Monday, April 27, 2009

Ambassador Glendon Declines Laetare Medal [UPDATED]

(Hat tip: Amy Welborn)

Holy crap! Apparently, Ambassador Glendon is not pleased with how the University used her to justify its decision to honor President Obama:
Dear Father Jenkins,

When you informed me in December 2008 that I had been selected to receive Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, I was profoundly moved. I treasure the memory of receiving an honorary degree from Notre Dame in 1996, and I have always felt honored that the commencement speech I gave that year was included in the anthology of Notre Dame’s most memorable commencement speeches. So I immediately began working on an acceptance speech that I hoped would be worthy of the occasion, of the honor of the medal, and of your students and faculty.

Last month, when you called to tell me that the commencement speech was to be given by President Obama, I mentioned to you that I would have to rewrite my speech.
[ED.: Perhaps she was going to address the life issues head on. It's a pity that this speech will not be heard now.] 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.

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 event:

• “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.

Finally, with recent news reports that other Catholic schools are similarly choosing to disregard the bishops’ guidelines, I am concerned that Notre Dame’s example could have an unfortunate ripple effect.

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.

In order to avoid the inevitable speculation about the reasons for my decision, I will release this letter to the press, but I do not plan to make any further comment on the matter at this time.

Yours Very Truly,

Mary Ann Glendon
(emphasis and editorial commentary added)

Michael Denton (soon headed to LSU law school) provides some good analysis.

Others commenting on the story include:
Amy Welborn (here, here, and here)

National Catholic Register


Catholic Online

The Cranky Conservative

The American Catholic

Southern Appeal

Creative Minority Report

Opinionated Catholic

Vox Nova

American Papist (here and here)


The Curt Jester

Notre Dame replies:
The following statement from Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of the University of Notre Dame, is in response to the decision by Mary Ann Glendon to decline acceptance of the University’s Laetare Medal:

“We are, of course, disappointed that Professor Glendon has made this decision. It is our intention to award the Laetare Medal to another deserving recipient, and we will make that announcement as soon as possible.”
Ever defiant, that Jenkins. "Oh yeah? Well, we'll just find someone else!"

The sad thing is that they'll probably find some willing also-ran to sell out ... errr ... accept the award. But, as this commenter at Amy's blog points out, finding a replacement could be a no-win situation for Notre Dame:
One would think that the special PR team brought in by the administration would realize that this is a no-win situation. None of the really good candidates for the award will take it, out of respect for Professor Glendon, and a sub-par candidate will just unleash further firestorms. Watching Jenkins, et al. continue to dig themselves in deeper and deeper just makes me cringe.

The general consensus for a replacement Laetare Medal recipient seems to have coalesced around the one person who appears shameless enough and ignominious enough to actually accept the award as a "re-gift":

None other than Prof. Doug Kmiec.

The man was made for this moment.

Prof. Beckwith on the unseemliness of "regifting" the Laetare Medal:
I am no expert in public relations, but regifting a prestigious medal should not even have been on the table. It runs the risk of adding injury to insult. For whoever is the runner-up recipient of the 2009 Laetare Medal will now undergo a level scrutiny that would have not occurred if he or she were the first choice under different circumstances. Very, very strange.
Yes, but that's what pride does to a person. And President Jenkins seems to have an overabundance of that particular vice.

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At 4/27/2009 9:17 AM, Blogger Rick said...

Encouraging post. I can see how people of goodwill are stepping up in defense of the truth and the faith. Thank God for Ambassador Glendon's good example and concerning for the impact on other Catholic universities.

At 4/27/2009 9:23 AM, Blogger IN OUR PARISH said...

thank you Mr. Anderson for maintaining this wonderful and encourtaging blog..

Fr. Manolo

At 4/27/2009 9:44 AM, Blogger Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

Clearly, she was a better choice for the medal than even Notre Dame realized.


At 4/27/2009 1:16 PM, Blogger Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

My top-three candidates for a replacement recipient are Teddy Kennedy, Doug Kmiec, or Morning's Minion.

At 4/27/2009 2:19 PM, Blogger Michael R. Denton said...

Another recipient?

That's like asking a girl to the prom like this:

"Hey, someone else turned me down, but since you're free, do you wanna go?"

Usually that doesn't bode too well for the asker, and even worse for the girl if she accepts.

And if is Doug Kmiec, I suggest every one go return their copies of Rudy immediately :)

At 4/28/2009 10:38 AM, Blogger craig said...

I find your editorial comment the most interesting:

"Perhaps she was going to address the life issues head on. It's a pity that this speech will not be heard now."

Martin Sheen, last year's Laetare Medal recipient, publicly endorsed Obama for prez but this wack job is too afraid to even share a stage with the One.

At 4/29/2009 6:24 AM, Anonymous Donald R. McClarey said...

"but this wack job is too afraid to even share a stage with the One."

Craig, even for an Obama troll like yourself, that was a pretty foolish thing to say. Glendon doesn't fear your Messiah, she merely realizes that Catholics should not pay homage to people who view slaying children in the womb as a "right".

To help you out of your obvious profound ignorance regarding Glendon, you might start here:

At 4/29/2009 9:08 AM, Blogger craig said...

Mr. McClarey,

She could've used her platform to present a case for the importance of maintaining Catholic values to Notre Dame graduates without denigrating the ceremony or being overtly hostile to the One.

Instead, she chose to cry foul and run away from a golden opportunity to be "an eloquent defender of the unborn".

Whether it was fear of faux horror, she has demeaned only herself in failing to rise to the occasion.

At 4/29/2009 1:25 PM, Anonymous Donald R. McClarey said...

Wrong again Craig. Obama isn't coming to Notre Dame for debate but rather for homage. Glendon decided not to lend her considerable prestige among American Catholics to this farce.


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