In a break from tradition, Biden skips Notre Dame commencement ceremony after backlash

The Biden administration is the first since the Clinton administration to skip Notre Dame's commencement during its first year in office.

Students and alumni say the second Catholic president "embraces the most pro-abortion and anti-religious liberty public policy program in history."

President Joe Biden has split from presidential tradition by not attending or sending a representative to the University of Notre Dame’s commencement ceremony in the first year of his administration. 

Notre Dame traditionally invites the sitting president to address graduates in the year he is inaugurated. Though then-President Donald Trump was attending the 2017 Riyadh Summit at the time of Notre Dame’s commencement exercises, Vice President Mike Pence spoke in his stead. Recent presidents including George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan have all accepted the invitation, and the honorary degree that goes with it. 

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Though the White House confirmed to Catholic News Agency that Biden would miss the event due to a scheduling conflict, his public schedule for May 23 shows that he and the First Lady spent Saturday evening and most of Sunday at Camp David, with no public events scheduled except for a 4 p.m. pool call.

The university’s invitation to Biden was not without controversy, as more than 4,500 students, alumni, and community members signed a petition asking the school not to invite him due to his support for abortion rights. The letter states that Biden “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.”

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In 2016, Notre Dame awarded Biden the Laetare Medal, a high honor bestowed on American Catholics “whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the Church and enriched the heritage of humanity.” 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AngelaLMorabito