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Glendon's Critics Are Wrong on Notre Dame Medal

5 years ago
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Harvard Law's Mary Ann Glendon, former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican under President Bush, announced earlier this week that she would decline the University of Notre Dame's prestigious Laetare Medal over the school's decision to honor President Barack Obama, who supports abortion rights, at its commencement ceremony next month. Today PoliticsDaily.com contributor Elizabeth Lev weighs in on the controversy:

I read with some perplexity this PoliticsDaily.com blog post on Professor Glendon's decision to refuse the Laetare award, as it seemed to present a very superficial reading of the situation.

The Laetare Medal is the highest honor conferred on Catholics in the United States. For a Catholic, it has greater prestige than a Nobel Prize for a scientist or an Academy Award for an actor, as the award is given for career-long achievement, for "staying the course" in the words of St. Paul. It doesn't just showcase a single discovery or film role.

To renounce it, therefore, is not the lightest of matters. Professor Glendon has spent a month thinking, consulting, and given her deep faith, praying about this decision. (This, for those of you who don't know, means asking God to help one put aside one's own personal concerns and act in the way that will produce the greatest good). (Kaitlynn) Riely's dismissive "thanks, no thanks" rendering of her decision, while pithy, is reductive.

Professor Glendon was to have been honored for not only for her scholarship, but for her second career, her pro-bono work -- ranging from the civil rights movement of the 1960s to the great civil rights issues of the present day -- namely, the defense of human life from conception to natural death. Her concerns range from the aging and dying population to the unborn to the well-being and dignity of every life, regardless of race, religion, or economic status. Her outstanding work in this field has earned her the respect of the most brilliant minds of the international community, regardless of whether they agree with her position. So again, to see her merely as "strongly anti-abortion" instead of as a tireless defender of the dignity of life, is to reveal not only a lack of understanding of the subject's work, but also the writer's real interest in this question.

Furthermore, during his first 100 days in office, President Obama has worked tirelessly to undermine Professor Glendon's lifetime of work; he is funding abortion out of the bailout package and planning to suppress the protection of conscience for health care workers.

Your notion that her "training in diplomacy" might somehow ease this situation does not take into account that she has a five-minute acceptance speech and he will have a lengthy commencement speech. There is no "engaging" here. Diplomacy generally teaches that if you have a rapier and your opponent has a missile launcher, try not to engage.

That Professor Glendon "did not like that Notre Dame was claiming her speech would serve to balance the event" is again facile and simplistic. What is there to like in being the deflector screen for inviting a profoundly divisive figure to give the commencement speech? What is likeable about a Catholic University named for the most important woman in Christianity exploiting a woman who has already dedicated her life to protecting the Church's teaching by turning her into a warm-up act for a grotesque twist on a reality show?

Finally, after 50 Catholic bishops condemned the university for its direct defiance in honoring a man in open conflict with the Church's teaching, it is right that Professor Glendon let her silence speak louder than her five-minute allotment of words would have.
Readers might be wondering how I know all this. Well, for one I am her daughter, but more to the point, I read her letter with the careful consideration it deserves.
Filed Under: Religion

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