by Steven Ertelt
March 3, 2008
South Bend, IN (LifeNews.com) — The University of Notre Dame plans to honor actor and political activist Martin Sheen for his humanitarian work by awarding him the Laetare Medal. According to the college, the award also includes recognition for his pro-life stance, a rarity among Hollywood’s elite and actors involved in liberal causes.
The medal is the oldest and most prestigious honor given to American Catholics, the college says, and Sheen will receive it during a ceremony at the university’s commencement in May.
Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, said in a statement LifeNews.com received Sunday that Sheen is "one of our nations most recognizable and accomplished screen actors."
At the same time, Jenkins said he "has used that celebrity to draw the attention of his fellow citizens to issues that cry out for redress" including "the killing of the unborn."
"We welcome the opportunity to lift up his example for our Church, our country, and our students," he added.
Sheen is best known for his acting roles in the movies Badlands, Apocalypse Now," and Gandhi" and for playing a liberal president in the hit television series "West Wing."
He earned the praise of pro-life advocates in April 2004 when he backed out of being listed as an endorser for the pro-abortion march sponsored by leading abortion advocacy groups. Whether the listing of him as a sponsor was accidental or if Sheen didn’t know the march’s purpose is to support abortion was a question at the time.
In 2001, Sheen was listed by Feminists for Life, a pro-woman group, as a "Remarkable Pro-Life Man," along with actor Ben Stein, Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), and columnist George Will. Sheen’s wife Janet signed off on the article.
Sheen has also been a longtime supporter of the Seamless Garment Network, a pro-life group that also opposes war, poverty, abortion, racism, and capital punishment.
FFL President Serrin Foster told Sheen’s media representative in a memo that she didn’t think the actor was aware that march was about promoting abortion despite its pro-woman title.
Born the seventh son of an Irish Catholic mother and a Spanish Catholic father, Martin Sheen saw three siblings come after him and later became aware that his mother’s first two children died at birth. His own birth was extremely traumatic in that neither mother nor child was expected to survive.
Despite his pro-life views, Sheen came under fire from some pro-life advocates for supporting abortion advocate Howard Dean in the 2004 Democratic presidential primary.
The medal hasn’t always gone to pro-life advocates as former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan and former House Speak "Tip" O’Neil are recipients.