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. Heck no

    wait...i though ivy league institutions only give liberal points of view.
    This is crazy. How am i supposed to igore smart people if I can't assume they all have liberal bias?

    April 27, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  2. sandy

    So, let her stay home.

    April 27, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  3. mw

    Dumb decision. Lots of book smarts though. Big deal. So stay away. I won't notice. Won't change my life. Life will go on after your drama is long ended.

    April 27, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  4. Lisa P

    She must not be a very good law professor if she can't figure out that as a non-Catholic Obama is not bound by Catholic religious decrees. Nor am I, nor should any non-Catholic resident of the United States be. Furthermore, the power of the State should not be used to promulgate or enforce religious dogma no matter what the Head of State, or anyone else, believes. Constitutional Law 101. Perhaps she needs a refresher course?

    April 27, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  5. Ron

    Ms Glendon....well Someone has integrity. Not Notre Dame or President Obama.

    April 27, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  6. Audean

    The best thing for her to do is stay away. I am sure her presence will not be missed. If she doesn't want to accept the award, she doesn't have to. The President is going to be invited to deliver many commencement addresses during and after his term of office is over.

    April 27, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  7. michael harris

    How narrow minded can one get???? Let it be, President Obama is only giving a commencement addresss and will not be changing the world in that afternoon. Lighten up!

    April 27, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  8. John

    A conservative Harvard professor? That can't be true.

    Aren't Republicans always wailing that northeastern universities are full of America-hating, hyper-liberal, atheist professors?

    April 27, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  9. John in Ohio

    Seriously people, he has a real degree. Why the outrage over the pretend ones? They're honoring the president. Deal with it.

    April 27, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  10. john l.a.

    She has some spiritual issues. I'm Catholic, I don't agree with
    100% of the churches principles, but agree with the school
    you can honor any person that shows exemplinary accomplishments
    such as President Obama.

    Her loss, maybe another college will extend her an invitation, however, she would be wise to accept next time, a pattern develops and no one wants to be associated with a person that continuously rejects offers.

    April 27, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  11. Linda from Minnesota

    How narrow and closed minded of her. Another instance of the right wing conservative Christians who don't even want to hear another person's point of view. Her loss, not theirs.

    April 27, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  12. BMDPD

    Tough Decision, but good for her. I am glad to see people standing up for their values, beliefs and FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST!

    April 27, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  13. Brad

    "I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree"

    Just... read that sentence... He's the flippin' president. Of course he can be awarded an honorary degree.

    Grow the heck up.

    April 27, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  14. ABE

    Who cares what she says. It does not mean anything to me.

    April 27, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  15. Tim

    What is it about extremists and their inability to see nuance? The man is receiving an honorary degree in connection with the commencement speech. the degree is not a celebration of his positions with which Notre Dame disagrees. Making an issue out of this is like raising a stink when your pro-death penalty neighbor participates in a Knights of Columbus bake sale.

    April 27, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  16. florida indep

    If it isn't one religious nut job, its another. Hey wake up guys, since when is our chief elected official only to be a boot-lick of fundalmentalists of Catholic or Protestant groups. Isn't he supposed to repersent a broader view?

    April 27, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  17. Dee from Rochester, NY

    As the US Ambassador to the Vatican and also as a "longtime consultant" to the US Council of Catholic Bishops, Glendon HAD to decline Notre Dame's invitation. Plus she has been feted over the years and won't miss this recent honorific. I am disappointed since allthis is in light of the PResident's speaking at Notre Dame. Neither he nor any one of us is soone-dimensional that if we are not for abortion, we have everything else in line with what the Church wants us to be. Too bad.

    April 27, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  18. Country Boy

    Hooray, somebody who is willing to stand on principle. Whether or not we agree with that principle pales next to the fact that there is a huge need for people who do not think this guy is a Messiah to be adored and unchallenged.

    April 27, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  19. Susan

    ridiculous. I can only imagine that Harvard is embarrassed by this woman

    April 27, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  20. JDF

    So what she's saying, is that she has a problem with the American Constitution.

    April 27, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  21. RMD

    President Obama does not advocate for abortion, he stands by the constitutional right to choose what ever is best for a woman. Why is it so hard for you people to just accept that it's not your right to tell me what I can and can't to to my own body. Just because abortion is legal doesn't mean that you have to have one...which is precisly why it is a choice. I would urge the Pro-Lifers, who are primarily republicans, to get your agenda straight and stop being so hypocritical. One minute you are crying because you don't want the government to get involved and the next minute you want to pass a law that would allow the government to dictate what a woman can do with her own body. Stop being so tyranical and just be content with your own beliefs...if leading the religious life is so fulfilling, why do you become so enraged by what others who think differently than you? Get a grip, your behaviors are totally irrational and your beliefs are contrary to America's spirit...The home of the free, not the home of the religious dictators.

    April 27, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  22. Bill in California

    THERE IS HOPE! With the liberal left taking it's TURN at bat I was concerned that mass saturation by the O media machine had turned every one's brains to mush. Congratulations to Professor Glendon for walking the talk.

    April 27, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  23. zago

    No matter how well trained they are. Once they are ideologically blind. They are any better than the foolish fool as their idiocy gets exhibited. This is the greatest sign of incompetence and ignorance: I cannot be in a room with someone with whom I disagree on a matter. Everyone should see eye to eye with me in everything. This is my world, and therefore, this is the world. Imbecility, cretinist, divisiveness, intolerance, jealousy are few amongst the ocean of words that describe that lady's arrogance

    April 27, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  24. Dan, TX

    Notre Dame is an institution of higher education. Why in the world wouldn't any institution not want their students to meet with the President of the United States? I don't think Obama is going there to promote abortion.

    Every Biology course at Notre Dame teaches Darwin's evolution as the scientific explanation for the origin of man on the Earth. Does Ms. Glendon have a problem with that?

    Someone needs to explain good manners to Ms. Glendon.

    April 27, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  25. robert l gray

    their is always apersons who will disagree with any thing said or done byreligious groupsgood or bad best hingis to disreguardthse people give them no newstime

    April 27, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
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