The local bishop, students, alumni and now a group of faculty have joined The Cardinal Newman Society in criticizing the University of Notre Dame administration for its scandalous decision to award abortion and same-sex marriage advocate Vice President Joe Biden with “the oldest and most prestigious honor accorded to American Catholics.”
“Notre Dame claims to award the Laetare Medal ‘annually to an American Catholic in recognition of outstanding service to Church and society.’ But our Faculty for Life Chapter agrees with Bishop Kevin Rhoades that the awarding of the Laetare Medal to Vice-President Biden is a scandalous violation of the University’s moral responsibility (as the American bishops wrote in 2004) never to honor those who act in defiance of fundamental moral principles about the sanctity of life,” the Notre Dame chapter of University Faculty for Life stated in a resolution that passed unanimously on April 1.
The resolution stated that Biden has “conspicuously rejected Church teaching about life” for decades, citing positions taken by Biden during his political career.
“Saying that Mr. Biden rejects Church teaching could make it sound like he is merely disobeying the rules of his religious group. But the Church’s teaching about the sanctity of life is true. And so the Vice-President rejects the truth that human life begins at conception,” the faculty stated. “He rejects the truth that every human life deserves protection, from conception until natural death.He rejects the truth that public officials like him have an especially grave duty to preserve the least of our brothers and sisters from harm.”
The group of faculty “respectfully requests” that the University administration rescind the award.
The University announced in early March that both Biden and former Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner would be honored with the Laetare Medal. University President Father John Jenkins, C.S.C., said Notre Dame is “celebrating two lives dedicated to keeping our democratic institutions working for the common good through dialogue focused on the issues and responsible compromise.”
The Newman Society condemned the University’s honoring of Biden in a March 7 statement.
“In the granting of this award by Notre Dame and the laudatory statements of Fr. Jenkins, the University fosters a perception in the public, and among the students on campus, that one can be a ‘good’ Catholic and unrepentantly contradict Church teaching in one’s public life,” the Newman Society stated. “This scandal critically harms Notre Dame’s efforts to fulfill its Catholic mission as an educational institution and its responsibilities as an evangelizing arm of the Church.”
Fort Wayne – South Bend, Ind., Bishop Kevin Rhoades criticized the University’s decision to honor Biden, saying the controversial choice could “provoke scandal” by giving the impression “that one can be ‘a good Catholic’ while also supporting or advocating for positions that contradict our fundamental moral and social principles and teachings”
“While I understand Notre Dame’s intentions in conferring the Laetare Medal upon Vice President Biden and Speaker Boehner, I disagree with the decision,” Bishop Rhoades stated on March 14. “I believe it is wrong for Notre Dame to honor any ‘pro-choice’ public official with the Laetare Medal, even if he has other positive accomplishments in public service, since direct abortion is gravely contrary to the natural law and violates a very fundamental principle of Catholic moral and social teaching: the inalienable right to life of every innocent human being from the moment of conception.”
A contingent of 89 students published a letter in the University of Notre Dame’s student newspaper on March 18 protesting the award, saying Biden’s public service “has not been ‘to the Church,’ but largely against the Church.”
“As students of this University, some of whom will graduate in May, we are disappointed Notre Dame has failed in this instance to live up to its Catholic mission,” the students stated. “We deserve to see the Laetare Medal given to an American Catholic who merits it by having served as an outstanding example for Catholics and having performed real service to the Church in this country.”
The University is scheduled to present the Laetare Medal to Biden during Notre Dame’s May 15 commencement ceremony.
Below is the full text of the faculty resolution that was sent to the Newman Society:
University Faculty for Life Notre Dame Chapter—Resolution on Laetare Medal
Passed Unanimously, April 1, 2016
As University Faculty we are dedicated to the truth — its discovery, its transmission, and witnessing to it in all that we do. As University Faculty for Life we seek to promote the truth that every human being, from the moment of conception until natural death, must be cherished and protected, and must never be intentionally killed. The Notre Dame Chapter of University Faculty for Life therefore opposes the University’s decision to award the Laetare Medal this year to Vice-President Joseph Biden.
Notre Dame claims to award the Laetare Medal “annually to an American Catholic in recognition of outstanding service to Church and society.” But our Faculty for Life Chapter agrees with Bishop Kevin Rhoades that the awarding of the Laetare Medal to Vice-President Biden is a scandalous violation of the University’s moral responsibility (as the American bishops wrote in 2004) never to honor those who act in defiance of fundamental moral principles about the sanctity of life.
Mr. Biden has for decades conspicuously rejected Church teaching about life. He has rejected it repeatedly and consistently in the context of abortion, where (he has been quoted as saying) he would not want to “impose” this teaching upon a woman and her doctor. He also favors killing embryonic human beings for research purposes, even to the extent of committing taxpayers’ money to support it. In 1998 he voted against a law which would have banned creating human beings through cloning, which scientists then would experiment upon and kill. Biden would not even “impose” Church teaching upon a man — often the husband or boyfriend of a pregnant woman — who assaults her and kills her unborn baby because she refused to have the abortion he demanded. Then-Senator Biden voted in 2004 against a federal law making it a crime to kill a child in utero. The Vice-President also supports imposition of the death penalty, as does John Boehner.
Saying that Mr. Biden rejects Church teaching could make it sound like he is merely disobeying the rules of his religious group. But the Church’s teaching about the sanctity of life is true. And so the Vice-President rejects the truth that human life begins at conception. He rejects the truth that every human life deserves protection, from conception until natural death. He rejects the truth that public officials like him have an especially grave duty to preserve the least of our brothers and sisters from harm.
Notre Dame President John Jenkins says that the University this year is honoring civility in public discourse, and not the policy positions of anyone. But it is never uncivil to stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable and defenseless among us. Pope Francis recently warned Catholics against a “spiritual worldliness that consists in seeking not the Lord’s glory, but human glory.” In past years Notre Dame awarded the Laetare Medal to persons who spoke truth to power. This year, Notre Dame has chosen to honor power at the expense of truth.
The Notre Dame Chapter of University Faculty for Life respectfully requests that the Notre Dame Administration rescind its award of the 2016 Laetare Medal.