President Joe Biden is skipping the University of Notre Dame's 2021 commencement on Sunday. Biden, the second Roman Catholic president, was invited but said he couldn't attend due to a scheduling conflict, according to the Catholic News Agency. Had Biden attended the ceremony, he would have received an honorary degree from the school. Instead, finance executive and trustee of the university Jimmy Dunne will address the graduates.
The president forgoing the ceremony at the prestigious institution breaks a 20-year tradition of either the president or the vice president attending the Notre Dame commencement in their first year in office. President George W. Bush gave the commencement address in 2001, President Barack Obama delivered the address in 2009, and Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the ceremony in 2017, according to Fox News. Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump did not address Notre Dame's commencement. It was not clear if Notre Dame invited Vice President Kamala Harris.
Despite being invited, Biden would not have been welcomed by everyone at Notre Dame. There were over 4,300 "members of the Notre Dame community" who signed a petition to urge Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins not to invite Biden to the commencement because of the president's pro-abortion policies.
The petition said the students and alumni of Notre Dame are "dismayed by the pro-abortion and anti-religious liberty agenda of President Joe Biden."
The petition reads, "Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles."
"He rejects Church teachings on abortion, marriage, sex and gender and is hostile to religious liberty," the petition says of the president. "He embraces the most pro-abortion and anti-religious liberty public policy program in history."
The petition lists Biden's actions that "threaten grievous harm to the Church, Notre Dame, Catholics and other persons of faith, and the unborn," including funding of Planned Parenthood and the "Equality Act."
In January, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops denounced Biden over his stance on abortion, marriage, and gender.
"I must point out that our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender," José Horacio Gomez said of Biden. "Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences."