Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I guess I have to say something about this

Mary Ann Glendon did not refuse the Laetare medal because the president would speak at the Notre Dame graduation. She also did not refuse the honor because the president would receive an award at Notre Dame. She told Fr. Jenkins that she was refusing the Laetare medal for one reason, and one reason only:

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.”
This was the reason she decided to refuse the Laetare medal -- because she felt (rightly so) that she was being used as a political poker chip. This was the deal breaker.

Before she decided to refuse the medal, she was indeed "dismayed" with Notre Dame's decision to give the president an honorary degree: "First, as a longtime consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree."

What Dr. Glendon did not realize at the time of writing her letter, is that Fr. Jenkins had submitted his talking points to his bishop, John D'Arcy, and had already been told that the points were in serious error.

I feel it is disingenuous to suggest that Dr. Glendon refused the award only because of Obama's stance on abortion. It's just not true. If Fr. Jenkins hadn't issued his talking points and publicized them widely, it is most likely that she would have arrived at the Notre Dame commencement and delivered a very interesting speech ("Last month, when you called to tell me that the commencement speech was to be given by President Obama, I mentioned to you that I would have to rewrite my speech."). Boy, I wish I could read that speech! I wonder whether she will release it anyway, following the pope's example in his misadventure with La Sapienza University in Rome. Who will write to her to request it?

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Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."