The University of Notre Dame has announced that they intend to confer the Laetare Medal, an honor given to Catholics “in recognition of outstanding service to the Church and society,” upon Vice-President Joseph Biden at their 2016 commencement. Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese Fort Wayne – South Bend, the diocese where the university is located, has denounced it as scandalous.
Thomas McKenna, president of Catholic Action for Faith and Family, interviewed Cardinal Raymond Burke about this position taken by Bishop Rhoades in an effort to further clarify the issue for the public.
Philadelphia - April 3, 2016
Thomas McKenna: Your Eminence, recently the University of Notre Dame announced that it was going to bestow their Laetare Medal which is presented “in recognition of outstanding service to the Church and society,” to Vice President Joseph Biden. Vice President Biden is on record consistently supporting abortion rights and same sex marriage. Recently Bishop Kevin Rhoades, the ordinary of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend where Notre Dame is located, released a public statement declaring:
“I believe it is wrong for Notre Dame to honor any “pro-choice” public official with the Laetare Medal, even if he/she has other positive accomplishments in public service, since direct abortion is gravely contrary to the natural law and violates a very fundamental principle of Catholic moral and social teaching: the inalienable right to life of every innocent human being from the moment of conception. I also question the propriety of honoring a public official who was a major spokesman for the redefinition of marriage. I disagree with awarding someone for ‘outstanding service to the Church and society’ who has not been faithful to this obligation.”
Does Your Eminence agree with the position taken by Bishop Rhoades and could you comment on it?
Cardinal Burke: Bishop Rhoades is simply exercising his responsibility as a teacher of the faith and as a bishop who has the care of a prominent Catholic university in his diocese, and what he says is absolutely true and most commendable. I find it difficult to imagine that a Catholic university would assign its highest honor to any politician who favors abortion and who also advocates for the recognition of the sexual liaison of two people of the same sex as equal to marriage. It is even more difficult to imagine that the university would confer such an honor upon a Roman Catholic who supports these anti-life and anti-family policies and legislation. It is my hope that Notre Dame University will hear the voice of their shepherd, the successor of the Apostles in their midst, and change this gravely wrong and most scandalous decision.
Thomas McKenna: The university of Notre Dame says that it is bestowing this award to honor Vice President Biden for his public service in politics and that they are not recognizing him for his positions regarding support for abortion and same-sex marriage. What would Your Eminence respond to this?
Cardinal Burke: Well, we honor people for the integrity of their lives. Notwithstanding the fact that Vice President Biden may have sound views on other matters, his positions with regard to human life and marriage are contradictory to the natural moral law and obviously, therefore, to the teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ. So, as much as one may want to praise certain positions which he has taken, at the same time one must realize that other positions are in the most grievous violation of the moral law and therefore make him ineligible to receive such an award from a Catholic university.
Thomas McKenna: Bishop Rhoades explains that he is opposed to Vice President Biden receiving the award by stating:
“My principal concern about this whole matter is scandal. In honoring a “pro-choice” Catholic who also has supported the redefinition of marriage, which the Church considers harmful to the common good of society, it can give the impression to people, including Catholics in political office, that one can be “a good Catholic” while also supporting or advocating for positions that contradict our fundamental moral and social principles and teachings.”
Could you please comment on this scandal and the implications it may have?
Cardinal Burke: As St. John Paul II observed in his apostolic exhortation on the laity, one of the greatest evils of our times is the tendency of Catholics to separate their faith from their daily living. And this is exactly what we have here. So we have the impression, given to other Catholics and to the population in general, that one can believe one thing and act in a completely contrary way. The fact of the matter is that most people will simply conclude that the Catholic teaching with regard to the inviolable dignity of innocent and defenseless human life and the integrity of marriage as the faithful, indissoluble and procreative union of one man and one woman, is not very firm and that it can easily be violated. Therefore it is a great scandal within the Church, but it is also a great scandal within society in general which depends upon the Church to give a witness to the truth about human life and the family.
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