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notre-dameFollowing Mary Ann Glendon’s turning down Notre Dame’s 2009 Laetare Medal, the University cannot find a suitable replacement recipient. 

Sorry, I shouldn’t be happy about this, but it proves that this year the accolade is indeed a poisoned chalice.  And ND is full of itself, anyway.

The University stated it would find a new recipient.  But it was unable to.  So, the administration has invited the 1984 Laetare Medalist, Judge John T Noonan, Jr, to speak at Commencement ceremonies on May 17.    

University President, the Revd John I Jenkins, CSC, said: ‘Since Judge Noonan is a previous winner of the Laetare Medal, we have decided, upon reflection, to not award the medal this year.’

The press release gives some background on Judge Noonan:

Noonan was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan.

In addition to his service on the federal bench, Noonan has been a consultant for the Presidential Commission on Population, the National Institutes of Health, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the American Law Institute.

Noonan has served as a consultant for several agencies in the Catholic Church, including Pope Paul VI’s Commission on Problems of the Family, and the U.S. Catholic Conference’s committees on moral values, law and public policy, law and life issues, and social development and world peace. He also has been a governor of the Canon Law Society of America, and director of the National Right to Life Committee.

christopher-buckleyIt may be cheeky to accuse the Great and the Good of falling victim to temptation, but if Churchmouse Campanologist doesn’t ask for your compassion with regard to these souls, who will?

Most people living outside the US will be unaware that Christopher Buckley (pictured) is the son of the late conservative intellectual William F Buckley, Jr, who died in 2008, and his socialite wife Pat, a dynamic charity fundraiser.  Pat preceded Bill in death several months before. Now at the age of 55, Christopher finds himself an orphan.  He recently detailed his experience for the New York Times, a preview of his new book Losing Mum and Pup: a Memoir, to be published in May 2009.

I have always been an admirer of the Buckleys, so I was taken aback to see that Christopher was less than impressed with his parents.  Did we find out anything scurrilous?  No, just that Pat became a bit crotchety in her dotage.  I imagine she was bored or unwell and wanted to liven things up a bit by stirring the pot, so to speak.  For some reason, there were times when they didn’t speak to each other for months on end.  Oh, and he and Bill had disagreements, especially about religion. 

It could have been worse, Christopher.  A lot worse.

If you don’t want to trawl through nine pages of the article, the Buckleys still sound like good parents.  At any rate, check out the accompanying photographs.  It looks as if they had a lot of fun and that Christopher was certainly part of his parents’ life.  He was their only child.  If you want to get a good idea of who the Buckleys were, read Bob Colacello‘s article in the January 2009 edition of Vanity Fair.

I don’t really understand what’s been happening here, although much of it seems to relate to an affair Christopher had with a publicist which produced a child in 2000.  Christopher, by all accounts, was already happily married with two children of his own.  Although he never spent time with ‘the love child’, he started paying support once the scandal hit the New York Daily News just before Christmas in 2002.  It was a subject that friends of the Buckley family didn’t discuss, particularly as Bill had been a lifelong devout Catholic. 

Bill did not leave his illegitimate grandson Jonathan a legacy. Lots of fathers from his generation would probably have done the same. It’s said that Christopher still doesn’t see the boy.  Christopher’s two children with his wife Lucy are aged 16 and 20.

People who know of Buckley père expected fils to follow in his footsteps as a conservative.  They were sorely disappointed in October 2008 when Christopher openly endorsed Barack Obama for President.  By then, Bill had died, aged 82.  Christopher’s endorsement still bothers McCain voters today.  They could have used his help, but none was forthcoming.  From their standpoint, he shouldn’t be writing about his sainted parents or moaning about whatever he’s going to moan about in the book, because he’s led a great life.  I don’t think Bill would have minded the Obama endorsement as much as they continue to do.  But then, if Bill were still alive, he probably would have come out with his own lukewarm endorsement of McCain. 

The other area — and the main point for this piece — is Christopher’s move away from Catholicism towards agnosticism.  Why and how this happened is unclear.  Maybe his new book will explain it. 

Herein lies the temptation: to move towards reinventing yourself so much that you discard much that was good about your life.  Bill Buckley was one of the greatest Catholics of the 20th century.  He must be saddened — looking down on proceedings from above — about Christopher’s new book and disregard of God.  If the tome is anything like the NYT article, I’m not sure it will be as well received as Christopher imagines.

I think Christopher will return to the fold one day.  I’m praying that he will, anyway.

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