The prime minister, or taoiseach, of Ireland gave what some onlookers described as a "rousing speech" at Boston College despite fervent protests from pro-life students and others.
Enda Kenny, current prime minister of the Republic of Ireland, spoke to graduates at the Catholic academic institution even as some clergy refused to attend and one group garnered thousands of signatures protesting his invitation.
TFP Student Action, a project of the conservative Catholic group American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, gathered approximately 7,400 signatures within a week against Kenny's invitation to speak at Boston College's commencement event on Monday.
"While the Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny promotes abortion on demand in Ireland, Catholic Boston College plans to grant him an honorary degree and a platform at its commencement ceremonies on May 20," reads an entry on TFP Student Action's site.
"Take action. Urge Boston College to rescind its invitation. Speak up for the unborn. Sign your petition and forward it to all your pro-life friends."
The commencement speech by Kenny comes as the prime minister has championed a piece of legislation called the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill of 2013.
Drafted in response to the well-publicized death of Savita Halappanavar, according to supporters the bill clarifies rules regarding when a doctor can and cannot perform an abortion to save a mother's life.
The bill itself has received criticism from both pro-life and pro-choice groups in Ireland, with Catholic Church leaders dubbing the bill "morally unacceptable" and United Left Alliance lawmaker Clare Daly saying the bill does not go far enough.
"I'm glad this legislation is before us, but let's be clear what you've presented is the absolute minimum. The clear intention is to make it so restrictive that most women who will be affected will not even bother," said Daly as quoted by CNN.
"… that instead they will continue to make the journey to Britain so that you can continue to pretend that there's no Irish abortion."
According to the Office of News and Public Affairs at Boston College, Kenny was invited for his nearly four decades of public service.
Other honorees included "Wayne Budd, former U.S. attorney and long-time BC trustee; Cornelia Kelley, headmaster emerita of Boston Latin School; and Mary Lou DeLong, who served in several key administrative roles at BC."
"I think I have made my position very clear on this. As the head of the government I have a duty to stay with the constitution … which belongs to the people," said Kenny in an interview with the Independent.
According to an amendment added to the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland in 1983, the government acknowledges "the right to life of the unborn, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother."