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. WHO and CDC rename Swine Flu as Republican Party Flu

    More blood has been shed and more loss of life attributed to religious differences than any other cause in history. When will these extremists ever learn about respecting and tolerating difference?

    April 27, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  2. Bill in Austin

    Proof again that the GOP is a one issue party to many of their followers.

    April 27, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  3. Perry is anti-American

    Harvard doesn't look too smart for employing a professor who believe the world is flat!

    April 27, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  4. Brina

    President Obama, maybe you should ONLY speak at Black Colleges.........

    April 27, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  5. shawn w

    I would could agree w/ her decision if the award was soley based on religious principles. Its obvious that is based on service and achievements. Seems like a personal or political orientation issue. She is sending a message. She'll probably still accept the award just not at the ceremony.

    April 27, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  6. jm for sc

    This is so foolish. President Obama is not the only president who are pro-choice. Actually, he is not as pro-choice as some of the others we had in the past. I have never heard the excuse of pro-life being used this much. I think it is a cover for discrimination.

    People need to realize that Obama is a lawyer who knows the law. Abortion is legal and was before his adminstration and will be long after.

    I wonder if she cancels all engagements if there is someone who does not agree with her position on issues.

    April 27, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  7. Mari( maybe one of my comments will be posted)

    Mary Ann Glendon, it is your loss. Too bad, people are so closed minded.

    However, the far-right will condemn Obama on abortion, but WILL support Bush even though he invaded a country that had done nothing to us......... Iraq, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians, our own Troops, displacing millions of Iraqis!

    Its hypocritical of the far-right to be for the baby in the womb, but not for human beings, in general!

    April 27, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  8. Ron

    Well, there you have it. Why honor a man who has accomplished what only a few men in the history of our country have achieved? I wonder what her position is on the grown men (priests and bishops) who sexually assault young boys?? That's probably OK by her since the church choses to protect those who do the crime. Hmmm. We can forgive the shepherds, but judge the sheep.

    April 27, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  9. Florida Dude

    There's always some hack trying to make a photo op for something silly. This is about education, not abortion. Get over yourselve and the Cathlic Church has nothing to do with Obama Educational causes.

    April 27, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  10. Professor

    Good for Professor Glendon! I respect her.

    April 27, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  11. Jan

    I am finding our conservative right to be every bit as radical as the Islamic radicals. It frightens me to think that we would request a University to deny an honorary degree be given to a Harvard graduated with a Juris Doctorate based on a philosophic difference with the Catholic Church. Is this the days of Kings in Europe? Freedom of religion is what we founded this nation on!! I don't want Conservatives or Extremist telling me what to believe. This Right Winged tendency seems to forget that our Constitution seprates Church and State for a very good reason. Obama is brilliant, whether you agree with his politics or not.

    April 27, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  12. Karol

    With "great sadness", I say that seccession is not a bad idea for these people. Obviously, they can't work with anyone who disagrees with their point of view.

    Good for Notre Dame for not backing down.

    April 27, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  13. jp

    Well done Ms. Glendon!

    April 27, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  14. Mary

    I am very proud of MaryAnn Glendon for standing with God and his commandments against people( Obama ) who are muslum and for abortion. God will judge the university for it's choices. I always thought the catholics were not true believers, but followed where the money was.

    April 27, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  15. ME

    Get over it....accept your award and keep it moving! No one will remember you for NOT accepting your award. She will regret that decision. Her peers will explain to her later that that was a bonehead move! 🙂

    April 27, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  16. Bret Larson

    People have a hard time understanding these sorts of decsions by religous people.

    She actually belives that abortions are bad, bad for the fetus, bad for the mother and bad for society.

    And the answer is not, make it easier to get an abortion. The answer is to make an get abortion not the answer.

    Whereas fromt he politicians point of view, its just a decision that garners votes one way or the other.

    I fully support her position. Its good to know there are people who stand up for those who have no voice.

    April 27, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  17. The Gipper

    Maybe they can get Rick Warrne?

    April 27, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  18. Lillie


    April 27, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  19. big papa

    I'll bet Mary Ann Glendon wouldn't have a problem being on the same stage with fellow conservative Goerge W. Bush...

    ...and she's supposed to be pro-life?

    ...what a joke...

    ...Academia should give her her walking papers for being such a closed-minded hypocrite!

    ...I'll bet she's all for torture, and keeping America safe through preemptive war against sovereign nations that pose no viable threat to us...

    ...Conservatives are morally, spiritually, and intellectually bankrupt...

    ...and should NOT be allowed by the American voters to reorganize under some kind of political and ideological Chapter 11...

    ...I'm glad Mary Ann Glendon won't be on the same dais with our President...

    ...she's not fit to shine his shoes...

    April 27, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  20. WKD

    Doesn't say much for her. What a shame to have a mentality of "if you don't agree with me, I'm not going to show up." Ironic that this only seems to be a problem with this particular president. What else is going on here?

    April 27, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  21. Independent Voter

    you go girl!!

    God Bless President Obama, VP Biden, the First Families and "Bo"

    April 27, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  22. President George Hussien Washington

    but you'd attend if the President was one that was "Pro-life" yet started an unjust war and killed thousand's of babies ah just so long that they're brown, and orenge and in far away places, they're not considered kids

    April 27, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  23. John from California

    Well good for Professor Glendon, she should sit at home and sulk about the country not accepting her point of view on all matters of principle.

    Professor Glendon can probably get an invite on the Rush Limbaugh show where she can demonstrate her intellect with one of her ilk.

    April 27, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  24. IndyVoter

    I'd like to follow Professor Glendon around for two weeks without her knowledge and with a hidden camera. I promise you she wouldn't have anything to say about "moral consciousness" after what we'd likely see on camera. Plllease. If Jesus acted like that, he would never had eaten with or spent time with the publicans or the harlots, the very people who needed to hear his view and hear what he had to say. The Bible speaks against pharisidic elitism and moral grandstanding, where people go around saying, "I'm glad that I am moral and not like those others". Has anyone tried to just sit down with the President and share their testimony or their personal faith instead of throwing stones all the time? ((crickets, crickets)) Right. Exactly what I thought. And when someone does try to foster a positive relationship that could lead them to be able to speak into their lives (like Pastor Rick Warren) they get, well...crucified.

    April 27, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  25. Malcolm in St Louis

    I am sure she attended events honoring Bishops who tolerated pedophile priests in their diceses, at the expense of the children that were harmed.

    What hypocrisy.

    April 27, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
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