The Laetare Medal is an annual award given by the University of Notre Dame in recognition of outstanding service to the Roman Catholic Church and society. The award is given to an American Catholic lay person "whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the church and enriched the heritage of humanity." First awarded in 1883, it is the oldest and most prestigious award for American Catholics. The medal is an external award which can be given to a person from outside the University of Notre Dame. It is named the Laetare Medal because the recipient of the award is announced in celebration of Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent. A candidate for the award must be a practicing American Catholic who has made a distinctively Catholic contribution in his professional or intellectual life.
Professor Mary Ann Glendon is an exemplary example of one deserving of the Laetare Medal. Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of Notre Dame University expressed his support of Ms.. Glendon, explaining why she would be Notre Dame's choice in 2009. “Both as a public intellectual and as a diplomat, Mary Ann Glendon has impressively served our Church and our country." Rev. Jenkins went on to say, "[Professor Glendon] is an articulate and compelling expositor of Catholic social teaching who exemplifies our University’s most cherished values and deserves its highest praise.”
Obviously qualified and deserving of the prestigious Laetare Medal, Ms. Glendon was chosen as the 2009 recipient. However, in the finest example of class, dignity and grace, Ms. Glendon has declined to receive such an honor. And with her statement, one can only wonder not whether Ms. Glendon should receive such an honor, but rather whether Notre Dame is qualified any longer to give it.