SOUTH BEND, Indiana, May 6, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - While the University of Notre Dame has taken several highly public steps to reaffirm its commitment to pro-life values in the last two years, the school sent mixed messages late last month after it honored a charity health organization that promotes condoms and emergency contraception. The following day, the pro-life fund associated with the university, The Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life, issued the first ever Evangelium Vitae medal to a top pro-life leader.

According to the independent university newspaper The Observer, the nonprofit organization Partners In Health (PIH) was honored on April 27 with the 2011 Notre Dame Award for International Human Development and Solidarity by University President Fr. John Jenkins.

Then, on April 28, the The Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life, which is conducted under the auspices of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, issued the Evengelium Vitae Medal to Richard Doerflinger, the U.S. bishops’ associate director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.

During the private award ceremony for Partners in Health on the 28th, Jenkins said PIH “represents in their work the work of Christ, which is why we feel such an affinity for Partners In Health and why our students feel connected to their work.”

However, the Cardinal Newman Society, a Catholic education watchdog that spearheaded the protest effort against President Obama’s 2009 appearance at the university, noted on its blog that PIH promotes family planning as part of their Partners in Health’s HIV Equality Initiative. PIH states on its website that “Family planning is an integral part of the model of comprehensive women’s health care” that is one of the “four pillars” of the initiative.

Each of the clinics associated with the PIH health care program known as Zanmi Lasante,“has a full-time nurse trained in sex education and reproductive health counseling” and the program “has been offering free condoms and other contraceptive methods for over 15 years.”

Zanmi Lasante also has “women’s health agents” who “travel throughout the countryside, teaching women and men about sexually transmitted infections (including HIV) and contraceptive methods, distributing condoms and oral contraceptives…”

The group also notes that it provides emergency contraception for women in temporary settlements.

At a banquet the following day, on April 28, Notre Dame’s pro-life fund awarded the medal to Doerflinger. The website of the Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life, described Doerflinger as, “A tireless leader in the pro-life movement for over 30 years.”

The citation about the award said: “In an age when the sanctity of life from its earliest to its final days is assaulted, you have courageously, tirelessly and quietly worked to build and sustain the ‘unconditional respect for the right to life of every innocent person,’ ‘one of the pillars on which every civil society stands.’”

Earlier this week the Thomas More Law Society (TMS) announced that Notre Dame and the South Bend prosecutor had agreed to drop the charges against the 88 pro-life protestors who were arrested for trespassing on Notre Dame’s campus in 2009 for protesting Obama’s appearance.

Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins had outraged pro-life leaders across America by refusing to request leniency for the pro-lifers. However, yesterday Thomas Brejcha, the president and chief counsel of TMS, welcomed the decision to dismiss the charges, saying, “This is a big step forward and a victory for the pro-life cause.”

He also noted: “We are appreciative of the steps that Notre Dame has taken, including successive visits by University President John Jenkins, C.S.C., and other campus leaders to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., both in 2010 and 2011, to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and the creation of new and significant pro-life initiatives on campus.”

Correction: The original version of this article said that the Evangelium Vitae award was established in response to the Obama controversy at Notre Dame. However, that is incorrect. The award and the The Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life, which grants the award, were established in late 2008, prior to the controversy. The pro-life fund is an independent fund, but is conducted under the auspices of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, and has several Notre Dame professors on its committee.