Editor’s note: The letters that appeared in the autumn 2011 print issue are marked with double asterisks (**).
The issue of questions
**“Question Everything” is the best yet. Thank you, thank you for finally including all of us in a vital context and conversation.
**Congratulations on the best edition of Notre Dame Magazine I’ve read. Since such a publication naturally describes the highlights of the ND experience, it was good, balanced, honest journalism to mention the lowlights — from Michael Floyd’s alcohol-related offenses to Notre Dame’s handling of sexual assault allegations to Declan Sullivan’s tragic death.
Most valuable were your poignant articles on the accidental death and severe injury of two children. Even if selected coincidentally, such serendipity — sometimes seen as the grace of God — spoke to the spiritual aspects of the tragedies. Your magazine didn’t just report stuff, you moved us. Thanks for not being afraid to forthrightly bring out truth. It’s what Notre Dame is all about.
Terry Neary, M.D.
Carol Stream, Illinois
**That was a noble effort to sum up Notre Dame’s essence and its current travails. I can give you one word to explain her fall from grace — secularization.
Joe Leaser, M.D., ’54
I love the cover on the latest ND Magazine (summer). It will take me a year to read all of the quotes. Thanks to its creator. God bless.
Sister Lucy Villanova
The cover of the most recent issue of your magazine, the related poem and a comment in a story about Norman Mailer speaking at Notre Dame raised several questions in my mind about the state of the current University administration’s policies on speakers, plays and programs, and the moral qualifications required for honorary degrees at Notre Dame.
Most specifically does the theme of “question everything” expressed on the cover and in the poem suggest that there has been a change in the policies on who and what is allowed at a “Catholic University” established by the current president?
It would appear so since it is clear that the concept behind “question everything” is inappropriate for a University at which the president of the United States is no longer welcome because of his “moral failures.” (By the way, does the ban on honorary degrees for persons who do not share the Church’s teachings on moral issues include persons who actively advocate and/or practice artificial birth control or does the fact that millions of seemingly “Good Catholics” actively reject that portion of Pope Paul V’s teachings in Humanae Vitae make it okay for them to be so honored?)
Similarly, the more than apparent moral weaknesses displayed by Norman Mailer throughout his life would suggest that he would not be able to pass the tests established for University-sponsored events. If Ubi Roi is not appropriate I can not see how Norman would be.
E. Brian Graham ’66
I enjoyed the summer 2011 magazine. It was very stimulating. I liked what I thought of as a kaleidoscope of questions on the cover. I liked your Q & A inside the front cover and your “A Tough, Tough Year” letter on page 4.
A saying that has stuck with me through the years is as follows:
“There is bad in the best of us and good in the worst of us so it behooves more of us to talk about the rest of us.”
Unfortunately there are haters in this world: People who are just looking for somewhere to inject their venom into any situation.
I was talking with my nephew’s 11-year-old daughter about school a couple years ago and expounded that the bottom line was don’t lie and don’t cheat, to which I added that it was easier said than done, or as I usually told my children, don’t do as I do, just do as I say.
I wonder if it’s possible that after death the presence of God will be so all encompassing, that there will be no time to think about our past, earthly loved ones, since we will be so concentrated on the wonders of the almighty God. Could it be like when a person is engrossed in a good book or a good movie, we are thinking of nothing else for a time?
Terry Sullivan ’58
I loved your “Letter from Campus” in the summer 2011 issue ("A tough, tough year). I especially loved your introduction, for it resonated with me. Neither one of my parents finished high school and yet they somehow managed to send me to the very best Catholic schools. In that vein, I wish you had also thanked your parents for all the sacrifices they made for your education before Notre Dame — your grammar school education and your preparatory school.
Additionally you say, “(Notre Dame) stood for something good, and it provided rich soil for truth-seeking and the kind of honest, open and intelligent conversation that would establish common ground among diverse people in order to improve humanity’s lot around the globe.” Why not cite the diversity you speak of here — whether socio-economic or ethnic or cultural? (The New York Times did a great piece on “diversity” at the universities two weeks ago.)
Christopher Aguilar ‘09
Faith in the balance
**I am disappointed you would print “When Life Hangs in the Balance.” I feel the parable of the seed falling on rocky soil applies here. Perhaps if Peter Graham’s own son had been struck by the car and then recovered, he would believe God exists. Instead, his story leaves me feeling sorry for him and his Godless existence.
Laura Boldt, M.D.
**I am exasperated by the too childish and simplistic idea of God as a sort of playground monitor, bound to enforce the rules of fair play and pass out Band-Aids, remiss if He fails in this duty.
A year ago I endured a spectacularly traumatic childbirth, immediately followed by a diagnosis of Down syndrome for my new baby, and at once began receiving notes from well-wishers wondering if I “blamed God” or assuring me God had given me the child for a reason. I responded politely, but both ideas are of course profoundly illogical. The biological processes of this world are as fallen as anyone’s will, and God is neither the inflictor of undeserved pain nor a clearinghouse for special-needs children. A faith supported by so little reason that it collapses at the touch of personal suffering is not much of a faith.
Mary Halsted ’98
The old neighborhood
**Like many alums, I’ve thought often of writing, but it was the piece on the neighborhood around Notre Dame and the way local kids could access the campus that put me over the edge. I have many similar memories (as does my wife, who lived a little farther down Angela) of growing up near campus. Most of mine involve the golf course and the hours spent there as a boy. In my teen years our regular foursome would sometimes snap a hook drive off the 16th tee into Cedar Grove Cemetery. We would climb the iron fence to get the ball and play our next shot from a gravesite.
Most of the golf course is gone now, along with the uncomplicated town-gown relationship that prevailed then. Thanks for rekindling some of the good feeling that I once had for my connection to Notre Dame.
Tim Hartzer ’72J.D.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
The summer Notre Dame Magazine has arrived. I just really need to tell you that the “The Way We Were” piece brings back so many memories to my family and to me. My children played in the cemetery, and my husband, Joe Casasanta Jr., was part of the class of 1955 — we knew Father Hesburgh in the days when he was chaplain to the families at Vetville. My father-in-law and mother-in law lived at 725 Angela Blvd. My husband has been dead a long time, but I still get back to South Bend and so do my children — now adults — and I have sent copies of this article along to them. They, too, played in the cemetery and were known to bring fresh flowers (from the grave sites) home for our pleasure. Would you please forward to Mr. Anderson my thanks for bringing back wonderful memories!
**In the most recent issue of the magazine, in which — again — all of the feature articles are paired with male bylines, editor Kerry Temple’s nostalgic “A Summer Night” claims summer and its corresponding swagger for the boys, too. Enjoy your summer vacation, Mr. Temple; soon your daughter will grow up and take you to school.
Laura Moran Walton ’07M.A.
South Bend, Indiana
**My usual enjoyment of Notre Dame Magazine plummeted while reading the Café Arts piece about the fashion critics’ website that “skewers everything from hideous awards-show fashions and unfortunate haircuts to botched plastic surgery and the Church of Scientology.” While fashions, haircuts and plastic surgery are trivial and perhaps worthy of comment, criticizing someone’s religion is hardly an insignificant matter and I find it extremely offensive.
I have lived in Southern California and have had occasion to meet any number of Scientologists. You do not find them going around criticizing Catholicism and thinking that it’s funny. It seems rather obvious that we live in a world of many religions and to gain respect for one’s own religious point of view requires extending a similar courtesy toward the religions of others. To allow this thoughtless error disgraces the magazine.
James Callahan ’74
Costa Mesa, California
**Ed Cohen’s article (“The Mortgage that Ate My Life”) on paying his mortgage moved me. Bravo, Ed. The economy may have melted down completely but people like Mr. Cohen, who puts the common good ahead of their immediate financial interests, deserve our gratitude.
Bob Boldt ’75J.D.
**While I sympathize with Ed Cohen and his financial disaster, it is curious that he frames his story as a morality tale. The explanation of his behavior seems to be a distinction without a difference. After all, by his own admission, he still ought to owe the bank $179,000. His decision to conduct a short sale appears to have been motivated less by the desire to keep his promise to the bank than by a desire to avoid the possibility of being served a default judgment.
His musing that if promises are broken “then the whole system of trust would collapse” is over the top. After all, at a wedding the couple traditionally promises in front of God and their families to remain true to each other until “death do us part.” Nevertheless, 50 percent of U.S. marriages end in divorce. This is not to imply that a promise should be casually given. But it is important to realize that a promise can only be kept if the original conditions under which it was made remain in place. It is absurd to believe, when conditions make it impossible to keep a promise, that it will be kept.
Guy Wroble ’77
**Ed Cohen encapsulated the cause of the housing crisis when he said the “industry collapsed under the weight of greed and irresponsible behavior.” But I think we all need to confront the reality that greed was not limited to large institutions such as lenders, brokers and investment bankers. It also included those who did business with those institutions, who assumed that buying a home would be a riskless win for themselves.
I applaud the Cohens’ efforts to do the right thing, but they paid $498,000 for a house and put less than 20 percent down, using essentially all of their life savings and approaching the outer range of what their lender would approve. What led them to take that big financial risk was their assumption that they could sell the house in a few years at an attractive profit.
The financial crisis has not been one of capitalism’s more shining moments; the greed of borrowers and lenders seems to have created a financial malaise that may take years to work itself through our economy. But my days in Professor Stephen Worland’s microeconomics class as well as words from Milton Friedman remind me of a harsh reality: The success of capitalism is based on greed, and in recorded history, no better system to improve a country’s standard of living has yet surfaced.
Diane Silikowski ’83