Letters to the Editor

Author: Readers

Walsh Hall and the Navy

I am astonished that the otherwise nice article about Walsh Hall did not contain any information about the most unique element in the history of this grand old hall. During World War II Walsh housed about 150 of us in the Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (NROTC), a full-time active-duty unit at that time. We arose at 6 a.m., wore uniforms at all times, marched to morning and evening meals, and had to be in our rooms after the evening meal until lights out at 10 p.m. We carried a study load of 18 to 21 hours per semester and most of us graduated after 28 months of college. We were then commissioned as Naval officers and assigned to warships in the Navy. Because more than 90 percent of the men on campus during the war wore a Navy uniform, it is very likely Notre Dame would have had financial difficulty had it not been for this arrangement with the Navy.

Capt. Robert E. Thomas ’45
San Diego, California

Campus drinking

Kudos to Father Mark Poorman, CSC (“Sobering Debate,” Summer 2002). It’s about time someone addressed the excessive drinking at ND. As a mother of six grown children, three of whom are ND graduates, I have watched the problem become more and more excessive over the years. If the educated adults in our society look the other way as our young people drink, vomit, engage in date rape and sometimes die from over-indulgence, we are truly a sorry lot of cowards. Administration of a university is not a popularity contest; sometimes we have to protect our children from themselves.

Caryl S. O’Connor
Orland Park, Illinois

My, my, how will those poor kids ever get through college without binge drinking as a rite of passage? To the student quoted as saying, “This place will no longer be fun in 10 years,” well, too bad, so sad, what a warped sense of fun. Hooray for Father Mark Poorman.

Ed DeBoer ’53
Signal Mountain, Tennessee

Notre Dame sports

I was disheartened that the article “Can Notre Dame Have It Both Ways?” failed to mention, whether by design or oversight, Notre Dame’s true mission — to be the best Catholic university in the United States. Whether Notre Dame regains its football dominance or whether it builds on its academic excellence is of no moment if it continues to lose its identity as the best Catholic university in the country.

William L. Kallal ’66
Cheyenne, Wyoming

It is important to be alert, not fooled or swayed by the article in the latest issue of Notre Dame Magazine, “Can Notre Dame Have It Both Ways?” The issues discussed in that article are not those most important to the Notre Dame family. Integrity, character, moral values and devotion to the Blessed Mother are what are most important to Notre Dame students, alumni and friends. Damaging events over the past five years (the Joe Moore lawsuit, Kim Dunbar episode, the football program being put on two-year probation by the NCAA, the George O’Leary hiring and the recent rape case) have shaken the University’s traditional “footings.” The administration is using smoke screens to distract from the real problem of incompetence, ineffective rule enforcement and inept management. Strong measures are needed quickly to restore Our Lady’s goodwill and reputation.

James D. Irwin Jr. ’58
Buffalo, New York

In the article by Michael Oriard (“It’s Not All Fun and Games”), recounting his efforts to assist his son in finding the right college, he remarks, “the options to my mind seemed stark: Division I or Division III, top-level basketball or first-class education.” I have two concerns with this. The first is the implication of exclusivity: It’s either one or the other — a rather strange statement for a Notre Dame alumnus who clearly appreciates and loves his alma mater. The second is that Oriard has omitted a whole division of NCAA colleges, Division II. Hundreds of outstanding Division II colleges offer highly competitive athletic programs along with excellent educational opportunities.

John R. Fortin, OSB, ’84, ’91Ph.D.
Saint Anselm College
Manchester, New Hampshire

The Catholic sex scandal

John Cavadini’s otherwise thoughtful essay (“Levels of Trust”) is tainted by his attempt to separate pedophilia involving pre- and post-pubescent minors. This is a distinction without a difference. The “crime,” and it is a crime, is not simply the carnal acts of sexual misuse and exploitation of children, but the abuse of influence, authority and trust placed in individuals, which is no less damaging to teens than to preteens. The attempt to even remotely sanitize such behavior under the banner of anti-Catholic media bias is emblematic of the church’s appalling institutional arrogance and its emotional isolation from the faithful.

Richard Tredeau, M.D., ’77
Longmeadow, Massachusetts

“Levels of Trust” is a demeaning and depressing but not necessarily unexpected apologia for a church hierarchy involved in the current morass of sexual scandals. The acts of some priests are certainly a scandal — in many cases a felony. The real scandal, however, lies with the bishops and other leaders of the church who have used their positions of power to condone, hide and — by their actions — encourage this behavior that, to my personal knowledge, has been going on for at least 50 years.

The bishops have been so busy protecting the institution that they seem to have forgotten or ignored the people they are supposed to be leading. Perhaps the problem is one of self-identification. The bishops embrace the title “Defender of the Faith,” when they should be embracing the position “Defender of the Faithful,” especially as it relates to those among the faithful who are least able to defend themselves. Without the faithful to govern, the leaders are nothing but a small cabal of self-serving shamans with little power and less relevance. While priests have done great harm to children and their families, the harm to the church has been done by the bishops with their “circle the wagons and defend the faith” mentality. Nothing will change until that mentality is stamped out.

Furthermore, in their desperate attempt to hide the original problem, the bishops have created another and equally serious one (one that the author does not touch on at all): using church funds to pay off victims and their families to keep them quiet about what has happened to them.

William F. DeSeta ’58
New York, New York

John Cavadini’s article represented a thoughtful and logical treatment of the scandals rocking the church clergy today. However, I continue to be amazed that the church’s rationale for celibacy ignores a whole segment of society — men and women who would make wonderful ministers of Christ both as clergy and as husbands and wives, moms and dads. I believe there are so many who would pursue priestly responsibilities that the segment of clergy who taint the church currently would become nearly nonexistent. How sad for our church not to recognize it has excluded wonderful people from service.

G. Mark Seal, M.D. ’75
Toledo, Ohio

While Dr. Cavadini’s statistics supporting the low ratio of predators among the total priest population are helpful in forming a perspective on comparative deviation of sexual misbehavior, the statistics do not excuse the Catholic church’s attempts to keep this scandal in-house. The church chose to hide the problem within its cloisters. But the behavior of the priests was not simply immoral, it was unlawful. What right does the church believe it has to hide unlawful behavior by its priests?

The Catholic church in the United States is a juristic citizen of the United States. Under the First Amendment Establishment Clause the church has certain privileges. These privileges do not include the right to hide unlawful behavior. If an individual citizen actively obscures unlawful behavior that has been witnessed personally, that individual’s acts are unlawful. Similarly, a juristic person aware of unlawful acts behaves unlawfully when concealing the unlawful behavior. It is not inconceivable that the terms of the RICO Act apply to the pattern of the Catholic hierarchy in the United States of hiding alleged perpetrators from the criminal justice system. It is impossible to believe that the bishops and other officers of the Catholic church were not aware of the unlawful behavior of a few of their priests.

For many years the Catholic laity has heard gossip and rumors about the church’s hiding of predator priests. In one respect the laity is as much at fault as the hierarchy by not taking any steps to question the bishops’ actions concerning the children abused. Simply because others ignore the problem does not excuse our own failure to rectify the problem.

Charles G. Ollinger ’56
Elizabethton, Tennessee

I, too, am angry at the bishops who in their own arrogance of power created the crisis in the first place by stonewalling and demeaning those who were harmed by sexual abuse — a crime of great destructive force. By giving their first allegiance to the priests, they have continued to foster the image of the club mentality — us against them. These bishops refuse to understand their responsibility to the young people involved as having rights just as important as their priests.

Then the bishops met in panic, running from the negative publicity and pressure, imposing a policy of Zero Tolerance. It seems that this policy means that if any priests has ever been accused, they are automatically guilty, even if these accusations are 30 to 40 years old. In dredging up 30-year-old accusations, founded or not, priests are automatically forbidden to act as priests without regard to their lives since that time. This witch-hunt does not require evidence, except that of a lone accuser decades before.

Finally, I am reminded of the old axiom of Lord Acton: that as power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. I see this with the hierarchy of the church when they refuse to listen to those who live in average homes and try very hard to love one another and raise their children as best they can. I see the same process in Washington, D.C., and in the corporate boardrooms where there is no accountability and questions are ignored because they are inconvenient or challenging. It looks to me like cardinals and bishops listen to and speak only with other cardinals and bishops, just as congressmen and corporate bigwigs speak only to other congressmen and corporate bigwigs. When the wealthy speak only to the wealthy, do the poor have a chance?

In the meantime, we have a pope who refuses to discuss such heretical ideas as women priests, married clergy, responsible birth control, etc. Our leaders — the bishops — are appointed because they do not dare to publicly challenge the decisions that come from Rome. Debate is not allowed, and the church suffers with the self-inflicted pain of blindness.

Charles G. Bolser, CSV
Provincial, Clerics of Saint Viator
Province of Chicago

Dr. Cavadini pointed out that none of the clerical molesters seemed inclined to beg forgiveness and their bishops did not demonstrate repentance for concealing or relocating molesters. But his article completely bypassed the silence of the rest of our Roman Catholic clergy who were in position to know, or at least suspect, their fellow priests were molesting children and young people.

Where are our clerical whistleblowers? Weren’t there any those scandalous years their fellow priests committed crimes by sexually ravaging innocent children and youth? Is the clergy so closed unto themselves that not one had, or has, the courage to alert criminal law authorities? Is the vow of obedience so sacred? The mental and spiritual stability of children and youth so inconsequential? If but one clergyman had publicly acted by going to law enforcement authorities years ago, how many young people might have been spared such detrimental psychological damages?

Clerical child molesters need more than confessional absolution. They need to do time within the cold arms of prison walls.

James F. Walsh ’55, ’56M.A.
Culver, Indiana