Having the president of the United States of America speak at your commencement is a rare honor – although not at the University of Notre Dame. Over the last three administrations, two of three presidents – George W. Bush and Barack Obama – have spoken to the esteemed Yellow Ribbon military university’s graduates. And during the Trump administration, Vice President Mike Pence gave the keynote address. This is a measure of the high regard in which the institution is held.
President Biden was slated to address the newest Notre Dame graduates on Sunday, May 23, until a petition began circulating in the community. The petitioners felt that Biden’s views on abortion are antithetical to the values upon which the school was established and the tenets of his Catholic faith. Simply put, Biden and his administration believe in unrestricted access to abortion for every American and that the government should underwrite such procedures with federal funding.
Over 4,300 people in the Notre Dame community signed the petition protesting the choice of Biden for the commencement, which was enough for the White House to rescind its offer. Ostensibly to save face, a spokesperson for the administration issued a statement that while the president had been invited to address the 2021 Notre Dame graduates, a scheduling conflict no longer allowed him to appear.
Biden delivered a commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy recently and gave a virtual speech to the graduates of Syracuse University, which is his law school alma mater. But members of the Notre Dame community took exception to the president’s personal and political views on the incendiary subject, stating they were “dismayed by the pro-abortion and anti-religious liberty agenda of President Joe Biden.” The petition went on to declare:
“He rejects Church teachings on abortion, marriage, sex, and gender and is hostile to religious liberty. He embraces the most pro-abortion and anti-religious liberty public policy program in history. The case against honoring him is immeasurably stronger than it was against honoring President Obama.”
For its part, Notre Dame said that it was not unusual for a president to miss the opportunity to address its graduates in the first months after assuming the job as commander in chief. The statement issued read in part:
“While Notre Dame has had more presidents serve as commencement speakers than any university other than the military academies, we have not always hosted a president in his first year in office – or at all.”
Preceded by President John F. Kennedy, Biden is just the second Catholic president in America’s history. And this isn’t the first time in the few short months he has held office that Biden has courted controversy within his faith. Earlier this year, Catholic bishops engaged in an ideological skirmish about whether or not the president should receive communion based on his personal views of abortion, which they assert stand in direct contravention to Catholicism’s fundamental theological and ideological underpinnings regarding the sanctity of life.
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