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viewpoint

Objections to the Laetare Medal decision

| Friday, March 18, 2016

We are deeply disappointed and discouraged by Notre Dame’s announcement that Vice President Joe Biden and former Speaker of the House John Boehner will receive the Laetare Medal at this year’s commencement. The Laetare Medal is presented annually to an American Catholic “in recognition of outstanding service to the Church and society. It is considered the oldest and most prestigious award for American Catholics.”

Fr. Jenkins explained the University’s basis for its decision: “One of our great challenges today is people who disagree often will vilify, attack, demean the opposition and then they cannot work with the opposition. One of the great Catholic concepts is the common good. What is the common good? You and I may disagree, or Boehner and Biden may disagree, but we have to recognize that whatever we think, we have to act for the common good.

“One thing I hope we do at the University is we try to bring our students to understand they can disagree but they need to talk to one another, reason with one another and despite differences, they should always respect the other person and not demean.

“Unless we do that, we cannot work together, we cannot serve the common good. We are just in this gridlock of antagonism that is all too common today.”

Most would agree the tone of our politics could be improved, but Fr. Jenkins’ call for civility is a mistaken basis upon which to decide who is worthy of the Laetare Medal. By awarding the Laetare Medal to Biden and Boehner, the University discredits the award, which ought to honor an American Catholic for service to the Church and society rather than make a point about the character of political dialogue.

The University has made a mistake, one that devalues the Laetare Medal and reflects poorly on the judgment of the University’s leaders. Unfortunately, this unacceptable decision is exacerbated by the fact that Notre Dame has once again scandalized faithful Catholics across the country, as it did when it honored President Barack Obama with an honorary degree at commencement in 2009.

Joe Biden is a Catholic who served as one of Delaware’s two senators for 36 years before becoming vice president in 2009. During his years in the Senate, he was undoubtedly one of the most rabidly partisan senators. He did more than anyone in Washington to turn the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominees into a political bloodbath. He has repeatedly applauded the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade. For some of his years in the Senate, he received a zero rating from pro-life groups. It was not always so. Early in his career Biden opposed abortion. By the mid-1980s, however, he had evolved out of what he called a youthful reliance upon his Catholic faith, a reliance he now repudiates.

Biden supports federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and voted against a ban on human cloning. He embraces same-sex marriage and the HHS mandate, which requires religious institutions such as Notre Dame to facilitate coverage of contraceptives and abortifacients under its healthcare plans — Notre Dame itself is suing the federal government for relief from this mandate. Biden’s positions on all these issues are directly contrary to Church teaching. His public service has not been “to the Church,” but largely against the Church.

The United States bishops write, “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

We object to Notre Dame’s decision to honor Vice President Biden with the Laetare Medal. Giving the award to Speaker Boehner at the same time does not alleviate the scandal committed by the University’s blatant disregard for the injunction of the Catholic bishops.

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. 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.

Tim Bradley
senior

Alexandra DeSanctis
senior

Christina Gotcher
senior

Sophia Buono
sophomore

Hailey Vrdolyak
senior

John Kill
sophomore

Madeleine Cook
junior

Eileen Madigan
sophomore

Henry Dickman
junior

Michael Moss
junior

Joshua Gluch
junior

James Herrick IV
senior

William Harris
senior

Garrett Fisher
sophomore

Clare Scantling
sophomore

Francesca Patti
freshman

Molly Weiner
sophomore

Sofia Carozza
freshman

Emmett Wilmes
junior

Theresa Gallagher
freshman

Jeanne Farnan
sophomore

Anna Bradley
sophomore

Kevin McCarthy
sophomore

Carolyn Ebner
sophomore

Kathryn Dennee
senior

Michael Singleton
sophomore

Ryan Kerr
junior

Michael Bradley
graduate student

Anna Schaffer
junior

Grace Enright
freshman

Nathan Miller
sophomore

Kerrianne Conroy
sophomore

Patrick Gallagher
senior

Alex Hadley
sophomore

Ryan Sweeney
junior

Nicholas James Gerstbauer
sophomore

Natalia Yépez-Frias
freshman

Teresa Kaza
freshman

Kevin Dougherty
freshman

Grace Agolia
junior

Thomas Wheeler
junior

Lincoln Tyler Robinson
senior

Gavin Ennis
freshman

Brian Buechler
junior

David Carmack
freshman

Matthew Connell
freshman

Sadie Facile
freshman

Ann Gallagher
junior

Ricardo A. Dira Jr.
senior

Joseph Cook
freshman

Isabella Penola
freshman

Margaret Cross
junior

Matthew Souza
senior

Alexander Roth
grad student

Jack Connors
junior

Benjamin Swanson
junior

Sarah Ortiz
freshman

Maria Kunath
sophomore

Giuliana Carozza
senior

Frank Cipollone
senior

Mackenzie Kraker
freshman

Liam Stewart
freshman

John Ryan
freshman

Kylie Minor
freshman

Rebecca Devine
senior

Stephanie Reuter
sophomore

Nicole O’Leary
sophomore

Andrea Desilets
freshman

Emily Fischer
freshman

Jessica Harris
sophomore

Timothy Primes
freshman

Alexander Robinson
senior

Emily Burns
junior

Steven Trottier
senior

John Kessler
sophomore

John Gillen
senior

Redmond Tuttle
freshman

Patrick Koehr
sophomore

William Cheely
senior

Alex White
senior

Tierney Vrdolyak
sophomore

Tim Sherman
sophomore

Mary Mangan
graduate student

Maya Lewis
junior

Daniel Sweeney
freshman

Brian Florin
senior

Colin McCarthy
freshman

William McDonald
freshman

Therese Benz
freshman

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