Monday, April 27, 2009

Why Balance?

Former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, Mary Ann Glendon, who was to be awarded the Laetare Medal, wrote a letter to Father John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame University, declining the honour. She writes that she did this in part for the fact that the university decided to go against the request of the bishops to not honour those whose views are antithetical to the church's beliefs, she doesn't want to see Notre Dame's decision influence other schools, but also to not be used as a pawn to assuage the conscience of those attending. She writes:

Then I learned that “talking points” issued by Notre Dame in response to widespread criticism of its decision included two statements implying that my acceptance speech would somehow balance the event:

• “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.”

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.
Why does an institution whose foundation is based on faith need to "balance" the speakers at the commencement? Shouldn't all the speakers uphold the fundamental values and faith of the school?

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