Past Laetare Medalist to take Glendon’s place at Notre Dame commencement

Judge John T. Noonan, Jr.
Judge John T. Noonan, Jr.

.- Following former Vatican Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon’s refusal of the University of Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, 1984 medal recipient Judge John T. Noonan, Jr. has accepted an invitation to deliver a speech “in the spirit of the award” at the school’s commencement.

The university said his speech will take place in lieu of awarding the medal.

Glendon turned down the award after a month of intense controversy over its invitation of President Barack Obama to deliver the commencement address and to receive an honorary law degree. Glendon, who had originally been asked to deliver the commencement address, objected to university president Rev. John I. Jenkins’ use of her appearance in talking points claiming she would “balance the event.”

A commencement, she added, is not the right place “for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision,” a decision she said disregarded the “settled position” of the U.S. bishops against honoring pro-abortion rights politicians.

In an April 30 statement Father Jenkins said Judge Noonan was an “ideal choice” because he could bring “a compelling voice, a passion for dialogue, great intellectual stature, and a deep commitment to Catholic values,” especially in “these unusual circumstances.”

Judge Noonan, who was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan, was the Laetare Medal’s 1984 recipient. He has also been a consultant for the Presidential Commission on Population, the National Institutes of Health and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

An author of numerous books, Noonan has also been a consultant for several Catholic Church agencies, governor of the Canon Law Society of America, and director of the National Right to Life Committee, a press release from Notre Dame reports.

However, Noonan's scholarly work has promoted dissent from the Church's teaching on contraception.

He taught at Notre Dame Law School from 1961 to 1966 and has also taught at the University of California Law School at Berkeley.

The Notre Dame press release noted that Glendon had declined the 2009 Laetare Medal.

“Since Judge Noonan is a previous winner of the Laetare Medal, we have decided, upon reflection, to not award the medal this year,” Fr. Jenkins explained.

“This commencement ceremony, more than anything else, is a celebration of our students and their families. Judge Noonan will join with President Obama and other speakers in that celebration, sending them from our campus and into the world with sound advice and affirmation,” he said.

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