Letters to the editor

Author: Readers

Editor’s note*: The letters that appeared in the autumn 2005 print issue are marked with a double asterisk (**)

Canceled subscriptions

** It is indeed sad when someone removes themselves from a discussion, but sadder still is that this attitude is symptomatic of the polarization afflicting today’s world. In ever-increasing numbers we are marching into walled encampments flying either the red or blue flag. We choose our candidates, our justices and our leaders because they either never waver from “the cause” or are simply too nondescript to offend or challenge anyone. Today, perhaps like never before, we need intelligent and informed discussion. We face issues with immense complexity that demand to be seriously examined from all points of view. Only through the crucible of reasoned, open debate can we find a common ground and bring the best of all our resources to bear on crafting truly workable solutions.

What I miss most about my time at Notre Dame is the University’s culture of exploration. Thank you for the excellence of Notre Dame Magazine. Through your pages I can recapture the culture, spirit and joy of exploration from those days. In a time when most media have an agenda to press, you have built a tradition of providing high-quality grist for the mill—both intellectually and spiritually.

Peter T. Roether ’76
Orlando, Florida

** I am a retired American Baptist pastor and have received Notre Dame Magazine for many years. As a Baptist, I have disagreed with the magazine many times, but I have never demanded you cancel my subscription. I want to thank you for an excellent magazine that I am proud to share with my Baptist friends. To those who want to cancel their subscription because of one or a few particular articles, I say “get a life” and enjoy the importance of conversations, even disagreements.

Ronald Ricketts
Plainfield, Indiana

Thank you for your response to the “letters to the editor” regarding R. Bruce Dold’s “Bush Country” in the spring Notre Dame issue: “We bring together members of the Notre Dame family … and live with the rustle, bang and pulse of a Catholic institution engaged in the wider world and trying to … make a difference there.” I applaud and congratulate you for your response.

In your words, we cannot foreclose on making a difference. Notre Dame is our Lady’s school. She cannot foreclose on this either! Continue making a difference! God Bless.

Dr. Carolyn Linnig O’Rourke
Selma, California

In reading the Summer 2005 Notre Dame Magazine, I note with some dismay the number of individuals who decide to cancel their subscription due to the recent articles approving the election of George Bush to the office of president. I am also confident that many others had made this same decision over the years over some other issue that they took issue that have been simarily controversial. I speak as one who is convinced that George Bush represents well one segment of our society and is probably representing certain trends within the Church, our nation and the world that I find most disturbing. I am no fan of George Bush and the attempts to create the American Empire and to empose freedom on others. If I can give you freedom, I can also take it away, and it therefore is not freedom but the imposition of my will on you. I would use the same analogy for love. I cannot force or demand love—if it is not freely given, it is not love but rather possession.

My problem however is the tendency found in circles around the world including the Moslem World, the Christian World, the Hindu World, etc. to silence diverse opinions and ways of doing things. The demand that disagreement amounts to “relativism” and cannot therefore be tolerated in the face of the truth that I articulate, requires me to disparage diversity and in my mind the creative process of God. When I shut my mind to diverse opinions and slander others because they have the arrogance to disagree with me; we have arrived at a place where we worship ignorance and blind obedience to those in authority. I believe that it when we begin to understand that the Spirit of God breathes throughout the whole world in all of its diversity and grandeur and when we learn to listen to that Spirit that speaks through every heart and spirit; then we are on track to better understand the Good News of the Kingdom. When we are able together to stand before the God of life and mystery, and to state that no one of us has all of the answers and that we are all pilgrims walking together the paths of life, then we might be better able to understand that we are all children of God—brothers and sisters breathing the same air and living on the same planet—called to share the resources of this planet that are given for all. I would hope therefore that before we simply close our ears and our eyes to those who disagree with us; when we find it so easy to disparage and insult others with different points of view; and when we scream at people who disagree with us to shut up; it seems to me that we have no real understanding of the message or the person of Jesus Christ whom we claim to follow.

Rev. Charles G. Bolser, CSV
Arlington Heights, Illinois

1.—I agree with Kerry Temple’s essay regretting dumping the magazine because you’re unhappy with a particular point of view. While I’ve been plenty peeved by plenty of articles I keep reading.

2.—Glad I do keep reading, every once in a while there’s a breath of fresh air. Usually I’m dismayed by reader comments, embarrassed at their limited views, narrow catholicity (isn’t that a contradiction). But I was very pleased to read the many comments against Wiegel’s piece on pope and church. I hope these are representative views and not selected ones. It makes me have faith in our alums—at least for the moment. I agreed that Wiegel, for a smart man, was way off base in this article. The writers put it better than I ever could.

3.- Now that NCAA has taken the bold step to eliminate (finally) Indian mascots, perhaps Notre Dame should look at it’s silly stage-Irish leprechaun. Notre Dame is more French than Irish, the fleur-de-lis more our symbol than the shamrock. Do we really honor Notre Dame or the Irish or anyone with a jumping clown in pointing green shooes? Stanford is Stanford , Harvard is Harvard, Notre Dame should be simply Notre Dame. If we must have a symbol—there’s always the Dome, upon which stands Notre Dame.

William Dell ’69
via email

Brave New World

I am, as usual, behind in my reading. Nonetheless, "At the Door of a Brave New World" (Summer 2005) this is a provocative and challenging article. We and the Church are going to have to start doing some serious thinking about the moral issues involved, and we will have to move beyond the ideas of scholastic physics about of “substance and accident” in our thinking, although those ideas will help, too.

Jack Sigler ’56
Tallahassee, Florida

Our Lady of the Dome

** I was distressed reading your attempt to explain why Mary atop the Dome is standing on a snake and a crescent moon. Genesis 3:15 says: “And I will establish a feud between thee [serpent] and the woman, between thy offspring and hers; she is to crush thy head, while thou dost lie in ambush at her heels.” As for the moon, go to the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse) 12:1: “And now, in heaven, a great portent appeared; a woman that wore the sun for her mantle, with the moon under her feet.”

Brother Edward Loch, S.M., ’71
San Antonio, Texas

Eucharist Procession returns

** How great to see the Eucharistic Procession has returned to campus. So many of our great Catholic traditions have been lost since Vatican II, and the Catholic educations in our Catholic schools are now so watered down that I worry about the condition of our Church 50 years from now. Maybe our Notre Dame students can lead us back.

Michael C. O’Leary ’72
Seattle, Washington

Media bias

** I find it odd that the author of “That’s News to Me” would be surprised that people seek alternate news sources to substitute for the traditional media. If he thinks there is no bias, then all he need do is ask how many of the regulars on ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS vote Republican, and he will understand the bias.

Thomas R. Freeman ’61
Columbia, South Carolina

Robert Schmuhl fails to mention that over 90 percent of the beltway reporters vote Democratic, Editor’s note: The writer did not provide proof of this assertion, which means there is liberal bias beyond any shadow of doubt. Just imagine which of all the possible news stories are chosen to be covered everyday, then get how much attention, from what perspective. Liberals and conservatives journalists would pick different stories, cover them differently, put them in different places in the papers and news casts, follow up on different stories, etc; the cumulative effect is bias. Liberals who deny this cannot be taken seriously. If every journalist is going to report fairly and without bias because their integrity requires it, why be concerned that conservatives are taking over PBS? Are only conservative journalists bias?

Paul Cella
via email

Common ground?

** Todd Whitmore (“Arms Unfolded”) wonders whether there can be common ground between pro-life and pro-abortion advocates. Pro-abortion groups tout contraception as the means to that end. The only problem with that approach is that medical research shows that the greater the use of contraception, the greater the need for abortion. Put another way, the best way to help someone with a drinking problem is not to invest more heavily in hangover remedies, it is to modify the behavior that brings on the hangover. Abstinence works.

Brian W. Donnelly, M.D., ’81
Gibsonia, Pennsylvania

** As a deeply committed Catholic, I struggled with the author’s thesis of finding common ground as to whether it advocated compromise or capitulation. For many this treatise would serve as an apologia for unrequited sex, superficially wrapped in romance and largely unaccompanied by deep love. Most disconcerting was the revelation that most abortion seekers indicate that the reason for termination is that the pregnancy is a career impediment or because of parental/societal embarrassment. Have television, the movies, music, tabloids and porno media so impacted our libidos that our personal disciplines and sense of responsibility have become so numbed? Are we devoid of a rationale for the consequences of “party time” that results in an unwanted pregnancy?

William R. Waddington ’45
Bayville, New Jersey

** On a country road in Pennsylvania, a hand-painted sign reads: “Abortion, it leaves one dead and one wounded.” I have met the wounded. I have met the women (and men) who have had to make the choice to have an abortion because of factors in the article as well as those “forced” to have an abortion by an angry husband, a distant paramour or a punishing mother. The reasons for abortions are many, but there is also a nurturing network available to those wounded by abortion. As Catholics, as compelled as we are to assist the woman in crisis because of an unplanned pregnancy, we have to be just as diligent to assist the woman who has suffered the emotional, psychological and spiritual disconnection that occurs after the abortion. “Project Rachel” and “Rachel’s Vineyard” are two programs that offer help. Through these programs, I have witnessed the wounded heal. As Catholics, we must know there is no sin too great for God’s mercy.

Sister Meg Cole, SSJ
Allentown, Pennsylvania

In Todd Whitmore s article, “Arms Unfolded: The Search for the Common Ground on Abortion,” there is a misinterpretation of our The Nurturing Network (TNN) statistics that resulted in a mathematical miscalculation at the end of his article in the print issue. Editor’s note: It has been corrected in the online version.] We have actually served double the number of clients that Todd mentions in his conclusion. He was thinking that when we refer to serving mothers and children that it meant half of the 17,000 would be for each. It is actually 17,000 of each.
As this is the 20th anniversary year of TNN, this article will generate great interest. I am happy for both TNN and Notre Dame. Thanks for all of your support and help.

Mary Cunningham Agee
President and Founder
The Nurturing Network

I was disheartened and saddened at reading “Arms Unfolded.” Not due to the topic but because of how it was addressed—so p.c., so sterile, so cerebral, so secular. What about the morality?

Your are the leading Catholic institution of higher education in the United States, perhaps in the world, and you ask that the Church abandon two millennia of teachings in order to accommodate guilty feelings about premarital sex.

What the hell is wrong with you? You don’t correct a wrong by killing a baby.

And you’re naive if you think the pro-choice crowd really is about choice. Follow the money. Nobody gets rich by bringing a baby to full term, but the abortion providers live large.

Let me revise disheartened and saddened to disgusted.

Bruce Tomcik
North Ridgeville, Ohio

I read “Arms Unfolded” by Todd David Whitmore in the Summer 2005 issue of ND Magazine with great interest, since I think we should look for a common ground with our pluralistic society. The author seems to think the same. Unfortunately, in his next-to-the last paragraph, he ends up giving a misleading impression.

The efforts of “Nurturing Network” are described, and its results are compared to “more than a million abortions in the United States,” (425 prevented per year vs. 1,000,000 abortions per year). The comparison of the efforts of one organization to the annual number of abortions in the United States is a badly misleading comparison. I have a list of organizations in Cincinnati alone that do pregnancy counseling. The total of their efforts, along with the efforts of countless similar organizations in other U.S. cities must dwarf the efforts of the Nurturing Network.

It would be interesting to get a reasonably good estimate of the total number of abortions prevented by the good efforts of counseling and direct assistance services in the United States. I will look around the Internet for that information. Perhaps one of your readers has that information available and can let us know, so that we can assess the impact of pregnancy counseling and assistance services on termination of pregnancies. Such a tabulation of course is only part of the picture, since the educational effort of these and other groups such as “The Life Issues Institute” (Dr. John Willke, President) no doubt prevent many unwanted pregnancies from even occurring.

Joseph B. Farrell ’44
via email

Allow me some personal comments on your article, “Arms Unfolded.”

My wife, Terri had a spontaneous abortion soon after we moved back to Indiana. It was a typical case. It was her first pregnancy and occurred at about six weeks. When she began bleeding, we went to her obstetrician. He performed an ultrasound and said the placenta appeared normal but he didn’t see a fetus attached to a fetal pole and everything was still developing normally. The second possibility was, the fetal pole and fetus would never develop and the pregnancy was ending.

He said he would repeat the ultrasound in two days. The repeat ultrasound showed no change. Terri continued to bleed and eventually passed the placenta at home. When things had returned to normal, she said, “I never felt I was pregnant.”

As an emergency physician, I have treated many pregnant women, but I rarely see a patient with a normal pregnancy. The pregnant women I see are pregnant and worried that they soon won’t be, or, they may be pregnant and hope that they are not. During the past 20 years, I have come to the belief that pregnancy is not a moment, or even a positive hormone test. It is a process.

I think pregnancy is similar to building a home. We buy and sell houses because they are inanimate objects. We can treat houses like commodities because they are not homes. We are upset when we see pictures of a home destroyed by a tornado, not because the house is destroyed but because the personal nature of the scattered debris indicated that a fellow human being lived there. Homes are special. They have a human presence.

Even though we may own a set of blueprints, we don’t have a home. Even though we establish a foundation and waterlines, we still do not have a home. Each step is an essential part of the process but it is only when someone moves in, then a house becomes a home.

To me, pregnancy is similar. A genetic set of blueprints, implantation or even a placenta, although parts of the process, are not pregnancies. Pregnancy occurs, when someone moves in.

Fertility experts say at least 15 percent of all pregnancies end in a spontaneous abortion. Actually, it is impossible to know how many fertilized eggs pass unnoticed. Most occur in the first six weeks and during a woman’s first pregnancy. It is as if the women’s body must first learn how to carry a pregnancy before she can become pregnant.

Two percent of all pregnancies are ectopic pregnancies or implant outside the uterus. Some resolve spontaneously, but those that occur in the fallopian tube can rupture the tube and the nearby artery causing life threatening bleeding. If tubal pregnancies are discovered before rupture, they need to be removed to protect the mother. I suppose one could justify the pregnancy removal on the basis of “the greatest good.” Certainly, it can be argued that the preservation of the mother and spouse is more important to the family than the pregnancy, however, for some individuals the decision is a moral dilemma.

The understanding that the first weeks of pregnancy are about preparation permits a different perspective. For the spontaneous abortion patient, it allows me to eliminate the heartless statement, “You lost your baby.” And all the guilt and loss that go with it. A natural event that is so common certainly doesn’t need to be made more emotionally difficult. Instead, I explain to the woman that her body is learning to be pregnant and it needs to repeat the process to get it right the next time. Most subsequent pregnancies are successful.

This perspective also allows me to recommend the removal of ectopic pregnancies. Although the process is being interrupted, the element of murder is eliminated.

Human reproduction is fairly efficient, still, it is not an exact process. If you look at life retrospectively from the perspective of a newborn baby, the odds that the pregnancy which resulted in the baby began as a fertilized egg, are a black and white, 100 percent. If you look at life prospectively, from the perspective of the fertilized egg, the odds that the egg and the subsequent pregnancy will result in a newborn, are only about 80 percent. It is this 20 percent gray area that gets overlooked by the retrospective view of human reproduction. These are the pregnancies that are cared for in the emergency department, not the delivery room.

I take some solace in our actions as “Church.” We don’t advocate in-utero baptisms the moment a women has a positive pregnancy test, even though we know that 20 percent of the pregnancies will never reach a term delivery. We don’t advocate the baptism of the placentas, even thought they are alive and have a unique genetic code. We don’t have funeral Masses and bury the lost early pregnancy, like we do with a stillborn. By our actions, we recognize a difference between the first weeks of pregnancy and the later months.

The cultural war is waged by others. The warriors deal with programs, agendas, position statements, governmental and religious authorities.

For those of us who deal with the difficult issues of early pregnancy, on either a personal or professional basis, it is about balancing perspectives. We live and work on uncommon ground.

Tom Madden M.D. ’75
Greenwood, Indiana

Thanks to academic freedom our sons and daughters understand how complicated abortion is. For instance, the Church “needs to exclude punishment-oriented responses to premarital sex” which causes some to get an abortion. Those of us who were educated prior to the 1967 Land O’ Lakes renaissance will just have to deal with our narrow-minded ways. Cheer, cheer for old academic freedom.

Tom Wich ’63
Clarendon Hills, Illinois


Real service work

In "Commencement No. 160, the “Classy Numbers” paragraph listed some of the accomplishments and future endeavors of the 2005 graduating class. It talks about volunteer work while at ND and those headed off to a year or more of service work. I don’t know how you at the campus define “Service Work” but the last time I checked we had a fairly good size ROTC program at ND. Those ROTC seniors were commissioned in their respective Branch of Service and may soon find themselves in Iraq or Afghanistan and they don’t even get mentioned! What kind of an oversight or bias is that? Your editorial staff didn’t know they were there? Or is service to our country wherein one puts his/hers life on the line not counted as true service?

I think you and your staff owe the graduating ROTC seniors an apology and it should be made loud and clear in the next issue of the magazine as well as a personal note from you and Father Jenkins CSC. Please keep me advised as to your progress. Incidently while at ND many of those ROTC students went off for several weeks in the summer to serve on various ships and stations in training to further prepare themselves for their future duties in service to our country. Were they included in your 80 percent figure?

Capt. Joseph J. Daigneault, Jr.,USN (Ret.) ’54
via email

A complex fate

Father Hesburgh’s rejected invitation to the then Joseph Ratzinger to become a professor at Notre Dame is most revealing. Benedict XVI replied that his knowledge of English was insufficient. But the pontiff’s facility with the English “tongue” was nearly as fluent then as it is now. What he was expressing was a discomfort with the English “language.” He did not care to examine English liberty in relation to the absolute liberty of Rome. Roman imperial Stoicism conceives a single unvarying human nature (the Platonic pattern is masculine) dominant over the species in all times to which absolute liberty has the only fitting key. English liberty holds this universal nature to be not only un-English but perhaps not quite human. Absolute liberty is authoritarian and tends toward collective domination; English liberty is individualistic and tends toward anarchy.

This richly representative historical conflict calls for a creative reconciliation such as we see begun at Notre Dame in the philosophy of Alasdair MacIntyre, who undertakes argument with both parties. Notre Dame has a complex fate, more complex than the present Rome may care to understand

Joseph F. Ryan’ 59
Yarmouthport, Massachusetts

First Phoxes

I was thrilled to see the Pangborn profile in the summer issue, but I would like to correct one small inaccuracy. When the administration asked for volunteers to live in the new women’s dorm, there actually was a small but enthusiastic group of students who decided to answer that call. We came from a number of different dorms for a variety of different reasons, but we were all looking forward to establishing a new dorm with new traditions and new network of friends. I know that I and my fellow classmates really enjoyed being among the very first Phoxes.
Carolyn Olson Kurowski 94
via email

Arcadian thoughts

Thank you for publishing Jessica Mesman’s essay, “Leaving Arcadia.” The author does an excellent job of analyzing the program and the challenges that it faced. I confess that I never saw the show, but after reading Mesman’s piece, I wish that I’d viewed and supported Joan of Arcadia.

Popular culture’s wrestling with God is a profoundly important subject. Please have Jessica Mesman write more articles on the topic.

Brent Chesley ’86Ph.D.
Aquinas College
Grand Rapids, Michigan

In your summer 2005 issue, you presented a problem and then reported elsewhere on how it might be solved-without connecting the dots.

My husband and I often bemoan the pathetic TV fare available, especially programs of interest to those of us in the non-targeted age market. We watched Joan of Arcadia and appreciated your article on the show’s content and demise (page 31 of your summer 2005 issue). On page 12 of the same issue, you mentioned that ND is considering selling their TV station. Wouldn’t it be marvelous if they could produce some high quality, wholesome shows. Seems to me the drama department could provide talent. Other departments could make issue based presentations. Talent abounds at ND. Why not?

Lucille Greer Maloney
via email

Walking the woods

Thank you for Kerry Temple’s grand essay on walking the “woods near Saint Mary’s College.” I have been running, walking, birding, and otherwise exploring, surveying and savoring those same woods since my first year of law school in ’79.

Although I have yet to see a bobcat there, the deer, foxes, racoons, rabbits, squirrels, woodchucks, chipmunks and other smaller mammals are familiar companions as are the wide variety of birds, including four species of owls and at least as many of hawks, as well as migrating sandhill cranes, warblers and many other feathered friends.

The major beauties missing from the essay’s description are the succession of many wildflowers from March to November, and butterflies from the big and showy swallowtails to the tiny and delicate blues, in addition to our brothers and sisters in the human family who frequent the trails. I enjoy the relative solitude as much as anyone but am also grateful to share the grandness of God’s creation with others who also share my appreciation. Although perhaps not mystical in the commonly misunderstood sense, these woods are one of the most spiritual places in the area.

Maybe I should get started on my field guide to the Saint Mary’s woods one of these days in my spare time. Until then, keep walking and God bless.

Rev. John Patrick Riley, CSC
via email


I want to thank the magazine editor for his thoughtful story about the wondrous woods along the river at Saint Mary’s College. It recalled for me the many years while I was raising my four children and regularly walked with them in those woods.

My youngest son, Dan Rigaux, went to the Saint Mary’s kindergarten. Most days, I would bring my favorite dog, Taffy, a golden haired retriever, for a walk before I picked Dan up at 3 p.m. Sweet-tempered and obedient, she often ran off the leash because we so seldom met anyone on the trails.

I knew Taffy was coming to her life’s end when she no longer could walk the entire woods circuit. She was game to try, but I soon shortened our walks to a manageable distance for her.

I savored those half hours with Taffy. They were a balm during hectic days when I was raising four children and going to Notre Dame for a master’s degree.

In 1980 I moved to Washington, D.C., for a job. But sometimes when I return to South Bend to visit my family (retired ND professor Otto Bird and my sister Sarah, owner with her husband Ken of the Griffon Bookstore), I take time to walk through those well-remembered woods. Usually walking with whatever dog might be on hand.

Somehow it doesn’t seem right to walk alone. I need another living creature to share the beauty and peace of the woods and the occasional sightings of animals and birds.

Kate Bird
via email

Mascot ideas

Hello. First off, let me say, I love the University of Notre Dame. Ever since I learned that the school was founded in 1842 by French priests who were members of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, I wanted to attend the school. I did, in fact. In 1982 I spent a semester in South Bend but had to drop out due to a marlin fishing accident in which I lost both hands and portions of my ear. I’d rather not go into all that, let me just say thank goodness for reconstructive surgery.

Like I said, I’ve always loved the school but think it’s about time we changed the mascot. Fighting Irish? Huh? What’s that have to do with a school founded by Frenchmen? Irish? Wha? What’s that have to do with the nation that is France and all of its wonders?

That said, I’ve compiled a list of possible mascot changes.

1) University of Notre Dame Fightin’ Frenchies

2) University of Notre Dame Dons and Dames

3) University of Notre Dame Ragin’ Baguettes

4) University of Notre Dame Galling DeGaulle’s

5) University of Notre Dame Mighty Meurthe-et-Moselle

6) University of Notre Dame Quiche

Thank you for your time and efforts. It’s time the mascot of Notre Dame truly reflected the greatest of the school.

Jonathan Shipley
Vashon, Wasington