreds of newspapers via the Associated Press and widely written about by many others, including in the Wall Street Journal and Fox News.

In addition to the excitement, knowing my name was being spread to millions of people across the globe is a terrifying feeling. But the public controversy I have faced by actors on campus, and the lack of support from Notre Dame administrators, is not why I title this piece “A Requiem for Notre Dame.”

More meaningful than what happens in public is the effect the controversy has on the individual. Some personal relationships have, no doubt, been injured through the Rover’s public controversies. 101 faculty and staff at Notre Dame published a letter in the Observer, vilifying the students who report for the Rover. Both Luke Thompson, the other student named in the suit, and I have had some of these professors in class and have learned a great deal from them. Gathering signatures of faculty to disparage the work and integrity of their own students, these professors claimed that we, their students, had departed from the “positive sociality afforded by university life” and engaged in a “campaign of targeted harassment.” Harassment indeed.

While it was shocking that our own professors, and such a large percentage of the Notre Dame faculty more broadly, would sign such an incendiary letter, neither is this the reason for my requiem. 

Yes, Notre Dame is dead; but only insofar as her image is herself. That is, she has been killed in the eyes of the large swaths of American Catholics who have populated her quads since her founding in 1842. This death is due in part to negative press brought upon herself—awarding Obama an honorary degree and giving Biden the “Laetare Medal” come to mind immediately—but I know that we students who report on campus controversy from the inside have also played a role.

The headlines about me and my friends that reached millions of people have seemed to confirm in the eyes of many faithful Catholics that Notre Dame has given up its soul. This assumption has been confirmed by alumni who send angry or distressed emails, telling us that they are ceasing their donations to Notre Dame because she is “no longer Catholic,” or asking where they can donate to help restore her Catholic identity. 

A requiem is a prayer for the dead, said in hope that the soul of the deceased might be purified and enter heaven. Of course, an institution has no eternal soul, but I wish to leave this as my final message to the readers of the Rover: The soul of Notre Dame, her animating principle, is not dead. If I had chosen to attend a Newman List school, I certainly would not have had to miss class to endure a five-hour deposition, but neither would I have learned how to read The Republic with Prof. David O’Connor, The Odyssey with Prof. Patrick Deneen, or Aristotle’s Politics with Prof. Susan Collins, to name only a few of my academic highlights. Nor would I have befriended the dozens of inspiringly faithful Notre Dame students who will soon populate the academia, law offices, and businesses of our nation.

Nor would I have met Ambrose Inman (there’s your shoutout, even if we didn’t publish your article on cocktails and fashion) through whom I re-met the Norbertines of St. Michael’s Abbey, where I will enter as a postulant this August.

Growth comes through conflict. Even if I would rather struggle through understanding Dante than learn how to articulate a two-sentence defense of the Church’s teaching on life to the Associated Press, I have grown immensely through doing both. The goal of the Rover is to restore the Catholic identity of Notre Dame, and we on the inside hope that the alumni who love this school just as deeply will help us in this effort. Then, the soul of Notre Dame will revive the body, ensuring that this great university will be a forum for excellent, Catholic education for years to come.

Notre Dame often presents herself as a dead creature—body separated from soul—to be accepted by the world’s elite academic institutions, which have invariably abandoned their founding missions. So yes, my fellow student writers and I have harmed Notre Dame’s image, but we have always acted in charity, hoping to bring to light what is wrong on the inside to ensure that the fight for her Catholic character continues. 

At Notre Dame, there is still a fight and, more importantly, there are still some of the finest Catholic academics and students in the country. If I were to begin college over again tomorrow, I would certainly attend Notre Dame, provided they would still have me.

Although Joe DeReuil has enjoyed his rebranding as “W. Joseph” over the past three years, he looks forward to the end of fighting to be called by his first initial and middle name when, God-willing, he receives a religious name from the Norbertines next December. He can be reached until graduation at wdereuil@nd.edu.

Photo Credit: Matthew Rice

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