Less than a month before Notre Dame’s Commencement, the former Vatican ambassador Mary Ann Glendon has written President Jenkins to refuse the university's Laetare Medal, rebuffing his claim that her acceptance speech would somehow “balance” the event.
Mary Ann Glendon, a pro-life feminist and Harvard professor, today released an open letter to Notre Dame President John I. Jenkins, in which she told Jenkins that she could not speak alongside President Obama at the May 17th Commencement exercises.
In her letter, Glendon related that she was initially “profoundly moved” at the news that she would receive Notre Dame’s coveted Laetare Medal. After hearing the news, she said she quickly began crafting an acceptance speech that she “hoped would be worthy of the occasion.”
In March, Glendon said that she received a phone call from Fr. Jenkins informing her that she would not be giving the commencement speech, but that instead President Obama would fill that role. Upon learning of the change of plans, Glendon said that a “task that once seemed so delightful” had now been “complicated by a number of factors.”
The first factor Glendon mentioned was her work as a “longtime consultant” to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which caused her to become “dismayed” that Notre Dame “planned to award the president an honorary degree.” This action, she said, would “disregard” the U.S. Bishop’s “Catholic’s in Political Life” document.
Glendon also rebuffed the idea that the teaching “seeks to control or interfere” with a Catholic institution's “freedom to invite and engaged in serious debate whomever it wishes.”
The former Vatican ambassador also took exception to Fr. Jenkin's “talking point” that awarding the Laetare Medal to her would “balance the event.” Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop John D’Arcy also criticized Jenkins’ “talking points” by calling them “wrong” and a “flawed justification.”
“A commencement,” Ms. Glendon wrote, “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.”
She also worried that Notre Dame’s decision is having a “ripple effect” that is encouraging other Catholic institutions to ignore the U.S. Bishop’s teaching.
“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,” she concluded.
President Jenkins responded to the criticism by saying Notre Dame is “disappointed” with Glendon’s decision and that the university intends “to award the Laetare Medal to another deserving recipient.”
Notre Dame said they will make the “announcement as soon as possible."