Mary Ann Glendon bows out of Notre Dame event with Obama

Catholic World News has the story, and the text of Glendon’s letter to UND president Fr. John Jenkins:

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


One observation: Glendon writes as though the trigger for her decision was Notre Dame’s “talking point” that she would be there to present another view, and she felt that inappropriate. Yet I think it was Bishop D’Arcy (followed by other bishops) who initially put her in that position in his first public letter of protest.

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posted April 27, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Yet another defender of pedophiles heard from. Ms. Glendon would do well to examine her own life in light of the teachings of the Bible and the Church she values so much.
” “A narrative was being constructed about what happened,” she said. The sense was that the abuse was massive, ongoing, ignored by church leaders and that it was a problem particular to the Catholic Church’s celibate clergy. “This is a false storyline imbedded in the minds of many Catholics,” Glendon said.”
” In addition, she said, the media created the atmosphere of near hysteria by initially describing the cases as involving paedophilia, the abuse of pre-pubescent children, when in fact most of the cases involved priests and teen-age boys.
The media attention to the story, particularly the massive coverage of the Boston Globe, is fuelled by a deep-seated and long-standing anti-Catholicism, she said.
“I often hear it said that the Globe will receive a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on this matter,” Glendon said.. “All I can say is that, if fairness and accuracy have anything to do with it, awarding the Pulitzer Prize to the Boston Globe would be like giving the Nobel Peace Prize to Osama bin Laden.” ”
Political opportunism couple with selective morality. Thank you Ms. Glendon for giving us your view from the enablers bench.

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Jim McCrea

posted April 27, 2009 at 5:23 pm

As Roy and Dale said: good-bye, good luck and may the Good Lord take a likin’ to ya.

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Frank Clyburn

posted April 27, 2009 at 10:05 pm

Well it’s about time that someone would take this stand. I honor this lady for doing so. Our country needs more who will take similar stands.

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ed gleason

posted April 27, 2009 at 10:50 pm

Glendon was an apologist for disgraced Cardinal Law.. she was rewarded with a free US gov. trip to Rome.
This is another Catholic radical right doubling down to Diss Obama and Notre Dame.. it will fizzle as this commencement will be the biggest ticket in Indiana history..

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Gerard Nadal

posted April 28, 2009 at 12:52 am

Yes, the talking points seemed to trigger Glendon’s pulling out. I would have as well, because the talking points suggest cynical calculation on ND’s part in offering the Laetare Medal to her as an anticipated counterbalance to Obama, rather than a genuine recognition of her work. Glendon felt that her life’s work was being used to give cover to a rabid supporter of abortion rights.
Cynical on ND’s part. Profile in Courage for Glendon.

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posted April 28, 2009 at 2:36 am

Like it or not, MarkM, Glendon is correct. Props to her.

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South Bender

posted April 28, 2009 at 9:46 am

Man, Notre Dame must be getting REALLY desperate:

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Barry Roderick

posted April 28, 2009 at 5:21 pm

We in Canada had a similiar incident at the university of Westerm Ontario ; also with a Notre Dame connection see:
Catholics for Life is a Toronto-based Catholic web community. At present we are encouraging the Catholic colleges at the University of Western Ontario (in Canada) to distance themselves from the honorary Doctor of Laws being awarded to Henry Morgentaler and Doris Anderson (well-known abortion activists) at the June 2005 convocation.
Kings (one of the Catholic colleges) wishes to give the same ‘honour’ to the President of the University of Notre Dame. C4L considers this ‘honour’ to be tainted by association with the two aforemention abortion activists. Therefore C4L has proposed the Alternative Catholic Solution. C4L is working in close collaboration with Western Alumni Against Awarding Morgentaler
Mary ann Glendon is to be congradulated for ger courageous stand.
Saint John NB Canada

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ed gleason

posted April 28, 2009 at 9:41 pm

The radical Republican right ,wanting ‘purer’,leaner.meaner party just lost Arlan Spector in Pa to the Dems.They will certainly be leaner..
The Catholic radical right, putting all its chips on dissing Obama at ND is a big fizzle.. The Catholic radical right wanting a smaller, leaner meaner ‘purer’Church is in a heretical position.. No missionary saint ever threw out people who did not meet all the ‘truths’ at once. Saints as Patrick, Xaviar etc..As Pope John Paul said.. in Familiaris Consortio ..’take people where they are’and move them along..
The other 400 bishops in the USA had better rein in the 30-40 bishop complainers, .Warriors like Finn etc..Changing Supreme Court decsions is neither possible now or is a priority in Catholic mission. It’s about as logical a goal as having the Chaldern Catholics trying to overturn Muslim law in Iraq. Abortion is wrong …Catholic righters .. stop hoping and praying you will get the US Marshall Service to carry out your wishes and open your hearts and women in crisis..

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