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Friday, June 14, 2024
The Observer

Objections to the Laetare Medal decision

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

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.