Pro-Life Harvard Prof Refuses Award from Notre Dame Because it is Honoring Obama

By Michael W. Chapman | April 27, 2009 | 1:45 PM EDT

Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican (2007-09). (Photo courtesy of Harvard Law School Web site.)

( – Mary Ann Glendon, a pro-life Harvard professor and former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, released a letter today to the president of the University of Notre Dame, explaining that she will not accept the school’s prestigious Laetare Medal or speak at the commencement on May 17, where President Barack Obama is also scheduled to speak and receive an honorary degree.
Glendon, in her Apr. 27 letter to Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins, said the decision to honor Obama with an honorary degree “was in disregard” to what the U.S. Catholic bishops have specifically taught about Catholic institutions.
To award Obama an honorary degree, Glendon wrote to Jenkins,  “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.”
Glendon further said that “talking points” released by Notre Dame officials to help dampen criticism over Obama giving the commencement speech “included statements implying that my acceptance speech would somehow balance the event.”
“A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families,” wrote Glendon.  “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.”
“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,” wrote Glendon, who is the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.
The Latare Award was established in 1883 and is given to honor a Catholic “whose genius has enobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the church and enriched the heritage of humanity,” according to Notre Dame’s Web site.
When it was announced earlier this year that Glendon would receive the award, Notre Dame President Jenkins said that Glendon is “a compelling expositor of Catholic social teaching who exemplifies our University’s most cherished values and deserves its highest praise.”
After Jenkins and Notre Dame announced that Obama had accepted an invitation to be this year’s commencement speaker, controversy erupted, with many Catholics nationwide denouncing the decision because of Obama’s pro-abortion policy views.
The Cardinal Newman Society, a group dedicated “to renewing and strengthening Catholic identity at America’s 224 Catholic colleges,” launched an online petition --- – to protest Notre Dame’s decision to invite Obama to be the commencement speaker.  So far, 334,740 people have signed the petition.
In addition, at least 42 Catholic bishops in the United States are on record as publicly opposing Obama speaking at Notre Dame and receiving an honorary degree.
Bp. Paul Loverde, who oversees the Arlington Diocese in Virginia, recently wrote that “given the unique national prominence of Notre Dame among Catholic universities, the decision by a few administrators to give [Obama] a platform and honor on Commencement Day will be damaging to the Church, to the pro-life cause and, ultimately, to the university itself.”
“This situation underscores the need for Catholics to be united and speak with one voice in our respect for all human life,” said Bp. Loverde. “Otherwise, we project confusion and uncertainty on this most basic of issues.”
To read the full text of Mary Ann Glendon’s letter, click here
Michael W. Chapman
Michael W. Chapman
Michael W. Chapman