Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard Law School professor and recent U.S. ambassador to the Vatican who was to receive Notre Dame's Laetare Medal at commencement ceremonies May 17, this morning announced she is declining the medal.
The university had named her the recipient in a March 22 press release. The annual award is the among the oldest and most prestigious honor given to American Catholics.
In an open letter (on the website of the journal First Things) to Notre Dame's president, she writes, after expressing dismay with the university's disregard for U.S. bishops' guidelines:
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.
Photo credit: Harvard University Law School