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

Harvard professor backs out of honor, ceremony over Obama

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/27/art.bochurch0427.gi.jpg caption="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. Cynthia

    Keep dreaming lady no one gives a rats a– whether or not you show up when given a choice of you or the 44th President please!

    April 27, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  2. Howard

    Will someone please explain to me why or how a non-Catholic should consider themselves bound to the principles of the Catholic Church? When did the Catholic Church assume primacy over the principles of all other religious faiths? Where I come from, that's called arrogance at the least, or even tyranny of a kind we've come to expect from the likes of fundamentalist Muslims.

    April 27, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  3. Frank H.

    Interesting that Ms. Stewart identifies Ms. Glendon as "The conservative, pro-life academic...", but does not similarly identify Mr. Obama as "The liberal, pro-abortion politician..."

    April 27, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  4. awaitingliberalizationbyCNN

    An actual person of integrity. How rare is that. Read and weep Obamanauts.

    April 27, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  5. patrick, Portland OR

    Um, is she for the death penalty? Is Sam Brownback, Pat Buchanan? The Catholic church is against that as well.... why is this not being spoken out on..... is abortion somehow more important then something that has actually killed innocent people that had been born and had done nothing wrong????? THis lady is an idiot and so is the catholic church for being so one sided and not standing up to capital punishment more. As an ex catholic this is why the ex is in front of catholic for me.

    April 27, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  6. Donna

    Is the commencement speech about abortion? How discriminatory! The president cannot impart the knowledge he has gained as an educator and politician to inspire young graduates to serve their country and think about those less fortunate because he is pro-choice.

    It is totally ridiculous and even Jesus ate and drank with sinners. Give me a break with this righteousness, where is the outrage with the sex abuse scandals that have ruined so many lives, I think its President Obama who should have refused the invitation, but then again he is far more intelligent.

    April 27, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  7. Raymond Dellenger

    Arrogance beyond belief." Honoring MY religious views regarding a social issue deserves to be rewarded by a liberal arts institution but HIS do not. When will these folks ever learn that America is NOT a theocracy and that the Catholic Church - no more than the Taliban - gets to determine civil law baed on THEIR brand of religious beliefs.

    Oh, and by the way - the great majority of American Catholics GET THIS and respect it.

    April 27, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  8. Raymond Dellenger

    Arrogance beyond belief.

    "MY religious views regarding a social issue deserve to be rewarded by a liberal arts institution but HIS do not."

    When will these folks ever learn that America is NOT a theocracy and that the Catholic Church - no more than the Taliban - does not get to determine our civil law baed on THEIR brand of religious beliefs.

    (Oh, and by the way - the great majority of American Catholics GET THIS and respect it.)

    April 27, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  9. Obama 2012

    She is definitely given a bad name to Havard University.

    April 27, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  10. Felicia

    Who cares the way i see it, it's a lot of people that are not willing to work with the President. I think it's just down right mean.

    April 27, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  11. Karl

    The mighty Repubs brick wall: But her conviction must be honored and accepted, whether we agree or not. I understand.

    April 27, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  12. david

    Who cares. This is our president. Nobody cares if you dont attend. Next

    April 27, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  13. Robin

    It is her right! Good for her for standing up for what she thinks is correct and moral.

    I wonder if Obama will have all religious signs/statues covered?

    If you don't want to bring religion into it, do not speak at a Catholic University!

    April 27, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  14. Rumsfeld

    Suit yourself Ms. Glendon. The world will move forward without you.

    April 27, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  15. Big John

    No great loss.

    April 27, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  16. JonDie

    Good riddance to the "pro-life" Glendon because we know that pro-lifers are actually pro-death on most issues involving women, gays and minorities.

    April 27, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  17. America the Beautiful

    Then you ask why the Church seems to decline. We have become so intolerant that it's difficult to understand what is going. If different ideas are not welcome at the university specifically in America, then we are all screwed!. God Bless America!.

    April 27, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  18. mt

    wow! is all I have to say Wow! that's a great way to send your message. NOT!!

    April 27, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  19. Andrea E- Atlanta

    These Catholics are a bunch of hypocrits. Jesus won people by showing them is unwavering love. He said through lovingkindness have I drawn thee. How can they expect to reach anybody in this fashion. I don't care what they stand for because to me they all seem to be nothing but hatemongers.

    April 27, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  20. Ora

    You can't hurt Obama. If you believe your principles are being violated. As a Christian Just pray.

    April 27, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  21. Lz Cheney

    conservative, pro-life academic ... she's an oxy-moron

    April 27, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  22. Larry

    WHO CARES WHAT SHE DOES ... or doesn't do

    I'm going to guess that she as well, is a Republican

    They line up like ducks in a row

    And Quack Quack Quack they go

    Obama could care less ... he's got a country to help us take care of ...

    Don't let the door hit ya ...

    April 27, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  23. Mike, Florida

    If the only people that want to participate in the graduation ceremony are of the mindset that only speakers involved have to be 100 percent in line with the guidelines of the Catholic Church, then there can't possibly be but a very few that they could ask!! Get real!! He's still thePresident, and is due the respect of the office, not everyone follows the Church doctrine!! To rule out the possibility of someone speaking who has their own separate beliefs aside from those dictated by the Church is rediculous, that's what this counrty is based on, is having the right to your own beliefs, your own religeon, but I don't believe there's any where in the Bible that says if someone disagrees with the church you should throw them out like trash!! Wake up for God's Sake!!!!!!!

    April 27, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  24. FL

    Good for her. Taking a stand for what she believes in.

    April 27, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
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