Pro-Life Harvard Prof Refuses Award
from Notre Dame Because it is Honoring Obama
Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard
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
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 --- Notredamescandal.com – 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
“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.”
here to read the full text of Mary Ann Glendon’s letter.
Contact: Michael W. Chapman
Date: April 27, 2009
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coordinating body for local pro-life chapters representing thousands of
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been working to end abortion and restore legal protection to those members of the
human family who are threatened by abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. Diverse though we are, we hold one common belief - that
every human being has an inalienable right to life that is precious and must be protected. IFRL is
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