University of Notre Dame Principles for Institutional Charitable Activity

I. Preamble

Committed to Christ’s command of charity and to our Catholic heritage, the University of Notre Dame supports numerous efforts to eradicate poverty, disease, and other social ills. Addressing such complex social problems requires forming broad partnerships, sometimes with groups and institutions that share our concern to address human needs but without sharing our religious identity and distinctive moral principles. For centuries, the Principle of Cooperation has guided Catholics who seek to pursue the common good in a morally pluralistic and imperfect world. This Principle informs the University’s standards for collaborating with others in pursuing the common good without wrongdoing.

II. What is the Principle of Cooperation?

The Principle of Cooperation holds that it is always morally wrong to intend or approve of evil. Such illicit cooperation is called Formal Cooperation. Occasions may, however, arise when one does not intend an evil act or practice but is in some way involved in it. This is called Material Cooperation. There are two types of material cooperation: Immediate Material Cooperation and Mediate Material Cooperation. Immediate Material Cooperation arises when the cooperating party performs the same illicit act as the wrongdoer, as, for example, a condition of their partnership. Immediate Material Cooperation in an intrinsically evil act is illicit though less culpable under circumstances of unusual duress. Mediate Material Cooperation is permitted in two kinds of cases. In the first case, it is possible clearly to distinguish the action or contribution of an individual or institution from the activities that are contrary to fundamental Catholic moral principles. In the second case, an action or contribution violates those principles, but there is a sufficiently serious reason for such cooperation. Sufficiently serious reasons include both (1) pursuing a good that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to attain and (2) the likelihood of performing a prophetic or educational role that contains or ends wrongdoing.

Whenever Catholic individuals or institutions discern that their actions or contributions can be clearly distinguished from wrongdoing by collaborators, they must explain how their mediate material cooperation is religiously and ethically justifiable.

III. Standards

Whenever possible, the University will direct its contributions to both persons and organizations so that they are not used to support research or activities that conflict with Catholic teachings. Should a question arise, Notre Dame will require written assurance that it can direct the use of its funds in ways that respect Catholic teachings. The University will monitor compliance. If ensuring appropriate use proves impossible or an organization consistently advocates research or other activities that conflict with fundamental Catholic moral principles, the University will withhold all further contributions.

Notre Dame also encourages members of its faculty and staff to contribute their time and resources to efforts to eradicate poverty, disease, and other social ills, both within our community and beyond. Hence these standards also govern authorized use of the University’s name to promote any charitable organization or activity, whether by the University itself or by officers and deans who publicly identify their University positions with their charitable commitments.

In order to maintain its human and financial support for worthy charitable organizations and activities, Notre Dame will regularly review these standards.

IV. Seven Practical Questions

Answering these questions should guide efforts to determine whether an ambiguous activity or donation is an example of licit mediate material cooperation or of illicit immediate material cooperation.

  1. Are there alternative organizations which make a proportionate contribution to the common good yet without engaging in morally illicit activities and practices?
  2. How great is the good to be achieved or the evil to be avoided by contributing to this organization?
  3. How grave is the evil done or condoned by this organization?
  4. How separate is the funded activity or practice from morally illicit activities and practices?
  5. What is the likelihood of causing scandal by associating with the organization?
  6. Can we credibly explain to the community that our association is both valuable to the work at hand and compatible with our Catholic character and mission?
  7. What is the probability of effecting moral change in the organization by continuing to support it rather than by withdrawing support?

April 8, 2010