May 6, 2023 // Bishop
Robert P. George Presented with Notre Dame Evangelium Vitae Medal
Each year, the University of Notre Dame’s de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture bestows the Evangelium Vitae Medal upon an individual renowned for proclaiming the Gospel of Life through their heroic efforts in the pro-life movement by defending the sanctity of human life from its earliest stages. On Saturday, April 29, this award named after Saint Pope John Paul II’s 1985 encyclical, was given to Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Professor of Politics at Princeton University and the Founding Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions.
“Robby George is a brilliant legal philosopher and one of the most eminent public intellectuals in America today,” said O. Carter Snead, Director of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture. “Over more than 40 years of service as a professor, author, and mentor (including to me), George has been the most important and influential exponent of the philosophical argument for the intrinsic equal dignity of the unborn child, with a combination of intellectual excellence, civility, and aplomb that is simply not paralleled in his generation.”
The event began with Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, celebrated by Bishop Rhoades. In his homily, quoting St. John Paul II, Bishop Rhoades exclaimed, “The fullness of life that Jesus came to give us ‘far exceeds the dimensions of our earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God. The loftiness of this supernatural vocation reveals the greatness and the inestimable value of human life even its temporal phase.’ Even in this phase, our life on earth, our natural, temporal life, is a ‘sacred reality, entrusted to us, to be preserved with a sense of responsibility and brought to perfection in love and in the gift of ourselves to God and to our brothers and sisters.’”
He also called to mind the words of the late Pope Benedict XVI, “who taught ‘when we love, we are fulfilling our deepest need and becoming most fully ourselves, most fully human. Loving is what we are programmed to do, what we were designed for by our Creator.’ This is what it means to be truly alive. It is at the very heart of Jesus’ moral teaching: loving God and loving one another as He has loved us, imitating the Good Shepherd who laid down His life in loving sacrifice for us, serving Him in our brothers and sisters, including those in the womb of their mothers, those who are weak and defenseless and those who are suffering. This is what the Holy Eucharist, the sacrament of Christ’s love unto the end, nourishes us to do, as it nourished all the saints of the Church. When we live in this way, we find life in abundance and, in doing so, we are building a culture of life and civilization of love.”
In George’s acceptance speech at a reception in the South Dining Hall, he acknowledged his own unworthiness to receive such a prestigious award, but took the opportunity to recognize twelve people who had been instrumental in getting the nation to the point where Roe v. Wade would be overturned, but did not live to see it happen. These twelve were: Dr. Mildred Jefferson, Congressman Henry Hyde, Mrs. Nellie Gray, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, Governor Robert P. Casey, Notre Dame Professor Charlie Rice, Mr. Joe Scheidler, Germain Gabriel Grisez, Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Dr. Hymie Gordon, John Cardinal O’Connor, and Nat Hentoff.
While celebrating the tremendous legal victory achieved in the reversal of Roe v. Wade, he also reminded those present of the ongoing need to remain vigilant and pro-active more than ever in the battle to protect others, fight injustices, authentically love both mothers and their unborn children, and remain steadfast against the attacks of their persecutors.
He shared, “The late Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a founder and leader of the pro-abortion movement, and himself a prominent abortionist, later in life embraced the pro-life cause and revealed to the public that he and his colleagues knew the claims they made about death rates from illegal abortions were untrue — indeed wildly untrue — when they made them. Nathanson also revealed that the movement he helped to found and lead deliberately appealed to and stoked anti-Catholic prejudice to advance their cause, portraying opposition to abortion as nothing more than a reflection of Catholic dogma and making the Catholic Church and Catholic people out to be villains who would rob others of their basic liberties by imposing on them with the force of law their essentially sectarian religious precepts.”
He also explained the complexity of the challenges caused by Roe, stating, “As Aristotle observed long, long ago, the law is, among other things, a teacher, a giver of moral instruction, a former of consciences. And for 49 years, five months, and two days, our law taught a gross moral untruth. It taught generations of our people that the choice to destroy a child in utero is a basic liberty, indeed a fundamental right; it taught that that the child himself or herself is as nothing — a blob of tissue, a meaningless mass, a mere object, a piece of property rather than a person with dignity and a right to life. That is a false lesson that it is our job to help people to unlearn. And that will take effort … and time. We will, as Notre Dame Ph.D. Ryan Anderson, who leads the Ethics & Public Policy Center, has recently pointed out in an excellent Wall Street Journal essay, need to go step by step, moving forward with determination and with prudence toward our goal of an America where every child is protected by law and welcomed in life. Victory will not come all at once, but each legislative achievement will plant the seeds of the next one.”
George concluded his speech with the dramatic words of Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address in 1865. He stated, “Nevertheless, ‘with malice towards none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we have been given.’ It will be hard. We will have moments of disappointment. We will experience setbacks and, alas, betrayals. But we will not lose heart. We will not lose faith. We will not abandon hope. For we know that ‘He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat. He is sifting out the hearts of men before his judgment seat. Oh, be swift my soul to answer him, be jubilant my feet, for God is marching on!’ And under his hand of blessing, trusting that He will never leave unaided those who in a righteous cause call upon His help, we shall overcome.”
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.