BY STAFF REPORTER
FORMER US Ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon has turned down the prestigious Laetare Medal from the University of Notre Dame in protest at its invitation to President Barack Obama.
In an letter to Holy Cross Fr John Jenkins, president of the university in South Bend, Indiana, Glendon said she will not participate in May 17 commencement exercises during which the award was to have been presented.
The letter, posted on the blog of the magazine First Things, does not mention specific justice principles, but Prof Glendon was critical of Notre Dame’s decision to give Obama an honorary degree.
Mr Obama supports legal abortion and his administration recently proposed new regulations that would allow the use of federal funds for embryonic stem-cell research. Both are in direct conflict with fundamental Church teaching.
The Laetare Medal is presented annually to an American Catholic layperson for outstanding service to the Catholic Church and society.
A university spokeswoman confirmed that Prof Glendon, who served as ambassador from 2007 until earlier this year, was the first person to accept and then later decline the award.
Fr Jenkins said: “We are, of course, disappointed, that Prof Glendon has made this deci sion. It is our intention to award the Laetare Medal to another deserving recipient, and we will make the announcement as soon as possible.” Prof Glendon, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, wrote that the decision to honour the President disregards a 2004 request from the US bishops to Catholic institutions asking them “not to honour those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles”.
She said the bishops’ request was “reasonable” and did not seek to “control or interfere with an institution’s freedom to invite speakers and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes”.
Prof Glendon said she was also concerned that the university had issued “talking points” that implied that her acceptance speech for the award would “somehow balance the event”.
She wrote that a commencement was 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 US bishops — to honour a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice,” the letter said.