Notre Dame Persecutes Pro-Life Grandma

by Karen Torres   

Editors Note: The story below tells about the arrest of my friend Karen at Notre Dame during the Obama debacle in 2009. She wasn’t among the ND88 group protesting on university grounds. She was illegally arrested on the public sidewalk. What happened afterwards discloses how despicable Fr. Jenkins and his minions are. I have known the Torres family since the 1970s when Karen and I rescued together at D.C. area abortion mills, once with our small babies strapped to our bodies. We even shared a cellblock in1980. Below, Karen describes her part in the protest against Notre Dame honoring President Obama. It was a natural response for this pro-life couple whose concern for the unborn runs deep and personal. In 2005, the Torres family made international headlines when son Jason’s wife, Susan, 17-weeks pregnant, collapsed from a stroke due to a recurring melanoma. The family decided to keep Susan on life support to give her developing baby a chance. The entire world watched and prayed for several months until little Susan Ann was born in August 2005, the same day her mommy was removed from the ventilator and died. Baby Susan Ann lived only five weeks, but she spent her short life surrounded by her loving daddy, two sets of grandparents, and numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. I remember Karen describing to me how hard Baby Susan fought for life and, in a heart-rending appeal, she asked me to tell Baby Susan’s story. “They want to live,” she cried passionately. “The babies want to live….They just want to live!” (See Notre Dame’s treatment of this pro-life grandmother, who was illegally arrested and then jerked around, needs to be exposed. Fr. Jenkins took his place among the pharisaical hypocrites who “strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.” Why not send the article to Fr. Jenkins and challenge him to be ashamed, if he’s capable of it.

On May 16th 2009, my then 55 year old husband and my 53 year old self rather impulsively decided to drive from Manassas, VA to South Bend, Indiana. We are cradle Catholics (the eight child kind) and have struggled to live out our faith all our lives. So it was incredibly distressing to see Notre Dame invite as a speaker to their 2009 graduation a man who was the only individual in the history of the Illinois State Senate to endorse infanticide -leaving babies who survive abortion untreated even down to simple fluids. In other words - President Obama.

We spent hours that sunny May day outside the front gate of Notre Dame (We were never on the property.) patiently holding signs that said Shame on Notre Dame and Obama=Abortion. For hours we listened to the opposition across the street blare through megaphones slogans like “A fetus is not a person” and “A woman is not an incubator.” The last one really perplexed me. Recent headlines described some Hollywood actress having twin children by a surrogate and it’s increasingly common for homosexuals to rent wombs. So for the left, poor women of color ARE incubators. But that is another story, I guess. We watched as a frail, elderly priest using a cane joined in a sung rosary after passing through a crowd of people who taunted him, repeatedly asking how many children he had raped. Other priests walked toward the building and when a pro-life protestor asked, “How can you justify going to this graduation?” they replied, “Get a Life!” I’ve often heard this on the picket line over the years and always find it sadly ironic. Later as the graduation speech began, we could hear Obama’s voice on the P.A. system even outside the gates, even though we couldn’t understand the words. I will never forget how desolate it made me feel to hear a man who would not vote to restrict abortion under any circumstances give the commencement speech at what is supposed to be the premier university of my faith. What a bitter moment! I have spent forty long years in the pro-life movement, what often seem like forty futile years, saving only a tiny handful of children while millions died. And here I, and even worse the babies, were being betrayed by some of the most prestigious clerics of my faith. I will never forget standing there in the sun, listening to that voice and realizing that, to a lot of bishops and priests, people like me don’t count any more than the little ones not yet born. We are Lazarus at the gate of the rich man. If they bother to look at all, they are ashamed of us.

After President Obama finished speaking, my husband and I climbed into the car, ate our sandwiches, and started the long drive home. Trying to find a way out of town (Some streets were closed.), we ended up on a suburban road where all the parking lots were blocked and all street parking forbidden. We watched as Obama supporters with I “heart” Obama signs were making their way to the street’s edge. Something dawned on us – we had accidently tripped over President Obama’s route back to the airport. And someone had arranged that all the pro-Obama supporters would give him a cozy send off. But one little fly was about to show up in the ointment. My husband let me out at the Notre Dame Federal Credit Union and drove several blocks away to park. I took my 18 inch by 18 inch handmade Shame on Notre Dame and Obama = Abortion signs and slowly (I have hip problems.) made my way to the sidewalk. By the time I got there the whole area was filling up with Obama supporters.

Within seconds - 90 at the outside - the first policeman told me I had to go. I listened dumbfounded as he explained that the Notre Dame Federal Credit Union was private property and that I would have to leave. I told him no federal credit union was private property, but even if one accepted that, I WAS STANDING ON A PUBLIC SIDEWALK. By the time my husband came running up, I was already surrounded by St. Joseph’s County and Notre Dame Police. Yes, Notre Dame has its own police force.

Then they tried the line, “For security reasons you must leave.” I asked why the people standing ten feet away from me on the same sidewalk did not constitute a security problem. They had no answer; they only reiterated – “Leave or be arrested.” I told them, You are arresting me for the content of my speech.” They didn’t deny it, just shrugged and repeated, “Leave or be arrested.”

When I told my husband, “Back off, I’m going to need you to bail me out,” it dawned on them that I wasn’t going to leave. So they confiscated my signs and put the plastic bag tie cuffs on as tightly as possible (They were annoyed.) and we all stood there on the sidewalk waiting for the police van. While they were cuffing me and hauling me off, my husband watched a group of nuns arrive with their Obama balloons giggling girlishly as they waited for their hero. The police got rid of the fly in the ointment pretty quickly, but my husband was still there to watch the President’s limo speed by at 60 MPH without acknowledging his supporters.

I have thought a lot about that afternoon in the last three years. It eventually came out that the pro-Obama love-in/final-group-hug was coordinated by a member of the (Prepare to be depressed!) Notre Dame theology department. And they couldn’t tolerate EVEN ONE dissenting voice. When you put this much faith in and have this much adoration for another human creature, you are engaging in good, old fashioned idolatry. Where your heart is, there shall your treasure also be.

I spent the afternoon and a good portion of the evening in the women’s holding cell of St Joseph’s County jail with forty or so other pro-lifers, including a nun. Most of them were little old ladies like me. Jailers made the nun remove her coif. She clearly had not been seen in public without it in thirty years and it obviously made her uncomfortable. She kept smoothing her hair. I felt really sorry for her. When I told my dear friend MaryAnn Kreitzer about the incident, she pointed out that, if she were Muslim, they probably would have let her keep her head covering. I was given an arraignment date upon leaving and, after another night in a hotel (not budgeted for), we drove home to Virginia.

A month later we were back in South Bend in another hotel room after another long drive. I waited patiently all day to be arraigned, but they never called my name. Puzzled, I went up and asked why I hadn’t been called and learned that the charges hadn’t simply been dropped, they had actually never been registered. And no one had even called me. I was free to go. I was annoyed. So when a suit was proposed against Notre Dame, I said sure.

Over the next two years it came out that the university essentially organized all the arrests. Even when St. Joe’s police did the arresting, it was under Notre Dame’s direction and the school was as brutal as possible to all arrestees dragging them back whenever possible, refusing to drop charges against elderly priests and nuns and even a terminally ill woman who died before the case was resolved. They also pushed for the most serious form of trespass, with up to a year of jail time and a $5000 fine. St. Joseph’s County didn’t seem too enthused about this, having no cell block in their jail specifically for little old ladies and nuns. But in South Bend, God is spelled: N-O-T-R-E-D-A-M-E.

[Ed’s note: In all, 88 protesters were arrested and charged. In a particularly shameful episode, Fr. John Jenkins publicly claimed that the ND 88 were treated no differently from other trespassers, a blatant lie. Previously, gays from Soulforce and demonstrators from the Catholic Worker Movement opposing ROTC were simply removed from campus and never charged. The jackboots were reserved for pro-lifers who dared to confront Fr. Jenkins’ shameful act of honoring the Baby-Killer-in-Chief. For an insightful critique of Notre Dame’s actions see an article by Charlie Rice at]

In November of 2012, it looked like it was finally going to be over. We were back on the road one more time (from Texas where we’d relocated) going up to South Bend for mediation. I told my husband I thought it would be over in an hour and maybe we could do some sightseeing. After all, we were not demanding an apology or admittance of fault. I also thought it would be quick because the few thousand we were asking of Notre Dame did not even cover our time and expenses running back and forth. Financially speaking, it wasn’t even an eyelash to these people. But, I underestimated the arrogance of Notre Dame. Having dragged us up there one more time, the administration refused to mediate. The stunned judge told us he had never seen a party agree to mediation and then refuse any concession of any type. He also told us he was a Lutheran, the implication being, “I’m really glad I’m not Catholic.” Notre Dame apparently meant this game as one last punishment for our daring to challenge their scandalous decision honoring Obama. They made it as punitive as possible and their tactic worked. We do not have the resources to pursue the case, so we walked away.

Notre Dame Professors may scorn papal infallibility, but it is clear that the administration considers itself infallible. They engineered my illegal arrest because I dared to express unapproved speech NEAR their campus, and they made it clear from the beginning that no apology, admittance of fault, or even generic expression of regret would even be considered. And so they honored Barack Obama, a man not only pro-abortion for the entire nine months of pregnancy, but one who endorses infanticide. He shouldn’t be anywhere near a Catholic institution, but in a way, he never was, certainly not an authentically Catholic institution. It’s really hard. For forty years, my husband and I have been welcoming life, struggling to raise a Catholic family, and presenting a pro-life witness to the world. And over and over again, we have been sabotaged by some of our own shepherds and those prominent in our faith. It hurts! I don’t think this cri de coeur will matter to anyone, but it feels good to get it out. Life begins at the beginning and no creature has the right to take it or the power to redefine marriage. The state will not save anyone. It’s that simple, folks. In a way, people like Obama are not the truly dangerous ones, because he is not charged with the task of speaking timeless truth to the world. When he said it was above his pay grade, he was right. Sadly, it is apparently also above the pay grade of the blind and arrogant administration of Notre Dame who claim to be Catholic, but are not. And I weep for the young people in their care.

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