May 26, 2016 (Cardinal Newman Society) — A recent University of Notre Dame graduate said that after four years of working to strengthen Notre Dame’s Catholic identity, her hope that the University would “reverse its course toward secularization” was “crushed” by the commencement honor of abortion advocate Vice President Joe Biden.
Writing at Ethika Politika, Alexandra DeSanctis stated that she skipped her graduation ceremony this month over the scandal:
I spent four years working, praying, and fostering the hope that Notre Dame would reverse its course toward secularization and instead embrace its Catholic identity in a meaningful way. That hope—shared by many students, alumni, and outside observers more dedicated than myself—was crushed, perhaps even deliberately, by [University of Notre Dame President] Fr. Jenkins’ decision to honor Biden, and, as much as I wanted to celebrate my graduation, seeing four years of work and prayers shot down before my eyes wasn’t the right way to do that.
DeSanctis was one of 89 students who published a letter in the University’s student newspaper back in March protesting Notre Dame’s decision to give Biden the Laetare Medal, the “oldest and most prestigious honor accorded to American Catholics.”
“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,” the students stated. “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.”
Biden has publicly supported Roe v. Wade and legal abortion, the legal redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples, taxpayer funding for embryonic stem cell research, and the HHS contraception/sterilization/abortifacient mandate.
“Biden’s positions on all these issues are directly contrary to Church teaching,” wrote the students. “His public service has not been ‘to the Church,’ but largely against the Church.”
The Cardinal Newman Society stated that Notre Dame betrayed the Church and its Catholic mission by giving the prestigious honor to Biden. While this decision by Notre Dame's leadership harms its Catholic identity, there are still many great faculty and programs at Notre Dame dedicated to strengthening the University's Catholic identity.
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DeSanctis said it wasn’t out of anger over the award that she didn’t attend graduation, but because “of the deep love and gratitude I have for my time at Notre Dame.”
I didn’t skip my college graduation because I was mad or vengeful or clinging stubbornly to my principles. If I had set foot in Notre Dame Stadium that morning, I would have felt obliged to applaud as Vice President Biden was awarded the highest Catholic honor in the nation, but I would not have clapped.
I would have
shookmy head listening to Fr. Jenkins praise Biden’s service to the Church and the nation, and I would have shed more than a few tears listening to Biden talk about the importance of family while ignoring the importance of the most defenseless family members among us, the unborn.
I would have remained seated if the Vice President received a standing ovation at the end of his speech, and I would have received stares and angry looks, but I would not have cared. I skipped my graduation because, after four years, I didn’t want to finish
witha fight, and if I had been there, I would have had no choice but to feel like fighting.
I chose not to walk at my own graduation not because I was resentful toward my university, but precisely because of the deep love and gratitude I have for my time at Notre Dame. Experiencing the commencement ceremony as it stood would not have been the right way to honor my four years as a student. …
At the end of the day, I was sad that Fr. Jenkins chose to honor Biden as an exemplary American Catholic, but I was sad, too, that I missed my graduation. I would have loved to be there, to walk with all of my classmates—those I knew and those I liked and even those I didn’t like—in one place, on the field where we had watched 24 football games together. I will always be a little sad that I didn’t share in that experience.
But if I had been there, my sorrow would have been much more overwhelming than my sadness at missing the ceremony, because it would have been for Notre Dame and not for myself. And while I’ll continue to have hope for my university, on the day of my commencement, I didn’t want to cry for her anymore.
Citing Notre Dame’s honor of Biden and several other recent scandals at Catholic colleges, 31 Catholic and pro-life leaders, including Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly, signed a statement this month urging Catholic college leaders to “reject the culture of death and instead stand firm in defending truth and the Catholic identity of their institutions.”
“We, the undersigned, urge Catholic colleges and universities to ‘consecrate [their selves] without reserve to the cause of truth’ … by teaching and upholding the sacred dignity of all human life and of the divinely ordered institution of marriage, and by refusing to honor and award speaking platforms to public advocates of abortion and same-sex marriage,” they stated.
Reprinted with permission from The Cardinal Newman Society.