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. RB, Sonoma County, CA

    This is great news. The less these prehistoric thinkers have access to public forums, the sooner their theocratic viewpoints will disappear from our public discourse.

    April 27, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  2. eleanor fitzgerald

    The single issue so-called Catholics like Ms. Glendon make me sick! It seems to be o.k. with them for tens of thousands of innocent people of all ages to be killed in the wars we involve ourselves with. They seem to lose very little sleep over what happens to millions of babies born into poverty. She should get an award for narrow focus!

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

    I sure if it was bush Ms Glendon wouldn't turn it down. Just ask her.

    April 27, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  4. Obama Victim

    well finally, someone does the right thing.............Congrats

    April 27, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  5. Catholic for Obama

    The partisan hypocrisy on the part of the Church is overwhelming.

    April 27, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  6. DT

    Another person who mad Mccain got slaughtered at the polls...who cares?

    April 27, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  7. Jennifer NY

    She should be ashamed. President Obama is a Harvard graduate, President of the United States of ALL the people. We, the public, are getting tired of these right-to-lifers who can't handle the truth – and the truth is that abortion MUST be kept legal, otherwise the back-street abortionists will be back in business. Keeping it legal, keeps women safe and protects their health. No one should judge another unless they walk a mile in their moccasins.

    April 27, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  8. HFT in Texas

    Oh Well!!!!!!!

    April 27, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  9. L LeSane

    The University of Notre Dame recognizes we are adiverse Nation of
    Beliefs and Opinions which is our right as Americans. I do not believe President Obama is being asked because of his beliefs or opinions but because of wo he is. However, Ms Clendons exercises her right and her action shows we still are a very divided country.

    April 27, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  10. LIP

    Right on Professor Glendon. Stand your ground and practice what you preach.

    April 27, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  11. The Dude

    Where was all of this righteous indignation when the Catholic Church was protecting pedophiles from prosecution?

    April 27, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  12. Ricky C Williams

    wOW !!! those type of people are the ones to be scared of since they can be compromised with...but some how she doesnt get it

    April 27, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  13. Pete

    I'm curious about something. Many, many pro-death penalty Republicans have spoken at Catholic Universities (including Notre Dame). The Catholic Church has an official position condemning the use of the death penalty in ALL cases. Yet, all these hand-wringing would-be Catholics stayed remarkably silent when Catholic universities let those people speak.

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

    Mary Ann Glendon needs to sit down somewhere and shut up. If you ain't part of the solution you are part of the problem.

    April 27, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  15. Luigi

    I am glad that someone can stick to their principles. I know it must have been a very hard decision.

    April 27, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  16. Kenyan Wonder Kid

    Note that at the event in which the captioned picture was taken, all religious symbols and icons were covered at the request of the administration. These requests are not made for similar events at mosques...hmmm. Hurray for Professor Glendon for standing up for her principles.

    April 27, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  17. pam Eugene OR

    I really don't think he will be talking about abortion to the graduates. They should be honored to have our President at the event. He is a very busy man. People need to look beyond single issue politics.

    April 27, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  18. totally neutral

    Notre Dame? Is that a University? I thought it was a football team.

    April 27, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  19. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Don't know who she is, don't care to know who she is and don't care that she won't be in attendance, the ceremony will go on. So good luck and good riddance.

    April 27, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  20. Maggie

    Oh good grief. It's not like they invited someone objectionable like Bush, Cheney, Newt, Palin, Rove, Rice or that bunch. They invited Obama, someone with integrity.

    April 27, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  21. SY

    Good, let her be sad. If she wants to continue to be subserviant to and dominated by the mens' club that's her choice. Ms. self-righteous, goody two shoes doesn't deserve to be on the same stage as the President. How disgustingly narrowminded.

    April 27, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  22. We Love You President Obama

    This does not surprise me. Why is this such a big deal when other Presidents have been honored in this same way? This wound is much deeper than what this professor would admit, but my opinion is this lady hurt herself because President Obama has not done anything to her or this school. We all know he works very hard and it is really sad the only way a person can express themselves thru hatred because we all know thats what this behavior is then they make new excuses. President Obama continue your good work and donot let people of this caliber steal your joy. May God Bless You!

    April 27, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  23. jaye

    Who cares what Glendon says or does..... not me.

    April 27, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  24. Michelle, St. Louis, MO

    I am so sick of these hypocrital so called "pro-life" conservatives. They didn't have a problem with Bush who is "pro-life" but yet he's for the death penalty. HYPOCRITS.

    April 27, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  25. LIZ4

    Politics is in everything, especially the Catholic church. We ALL have choices in life and that is what makes us so different . God created us all to be imperfect. This is how we learn. Some people have a real problem with change and to me those people are trapped and are stunning their growth. President Obama is not attending the graduation ceremony to give a speech on politics. It's a shame that the University is playing politics with the church.

    April 27, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
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