The University of Notre Dame says it is making a statement against a "toxic political environment" by honoring Democratic Vice President Joe Biden and Republican former House Speaker John Boehner with its coveted 2016 Laetare Medal.
"It is a good time to remind ourselves what lives dedicated to genuine public service in politics look like," Rev. John I. Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, said in revealing the award Saturday, Catholic News Service reports
"We find it in the lives of Vice President Biden and Speaker Boehner."
Honoring Biden, who holds a pro-choice political position
even though he says he personally believes life begins at conception, is being seen by some as Notre Dame's public rejection of the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops' 2004 statement on "Catholics in Political Life,"
which stressed that "Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions."
Michael Sean Winters at the National Catholic Reporter
writes that the high-profile Catholic university "has made a bold move to begin the fraught process of dismantling the architecture of the culture warrior model of church that has plagued our church and our country for too long.
"It must be stated: That model of a culture war church is complicit in the politics of Donald Trump we witness today."
Winters goes on to add that giving the award to Biden "makes clear what should have always been clear, namely, that there is more to know about a candidate or government official than their position on abortion."
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