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,(emphasis and editorial commentary added)
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
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
The Cranky Conservative
The American Catholic
Creative Minority Report
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:Ever defiant, that Jenkins. "Oh yeah? Well, we'll just find someone else!"
“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.”
The sad thing is that they'll probably find some willing also-ran to
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.Yep.
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.