Students hold pro-life prayer service in response to Laetare Medal decision
Courtney Becker | Monday, April 18, 2016
Responding to the University’s controversial decision to honor Vice President Joe Biden and former Speaker of the House John Boehner with the 2016 Laetare Medal, students held a pro-life prayer service outside the Main Building on Sunday.
In his opening remarks, senior Timothy Bradley said the gathering served as an opportunity for members of the community to come together in prayer, not a protest.
“We’re gathered here to join together in prayer for a greater respect for human life, and especially for Notre Dame’s commitment to its Catholic identity and to protecting the sanctity of life at all stages,” Bradley said. “I want to stress that this is a gathering for prayer, and not for protest. … I hope that in coming together here today, we may pray to Our Lady and to her son, both for our University and for all of us gathered here, asking for forgiveness for our own failures to bring the Gospel of Life to those around us, and asking for the strength to serve as compelling witnesses to our faith in the midst of our culture.”
Senior Hailey Vrdolyak said she hoped the prayer service would also help students understand the purpose of the Laetare Medal.
“From our experience we saw that there are a lot of students on campus who are kind of misinformed about the purpose of the Laetare Medal and the caliber of people that deserve the Laetare Medal,” Vrdolyak said. “The Laetare Medal is given to American Catholics for their service to the Church in public life and … we don’t believe that either Boehner or Biden has really done a lot to deserve it, especially Biden.”
Senior Alexandra DeSanctis said Biden’s public stances that directly conflict with Catholic teachings set him apart from Boehner.
“The positions that [Biden] holds, many of them, such as being in favor of abortion and being in favor of the redefinition of marriage, are in defiance to non-negotiable teachings of the Catholic Church,” DeSanctis said. “With John Boehner, the things where he disagrees with Catholic teaching are prudential matters, such that Catholics can disagree on them and still be considered faithful Catholics. … I don’t really think Boehner has done much to deserve it either [because] he hasn’t done much for the Church in his public service.”
Senior Janelle Wanzek, president of Notre Dame Right to Life, said she is sad to see the University award the Laetare Medal to two recipients she believes to be undeserving of the honor.
“We are concerned for our University in light of the recent announcement of the Laetare Medal recipients, as we believe that they have lost sight of the truth, that truth being the undeniable right to life of every human being,” Wanzek said. “The Laetare Medal bears the Latin inscription … ‘The truth is ready and it shall prevail.’ It’s saddening to see that this medal is going to two men who have not been upholding the truth of the sanctity of human life.”
Wanzek said those in attendance to pray for Biden and Boehner to reconcile their Catholicism with their public service.
“Although people may lose their way and lose the sight of the right to life, absolutely nothing can diminish the God-given dignity of every human being,” she said. “Thus, we must pray for those who have lost sight of the necessary respect for life, such as Vice President Joe Biden, former Speaker of the House John Boehner and the awarding committee of the Laetare Medal. We need to pray for them to regain their respect for life and for human dignity from conception until natural death.”
Vrdolyak said University President Fr. John Jenkins’ response to criticism of this decision didn’t offer any further clarity.
“He kept saying he was looking forward to the possibility and the opportunity to explain his position, but I didn’t really get any further explanation other than what was already released,” Vrdolyak said. “He praised Biden and Boehner for their public service and their legacy, but he did not mention anything about their Catholic service, which I think needs to be mentioned if he’s going to justify awarding the Laetare Medal to them.”
DeSanctis said while she doesn’t believe the decision will be changed, she ultimately wanted to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their disagreement.
“I think it’s important to show the administration that there are students who are willing to speak up for what we believe they should be doing,” she said. “No one really expects them to rescind the award or anything, but just to let them know that there are very faithful Catholic students who want them to hear us, I think that’s very important.”