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Notre Dame and the Hungry Sheep

biden_ashesWhen I was in high school, a Christian Brothers high school, I had a very fine teacher, himself a Christian Brother, who from time to time would quote a line from John Milton’s “Lycidas” – “The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed.” I didn’t get the point of it at the time, but I remembered the line all the same.

I thought of that line the other day when I read in the news that the University of Notre Dame had awarded its prestigious 2016 Laetare Medal to Vice President Joe Biden – a man who is both a Catholic and at the same time one of the nation’s most conspicuous defenders of abortion rights and same-sex marriage.

How odd – no, how downright weird – that America’s most famous Catholic university should honor a man who in effect shouts from the rooftops that the Catholic religion, his religion, has been in error for the past 2,000 years or so in its condemnation of abortion and homosexual conduct.

I don’t recall that the Kremlin ever awarded the Stalin Prize to a person who called Stalin a murderous butcher. Nor do I recall that George Washington ever said, “Benedict Arnold, though he has a few shortcomings, is basically a good American. I’m proud to call him my friend.”

In 2009 Notre Dame (where, by the way, I myself once studied philosophy as a grad student – way back in the days of Ralph McInerny, Joe Evans, and Ernan McMullen – shocked great numbers of American Catholics, including many Catholic bishops, byawarding an honorary degree to President Obama. After a tremendous negative reaction, you’d think Notre Dame had learned its lesson.

Apparently not. This honor paid to Biden is, if anything, even more of an outrage. After all, Obama was not a Catholic; he was a liberal Protestant, a member of a United Church of Christ congregation back in Chicago. Nor at the time did he support same-sex marriage. (No doubt he did support it in his heart, but with his tongue he was still saying that he believed marriage should be between one man and one woman.)



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