Mary Ann Glendon Says “No” to Notre Dame

April 27, 2009

It should give the officials at Notre Dame pause that a professor at Harvard Law School (among the most liberal of all law schools) will refuse to accept an award from Notre Dame based on principle.  And yet that is exactly what Professor Mary Ann Glendon has done, who writes as a Catholic:

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.

Professor Glendon shows grace and class in her letter rejecting an honorary award from Notre Dame (I encourage you to read it in full), and she appreciates that a graduation commencement speech is not the place for her to criticize the president or turn the event into a public debate.  She could have accepted the award and used her acceptance speech as an opportunity to occupy the bully pulpit, but instead she decided it wasn’t worth it.  I would hope her example persuades Father Jenkins at Notre Dame that it also isn’t worth it to grant President Obama an honorary degree in the first place.

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