Big decision about the ND commencement

And it isn’t that Notre Dame’s administration has realized they
shouldn’t be awarding a pro-abortion president the doctorate of laws.

Esteemed Harvard professor and former Vatican ambassador Mary Ann Glendon has just announced that she will not accept the Laetare Medal at the ceremony, after all.

In an April 27 letter to Father John Jenkins, the
president of Notre Dame, she wrote that a prospect “that once seemed so
delightful has been complicated” by the Obama appearance and by Notre
Dame’s response to criticism from the American bishops.

In her letter Glendon expressed dismay that Notre Dame chose to
honor the President despite his clear public stand against Catholic
principles on key moral issues. She also voiced her discomfort with the
university’s suggestion that her own speech at the commencement
exercises might counterbalance the Obama appearance. A commencement
celebration, she said, “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 to invite Obama in
defiance of clear guidance from the US bishops.

Glendon’s letter to Jenkins was gracious and unambiguous. She begins
by noting the great honor she felt at being chosen to receive the
Laetare Medal, recalling her gratefulness for the university counting
her 1996 commencement address among their most memorable. Then
she informs Jenkins that his follow-up call to tell her about Obama’s
role and honor necessitated a re-writing of the speech she was planning
for the ceremony.

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.

As is a still growing body of US bishops, clergy, scholars and
people who care greatly about both Notre Dame and the integrity of
Catholic universities. As they’ve continued to come out in strength and
numbers with solid arguments and the controversy has grown, Fr. Jenkins
has attempted to respond with….creative arguments of his own. (Like the false one that the bishops only meant non-Catholics in defiance of Church teachings shouldn’t be honored by Catholic universities…)

Glendon continues:

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

• “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.

On the upside…with this controversy, Notre Dame has backed into a very teachable moment.


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