The University of Notre Dame held their commencement ceremony this weekend with the notable absence of one very important guest: President Biden.

The Catholic News Agency reported earlier this month that Biden, the second Catholic president in American history, was invited to give remarks to new graduates but could not attend due to scheduling conflicts.

Word of the invitation caused a backlash among Notre Dame students and alumni, more than 4,400 of whom signed an open letter urging university President John Jenkins not to invite the Democratic president — even though Biden made clear he wasn’t coming.

“[Biden] rejects Church teachings on abortion, marriage, sex and gender and is hostile to religious liberty,” read the letter.

Biden speaking at the University of Notre Dame commencement in 2016 as vice president.Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP

“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 [Barack] Obama [in 2009], an action that alienated countless Catholics and brought upon Notre Dame the harsh criticism of 83 cardinals, archbishops and bishops.”


The letter specifically cited Biden’s opposition to the Hyde Amendment prohibiting federal funding of abortion, a position he announced during the 2020 Democratic primary campaign. It also cited Biden’s support for Planned Parenthood, same-sex marriage, and the Equality Act.

Six presidents have addressed Notre Dame commencements, beginning with Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1960 (America’s first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, spoke at the university’s winter commencement in 1950, when he was still a Massachusetts congressman.). Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Obama gave remarks in the same year that they were inaugurated. George H.W. Bush spoke in 1992, in the midst of his unsuccessful reelection bid.

President Barack Obama receiving an honorary degree at the University of Notre Dame on May 17, 2009.AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Then-Vice President Mike Pence, a former governor of Notre Dame’s home state of Indiana, addressed the university commencement in 2017. The university did not comment on whether then-President Donald Trump was invited. However, the open letter circulated this month suggests that neither Trump nor Bill Clinton were invited to speak at the university.

Notre Dame conferred 2,103 undergraduate degrees at Sunday’s ceremony, which was held at the university’s historic football stadium.

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