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Vice President Joe Biden addresses Notre Dame students after receiving the Laetare Medal at the 2016 Commencement Ceremony.

SOUTH BEND, Indiana, May 18, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Notre Dame bestowed its highest honor on pro-abortion Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday despite the protests of pro-life and Catholic leaders.

Notre Dame awarded Biden, along with former Speaker of the House John Boehner, its Laetare Medal, which is given for outstanding service to the Church and society.  Notre Dame students and faculty as well as a number of prominent Catholics voiced their objection to the large Catholic university honoring a politician who has used his power to repeatedly and loudly promote same-sex “marriage,” abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and other practices the Catholic Church considers intrinsically evil.  

Just outside of the event, Eric Scheidler, the executive director of the Pro-Life Action League, led several dozen pro-lifers in a protest.  The group displayed abortion victim photography “showing the unborn children that Notre Dame turn their backs on,” Scheidler told LifeSiteNews.  Pro-lifers also took out full-page ads in the Notre Dame Observer and the South Bend Tribune, Scheidler said.  Scheidler said Monica Miller of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society distributed pro-life leaflets on campus as well.

Watch a video of Pro-Life Action League Executive Director Eric Scheidler explaining their protest outside the Commencement:

A statement read before Biden and Boehner received their awards said that they were being recognized for their public service and work for the common good.  In their commencement speeches, Biden and Boehner criticized the current negative nature of American politics.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, offered Notre Dame’s Baccalaureate Mass on Saturday but didn’t attend commencement.  The Archdiocese of Washington previously told LifeSiteNews that they didn’t comment on matters within other dioceses and referred to the local bishop’s statement rebuking Notre Dame.

Phil Lawler, a well-known Catholic journalist, had called on Wuerl to pull out of the weekend’s activities over the Biden scandal.

“The silence from the [Church] hierarchy,” on this scandal “is deafening,” he wrote.

During his homily, Wuerl told students, “Your education here at Notre Dame unfolded in the context of an institution that recognizes and cherishes the existence of truth, the value of truth, the determinant role of truth in our lives—personally, collectively, and societally.”

Biden is “a man who knows better,” Scheidler said, noting that the vice president points to Church teaching as guiding him on matters of social justice and even has claimed to agree with Church teaching on the sanctity of life. 

The local bishop, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, rebuked Notre Dame for its decision to honor Biden, noting that the honor could “provoke scandal” by giving the impression “that one can be ‘a good Catholic’ while also supporting or advocating for positions that contradict our fundamental moral and social principles and teachings.”