Joe Biden Skips Notre Dame Speech amid Petition Criticizing His Abortion Views

President Joe Biden did not deliver the commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame this year, in a break from the tradition of presidents or vice presidents addressing students at the institution during their first year in the White House.

Jimmy Dunne, who is a financial expert and trustee of the Indiana-based Catholic university, gave the commencement speech for graduating students on May 23.

The announcement of Dunne came as a surprise as during the last three administrations, either the president or vice president has addressed graduating students in their first year in office.

In 2017, then Vice President Mike Pence, who identifies as a Christian, delivered the speech to the graduating class, while the university would not say whether President Donald Trump was invited to speak.

Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush both delivered an address during their first year in office, while several of their predecessors did so at later points of their presidency, including Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush in their last 12 months in the White House.

A spokesperson for the university told the Catholic News Agency (CNA) that "we do not discuss who may or may not have been approached to address our graduates," but the outlet reported that White House sources confirmed to them that Biden was invited to speak at the event and was set to be given an honorary degree.

"While Notre Dame has had more presidents serve as commencement speakers than any university other than the military academies, we have not always hosted a president in his first year in office—or at all," the university spokesperson told CNA.

The announcement that Biden would not speak at the University this year came after a letter was signed by more than 4,300 "members of the Notre Dame community" who asked the university not to invite the president.

The letter by the Sycamore Trust, which was addressed to Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. President of the University of Notre Dame, cited Biden's "pro-abortion and anti-religious liberty agenda" as reasons for the university to not invite him to speak.

The trust also referenced previous presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump reportedly not being invited to deliver the address when in the White House and claimed that Biden "rejects Church teachings on abortion, marriage, sex and gender and is hostile to religious liberty."

Although Biden attends mass weekly and is only the second U.S. to identify as a Catholic, he has faced criticism from some in the community who feel his views on abortion are in opposition to his religion.

Biden has made it clear that his stance on abortion is pro-abortion rights and has criticized recent efforts by several states to limit the access women have to the procedure.

His administration has started rolling back restrictions on public funding for abortion providers as it plans on reversing a Trump-era policy of restricting health organizations worldwide from receiving U.S. assistance if they perform abortions.

Obama, who Biden served as vice president for between 2009 and 2017, also faced opposition to his commencement speech in his first year in the White House, but his address went ahead.

Biden was present for the commencement speech at the university in 2016, as he and former House Speaker John Boehner received the Laetare Medal, the highest honor given by the school.

Newsweek has contacted the White House and the University of Notre Dame for comment and confirmation on whether Biden was invited to speak.

President Joe Biden Notre Dame
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 28: U.S. President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol April 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. Notre Dame University announced on Tuesday May 11 that in a break with recent. tradition, Biden will not deliver a commencement speech to graduating students. Melina Mara/Pool/Getty Images