Honoring Heroes in a Time of Crisis

The honoring of people like Mary Ann Glendon and Raymond Flynn sends a message of faith, hope and love to a culture in crisis

L to R: Mary Ann Glendon and Raymond Flynn attend the Oct. 28 honors banquet.
L to R: Mary Ann Glendon and Raymond Flynn attend the Oct. 28 honors banquet. (photo: Courtesy of Thomas More College of Liberal Arts)

There is little doubt that we are living in dark times. Caesar, the secular power, encourages the culture of death and decay at home and fans the flames of war abroad; Judas, the enemy within, denies that chastity is a virtue and joins forces with those who advocate sexual Pride. Caesar is always with us; so is Judas. This is the way of the fallen world, and this is why Tolkien proclaimed that Christians must see history as the long defeat with only occasional glimpses of final victory.

The final victory is already assured of course because it has already been won. The problem is that the final victory is with the Church Triumphant in heaven, the eternal glory of which is only glimpsed in the presence of goodness, truth and beauty. It is in these glimpses of final victory that those in the presence of the temporal, and therefore temporary, long defeat can find encouragement. And this is why we should not waste our time cursing the darkness but should be looking to the light of Christ to be found in all that is good, true and beautiful.

It was in this light-enkindled spirit that Thomas More College of Liberal Arts awarded medals of honor recently to Mary Ann Glendon and Raymond Flynn, both former Vatican ambassadors. 

Mary Ann Glendon, a distinguished professor of law at Harvard Law School and a former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, has been a tireless and principled pro-life advocate who has been fearless in the fight against abortion. For many decades, she has defended the victims of abortion in a ceaseless struggle against the power of Caesar and the treachery of Judas. With respect to the latter, she caused great controversy in 2009 when she declined to receive an award from the University of Notre Dame. The compromising and compromised Catholic university had selected her as the recipient of its Laetare Medal but she refused to accept it in protest at UND’s decision to invite Barack Obama in the same year as its commencement speaker and to award him an honorary degree. 

Notre Dame’s honoring of Obama signified tacit approval of his pro-abortion policies and was a clear and obvious 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 fundamental moral principles.” In the light or shadow of UND’s egregious decision, Glendon suspected that the university was planning to use her acceptance speech as a cynical way of giving the appearance of balance to their honoring of Obama and that she would be morally compromised were she to accept the award under such circumstances from such a morally compromised institution. Ever a person who put her principles into practice and never one to indulge in pragmatic prevarications, she held the moral high ground while the University of Notre Dame wallowed in the mire. It says a great deal, therefore, for Thomas More College’s fidelity to the magisterium of the Church that this woman of courage and principle should accept its award with evident alacrity.

The other recipient of Thomas More College’s award, Raymond Flynn, was Mayor of Boston from 1984 to 1993 and U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See from 1993 to 1997. As Mayor of Boston he worked tirelessly for racial and social justice and as the Ambassador to the Holy See he was involved in brokering the Good Friday Agreement which brought the 30-year simmering civil war in Northern Ireland to an end. In more recent years, Flynn has been an indefatigable pro-life advocate and has fought in defense of traditional marriage. His involvement in organizations, such as the Catholic Alliance, Your Catholic Voice and Catholic Citizenship has helped to solidify pro-life resistance to the evils of abortion. Since 2004, he has served on the advisory board of Catholics for the Common Good, a lay apostolate working for the evangelization of culture through the promotion of the Church’s social teaching.

In a time of infidelity, despair and hatred, the honoring of heroes, such as Mary Ann Glendon and Raymond Flynn, sends a message of faith, hope and love to a culture in crisis. In times such as these, we don’t need more people cursing the darkness. Instead, we need warriors of faith who can light candles of life and love in the darkness. Mary Ann Glendon and Raymund Flynn have shone forth the light of faith and reason in their lives. They have been candles in the dark. In honoring them, Thomas More College of Liberal Arts has also honored its vocation as a true Catholic college, a veritable David which puts the Goliath of Notre Dame to shame in its unflinching adherence to the sanctity of true faith and the sanity of true reason. Let’s thank God for good Catholic men and women, like Raymond Flynn and Mary Ann Glendon, and for good Catholic colleges, like Thomas More College. 

This essay first appeared in Crisis Magazine and is republished with permission.