Mary Ann Glendon

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Mary Ann Glendon. U.S. State Department photo

Mary Ann Glendon (born October 7, 1938 Pittsfield, Massachusetts) J.D., LL.M., is the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and a former United States Ambassador to the Holy See (February 2008 - January 2009). She teaches and writes on bioethics, comparative constitutional law, property, and human rights in international law. She is pro-life and "writes forcefully against the expansion of abortion rights."[1]


President George W. Bush and Laura Bush stand with 2005 National Humanities Medal recipient Mary Ann Glendon.

Glendon received her Bachelor of Arts, Juris Doctor, and Master of Comparative Law from the University of Chicago.[2][3] She served on the 28th volume of University of Chicago Law Review.

Glendon is the author of Rights Talk; A Nation Under Lawyers, and A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1994, she was a signer of Evangelicals and Catholics Together, an ecumenical document aimed at rapprochement between Catholics and Evangelicals. Glendon became the first female President of the Roman Catholic Church's Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, when she was appointed by Pope John Paul II on March 9, 2004 (she was already a member of the academy since January 9, 1994).

In 1995, she was the Vatican representative to the international 1995 Beijing Conference on Women sponsored by the United Nations, where she contested the use of condoms for the prevention of HIV and AIDS. "The Holy See in no way endorses contraception or the use of condoms, either as a family planning measure or in HIV/AIDS prevention programs."[4]

The National Law Journal named her one of the "Fifty Most Influential Women Lawyers in America" in 1998.

Glendon was appointed by President Bush to the President's Council on Bioethics. Her nomination as United States Ambassador to the Holy See was announced on 5 November 2007.[5] The U.S. Senate voted to confirm her on December 19, 2007.[6] She presented her Letters of Credence to Pope Benedict XVI on 29 February 2008, and resigned her office effective January 19, 2009.[7]

On June 26, 2013 Pope Francis issued a chirograph naming Glendon a member of the Pontifical Commission of inquiry for the Institute for Works of Religion.[8] Glendon, two cardinals, a bishop, and a monsignor are responsible for preparing an investigative report on the Vatican Bank.[9][10]


Glendon is a supporter of Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election.[11] She also supported Romney's campaign in the 2008 presidential election.[1]

Glendon writes and serves on the advisory council for First Things, an ecumenical conservative journal that encourages a religiously informed philosophy for the ordering of society.

Laetare Medal Controversy[edit]

Glendon was selected by the University of Notre Dame as the 2009 recipient of the prestigious Laetare Medal but declined the award due to the university's controversial[12] decision to host Barack Obama as its commencement speaker and bestow upon him an honorary degree.[13] In light of Obama's strong pro-choice policies,[14] Glendon considered Notre Dame's decision to be in violation of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' 2004 pronouncement that Catholic institutions should not give "awards, honors, or platforms" to "those who act in defiance of [Catholic] fundamental moral principles."[15] Glendon also felt that the university was implicitly trying to use her acceptance speech to give the appearance of balance to the event and expressed concern about the "ripple effect" Notre Dame's disregard of the USCCB pronouncement is having on the nation's other Catholic schools.[15]

She later received an award from the National Right to Life Committee at its Pro-Life Awards Dinner in October.[16]

Mary McAleese Controversy[edit]

In October 2012 the former Irish President (and Catholic) Mary McAleese revealed that, on a state visit to the US in 1998, she was publically berated by Cardinal Bernard Law for her stance on the ordination of women. During a heated argument with McAleese and members of her delegation, the cardinal attempted to force her into a room to listen to a lecture by Mary Ann Glendon on the church's views on women priests. McAleese rebuked him with the statement "I was the President of Ireland and not just of Catholic Ireland." [17]


"What is clearly 'old-fashioned' today is the old feminism of the 1970s — with its negative attitudes toward men, marriage and motherhood, and its rigid party line on abortion."[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Bazelon, Emily (2007-11-26) On the Advice of Counsel,
  2. ^
  3. ^ Mary Ann Glendon, Rights in twentieth-century constitutions, The University of Chicago Law Review 519 (1992).
  4. ^ "Holy See's Final Statement at Women's Conference in Beijing"
  5. ^ Associated Press (2007-11-05). "Bush picks anti-abortion Harvard professor to be Vatican ambassador". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2007-11-06. 
  6. ^ Senate confirms Mary Ann Glendon as U.S. ambassador to Vatican Catholic News Service
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ [1], Mary Ann Glendon defends Romney.
  12. ^ Paulson, Michael (2009-03-21). "Notre Dame criticized over Obama invite". Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  13. ^ "Ex-Vatican Ambassador Declines Medal at Notre Dame Commencement, Citing Obama". 2009-04-27. Retrieved 2009-05-30. 
  14. ^ "Fact Check: Obama's Strong Pro-Choice Record". Organizing for America. 2008-01-08. Retrieved 2009-06-02. 
  15. ^ a b Glendon, Mary Ann (2009-04-27). "Declining Notre Dame: A Letter from Mary Ann Glendon". First Things. Retrieved 2009-05-30. 
  16. ^ Pro-Life Harvard Prof Who Rejected Notre Dame Honor Will Get National Award
  17. ^ [2], "Cardinal Law told Mary McAleese he was ‘sorry for Catholic Ireland to have you as President.’", IrishCentral, 7 October 2012
  18. ^ Steven Ertelt, "President Bush Nominates Pro-Life Law Professor as Vatican Ambassador",, November 5, 2007

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Francis Rooney
U. S. Ambassador to the Holy See
Succeeded by
Miguel H. Diaz