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John T. Noonan to the barricades:

Judge John T. Noonan Jr., the 1984 recipient of the Laetare Medal, has accepted an invitation to deliver an address in the spirit of the award at Notre Dame’s 164th University Commencement Ceremony on May 17.

His speech will be in lieu of awarding the medal this year.

In Contraception, Noonan in 1965 compared centuries-old anti-usury church legislation (opposed to lending with any amount of interest), which was eventually abandoned, with its much-debated anti-birth control prohibition, leaving Catholics with at least a conundrum of major dimensions.

Shrewd, shrewd move by Notre Dame: Noonan on stage with Obama, with considerable chance of focused confrontation, or at least provocative juxtaposition — especially in giving no award this year and calling Noonan’s a Laetare-style speech. 

A speech by one highly praised by this year’s Laetare recipient, who refused it because of Obama’s being honored at the same graduation ceremony.

[T]he quality of his legal scholarship and judicial opinions prompts Harvard Law School Professor Mary Ann Glendon to place Noonan alongside Learned Hand, Benjamin Cardozo, and Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. as “one of the legal giants of the twentieth century.”

Major hat tip to David Gibson at Dot Commonweal.