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Mary Ann Glendon Refuses Notre Dame's Laetare Medal

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I have concluded that I cannot accept the Laetare Medal or participate in the May 17 graduation ceremony.

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)
4/27/2009 (1 decade ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

NOTRE DAME, Indiana (Catholic Online) - Mary Ann Glendon, the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard University, former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican and member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences is a Pro-Life Champion. She enjoys global respect for her intelligence, eloquence and distinguished record of public service. She is also a faithful Catholic who has defended the Church without compromise for many years.

Ambassador Glendon was scheduled to receive the Laetere Medal from the University of Notre Dame at this years commencement. The Medal is the highest honor given by Notre Dame in recognition of distinguished service to Church and Society. Fr. John Jenkins, the University President who still defends the decision to award President Barack Obama with an honorary Doctor of Law despite the President's opposition to the Fundamental Right to Life, has relied on Ms. Glendon's appearance in his failing public relations efforts. He even used it as a "talking point" as he continues to disregard clear direction from the United States Bishops in their "Catholics in Political Life".

Fr. Jenkins has just been informed that Mary Ann Glendon is refusing the Medal and will not attend the Commencement. The following letter has been released to the Press:

April 27, 2009
The Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
President
University of Notre Dame

Dear Father Jenkins,

When you informed me in December 2008 that I had been selected to receive Notre Dame's Laetare Medal, I was profoundly moved. I treasure the memory of receiving an honorary degree from Notre Dame in 1996, and I have always felt honored that the commencement speech I gave that year was included in the anthology of Notre Dame's most memorable commencement speeches. So I immediately began working on an acceptance speech that I hoped would be worthy of the occasion, of the honor of the medal, and of your students and faculty.

Last month, when you called to tell me that the commencement speech was to be given by President Obama, I mentioned to you that I would have to rewrite my speech. Over the ensuing weeks, the task that once seemed so delightful has been complicated by a number of factors.

First, as a longtime consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops' express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions "should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles" and that such persons "should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions." That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution's freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it.

Then I learned that "talking points" issued by Notre Dame in response to widespread criticism of its decision included two statements implying that my acceptance speech would somehow balance the event:

• "President Obama won't be doing all the talking. Mary Ann Glendon, the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, will be speaking as the recipient of the Laetare Medal."

• "We think having the president come to Notre Dame, see our graduates, meet our leaders, and hear a talk from Mary Ann Glendon is a good thing for the president and for the causes we care about."

A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame's decision--in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops--to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church's position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.

Finally, with recent news reports that other Catholic schools are similarly choosing to disregard the bishops' guidelines, I am concerned that Notre Dame's example could have an unfortunate ripple effect.

It is with great sadness, therefore, that I have concluded that I cannot accept the Laetare Medal or participate in the May 17 graduation ceremony.

In order to avoid the inevitable speculation about the reasons for my decision, I will release this letter to the press, but I do not plan to make any further comment on the matter at this time.

Yours Very Truly, Mary Ann Glendon

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