Letters to the editor


Author: Readers


Commencement 2009

How sad that your edition responding to the Obama controversy was so one-sided, as though only a single point of view was worthy of serious reflection. Three lengthy commentaries all supported the administration’s position. Extensive quotes from Father John Jenkins, CSC, and President Obama were scattered throughout the coverage. By comparison, the contrary statements of Bishop John D’Arcy, Mary Ann Glendon, Cardinal Francis George, Father Wilson Miscamble, CSC, and others appeared only in summary fashion or as sentence fragments. The compelling matter of the honorary degree received no attention.

Alumni and others who love Notre Dame and have admired our magazine deserved a true representation of perspectives, corresponding to the important nature of the debate, the respect due each side and the stature of the speakers. You thus have added to what already was a deeply disappointing episode in Notre Dame’s history.

Joseph P. Crawford ’68
East Grand Rapids, Michigan

It was with great anticipation that I awaited the summer edition of Notre Dame Magazine. I knew it would contain sufficient coverage of the Obama visit that I would be able to get a grasp of all sides of the issue. Your magazine did not disappoint.

I offer three reflections: (1) What does it profit the place to gain the whole world if it suffers the loss of its soul? (2) Because of its high standing in the eyes of the world, the University will certainly receive more than the requisite 30 pieces of silver for its actions. (3) Notre Dame’s prophesy will self-fulfill, as fewer “church-going” Catholics attend Notre Dame. As the devout depart, the student body will be made up more from the ranks of part-time Catholics. That once-great University will then become what it aspires to be. Different.

Douglas Marvin ’69
Bethel Park, Pennyslvania

Your treatment of President Obama’s visit left me disappointed because it ignores an important story that is at the heart of a profound division within the Notre Dame family. Most of us agree that a sitting president should be cordially welcomed to speak on campus, but the current convention of having commencement speakers automatically receive honorary degrees is unnecessary and should be uncoupled as a matter of policy.

Richard Conklin’s “Over at Our Place,” in which he examines the historical tension between Catholic orthodoxy and academic freedom, could have been the launching pad for an honest appraisal of what is now happening at our beloved University. The underlying justification for the principle of academic freedom is the pursuit of “truth” in the face of an authority, even the Church itself, which might promulgate an encumbrance to recognizing the truth. While academic freedom is important at Notre Dame, and at times it may be inconvenient to Church teaching, it cannot be more important than truth itself.

The Church attempts to illuminate the truth. It is our belief as Catholics that a person is created at conception. Catholics also believe that every person is created in the image of God. These are core beliefs that Notre Dame as a Catholic community claims to embrace. The personal advocacy and actions of Barack Obama promoting abortions, including late-term, “partial birth” abortions are well-documented and unprecedented for an American president. They are radically contrary to the known scientific “truth” and even further antithetical to Catholic teaching.

Therefore, for Notre Dame to invoke the principle of academic freedom as the justification for honoring Mr. Obama must be viewed as dishonest obfuscation. Another tragic consequence was leaving American Catholics of conscience feeling betrayed by Notre Dame when it enthusiastically honored a person with views so contrary to the truth.

Ironically, the visit accidentally performed a service to the University by asking: How much “truth” are we willing to pursue and how “Catholic” do we want to be?

Mark O. Hubbard ’72
South Bend, Indiana

Your coverage of President Obama’s address failed to mention that, even as he promised to draft a “sensible” conscience clause to protect pro-life health care workers, he was doing away with the Bush administration’s extant conscience clause. This single detail, more than any other, explains why Obama was honored at Notre Dame — and why the honor occasioned such outrage.

Tom Riley ’82M.A.
Napa, California

The photo of presidents Hesburgh and Obama celebrating civil rights seems to convey an ironic but hidden message. Judge Andrew Napolitano ’75J.D. in his latest book, Dred Scott’s Revenge: A Legal History of Race and Freedom in America, draws an interesting analogy between the Supreme Court’s decisions in the Dred Scott case with Roe v. Wade in that both cases center on the rights of a specific group. Dred Scott held that Negroes were not “persons” under the Constitution, not unlike the unprotected unborn children in Wade. Notre Dame has suffered greatly for its stance and the defiant attitude of its president. Abortion is murder plain and simple.

William F. Gallo ’52
Melbourne Beach, Florida

Kudos to John Nagy ’00 for “The Time and Place.” With all the hoopla that surrounded graduation it appears the author gave an objective and complete account of the ceremonies that took place at many varied venues on campus. I was happy to see the unbiased coverage, and what I believe to be an accurate portrait of those students who are finally entering “a lifelong engagement with the joys and cares of the world.”

Ruthanne Wagner
Spring Lake, New Jersey

This year’s commencement was indeed “a defining moment” for Notre Dame because we didn’t duck the big issue of our times and the horrendous fact of so many millions of unborn children being coldly killed that brought this to a head. I trust that all of this will have an effect on the national debate and, hopefully, we will see greater efforts to, at least for now, lower the number of abortions and come up with positive programs to help unfortunate women who find themselves in this difficult situation and are persuaded to take the easy way out. Thanks for delineating the issue front and center.

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC
Notre Dame, Indiana

Reading the first issue of Notre Dame Magazine since my son’s graduation in May made fresh the emotions and thoughts of that weekend. The word “discernment” is the one that seems most germane to my experience, and in all the articles covering those events it holds as well. Sitting there in the Joyce Center I heard words that were true used by presidents Jenkins and Obama to avoid or undermine any hard truths about the abortion issue. Then, after the crowd’s energy and attention were consumed, Judge John T. Noonan, truth’s sole defender on that stage, was seemingly ignored by many who came only for the main event.

Are not truth and its discernment the gifts which we should hope for all who were honored that day? It is then with some sadness that I recall what I expect will be my only experience of commencement at Notre Dame. My consolation is in Judge Noonan’s quotation from the Laetare Medal awarded him previously. “Great is truth. It will prevail.”

A. Richard Bray III
Pontiac, Michigan

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