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. Deborah

    Harvard Law School professor Mary Ann Glendon

    Is a HERO! Thank You!

    We have to keep standing up for our VALUES!

    Enemy of the State-and Proud of it!

    April 27, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  2. Steph

    I applaud Notre Dame for standing firm amidst all of this extremist craziness.

    April 27, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  3. Cerena

    Good riddance to your hypocritical butt....I've always heard the bigger the Christian or "goodie goodie" the BIGGER THE FREAK!!

    April 27, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  4. Karen

    Bravo, Professor Glendon for standing up for what you believe in! You will of course be chewed out by the press and your colleagues in academa.

    April 27, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  5. thetruth

    I saw the headline for this story on my google news page and immediately thought, please dont let this be a discussion topic on CNN's ticker. And voila here we are. This story has been in the news cycle for weeks now and it has been discussed to death already. I mean who really cares if she backs out of attending the ceremony or accepting the award. There are, obviously, catholics who dont agree with pres. Obama's stance and are still going to attend the ceremony and there are those who will not. Cant we just leave it there? I mean who really cares if this lady accepts the award or not? Does her decision add anything new to the debate that hasnt already been said? These stories appeal to our emotions to react like pavlovian dogs, which often leads to distraction from the critical issues of the day. It also represents the same kind of un-objective thinking that got us involved in the Iraq War!

    April 27, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  6. Moderate Democrat

    Pro life conservative? It's impossible. They believe in capital punishment and killing innocent civilians in illegal wars.

    Hey, I have an idea, lets make a deal.

    We'll call capital punishment and deaths of innocent people in wars 'late term abortions' if you call abortions "proactive capital punishment".

    Works for me!

    April 27, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  7. gypsyz

    Intolerance from a conservative pro-lifer? I am shocked.

    April 27, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  8. Greg in Minnesota

    Fundamental principles of justice? what a loon

    April 27, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  9. Mika

    Bravo Professor Glendon! Thank you for standing up to your beliefs and principles. I hope more people would do the same. God Bless!

    April 27, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  10. Irene Adler

    To all you sanctimonious Catholics out there I would just ask, "What would Jesus do?" God loves us all whether we all believe the same thing or not. It is short-sighted, narrow minded and all those other cliches for intolerance, for Catholics to object to the University of Notre Dame's invitation to President Obama. My neighbor and I do not agree about the death penalty or gun control yet we learn new things from each other every week; we have lived next door to each other harmoniously for more than 30 years. I have not changed my mind and neither has he. President Obama is the president of the whole United States and the United States is part of the whole world. We all have different beliefs and ways of life and the only way we will learn from each other is to listen to each other. I urge the University of Notre Dame to welcome President Obama and to not listen to the narrow-minded and intolerant.

    April 27, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  11. sensi johnson

    I will ask the question again! Where were these people when the priests were molesting little boys? Where was their catholic values? has Obama carried out any abortion in his own life or that of his family? This is utterly non-sense and a cover up of racial discrimination on the part of the individuals. As a professor at Havard, I suppose you must have heard that he graduated from that institution and I am wondering if you will have a change of heart against teaching there also. Please please please you so-called catholics, please remember that the God we serve do not discriminate. My 2cents.

    April 27, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  12. Tim

    I think you guys have a wonderful president. Why is there so much hate going on?

    April 27, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  13. Ken from missouri

    It's a free country and we can do what we want to do but this lady really
    shows us how stupid a citizen of this country can be.

    April 27, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  14. Trey

    What a paradoxically self-righteous move on her part. Might I ask if anyone ever turned down an honor at a university because the school invited our warmongering former president to share at a commencement ceremony? None that I can recall, despite the Biblical command, "Thou shalt not kill." Wherein is the difference between abortion and war, especially in the case of unjustifiable war? Is war somehow more honorable or righteous than abortion? No, they are both abominations of humanity, but why the overattention to this woman who remains silent in the face of the thousands we've destroyed in the Middle East, but speaks up on an issue that is no more brutal? If we choose righteousness, let's choose it on all grounds, not just the ones that are politically or religiously expedient. If one wanted to speak out in behalf of all Biblical principals, there would be no government official who could elude admonishion, no political figure to speak at commencement ceremonies, and no self-righteous Catholic to turn down honors from Notre Dame in response.

    April 27, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  15. Biased

    Unfortunately you will find yourself ridiculed for this decision but congratulations on being strong on your own principles.

    April 27, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  16. Mississippi Mike

    I'm glad that people are sticking to their principles. The constant attacks on conservatives will cause them to stick together even more, that's not good news for liberals who've been trying to tear apart the conservative movement since its inception.

    April 27, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  17. Gene

    Wow.... I feel like I can just leave the same comment on every post today.. once again the religious right getting in the way.. amazing.

    April 27, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  18. LETS FACE IT....

    Of course Mary Ann Glendon. That is your right! You turn down just what ever you want to turn down BUT leave President Obama out of it because of HIS beliefs.

    YOU are an arregant air head to say the least and probably very undeserving of such an honor anyway. You are one of those people who try to force your belief of anything onto those who have other ideas of how life should be delt with. It's YOUR way no matter what.

    Well, I'm sure no one will miss you at that commencement. I know I won't! You need to get over yourself and realize the rest of the world has a mind of it's own too and could care less if or if not you are along for our ride through life...


    April 27, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  19. KMAN

    So, how does the self-righteous Mary Ann glendon feel about her Catholic Bishops performing sodomy on children in their charge?

    April 27, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  20. Free at Last

    Just like conservatives....when attempts to squelch opinions that don't mirror Rush Limbaugh's...they pull out of the game.....how's that for honest dialogue....

    April 27, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  21. Zac, Atlanta

    What makes this slightly ironic is that according to a recent gallup poll, Catholics are even more liberal than the general population when it comes to abortion, birth control, and gay marriage.

    April 27, 2009 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  22. Glenn, Cary, NC

    The Catholic Church has a 1500 year-long history of being dead wrong on some of the most important questions and issues of the ages. When someone like Glendon pretends to this kind of absolute knowledge and judgment, whether on behalf of the church or just herself, the proper response is, "so what"? When an institution like the Catholic Church loses all sense of proportion and humility and identifies itself not WITH a position or policy but AS a position or policy, it makes it awfully easy to think of it as a mind-control cult instead of a mystical manifestation of the principles of life. Those who do not respect differences or dissent are invariably intellectual cowards.

    I wonder how many people were planning to come to the Notre Dame Commencement ceremonies hoping to get a glimpse of Professor Glendon. I’m guessing none.

    April 27, 2009 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  23. Lauren

    Why do we need to know how this woman feels? Who is she anyway, other than someone who is trying to politicize something?

    April 27, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  24. Korey - TN

    Although Ms. Glendon reserves the right to refuse to attend the ceremony and accept the medal, her actions, unfortunately, demonstrates a significant degree of immaturity. Additionally, her statement of the university using her to "balance President Obama's appearance" further indicates she is a bit conceited. What message are you intending to send to your students, Ms. Glendon? Please share when you have decided to climb down from your pedestal.

    April 27, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  25. Brad

    An obsure ex-ambassador from a place that is not even a country declining an award? Who knew who this person was before this story was published? Who cares?

    All of this brouhaha about President Obama's commencement speech at Notre Dame is an orchestrated campaign by the political right. This isn't coming from the students and faculty at Notre Dame.

    April 27, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
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