Though we've looked at a bit of the coverage related to Notre Dame University's conferral of an honorary degree and speaking slot for President Barack Obama, there's a lot that we haven't highlighted. Mostly that's because the stories are fairly straightforward or just local repetitions of previous stories. The Washington Times reported that, as of Friday, 46 bishops had publicly castigated Notre Dame:
The invitation, which was announced March 20, has roiled America's Catholics: apart from the unprecedented episcopal criticism, more than 330,000 people have signed an online petition asking the historic Catholic institution to rescind the invitation that would give a pro-choice president a coveted platform in a Catholic setting.
"If Notre Dame were hosting the president as a participant in a dialogue that included a full presentation of the Church's position regarding the primacy of life, then the university's action would be more understandable," [Arlington Bishop Paul] Loverde said in a statement made public Thursday.
One of the means by which Notre Dame University has tried to tamp down unrest is by highlighting the honor given to Mary Ann Glendon, one of the most high-profile Roman Catholic women in America. She is the Learned Hand professor of Law at Harvard University and was, until January of this year, the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican. She was to receive the school's Laetare Medal in recognition of outstanding service to the church and society. When donors, alumni and concerned Catholics complained to the university about honoring President Obama in light of his record on sanctity of human life issues, employees were given talking points, which included:
"President Obama won't be doing all the talking. Mary Ann Glendon, the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, will be speaking as the recipient of the Laetare Medal."
"We think having the president come to Notre Dame, see our graduates, meet our leaders, and hear a talk from Mary Ann Glendon is a good thing for the president and for the causes we care about."
Glendon, who supports the Catholic Church's teaching about the sanctity of human life, announced today -- on First Things -- that she can not in good conscience receive the award.
This is, needless to say, a pretty big deal. The Associated Press covered the story and did a great job of presenting the information. Sometimes it's difficult to explain the theological concept of scandal in a secular world. The reporter basically permitted her to explain her reasoning with her own words -- a good method for difficult concepts:
Mary Ann Glendon, an anti-abortion scholar and Harvard University law professor, wrote in a letter Monday to the Rev. John Jenkins, the university president, that giving Obama an honorary degree violates the U.S. bishops' 2004 statement that Roman Catholic institutions shouldn't honor people whose actions conflict with the church’s moral principles.
"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," she wrote in a letter to Jenkins posted on the Web site of the conservative journal First Things.
The story goes on to say that the school plans to give the award to someone else -- a storyline which will be interesting to follow. The story also explains the medal and a bit of history about who has received it. It might still be nice to see a better discussion of why it's such a big issue that Obama is being honored at Notre Dame (and I'm going to look at a story or two on that in the next day) but the AP did a good job of getting the story out there in short order.
I also have to note this write-up from MSNBC's First Read in a story headlined "ABORTION FOE DECLINES NOTRE DAME AWARD" (which is a pretty interesting way to reduce the life's work of an accomplished woman):
The Laetare medal (pronounced Lay-tah-ray) was established in 1883, and is considered one of the oldest and prestigious awards that can be given to an American Catholic. It's given out annually at the University of Notre Dame commencement ceremony. Previous recipients include President John F. Kennedy, Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day, and fictional American president Martin Sheen, who received the award last year.
Inexplicable emphasis theirs. Anyway, it's not a religious issue but Martin Sheen is not a fictional character. And fictional characters don't usually receive awards.
UPDATE: Oh wow. That last excerpt is actually an improvement over what MSNBC had originally written. I almost can't believe this. But when the story was originally sent to me this morning, this is how it read:
The Laetare medal (pronounced Lay-tah-ray) was established in 1883, and is considered one of the oldest and prestigious awards that can be given to an American Catholic. It’s given out annually at the University of Notre Dame commencement ceremony. Previous recipients include President John F. Kennedy, Catholic Worker founder Doris Day, and fictional American president Martin Sheen, who received the award last year.
Catholic Worker founder Doris Day? You have to be kidding me! At least the crack team at MSNBC's First Read fixed that egregious error. That is hilarious and awful.