President Joe Biden, the country’s second Catholic president after John F. Kennedy, will not attend commencement ceremonies at the University of Notre Dame over his controversial pro-choice abortion stance.
In recent years, it has become a tradition for the American president to address the Catholic institution, but after 4,300 “members of the Notre Dame community” signed a petition calling on the university’s president, Fr. John Jenkins, to disinvite Biden, the president won’t be attending.
The White House claimed that Biden simply can’t attend because he has a scheduling conflict, and as such, Jimmy Dunne, the university’s trustee and finance executive will give an address to graduates, Fox News reported.
Of note, Biden did give a commencement address to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy that was widely panned on social media and elsewhere, as well as a virtual commencement for Syracuse University grads, where the president attended law school and was later accused of plagiarism, to which he admitted. The admission caused him to withdraw from the 1988 Democratic presidential primaries.
Fox News reported further that spanning the last three administrations, either the president or vice president has given a commencement speech to Notre Dame graduations. President George W. Bush addressed grads in 2001, President Barack Obama spoke in 2009, and Vice President Mike Pence did so in 2017. But it should be noted that Obama’s appearance at the university, which was initially founded by a French Catholic priest and seven companions in 1842, was also criticized because of his stance supporting abortion.
Signatories to the petition calling on the university not to invite Biden or give him an honorary degree said they were “dismayed by the pro-abortion and anti-religious liberty agenda” of his presidency.
“He rejects Church teachings on abortion, marriage, sex and gender and is hostile to religious liberty,” it said. “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.”
The signers, including current Notre Dame students, alumni, and other community members, added that Biden’s policy objective is “providing direct federal funding to abortions.”
A university spokesperson told the Catholic News Agency that the institution doesn’t normally publicly discuss who is invited to speak, adding that it is common for presidents in their first year to miss commencement.
“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,” the spokesperson said, according to CNA.
Interestingly, JFK never gave a commencement speech to Notre Dame graduates, though it’s possible he may have had he served his full term or even two terms in office. But neither did his successor, Lyndon Johnson, or his successor, Richard Nixon. Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump also never addressed the university’s graduates.
As for Biden, Catholic priests and bishops have wrestled with his faith and his support for abortion and non-traditional gender roles and designations.
Earlier this month the publisher of Eternal World Television Network, the largest Catholic network, ripped Biden for his “complete opposition to fundamental Church teaching.”
Michael P. Warsaw said that the president’s first 100 days in office were a “disappointment” and that it foreshadows trouble ahead for the Church. He went on to warn that “there is an additional hazard associated with Joe Biden’s propensity for promoting radical agendas from behind a benign mask of genial faith.”
Meanwhile, traditional Catholic scholars believe that Biden should be denied Holy Communion over his positions, while more liberal theologians argue that the issue of abortion ought not be a litmus test for full participation in the Church.
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