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. Patrick - Indianapolis

    Nothing but your good ol' angry white person bigotry! She only serves to give Harvard a bad name. Silly, silly bigoted christains. Down with the party of white and let rise the party of common sense!

    April 27, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  2. quasar63

    That tears it. Why aren't these holier than thou Calothics paying TAXES?. Do they have any idea of the burden they place on everyone when they deny a women a abortion?. How is it they can bulid multi-million $ shrines to jesus, but deny a child a decent chance of survival?. It makes me sick. F3333Men^^^

    April 27, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  3. John W

    But if 'bomb-dropping' , torture loving, civilian-killing Bush and Cheney were being honored she would be crawling all over them.


    April 27, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  4. Bob from Kentucky

    Perhaps she won't mind if Harvard backs out of her paycheck! This kind of mindless nonsense needs to end. Most of the country is tired of this crap. Just check the polls.

    April 27, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  5. Josiah Crabtree

    At the least: foolish pride. At the most: political grandstanding. But if she wants to turn down an honor, I suppose that's her business.

    April 27, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  6. Joyce

    The latest whinning from the RNC side of things " Obama will take away your health plan" and replace it with his own socialist plan. Why won't the RNC take a break? They tried these scare tactics during the campaign and it didn't work. Then he was a socialist, facist and don't forget the tea bagging party. Give it up already! More than 50% of Americans agree with him and what he's doing.

    April 27, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  7. Larry

    What a see you next Tuesday.

    April 27, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  8. Soccer Nana

    I am sure someone is going to lose sleep over this decision; it won't be me.

    The President is not going to be speaking on his politcal platform; he will be congratulating graduates, parents, guardians, grandparents, as well as encouraging the graduates.

    If a survey was taken, she would find that more than half of the females and males either know someone who has had, or they or their girlfriends have had an abortion.

    No one condones abortion; the President believes that since it is not against the law, women should be allowed to make that choice if they desire to.

    April 27, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  9. Christa

    She deserves the award; Obama does not. Clearly another example that this nation is backwards.

    April 27, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    Who cares? Seriously...she allowed to have her opinion, but the rest of us are allowed to recognize it's irrelevant. So I ask again, who really cares?

    April 27, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  11. concerned citizen

    So what about all the current graduating Notre Dame students that may be pro-choice, gay, or something else that the Catholic Church doesn't condone or believe in? I know Notre Dame students that are pro-choice, that are gay, etc. should all of them not be allowed to graduate or not get a degree? If they do not want to give degrees to those who are not like minded, then they should start asking every applicant whether they are gay, or pro-choice, etc. and if it doesn't follow the Catholic Church, then don't admit them or let them graduate...right? Sounds pretty ludicrous to me.

    April 27, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    Who cares? Seriously...she allowed to have her opinion, but the rest of us are allowed to recognize it's irrelevant. So I ask again, who really cares?

    Next up, Catholics calling for Notre Dame to expel any student found to be gay "and anyone who supports them."

    April 27, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  13. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    It's amazing that a Harvard Law professor, presumably an intelligent woman, could be so far gone into superstition.

    Religion is a left-over from ages before humanity understood much of the world around them, or even realized that such understanding could be had by sufficiently subtle investigation. It survives today principally as a collection of divisive prejudices continuing a millennial tradition of cruelty and injustice.

    April 27, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  14. karen

    I'm not sure how this women is so distinguished. She's obviously incapable of looking at the big picture, consistency of thought and reason.
    Death Penalty = Bush
    War = Bush
    Ummmm.....So I guess she gets to decided what life is innocent and what life isn't????? Because the Catholic Church does not support the death penalty and hopefully they don't support war either. Why are "Pro-Lifers" (if you can call them that) so hypocritical?

    April 27, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  15. Mike, Youngstown

    Does anyone really care what Mary Ann Glendon thinks?

    April 27, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  16. Robert, Houston, TX

    The Bible also warns against casting stones (i.e. not judging others). I guess she and the other protestors need to drop out of Harvard, lest they look like a bunch of hypocrites.

    April 27, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  17. Shadysider

    Proof that the Republican Party has politicized religion.

    April 27, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  18. ron

    hmmmm, I wonder if this is political. Maybe she is just mad because Obama had better marks.

    April 27, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  19. Charles W. Skinner

    Applause for Prof. Glendon. Kudos for standing up on principles and refusing to be used as a token Conservative to "balance" Pres. Obama getting an honorary degree that he doesn't deserve.

    April 27, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  20. ron

    Don't give her the award, who cares.

    April 27, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  21. Drew

    What a joke. Catholic or not, contrasting views or not, this man is the President of the United States. Just because he has different views does not make him an 'opponent.' This is why separation of church and state is a good thing. Last time society mixed the two, people burned at the stake. If you want to live where Catholicism has any more say then polite suggestions, go live at the Vatican.

    April 27, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  22. matt

    I am going to being this post by saying that I consider myself a conservative and a Catholic, although I do not necessarily agree with all of the stances of both entities.

    That being said, I think the calls for people to boycott the commencement, and for the university to rescind the invitation to the President, is absurd. Isn't it a bit hypocritical for the Conference of Bishops to call for not honoring individuals that take fundamental stands opposite the Catholic Church, when Nancy Pelosi was granted an audience with the Pope?

    And that's not even getting into the topic of the Church's dirty laundry with pedophile priests. Let the President deliver the commencement address. It should be a moment that the graduates remember fondly and not something to be politicized.

    April 27, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  23. Had It

    Rather childish on her part. What is it she doesn't like about having differing opinions? Is she a republican?

    April 27, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  24. gt

    amen !!!

    April 27, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  25. WhoCares?

    Nothing defines inflexibility and intolerence more that the religious.

    April 27, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
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