Monday, April 27, 2009

l'affair Notre Dame redux

Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon announced this morning that she is declining the award of Notre Dame's highest honor, the Laetare medal. She did so by making public a letter she wrote to university president, Fr. John Jenkins, C.S.C. In light of a trend UND seems to have set, with the announcements over the weekend that Xavier University, a Catholic school in New Orleans, has invited Donna Brazile and that St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia has invited Chris Matthews, both pro-choice Catholics, to give commencement addresses and to be honored, Ambassador Glendon's decision strikes me as the right one.

Bishop D'Arcy has confirmed in recent days the concern I expressed at the beginning, namely that UND never consulted him about the decision to invite and honor Pres. Obama, nor did they inform him before the public announcement that they had made these decisions. However, they did consult presidents of other Catholic universities and, oddly enough, other bishops. In my humble opinion, this shows a troubling disregard for the communion of the church, both local and universal. In her letter, Ambassador Glendon calmly, succinctly, and eloquently explains her reasoning in refusing this very high honor. I think it bears mentioning that by unwittingly dragging Ambassador Glendon into this controversy, Notre Dame demonstrated a distinct lack of charity toward her.


  1. They certainly put Glendon in a bad position, and she is right to refuse to participate in the politicization of this graduation. It's a sad story. I'm not sure the principals thought this through. As some have pointed out, it became a watershed issue after much frustration.

  2. I agree, Sharon. This reflects very poorly on Notre Dame's administration. A bad process is bound to lead to a poor decision.

  3. I can't help but think that Fr. Jenkins asked other college presidents - but not Bishop D'Arcy - for the same reason a child will ask an older sibling, but not a parent, for permission to (break curfew, take the car keys, fill in the blank). He knew what the bishop's answer would be and didn't want to hear it.

    I'm very impressed that Ambassador Glendon turned down the Laetare - regardless of circumstances, that had to sting at least a little. Whether Notre Dame planned beforehand to triangulate her appearance against President Obama's, or was taken by surprise at the outcry and came up with the idea post hoc, she was being used very disrespectfully.

  4. That is a fair enough assessment, especially given that all Bp D'Arcy was asking them to do was to adhere to the guidelines agreed upon by the U.S. bishops in 2004.

    You are also spot on by identifying this as a triangulation strategy, a strategy in which they sought to use the use the leading lady of U.S. Catholicism as a pawn.

  5. I say: Bravo, Ms.Glendon. Thank you for standing up for your Church and your principles. Maybe Notre Dame is finally getting the message? Let's hope.

    If the letter that is being circulated is accurate, it is well-written.