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Glendon receives prestigious 'Evangelium Vitae' Medal for pro-life work

Mary Ann Glendon smiles during an April 28 ceremony at the University of Notre Dame where she was honored with the "Evangelium Vitae" Medal. Pilot photo/Peter Ringenberg, courtesy University of Notre Dame

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BRAINTREE -- Citing decades of work and witness advancing the pro-life movement, the University of Notre Dame's Center of Ethics and Culture presented Harvard Law School professor and former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon with its "Evangelium Vitae" Medal during an April 28 Mass and banquet at the Indiana school.

Bearing the name of St. John Paul II's 1995 encyclical that reaffirmed the Church's view on sanctity of human life, the "Evangelium Vitae" Medal is annually given to "heroes of the pro-life movement." Recipients, according to the school, are individuals "whose efforts have served to proclaim the Gospel of human life by steadfastly affirming and defending its sanctity from its earliest stages."

Glendon, a Massachusetts-native, has long advocated for a culture of life through a legal and political career that has won her international recognition. She is the former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, and a former president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, and has served two terms on the U.S. President's Council on Bioethics.

She has represented the Holy See at various conferences throughout the years, including at the United Nations' 1995 World Conference on Women in Beijing, where she became the first woman to ever lead a Vatican delegation.

In recent years, Glendon has been involved with the reform of the Vatican Bank, and has acted as a consultant to the U.S. Bishops International Peace and Justice Committee and the Committee on Religious Freedom. Widely published in constitutional law, human rights, comparative law, and political theory, she currently is the Learned Hand professor of law at Harvard Law School.

In remarks upon accepting the "Evangelium Vitae" Medal, Glendon emphasized that the pro-life movement was not built by the few, but instead the combined efforts of everyday advocates.

"Notre Dame, by honoring me tonight, is paying tribute to the great movement to which it has been my privilege to belong," she said. "It was not without reason that my dear friend (Father) Richard John Neuhaus called the pro-life movement the most broad-based, the most diverse, and the most sustained expression of grassroots civic participation America has ever seen."

Glendon recalled her involvement in a grassroots movement that led to the creation of the Boston-based Women Affirming Life (WALI) organization in 1990, an organization she described as "pro-life, pro-woman, pro-child, and pro-poor."

Founded by five women -- Glendon, Frances Hogan, Barbara Thorp, Marianne Luthin, and Sister Christine Salvatori -- the organization stood in defiance of stereotypes of the time, Glendon said, particularly the idea that a pro-life stance is harmful and "insensitive" to women. Glendon paused her remarks to call on each of the members, all present for the ceremony, to stand as the audience clapped and cheered.

Continuing, Glendon said in 1995, when St. John Paul II released "Evangelium Vitae," "we felt as though the pope himself had blessed every aspect of our work."

She noted that despite negativity from the mass media and from the entertainment industry, the pro-life movement has grown, sustained by a "grassroots movement."

In response to questions from The Pilot in the days following the award ceremony at Notre Dame, Glendon said April 30 that she doesn't believe that growth will stop.

"The pro-life movement will continue to grow because it draws enormous strength from the kind of teaching that takes place in the home, and from the witness that anyone can provide among friends, family and co-workers," she said.

Nearly 30 years after WALI's founding, its members, Glendon noted, are still "engaged in every form of pro-life activity, in keeping with their gifts and inclinations."

"We continue to provide support and encouragement to one another, and for us founding members, it is a great joy to see three generations of women at our events," she continued.

Speaking to The Pilot April 30, Marianne Luthin, a WALI founding member and the director of the Archdiocese of Boston's Pro-Life Office, said she was glad to have been able to attend Glendon's award ceremony at Notre Dame.

Glendon is "an amazing scholar, author, speaker," said Luthin, "but it's also important for the rest of us to be able to support her very, very important work and be there in friendship and solidarity."

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