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Bishop raps Notre Dame's decision to honor Vice President Biden

March 15, 2016

Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne/South Bend, Indiana, has criticized the University of Notre Dame for its decision to award the Laetare Medal to Vice President Joseph Biden.

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Bishop Rhoades—in whose diocese the university is located—said that he had expressed his misgivings to Notre Dame’s president, Father John Jenkins. “My principal concern about this whole matter is scandal,” he said in a public statement released March 14.

Notre Dame had announced that this year’s joint winners of the Laetare Medal—given “in recognition of outstanding service to the Church and society”—would be Vice President Biden and former House Speaker John Boehner. Without commenting on the award to Boehner, the bishop focused on Biden’s support for legal abortion. He said:

I believe it is wrong for Notre Dame to honor any “pro-choice” public official with the Laetare Medal, even if he/she 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. I also question the propriety of honoring a public official who was a major spokesman for the redefinition of marriage.

Noting that spokesmen for Notre Dame had claimed that the awards were for the political leaders’ overall service, and not for particular stands on controversial issues, Bishop Rhoades said that this attempt to distinguish between politicians and their public positions is not “realistically possible or intellectually coherent.”

In answer to the bishop’s critical statement, Father Jenkins said: “While Bishop Rhoades and I do not always agree, I’m gratified that he acknowledged, in his words, ‘Notre Dame’s efforts to encourage civility, dialogue, mutual respect and cooperation in political life.' "


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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: unum - Mar. 16, 2016 11:26 AM ET USA

    Father Jenkins action is just more evidence that the secular faculty is actually running this "Catholic" university. Bishop Rhoades words continue to be ineffective in curtailing the scandal associated with the administration of Notre Dame. One of these years he should consider taking action to warn the laity about the danger Notre Dame poses to the faith of their children!

  • Posted by: hartwood01 - Mar. 16, 2016 1:57 AM ET USA

    I have to agree with Bishop Rhoades. Entertaining lectures by dubious people such as the Planned Parenthood president is one thing,but giving awards to them is quite another. VP Biden does not need a medal for his anti life views.

  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Mar. 15, 2016 11:21 PM ET USA

    Unfortunately, Father Jenkins has fully adopted the liberalspeak approach to well thought out criticism: I don't hear you because you're not PC but I'll take what you said in my own context." But then this is nothing new in Notre Dame's long slide into secular oblivion.

  • Posted by: R. Spanier (Catholic Canadian) - Mar. 15, 2016 9:01 PM ET USA

    "During the past few years the opinion was held in some Catholic universities that a better answer could be given to questions posed by man and by the world by weakening their own distinctive Catholic characteristics...result? We witnessed a gradual weakening & dilution of Christian values, putting in their place a humanism which might more properly be called 'secularisation' more than ever before, the Church needs Catholic universities. Woe to us should we ever forget it!" Pope Paul VI