Letters to the editor

Author: Readers

Editor’s note: The letters that appeared in the winter 2010-11 print issue are marked with double asterisks (**).

The Episcopal Church in Haiti

**Your reporting on the hospital in Leogane, Haiti, (“Seen & Heard”) needs a better context. The tent hospital was blessed by three bishops from the Anglican Communion, two of whom were bishops of the Episcopal Church, not “Anglican” bishops. The third was an archbishop — in fact, the primate of the Church in South Africa. Haiti is a diocese in the Episcopal Church (USA), and the hospital in Leogane is run by the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti in partnership with the Presbyterian Church. While it is natural that you would focus on what Notre Dame is doing there, both this and the feature story in your summer issue nearly obliterated the central role of the Episcopal Church in providing medical services and assisting in the reconstruction of Leogane.

Joan R. Gundersen ’72Ph.D.
Aspinwall, Pennsylvania

Some history would help

**A brief review of the history of the Transylvanian region in the past 100 years would have helped the reflections on the nature of the unchanged lifestyle observed by the author (“What we can learn from Transylvania”). Starting with the invasion of the Germans in World War I, the area was plundered and people’s food was taken at will. Because Transylvania was part of the Kingdom of Hungary and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, when it came time to punish the Germans, the Hungarians ended up bearing the brunt of the effects of the Treaty of Versailles in 1920; Transylvania was carved off and handed to the Romanians, all of Slovakia was put together with Bohemia to form Czechoslovakia (before they split up). Then Croatia and Slovenia were pried off with the land below the Sava River to form northern Yugoslavia.

For years after 1920, the Romanian government systematically persecuted the native inhabitants, who were either majority Saxon or Hungarian, and re-populated Romanian farmers onto the lands that were “liberated.” Today the Hungarians are a small minority in a very few localities, and the Saxons have all but left for Germany.

No doubt there are virtuous Romanians as described, but there was no mention of what happened to those who were there before. I would urge a historical perspective; the author takes the present as if it was always this way.

Fred Siebenmann
Crozet, Virginia

More problems with evil

**After reading “$1.7 million grant targets the ‘problem of evil,’” and the brochure for the Center for Philosophy of Religion, I am still confused as to the legitimate purpose of this massively expensive project. The brochure states the “problem” superficially. Since I’m no scholar I may have missed the point, but I find myself agitated as I consider that the root of evil is the Devil. I would very much like to be set straight as to the parameters of such a study.

An academic study without a desire for conversion of heart seems useless at best. At worst for Notre Dame, it represents an abuse or perversion, for taking $1.7 million from actively lived catechesis. Please help clarify the value of this project.

Mike S. Caruso ’67
St. Joseph, Missouri

**The “problem of evil” is such an intractable mystery that Kant could write in 1791 that the “tribunal of human reason” is incompetent to rule on “supreme wisdom,” so attempts at a theodicy must fail. Even Leibniz, in the preface to his Theodicee, writes that “evil,” along with “continuity,” are the “two famous labyrinths where our reason often goes astray.” Kenneth Surin of Duke summarizes well in The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Thought the current state of theological opinion on the topic, citing Notre Dame’s Al Plantinga as well as Hick, Wiesel, Whitehead and Swinburne.

In short, the subject has been worked over for centuries with little advancement beyond what God asked of Job: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?” (Job 38:4). Therefore, the $1.7 million will be expended to little effect and should be spent elsewhere.

Charles G. Conway ’56
Palm Springs, California

**Your article on the problem of evil got me to thinking. The problem of evil is death, suffering, revenge and hate. But good ultimately triumphs over evil. I am told that some early Christian martyrs sang as they were being led to their deaths. They could see that death in this life was not the end but a passage to something better.

Terry Sullivan ’58
Posen, Michigan

**The problem of evil is the Gnostic alternative to a positive natural theology. It’s a pseudo-problem, and the last thing it leads to is a satisfactory understanding of limitation and suffering.

The Gnostic, from the Greek word meaning “to know,” substitutes knowledge for belief, spiritual intuition for the motion of matter, the experience of the void for the non-silence of the generative forces in nature. Aristotle’s god is a god of gnosis, of pure intellectual act unmixed with any privation or potentiality. The way to confront the Gnostic is with the evidences of existence or matter, because these evidences are manifest only to belief. Is Chrisianity fundamentally Gnostic? This has been the question of the past two centuries, because science and the humanism that springs from science are not.

Joseph Ryan ’59

**The Catholic author Flannery O’Connor observed, “Evil is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be endured.”

Acting in accord with this truth, Notre Dame’s Center for Philosophy of Religion should return the $1.7 million grant to the Templeton Foundation with the request that the money be spent to buy food and medicine for the orphaned children of Haiti and Pakistan.

It is vain to waste this money to “solve” a specious “problem” when these dollars would be better spent to help alleviate some of the suffering in the world.

In the same article, Claire Reising reports that Samuel Newlands seeks a middle ground where faith is questioned but not dismissed. If faith is to be honestly questioned, it must permit the possibility of dismissal.

Mike McDermott ’63
Palos Park, Illinois

GALA and recognition

**While I was happy to see the acknowledgement of Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach’s ’91 fight against the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” policy in “Domers in the News,” there is much more to the story.

In October of 2010, Fehrenbach was honored on campus with the Distinguished Alumni Award by the more than 1,000 nationwide members of the Gay and Lesbian Alumni/ae of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College (GALA-ND/SMC). The award was given as part of GALA-ND/SMC’s semi-annual Tom Dooley Awards and honored Fehrenbach for his dedication in standing up for gay and lesbian civil rights.

Also honored with a Tom Dooley Award was Sister M.L. Gude, CSC, former assistant vice president of student affairs at Notre Dame and now vice president for mission at Saint Mary’s. Sister M.L. helped provide guidance and understanding for many gay and lesbian students during her years of service at Notre Dame.

Gus Hinojosa ’82 was also honored for his service in leading GALA-ND/SMC and co-founding the Notre Dame Queer Film Festival.

During the awards weekend, Fehrenbach and his lead attorney, M. Andrew Woodmansee ’93, ’96J.D., spoke at the Notre Dame Law School about the repeal of “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” and participated in a well-attended panel discussion moderated by Law Professor Judith Fox.

Unfortunately, such extraordinary efforts too often go unrecognized by the Notre Dame administration. Perhaps by taking a few simple steps, Notre Dame could send signals of support that could make Notre Dame a more inclusive environment for all and help prevent tragic deaths like those of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi from happening at Our Lady’s university.

Liam Dacey ’04
Chair of GALA-ND/SMC

Molarity cartoons

Notre Dame Magazine, thank you for bringing Molarity back into circulation. In the early 1980s, reading Molarity was always a high point of every day on campus. Seeing these characters again, even though it’s only every couple of weeks, brings back such great memories and brings these legendary Notre Dame characters to a vast number of our fellow alumni who didn’t get the chance to experience Molarity. Again, thanks very much, and please keep them coming!!!

Michael Gurdak ’84


I am an avid reader of the Notre Dame magazine. Recently I have found it more difficult to read. Granted I am getting older. I don’t know whether it is the contrast or the type size but it is much harder to read than a book. Last Saturday I was headed to Philadelphia on the train for an NDAA meeting and I tried to read it. With the vibration it was almost impossible—I felt like I had to concentrate on every word to undersatnd it. (I should note that I just had my glasses changed.) Of all the things I read—magazines, books, newspapers—the Notre Dame Magazine is the most difficult.

Ed Lynch ’57

Interesting issue, I particularly liked the Hadron collider story, not realizing that ND was playing a prominent role.

My career was mostly in Marcom for Hewlett Packard. I did a lot of advertising and collateral production, data sheets, brochures, trade magazine ads.

My most memorable guidance was from one of my advertising graphic people who recalled the advice of David Ogilvy of Hathaway Shirt ads fame, who recommended that you NEVER use reverse type in ads or anything you wanted customers to read. Which I agreed with because it forces your customers to struggle to read the text.

In your autumn issue, you have several pages, like 43, where the content text is buried under some strong color overprints. 31 was particularly bad.

What I found in time was that graphic artists LOVE to do “arty” things with forms and type font. And you have to rein them in.

John Minck ’52

Wild horses at risk

Despite what the autumn “Winter Keep” article said, the wild mustangs that live in the western states are not safe on reserves. They are being steadily eliminated. The Wild Horse and Burro’s Act of 1971 allocated 19 million acres for the wild horses to live on and be protected but is being ignored by our government. The Cattleman’s Association is demanding more land for their cattle. They are a very rich and powerful organization and can afford many lobbyists to sway government opinion.

The Bureau of Land Management is not only allowing the roundup and slaughter of our American wild horses, they are participating in the process. The Department of the Interior looks the other way. Last winter 2,000 mustangs from a Calico herd in Nevada were rounded up with government helicopters. The horses were run for miles at top speed to holding pens. As a result 150 horses died. Many were injured. One little colt ran so hard his hooves sloughed off and he had to be put down. From the holding pens these terrified horses were auctioned off to “killing men” and horse advocates from rescue groups.

The “killing men” have more money from the sale of horse meat that they can use to buy more horses. The horses they buy are stuffed into trailers and trucks so tight they cannot move. Can you imagine the fear and terror the horses are going through? They are transported for days without food, water or rest. Many are injured, some die. When they get to the slaughter house in Mexico or Canada the torture really begins. The horses are forced up chutes where they are stabbed repeatedly with puntilla (a long ice pick) knife until their spinal cord is severed and they collapse. The horse is then strung up and gutted. Some are still alive. The meat is packaged and sent to Europe, where it is a delicacy.

Why must these innocent horses pay such a high price for being on their own land and not hurting anyone?

The Cattleman’s Association is the biggest and most powerful enemy of the mustang. They want their land for cattle. Our government does not care about horses, they are unimportant. Nineteen million acres should be enough land for all the animals. The wild mustangs only have us to help them. So many of them die because of greed and corruption. These are beautiful, healthy, contented horses. They are not starving or over-populated as our government would have you believe. This is a terrible injustice to the descendants of the horses that pulled pioneer wagons west, were mounts for the cavalry, carried the mail and mostly gave us pleasure.

Lois Hamilton
Parrottsville, Tennessee

I just recently attended my 50th class reunion at ND. It was the first reunion I had ever attended. I was thrilled and moved to reconnect with old friends and roommates and to see what I had previously forgotten, that ND is a place like no other, rich, spiritual, and intensely moving.

Your magazine is the same. When I read articles that take me places I have never been or likely to find in any other publication, such as “Sentenced to Life,” I have new appreciation of those in prison. When I read articles like “Life in the Abyss” and the “Symphony of a Lifetime,” I am moved to tears with the depth, beauty and the hidden meaning of God I find there. Thank you for bringing such powerful gifts to me and the entire ND family four times a year.

William R. Hickey ’60
Chicago, IL.