I couldn't have told you anything about Mary Ann Glenon before turning to Wikipedia, except for this: the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican has both principles and courage. The University of Notre Dame, which has apparently forgotten that it is a Catholic University, is planning to bestow an honorary degree upon President Obama, who will be giving the commencement address. Glenon, who had been scheduled to receive the University's Laetare Medal at the same time, demurred. To deflect speculation, her letter of refusal was released to the press and published in First Things. (Hat tip to Patrick Deneen.)
[I am] dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” and that such persons “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution’s freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it.
When Notre Dame suggested that her acceptance speech might be good for the President to hear, she correctly reminded the university that graduation is a time for honoring the students, not for political debate.
Brava! I am not a Catholic—but courage is courage, and someone needed to remind Notre Dame that being Catholic isn't only about praying for your football team to win.
A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It 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—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.