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Father Gregory Boyle, SJ

NOTRE DAME, Indiana, April 7, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – The University of Notre Dame will award its highest honor to a priest who has openly dissented from Church teaching on homosexual “marriage,” women “priests” and worthiness to receive Holy Communion.

Jesuit Father Gregory Boyle will be this year’s Laetare Medal recipient, the university announced recently.

Father Boyle is renowned for his decades-long work with incarcerated and gang-involved individuals. He will be given the award at the university’s May 21 commencement ceremony.

Father Boyle criticized the U.S. Bishops’ opposition to homosexual “marriage” in a 2010 interview during the debate over California’s Proposition 8 referendum banning same-sex “marriage.” He further described opposition to gay “marriage” as “demonizing people.”

He also stated in the interview that the Church’s teaching on women’s ordination was “shameful, “nonsense” and not “honest.” And the priest said those opposed to women’s ordination were “frightened that women will be ordained.”

He also mocked Church teaching on reception of the Eucharist for individuals married outside the Church in the broadly publicized television interview.

The Laetare Medal is not only the highest honor Notre Dame bestows, according to the university, but also the highest honor American Catholics can receive.

The university website states the medal is “intended for a Catholic “whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the Church and enriched the heritage of humanity.”

Catholic groups expressed dismay at the Laetare recipient decision.

The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) referenced the choice of Father Boyle in its news briefs as a scandal for the “dissenting priest” to be honored by Notre Dame. The news brief was also published on the Creative Minority Report blog. 

CNS asked supporters in an email, “What is the motivation behind Notre Dame’s honor to an unfaithful priest who has reportedly alleged that his 'own sad, tragic church' is 'just about power and privilege and secrecy and sometimes even a willful wandering away from Jesus and the living of the Gospel?'”

“Father Gregory Boyle’s good work with Los Angeles gangs is admirable,” CNS stated. “But how can a Catholic university ignore his public advocacy for same-sex marriage? Even Father Boyle has acknowledged that he doesn’t toe 'the party line' when he suggests that God disagrees with the Catholic Church.”

The Sycamore Trust, an alumni organization that works to protect Notre Dame’s Catholic identity, said in a statement, “After last year’s unsettling award of the Laetare Medal to Vice President Joe Biden despite his championship of abortion rights and same-sex marriage, one might have hoped for a respite this year. It was not to be.”

The choice to honor Biden last year drew significant criticism from pro-life faculty, students and outside groups.

Sycamore Trust clarified that it does not suggest that having at some time expressed disagreement with a significant Church teaching should automatically disqualify one for the Laetare Medal.

“Father Boyle displayed an utter contempt for the magisterium,” the Sycamore statement said. “He looks for truth elsewhere.”

Father Boyle’s admirable history of good works meets the award’s enrichment of humanity standard, it explained.

However, the group continued, “a Catholic priest who dissents from that teaching and is being honored for ‘illustrating the ideals of the Church,’ and thus the unstated but evident rephrasing to accommodate the honoring of Father Boyle is illustrated some ideals of the Church while ridiculing others.”

Notre Dame was the center of sustained widespread criticism for honoring former President Barack Obama as its 2009 commencement speaker.

The Notre Dame invite to Obama came despite his fervent support for abortion and homosexual “marriage” and his HHS mandate imposing employer-subsidized contraception, abortifacients, and abortion in U.S. healthcare.