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Harrison Butker doubles down on commencement speech at Catholic gala

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Kansas City Chiefs’ kicker Harrison Butker doubled down on his May 11 Benedictine College commencement speech comments during a Catholic home schooling association’s gala in Nashville, Tennessee, on Friday.

“If it wasn’t clear that the timeless Catholic values are hated by many, it is now,” Butker, a three-time Super Bowl champion and the 2019 NFL scoring leader, said during the May 24 Regina Caeli Academy’s Courage Under Fire Gala.

Butker faced some pushback on social media and from commentators and celebrities for comments about gender ideology, gender roles, homosexuality, abortion, and other hot-button issues during the commencement speech.

Much of the criticism was in response to his warning to female graduates about “diabolical lies told to [them].”

“How many of you are sitting here now about to cross this stage and are thinking about all the promotions and titles you are going to get in your career?” Butker said at the commencement. “Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world, but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world.”

At the gala Friday evening, Butker acknowledged the backlash, saying “many people expressed a shocking level of hate” after his speech. He said, however, that “as days went on, even those who disagreed with my viewpoints shared their support for my freedom of religion.”

“The more I’ve talked about what I value most, which is my Catholic faith, the more polarizing I have become,” he added. “It’s a decision I’ve consciously made and one I do not regret at all. If we have truth and charity, we should trust in the Lord’s providence and let the Holy Ghost do the rest of the work.”

Butker reflected on the persecution faced by many saints and prophets, such as Daniel who was thrown into a lion’s den. Being “disliked” and “mischaracterized by some,” Butker said, are “not so bad.”

“Our love for Jesus and thus our desire to speak out should never be outweighed by the longing of our fallen nature to be loved by the world,” Butker added. “Glorifying God and not ourselves should always remain our motivation despite any pushback or even support. I lean on those closest to me for guidance, but I can never forget that it is not people, but Jesus Christ, who I am trying to please.”

The 28-year-old kicker, who holds the record for most career field goals in Super Bowl games, encouraged the faithful to be “unapologetic of their Catholic faith and never be afraid to speak out for truth, even when it goes against the loudest voices.”

“If heaven is our goal, we should embrace our cross however large or small it may be, and live our life with joy to be a bold witness for Christ,” Butker said.

Although the secular response to Butker’s speech was mostly negative, the response from Catholic figures has been predominantly positive.

Butker’s bishop, James Johnston of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, told CNA two weeks ago that he supported the athlete’s “right to share his faith and express his opinions — including those that are critical of bishops.”

President of the Catholic League Bill Donohue said in a statement that the kicker “nailed it” and praised “his courage and his commitment to Catholicism.”

Reactions from within the NFL were mixed. Jonathan Beane, NFL senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer, distanced the league from Butker’s comments, saying “his views are not those of the NFL as an organization.”

However, Butker received support from Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and from the wife of the team’s owner, Tavia Hunt, and their daughter, Gracie Hunt.

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Harrison Butker doubles down on commencement speech at Catholic gala