April 27th, 2009
02:43 PM ET
11 years ago

Harvard professor backs out of honor, ceremony over Obama

A Harvard Law School professor has decided not to participate in Notre Dame's graduation ceremony because President Obama will be speaking at the event.

A Harvard Law School professor has decided not to participate in Notre Dame's graduation ceremony because President Obama will be speaking at the event.

(CNN) – Harvard Law School professor Mary Ann Glendon is turning down an award from the University of Notre Dame because she disagrees with the Catholic institution's decision to invite President Obama to deliver this year's commencement address.

The conservative, pro-life academic explained her decision not to attend the commencement ceremony and not to accept the Laetare Medal from the university in a letter to Notre Dame's president.

"I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree," Glendon wrote in the letter. She also said that she considered the decision to give Obama an honorary degree a violation of a request from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that Catholic institutions not honor individuals who act in defiance of the church's fundamental principles or give awards or platforms that suggest support for the actions of such individuals. Glendon, who described herself as a "longtime consultant" for the group of bishops, said the group's directive was "reasonable."

Glendon also said in the letter that she was concerned by the university's use of her planned involvement in the graduation ceremony as a way to balance Obama's appearance.

A commencement "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 . . . to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church's position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice," Glendon told Notre Dame's president.

After pointing out that Notre Dame's decision appeared to be setting an example that other Catholic institutions were following, the Harvard professor said it was "with great sadness" that she had decided she could not participate in the graduation ceremony nor accept the medal from the university.

Obama is also set to deliver the commencement address at Arizona State University and the U.S. Naval Academy.


Filed under: Abortion • President Obama
soundoff (279 Responses)
  1. keith pollard

    To this woman I say so what. Until those show complete contempt for the sex abusers of the Church. All Bishops, Cardinals, and even the Pope are in no position to denounce the president. These clowns think for some reason that we the public would even listen to a group that protects these perverts.

    April 27, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  2. Will

    Another whiny little conservative.I bet she would have arrived a day early if Bill(phone man)O'reilly or Ann(C) Coulter were guest speakers.Because as we know those two are really upstanding people.......

    April 27, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  3. Kendall

    hmmmm, I wonder how many college students are on birth control at the University of Notre Dame?

    And if she has a problem with the Churches stance on asimalation

    April 27, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  4. Sam

    "Defying churches fundamental principles"? That would include all who use a condom. Typical hypocrites.

    April 27, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  5. Donna from Colorado Springs

    What happened to the separation of church and state? These people seem to think that the way they feel about abortion,etc should dictate all future projects being done or not! Republicans will not bend on any issue that they feel is important, yet demand that the rest of us bend to their will. And if we don't , they whine and complain about no bi-partisanship in congress and no respect for their feelings. What about the rest of the worlds feelings? Fortunately, the rest of us are not so pious and narrow minded!

    April 27, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  6. Marty, Grand Rapids Mi

    Abortion is a Symptom of a problem. The problem being women having unwanted babies. If people who were against abortion spent their time focusing on things that could be done to prevent unwanted babies, abortion would not be the issue it is today. The ironic thing is, probably the most successful way to reduce unwanted babies is discredited and unused by the religious community. That being sex education and the wide availability of contraceptives. They are, in effect, promoting policies that increase abortions.

    April 27, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  7. Freed_From_W

    "..fundamental principles of justice,"

    So... refusing to allow an abortion on a woman who was raped by a direct family member and wound up pregnant because of it – that's justice?

    Oh, sorry – I forgot – this is coming from the same group who thinks the Crusades were justified as long as the person doing it talks telepathically to an invisible man who lives in the sky who never answers but is convinced he's there.

    Clumps of cells without consciousness are not humans.

    April 27, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  8. Thom Robinson

    It seems that some Catholics are turning into fundamentalist Christian Right wingers. He's the President of the United States for crying out loud! He's not just there representing Barak Obama ... he's representing the entire nation at this event. Also, he already has a HARVARD degree, he certainly doesn't need an honorary from N.D.

    April 27, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  9. Cowboy in West Texas

    She is standing her ground for her beliefs just like the President has his beliefs. Think that is what the USA is all about – freedom of speach and freedom to stand on your principles.

    April 27, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  10. Charlie in Maine

    To quote that sage pilotical philosopher Chris Farley " Well, la di freakin da". Last time I checked it was called a University hint rhymes with diversity. You right wingers make me laugh. Where is all your crap about "honoring the office of President" or does that only work when y'all are in charge?

    April 27, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  11. Charlie in Maine

    To quote that sage pilotical philosopher Chris Farley " Well, la di freakin da". Last time I checked it was called a University hint rhymes with diversity. You right wingers make me laugh. Where is all your crap about "honoring the office of President" or does that only work when y'all are in charge?

    April 27, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  12. Charlie in Maine

    To quote that sage pilotical philosopher Chris Farley " Well, la di freakin da". Last time I checked it was called a University hint rhymes with diversity. You right wingers make me laugh. Where is all your crap about "honoring the office of President" or does that only work when y'all are in charge?

    April 27, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  13. If it was George W Bush...

    If it was George W Bush...

    ...would she have turned down the award because of George W's stance on the death penalty making him an "uncompromising opponent of the Church's position"?

    Oh right, as a "conservative, pro-life academic", she only feels moral outrage with Democrats over the abortion issue, but she is fine with Republican Texas Governors like George W Bush applying the death penalty to retarded people.

    Another self-deceived hypocrite placing her politics over her faith in order to get attention...they are a dime a dozen.

    April 27, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  14. Denver Dem

    And good riddance you Repug loser scum. The people @ ND don't want to hear their Right wing anti- american crud anyhow. Well I am not showing up b/c I will be trumped by a much better speaker, a much better human being, and a true american, well that does it I am out. I hate the GOP so much, if you see a conservative GOP punch them in the face.

    April 27, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  15. Robert

    Who would you rather have at your commencement? The President of the United States, or some obscure, self-righteous, single-issue, litmus-testing Harvard professor?

    April 27, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  16. Sarah

    that's ridiculous!1 *rolls eyes* why stop there? Why not quit teaching at Harvard Law? I mean he did go there...

    April 27, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  17. Jim

    If this woman has ever, and I mean EVER, given a passing grade to a pro-choice student she is a hypocrite. And if she starts failing them because they are prolife she is descriminating.

    April 27, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  18. Kay

    Harvard has historically been one of the more liberal institutions, yet this professor seems to have no problem teaching there or collecting her paycheck from them. Where were her "principles" when she made her life choices?

    Last I heard, the Catholic church also preaches tolerance and acceptance of different types of people and points of view.

    April 27, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  19. Mima

    Professor Glenden lacks the realization that President Obama is all the peoples president not only the ones that share her view!
    Pro choice gives YOU the choice whatever it may be the choice is YOURS! No one made it for you.

    April 27, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  20. Ajay Jain, Garland, TX, USA

    Notre Dame is moving along with the changing times but some Catholics could not but remain the dinosaurs of our age!!!

    Obama – Biden 2012!

    April 27, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  21. fearful for my country

    Osama, I mean Obama is ruining everyones chance at their 15 minutes of fame because he insists on being there to show them up. Could we have a real president please? This puplicity hound crap is getting boring and we'd like to move on and prosper as a nation. Time to close the curtains and turn off the lights of spotlighting the token black man. There's a whole country that has issues to deal with and important things to accomplish. This nation is much bigger than a black celebrity.

    April 27, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  22. Lis Alexandra of Capital of Texas

    i DO NOT know Mrs. Mary Ann Glendon's religious persuasion, nor is it any of my business, but what a hypocrite she is if she is in fact, Catholic or Christian, because as Catholic's we also learn to tolerate and love all others as Christ did !. . .True enough we do not all agree on President Obama's policies or views, nor should we, we just need to work together to help make this country better and stop fighting amidst ourselves, fighting other political parties, or other religious groups, we are tired of fighting !. . .Notre Dame, means: Our Lady, and I know Our Blessed Lady Virgin Mary, loved everyone, too bad, Mrs. Glendon seems to have missed that MEMO. . . 😦

    April 27, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  23. Citizen from NY

    Amazing woman, to stand by her principles and decline the honorary award and truly stand up for what she believes in. Commendable, very commendable.

    April 27, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  24. Diane Panama City Fl

    It seems Glendon is up-in-arms about President Obama speaking before the graduating class because he respects the "right to choose"; but, she's not so concerned about all those young men who have been molested by priests. Where's her "righteous indignation" over that? Or, what about the fact that GWB spoke to the 2001 Notre Dame class and not one peep from her about his record on the number of death penalties carried out while he was Governor of Texas – even though the Church opposes it as strongly as it does abortion.

    "She stinketh of hypocricy", as Shakespeare might say.

    April 27, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  25. Sharon

    Get over it Glendon! I'd rather hear the President speak. We do live in a world of diversity after all! He's not coming to talk about abortion. He is talking to many of our future leaders. Good job NotreDame for making this event happen.

    April 27, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
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