Laetare letters

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Author: Readers

Editor’s note: By time-honored policy, Notre Dame Magazine prints in each quarterly issue only those letters referring to an article in the most recent edition. This spring, after putting our latest edition to bed, we received letters commenting on the 2016 Laetare Medal recipients.


Understanding your practice regarding publishing of letters is limited to those referencing articles in your most recent publication, I nonetheless write in anticipation of the upcoming visit of the U.S. vice president to campus. And I refer you to a related editorial by William McGurn in the April 5, 2016, edition of The Wall Street Journal entitled The Little Sisters vs. Notre Dame. The article points to the fact that the University, once joined with the Little Sisters in their legal action to avoid Affordable Care Act requirements to fund abortifacients and other life-ending methods of birth control for employees, has caved to the law’s opt-out provision, which allows an employer’s insurer to provide the objectionable service. The Little Sisters have held firm.

Once again, as it did seven years ago when it hosted recently elected President Obama and bestowed on him honorariums, University administration exhibits its lack of regard for and/or belief in fundamental church direction on life in the womb. At that time it was well-known that the president, while a member of the Illinois state legislature, had voted to veto a law requiring doctors performing abortions to aid in the resuscitation of infants born alive after an attempted abortion. He and his administration have been staunch supporters of the pro-abortion contingent for both of his terms.

Now comes the vice president, who has taken similar pro-abortion positions all his elected life, to receive the prestigious Laetare Medal. No other issue—not terrorism, not climate change, not income inequality/distribution—divides this country more bitterly than does abortion. The Catholic Church has stood strong in its stance for the protection of life in the womb. What is it about the bishop’s 2004 statement regarding Catholics in public life (that they should not act/speak contrary to fundamental Church teaching) that the University administration does not understand? How does it purport to provide the moral leadership and guidance to its students and the greater Catholic community when it honors individuals so obviously at odds with the Church’s position? No amount of disguising this invitation under the banner of promoting civility in political discussion can hide the fact the administration is terribly misguided in regards to the issue of life in the womb.

Thank goodness for the Little Sisters.

Michael P. Dolan ’71
Fishers, Indiana

Although I have had three children attend Notre Dame, I am offended by choices made by Notre Dame in selecting people to honor. The latest dishonor is in nominating Joe Biden for the Laetare Medal.

I have grudgingly accepted honors bestowed on Mario Cuomo, and Barack Obama. This latest indiscretion has sullied the name of Our Lady, which you bear. While I have enjoyed reading the Notre Dame Magazine, I have no recourse except to express my protest by refusing to acknowledge, in the least, that once famous university.

David A. Villecco Ph.D.
Broomfield, Colorado

As is oft repeated, imitation is of course the purest form of flattery. In naming presumed ideological opponents Vice President Joe Biden and former Speaker of the House John Boehner as joint recipients for the 2016 Laetare Medal, it appears someone within the administration may have made a careful study of our book, Corporate Governance Regulation: How Poor Management is Destroying the Global Economy (2013). Its primary contention — i.e., that otherwise insurmountable divisions are effectively addressed only by first establishing rational dialogue between embittered opponents — may have influenced the University’s latest gambit to increase its sphere of influence by facilitating common ground between civic leaders divided on questions of public policy.

To be clear, fostering progress through unity is a commendable objective. However, authentic unity — e.g., that which facilitates the common good — requires unity in truth. A gaping disconnect exists between matters of policy and on what the surface appear to be moral conundrums. The concerted arguments presented in our book, all of which infer the need for rational dialogue between embittered opponents, apply chiefly to matters of policy. Due to the lack of any one single, “correct” outcome, a plurality of sharply contested views on matters of policy is to be expected. In sharp contrast, deeply consequential moral issues (such as abortion) are underscored by universal truths. Individuals, especially those who possess tremendous moral influence, are uniformly obligated to act in support of authentic moral values, irrespective of the cost to self.

Consequently, there can be no common ground between those who advocate murder and those committed to the defense of human life. To the degree that truth exists, and to the degree it is to be permitted to permeate all aspects of modern society, certain values must be vigorously defended. Thus, any decision to publicly confer the highest honors upon influential individuals who effectively act as agents of moral evil is a travesty of justice. This is true even when the honored include those baptized in the Catholic faith, whether a Heinrich Himmler or a Joe Biden. Genuine political differences aside, Vice President Biden is staunchly committed to the murder of innocents. This can only lead to the inevitable destruction of the very fabric upon which modern civilization is so delicately constructed.

To acknowledge this basic truth is not intransigence, but reflects the common sense of a child. Regrettably, even the decision to honor Representative Boehner is of no consolation. However well positioned he may have been to halt the disturbing progression of moral evil in our society, Representative Boehner continually refused. Under his failed leadership, the myriad of potent forces opposed to the common good of this nation would receive only token (i.e., superficial) opposition in Washington. As an open display of the civility in political dialogue for which the University has chosen to honor him, Mr. Boehner has just recently made repeated reference to Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz as “Lucifer.”

Far from genuine ideologic opponents, Vice President Biden and Congressman Boehner are merely archetypes, corrupt leaders whose influence upon our nation at its most vulnerable, present stage has proven ruinous. As such, they deserve scorn not commendation. Nevertheless, time spent contesting the decision of a University whose influence upon American public life has consistently declined since the early 1960s is time wasted. As a private institution driven by self-interest, the University may make selective use of its imprimatur to garner the favor of any audience it wishes. A more effective response would be to publicly acknowledge the 2016 Laetare for what it is — an awkward celebration of tyranny. Perhaps it may even represent the spasmodic, final throes of a civilization whose veritable lighthouses no longer seek to protect the innocent from the almost certain death that lays lurking in the shadows below.

Nicholas V. Vakkur ’95
Zulma J. Herrera ’95
Helendale, California

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