Wilson Miscamble Ted Hesburgh

Recalling Notre Dame’s Legendary Father Ted Hesburgh

on May 9, 2020

Father Wilson Miscamble of Notre Dame University has written a biography of his school’s legendary longtime President, the late Father Theodore Hesburgh. Here’s my video interview with Miscamble discussing American Priest: The Ambitious Life and Conflicted Legacy of Notre Dame’s Father Ted Hesburgh.

As Miscamble points out, his book is not hagiography. He notes Hesburgh was a prodigious institution builder and fundraiser who became a national personality across half a century. Hesburgh knew every U.S. president from Eisenhower to Obama. He became a prominent member of the east coast establishment, serving on the board of the Rockefeller Foundation. For many years he chaired the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, to which he was appointed by Eisenhower, and from which he was removed by Nixon.

But in his bid to put his school on par with great secular universities, Hesburgh sometimes minimized Notre Dame’s Catholic identity, though he did not want a secular school.

Miscamble is an Australian priest and historian who’s a great raconteur, so you will enjoy this conversation.

  1. Comment by Joe M on May 9, 2020 at 1:20 pm

    Seems like a smart and on-target guy for a priest and an academic, but I’d argue he understates the case.

    For readers here, I’ll put it this way: Notre Dame is as “Catholic” as Duke” is Methodist or Swanee is Episcopalian. These schools end up affirming students in believing moral therapeutic deism = reasonable Christianity. And I amaigune their biblical criticism classes are toxic to faith.

    Go listen to the interview with McDermott recently posted here, and you’ll hear that such liberalism is not Christianity. Hesburgh, for all his good intentions, was little better and less effectively honest than Loisy. Notre Dame was irrevocable damaged during his tenure. Nothing short of a scandal.

  2. Comment by David on May 9, 2020 at 3:26 pm

    Our colleges and universities are, with few exceptions, little more than Methodist in name, being largely out of harmony with our doctrines, rules, and usages. Rationalism and worldliness are much in evidence, and the religious atmosphere is little if any better than that of the average State school…In our theological seminaries, rationalistic, destructive higher criticism of the Bible is taught; the Bible is not taught as it should and proofs of its integrity and infallibility are withheld and minimized…But the Bishops have betrayed the Church in this matter into the hands of propagandists, who teach erroneous and strange doctrines, contrary to God’s Word; and have thus become responsible for this revolutionary business.— Eastern Methodist (1917). Some things never change.

  3. Comment by Joe M on May 11, 2020 at 6:44 pm

    Well, in the Catholic camp they have changed a little since Leo XIII wrote this: “It follows that those who maintain that an error is possible in any genuine passage of the sacred writings, either pervert the Catholic notion of inspiration, or make God the author of such error. And so emphatically were all the Fathers and Doctors agreed that the divine writings, as left by the hagiographers, are free from all error, that they laboured earnestly, with no less skill than reverence, to reconcile with each other those numerous passages which seem at variance – the very passages which in great measure have been taken up by the ‘higher criticism;’ for they were unanimous in laying it down, that those writings, in their entirety and in all their parts were equally from the afflatus of Almighty God, and that God, speaking by the sacred writers, could not set down anything but what was true.”

The work of IRD is made possible by your generous contributions.

Receive expert analysis in your inbox.