In the last three presidencies, either the president or the vice president has attended the Notre Dame commencement during the first year in office. George W. Bush gave the commencement address in 2001. President Barack Obama gave the address in 2009. Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the ceremony in 2017.
But Joe Biden, only the second Catholic president in U.S. history, will not speak at or attend this year’s Notre Dame commencement. Biden, who recently addressed graduates of the Coast Guard Academy and Syracuse University (where he attended law school without distinction), was invited but begged off due to “scheduling commitments.” (It’s not clear whether Notre Dame invited Kamala Harris.)
Biden’s absence won’t disturb a goodly portion of the Notre Dame community. Some 4,300 members of that community had signed a petition urging Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins not to invite Biden.
The petition stated that Biden should neither speak at commencement nor be given an honorary degree. The signers said they were “dismayed by the pro-abortion and anti-religious liberty agenda of President Joe Biden.” They added:
He rejects Church teachings on abortion, marriage, sex and gender and is hostile to religious liberty. He embraces the most pro-abortion and anti-religious liberty public policy program in history. The case against honoring him is immeasurably stronger than it was against honoring President Obama.
The case against honoring Obama wasn’t bad, either. Many in the Notre Dame community were unhappy when he gave the commencement address in 2009.
What’s “immeasurably” different now, I suspect, is the intensity of the culture war generally, and of the left’s assault on religion, in particular.