Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Guest Post: William Dempsey, Notre Dame Class ’52

January 29th, 2015, Promulgated by Dominick Anthony Zarcone
Dominick Anthony Zarcone (Notre Dame, Class of 1970) calls our attention to the good and necessary work being done by the Sycamore Trust and Notre Dame University Alumni, to hold the University of Notre Dame accountable for its departures from Catholic Teaching.  The following is a Cleansing Fire guest post by Mr. Bill Dempsey, Notre Dame Class of 1952:  

At Mr. Zarcone’s welcome suggestion, I’m attaching for your consideration a post to Cleansing Fire relating to Notre Dame’s award of spousal benefits.

Bill Dempsey Notre Dame '52

Bill Dempsey
Notre Dame ’52

A few months ago, Notre Dame granted spousal benefits such as health insurance to employees in same-sex “marriages.” No law required this. The university is voluntarily rewarding and encouraging gravely immoral behavior. Bishop Kevin Rhoades objected, and prominent law school professor Gerard Bradley declared, “The University’s action is morally wrong as formal cooperation in sinful sexual relationships.”  Earlier, Notre Dame offered students a health insurance program that will provide them free abortifacients and contraceptives. To learn more, see

Our homepage is Our principal concern is with the radical reduction of Catholic faculty. The school no longer meets its own test of Catholic identity, which is modeled after that of Pope John Paul II in Ex Corde Ecclesiae and the bishops’ application of that document to the United States. Actions like those I mention are the symptoms of this secularization of the faculty.

With all good wishes,




21 Responses to “Guest Post: William Dempsey, Notre Dame Class ’52”

  1. Richard Thomas says:

    There is a good piece by Church militant TV on the death of Fr Mc Brien. It’s very revealing but probably most knew what was going on behind the scenes

  2. christian says:

    God Bless You In Your Good Work Bill!

    The secularization of the laity is a big problem in Catholic Education and it starts at the elementary -high school level. Those of you who follow this post may recall my account of a lay teacher at a Catholic School in the Diocese of Rochester who refused to conduct prayer or allow prayer in her classroom, even when spoken to by the principal.

    In general, over the past 30 years or more, the emphasis has been put on a quality education at Catholic Academic Institutions, but the same emphasis has not put on Catholic Christian morality and theology.

    To be hired on to faculty at a Catholic grammar, middle school, high school, college, or university, you don’t have to be Catholic or Christian. You don’t have to have any Faith or hold any belief in God. And you don’t have to adhere to Catholic Christian morals and principles in your personal life to teach at a Catholic Institution.

    No requirement of adhering to Catholic Christian morals and principles and no requirement to be be a practicing Catholic or mainline Christian, is responsible for lay employees seeking funding for abortifacts and spousal benefits in same-sex “marriage,” as well as non-medical usage of hormone therapy treatment AKA birth control pills, and other forms of birth control. As you may recall, a unmarried, young female student named Sandra Fluke from Georgetown University seeking funding/coverage for birth control (not hormonal treatment), stating tuition and costs were high and it was difficult affording her birth control, which could cost $3,000 a year. She further stated that 40% of female students from Georgetown’s Law School suffered financial hardship due to their birth control not being covered.

    It’s appalling and disheartening to learn the large percentage of women at a Catholic University who are sexually active outside of marriage -promiscuous. There is probably a large percentage of men who are sexually active outside of marriage as well -promiscuous.

    There was a time when a student at a Catholic University knew the strict moral guidelines of a Catholic University and wouldn’t dream of challenging it. There also was a time when there were segregated dorms and an appointed clergy or religious to look after the occupants of their particular house/building.

    I think there has been a lax attitude by clergy to preach on morality and Catholic principles and think there has been a lax attitude on the behalf of clergy and religious to teach on morality and Catholic principles. Some of them may not believe in the Church’s stand in these positions and hold different views. I wonder how some clergy and religious conduct their private life.

    The bottom line is a Catholic Institution might change their current stand on issues which go against Church Teaching and Catholic morality and principles, if they were “hurt in the pocketbook.” If enough Catholic alumni and supporters withdrew their donations and declined pledges until Notre Dame University reestablished moral guidelines on their campus with students and faculty, there might be success in establishing a Notre Dame which really is a true Catholic University.

  3. Sid says:

    christian raises a lot of good points, but I might argue this one a little, since he expanded the commentary beyond colleges and universities to include Catholic elementary and high schools.

    In general, over the past 30 years or more, the emphasis has been put on a quality education at Catholic Academic Institutions, but ..

    At least in terms of primary and secondary Catholic education, that is rarely the case. It is quite uncommon to find a Diocesan-run, so-called “parish” school or highschool that really is significantly better than the surrounding public schools. Unfortunately, this is not because the public schools are all that good, either. Regretably, the Catholic schools have ceased being about academics and orthodox teaching on religion (I agree on that point christian makes), and are now often merely a social outreach programs (perhaps with a dose of socialist liberation theology sprinkled in) aimed to be extra-friendly to non-Catholics. They basically target (at best) matching the performance of the public schools, except that parents get to pay (yay!). And people wonder why enrollment is but a small fraction of that when I did my K-12 stint a few decades ago!

    Make them authentically Catholic, turn the academics knob “up to eleven” and sift out the dead wood in administration, faculty, and yes even students. It will be a costly pill to swallow for a couple of years for the Diocese, but it will return the Catholic school system to the stature it formerly had with packed classrooms and teachers *eager* to teach in that environment. Over time, we’ll have start having people in the pews at Mass who have a clue about what Catholicism is all about. Independently administered schools like Saint John Bosco are the only ones who seem to understand–they manage to do it alone and succeed. Our Diocese (and others) need to take notice.

  4. militia says:

    It is perhaps time for faithful and knowledgeable parents and teachers to establish a Catholic School rating system in each diocese, so parents can know what to expect, and what they are choosing to pay for.

  5. Bill Dempsey says:

    I think it’s time for the bishops to publish reviews annually on Catholic colleges and universities in terms of their Catholic identity, strengths and weaknesses, so parents will know what they are buying at the astronomical levels of investment/debt that are now the norm. Sixty thousand dollars a year at Notre Dame, average debt about $30,000 with many a lot more. There is widespread false advertising by Catholic schools. Secular agencies review and evaluate these schools regularly without objection. The administrators should not bristle at the notion of a bishop’s review. But they would holler loudly. If they refused, that would say a lot.

  6. annonymouse says:

    The Cardinal Newman Society already publishes a review of Catholic colleges and universities, with the aim of identifying faithfully Catholic schools.

    Notre Dame, I’m afraid, has become much too impressed with itself over the years, with academic vanity run amuck, and no bishop (or in the case of Notre Dame’s decision to honor Mr. Obama a few years back, nearly 100 bishops) will successfully get through to its hubristic leadership (there’s that word again, the same one I used for Father McBrien a couple days ago!). Not even the bishop of Rome, whose plea to Notre Dame’s board seems to have been completely disregarded (as NDU is planning a half-billion dollar football stadium addition that includes three academic buildings as well, I believe) can preach to Notre Dame’s leadership.

    God bless your efforts, Mr. Dempsey. Perhaps I’m too cynical, but it seems like it might be a lost cause.

    But I do think ND, despite its institutional embrace of the secular humanist culture, still turns out some very faithful alumni (even if in diminishing numbers) – Mr. Voris for instance.

  7. Sid says:

    I’m a little confused here… Are not Catholic schools ultimately beholden to the Ordinary of the Diocese in which they are operating, especially in regards to teaching and morals? I think this is (or was) the case in the past even if the institution in question is being run by an religious order and not the diocese itself. It’s akin to a Catholic author needing to obtain a nihil obstat or imprimatur on a book he wishes to publish concerning religion, is it not? If not, why not?

    I’m fully in agreement with everything Mr. Dempsey has said here. If only this problem were confined to Notre Dame… Hubris is a fine word here, annonymouse. These academics are much like those at officially secular institutions—they see themselves above their duty to properly educate the students in their charge. It would be better to have in this country a few Catholic universities than a whole bunch that are “Catholic”. Is it possible to (within Canon Law) strip them of their privilege to call themselves Catholic? If they want to be modern secular, go all the way and just be done with it.

  8. Ron says:

    I was not a fan of Fr. McBrien’s theology, but I have heard and can find no corroboration for Church Militant allegations. Does somebody have a credible source – a source other than CM? Otherwise, are we staying into calumny here?

  9. annonymouse says:

    Sid – you are correct, the Ordinary is the shepherd of the flock in his diocese, and that includes any college or university in his diocese that claims the title “Catholic.” But what is a bishop to do when a university in his diocese blatantly disregards his instruction and guidance? William Peter Blatty has gone to Rome to attempt to involve the Holy Father in oversight of his alma mater Georgetown, as Cardinal Wuerl has proven ineffective in holding the local Jesuits accountable to him. Bishop D’Arcy tried to hold Notre Dame accountable, going so far as to celebrate Mass on campus in protest during the Obama commencement. But like the Georgetown Jesuits, those who govern Notre Dame apparently think they need not be accountable to a mere bishop.

    I actually think it’s rooted in the arrogance of theology Ph.D.s who look down upon relatively uneducated bishops as less qualified to teach the faith than they. I think that explains Georgetown, Notre Dame, and NDU’s distinguished professor of theology (and past department chair) Father McBrien.

    Ron – in my opinion no source is needed to corroborate Mr. Voris’ allegations – they should be disregarded. The body of Father McBrien’s work speaks for itself without resorting to personal innuendo. I watched that Vortex segment and was very put off by it.

  10. Diane Harris says:

    Wikipedia seems to be pretty consistent with most of what we are hearing.

    The obituary is also widely available, and one can form his/her personal opinion.
    Those who tolerated McBrien and facilitated his columns have a lot to answer for. But we already knew that.

  11. Ron says:

    I was referring to the accusation he had a common law wife. I haven’t seen that corroborated anywhere. As for the rest, yes his views were destructive.

  12. Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    As Divine Providence would have it, Father McBrien and I “faced off” in the Diocese of Rochester at Saint Bernard’s Graduate School of Theology and Ministry in 1994. While it has been almost 21 years since my first and last encounter with the famous dissenter, the event is still fresh in my mind.

    The famous ‘theologian’ was a guest speaker at SBI to lecture on “the Church”. This speaker and the assembled audience seemed to be concerned with the ‘reactionary/anti-Vatican II’ directions the Church was taking under the Petrine Ministry of the Polish Pope. (God be praised for raising up Pope Saint John Paul II)

    Once the lecture/talk was over, I accepted the invitation to step up to the microphone to ask Father McBrien questions. After informing him that I was an alumnus of both ND and SBI, I commented how curious it is that we were gathered to discuss the Church, the Body of Christ, yet began without prayer; without calling upon the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. McBrien countered that he finished his talk by saying in Latin, “Come, Holy Spirit”.

    Then I posed my question in light of the priest’s concerns about the direction of the Church. I asked him if it wasn’t a good indicator for the Church that recently there had been many separated brethren received into full communion with the Catholic Church and that Dr. Scott Hahn, a Professor at the Franciscan University of Steubenville and a former Presbyterian, was responsible for leading up to 50 Protestant Clergy into the Catholic Church.

    The theologian was patronizing and enraged.

    Patronizingly, He asserted, “I can see you are a conservative, yet, know you are welcome here.
    Then, really angry and with what seemed to be a contorted facial expression, the dissenter bellowed, “If those converts think they have discovered the truth (about all male clergy) they are wrong!

    I picked up my overcoat and walked through the assembly toward the rear door feeling the uncomfortable pressure of every eye upon my exit with no sound to be heard.

    ….and that is my Father McBrien story.

    Eternal Rest, Grant Father McBrien, O LORD. And Let Perpetual Light Shine Upon Him. May Father McBrien’s Soul and All the Souls of the Faithful Departed, By the Mercy of God, Rest In Peace.

  13. Richard Thomas says:


    I admire your courage and humility. I am sure your question was asked with true intention.

    My guess is perhaps his conscience was twicked a bit by your question. It reminds me of what happens when discussing abortion with women who are fanatically pro-choice and have had an abortion; or homoserxuality with an activly gay man. I don’t understand the psychology but if their consciences are stirred and they are not ready for conversion and homesty, they react with hatred and rage. I wonder if that is what happened to Fr. Mc Brien whe you addressed him.

    And I agree: Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord…….

  14. catholicmom says:

    St. John Bosco Schools and Chesterton Academy of Rochester

    The faculty take an Oath of Fidelty in the presence of God and the school community at the beginning of the school year.

    Taken from the website:

    Faith: Forming the Souls

    If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:31-32)

    At St. John Bosco School, our students learn that all our efforts are a response to the great love that Jesus demonstrated for us on the Cross. We embrace the teachings of the Catholic Church as our guide to living God’s will with the joy of Christian hope. Priority is given to helping each child develop a personal relationship with Our Lord. Students grow to understand the power of prayer and the grace of the Sacraments in helping them bring the light of Christ into the world.

    SJBS is privileged to nurture the faith of future leaders for our society. The practice of faith is woven throughout the life of the school, including:
    Daily morning prayer gatherings that include a discussion of the saint of the day
    Daily instruction in the faith
    Mass each Friday, as well as Holy Days
    Sacrament of Reconciliation available each week
    Liturgical Feast days celebrated with special events, May Crowning, Rosary Month
    School-wide virtue of the month
    Service projects and community outreach
    March for Life, locally and in Washington, DC
    Oath of Fidelity to the Magisterium by faculty, staff, and board renewed each year

    Our Catholic identity extends beyond attendance at Mass and the recitation of prayers. It permeates every dimension of life at the school, from the commitment to excellence and service to others, to the orderliness of the environment, to the dress of students, to the general cheerfulness of the faculty and staff.

    “My children are growing in their relationships with Christ and the Church. They are teaching me and helping our entire family move closer to God.” ~Parent of three SJBS students

  15. Scott W. says:

    Wow. I only found out about Fr. McBrien’s demise today reading this entry. Requiescat in pace. Not to speak ill of the dead, but it seems that the muted coverage of it is a testament to the hollow ephemeralness of his wonky ideas. It reminds me of Christopher Hitchens. I barely hear a word about him any more.

  16. Sid says:

    Attacking the kooky views of a theologian (alive or dead) is fine, but discussing (ahem) so-called “open secrets” of his personal life after his death is not cool on so many levels. I found the Voris piece disturbing, especially the not-so-veiled threat that once the aged former Notre Dame administrator passed away, he too would be fair game for philippic vitriol as well.

    If heresies or abhorrent theology is being spouted, then attack that directly. Ad hominem attacks (on the dead no less) only serve to weaken one’s argument and will causes people (at least people like me) to discount you. This was the first time I watched Voris and it left a bad taste in my mouth. If he is trying to defend the Church, I applaud that, but he needs to soften his message and purge the salacious innuendo. This Michael operates on a ratio that is 5% St. Michael the Archangel and 95% Michael Savage. The other way around would be so much better…

  17. christian says:

    Dominick – I am truly sorry about your experience with Fr. McBrien, but his reaction helped to further expose his anti-Church agenda.
    You are one of the very faithful alumni that Notre Dame has turned out. You are also one of the very faithful that St. Bernard’s Institute turned out. You are a credit to both those institutions.

    Regarding the segment on Fr. McBrien on the Vortex: I question how Michael Voris could know if Fr. McBrien had a “common law marriage.” Just because Fr. McBrien was seen showing up to various events with a woman, apparently the same woman, for approx. 4 years, doesn’t mean he had a sexual relationship with this woman and co-habitated with her. It is mere supposition without proof. While having a special friend relationship with a particular woman (which is not that uncommon among priests in the Roman Catholic Church), may be viewed as not living out the strict adherence of celibacy – to be alone to be present to others, it is not the same as “common law marriage.” I couldn’t help but think the “common law marriage” bit was a piece of “yellow journalism.”

    Despite the theological views of Fr. McBrien, I pray for his soul.

  18. Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    Bill Dempsey sent out this link.

  19. Hopefull says:

    Today’s ruling overturned a judgment against the University of Notre Dame, which had refused to fund contraception, a mandatory provision under Obama’s healthcare overhaul.

    The judgment was the only one of its kind in the United States forcing a religious organization to support certain kinds of contraceptives, such as the morning after pill.

    The highest US court overturned the earlier ruling, sending the case back to a federal court of appeal and ordering it to reconsider in light of the Hobby Lobby decision.

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