Letters to the editor

Author: Readers

Editor’s note: Letters appearing in the spring print issue are marked with a double **.


**Despite its lofty opinion of itself, Notre Dame Magazine is still not brave enough to oppose stereotypes and racial bigotry. In his article “A round of racial provocations,” Kerry Temple can’t seem to articulate why grouping individuals by race and assigning blanket labels is wrong. But the problem is bigger than that. The University itself has sanctioned Iris Outlaw’s “White Privilege” course — a class sponsored and promoted by an institution publicly opposed to discrimination of all kinds.

In the story Outlaw says, “It’s not that we are indoctrinating anyone, but we are just trying to make students more aware of the privileges they have had throughout life.” To presume she or any Notre Dame professor knows something of the individual background of any Notre Dame student based on the color of their skin is beyond ignorant. Making people of any race an object of derision does not make Notre Dame a more welcoming place.

John Singleton
Annapolis, Maryland

**It takes little courage to go along with the group-think prevalent on college campuses nowadays. I wonder if one of Muffet McGraw’s white players, perhaps with a relative in law enforcement, refused to wear the “I can’t breathe” T-shirt because she felt it reflected an anti-police bias would be congratulated for having the courage “to use her voice and take a stand.” Or would Coach McGraw consider her a white racist and send her on to Professor Iris Outlaw for some counseling about “white privilege”?

Michael Freeman ’64
Sanger, California

**I was a Jewish student in the early 1970s, and I read with interest the anecdote about the Jewish student who left Notre Dame because of his roommates. My freshmen roommates were a Lebanese Catholic, an Irish Catholic and an Irish Protestant. That spring I was in a car crash in Florida after a rugby tournament, resulting in my being in a coma for two months and paralyzed on my left side. The doctors said I would not survive and certainly never walk again. But I walked out of that hospital. The men of my dorm, Holy Cross, had a Mass for me and wrote special prayers, and sent copies of those prayers to me in the hospital. I received cards from everyone I knew at Notre Dame and some people I had never met. Those prayers were answered; I survived and graduated from Notre Dame.

My sophomore year Father Hesburgh came to say Mass in our dorm, and our rector introduced me to him. During the sign of peace Father Hesburgh walked up to me, shook my hand and said, “Shalom.” My experience as a Jew at Notre Dame was positive.

William S. Sohn ’75
Danville, Illinois

**I found Kerry Temple’s “Growing into the Light” (editor’s column) the perfect example of how society and now, sadly, Notre Dame romanticizes the concept of learning from other religions, philosophies and mindsets by immersing ourselves in the waters of their thinking rather than standing on the banks as an observer. Telling readers they can grow into the light by stepping into another philosophy can be quite dangerous.

Notre Dame has always been a place of diversity but also built upon the Catholic Church. So which is it: a Catholic institution that has always taught love and tolerance while maintaining its true identity or has it become a place where students are being taught to explore other ways of thinking just to see how it feels?

Kristy Zloch Murphy ’96
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The pornography conference

**I appreciate the retrospective on the 1969 Pornography and Censorship Conference and your tone of seriousness rather than sensationalism or silliness. It was neither a quaint moment nor a ridiculous exuberance, and I believe your report appreciated that. But toward the conclusion the writer says, “Student dissent never again reached the level seen with the Pornography and Censorship Conference.” What level of dissent do you assign the 1970 student strike, the impromptu meeting at Stepan Center, the protest march in downtown South Bend? My recollection of the time is that the war did not simply “drag on.” My Lai was uncovered and investigated; Cambodia was invaded . . . I am probably just quibbling — a common malady of the aging. Let’s go back to, “Thanks for the well-researched, well-written article.”

Paul Hilvert ’72
Cincinnati, Ohio

The sun

**Kerry Temple’s “The Sun in our Midst” is a beautiful essay on the wonder of nature and presence of God in all things great and small. For me, God is evident in the utterly amazing and sometimes unfathomable aspects of our universe that science is uncovering every day. And the sentence — “The universe, both seen and unseen, is a source of awe, a fetching mystery, a poem to parse for the Author’s signature.” — captures the essence of the presence of God in scientific discovery.

Chris Paul ’90
McKinney, Texas

I am a Sister of Mercy in St. Louis, Missouri, and a ND graduate. I have been receiving the ND magazine for many, many years, and have appreciated reading info and articles therein. I especially appreciated the recent article/essay that Kerry Temple wrote entitled “The Sun in our Midst.” It was well-written and I found it to be very inspiring. Thank you so much. Blessings of continued good writing.

Sister Corlita Bonnarens, RSM
Mercy Center
St. Louis, Missouri

Levels of meaning

**I would like to compliment Bruce Lawrie for his excellent essay, “My turn.” His writing is jampacked with emotion, imagery and nuance, and captures quite precisely the complex combination of feelings that make up our lives: happiness and joy mixed freely with frustration and enmity, abundant unconditional love interwoven with subtle feelings of failure and regret. Even the title packs a punch, carrying three or four meanings simultaneously. Is there a better way to contemplate what we all experience along this complicated and wonderful God-given journey we call life?

Phil Borchard ’78
Rochester Hills, Michigan


**Thank you, Michael Desch (“Show Some Restraint”), for challenging what you call the “primacy” foreign policies of the past decades. Considering how mainstream media consistently abet the ongoing war efforts, screen dissent, demonize and conjure “enemies”; considering how the powerful corporate influences shape elections, policies and law; considering how we routinely invade countries, install regimes, and maim, torture and kill people from our numerous global military bases; considering how these preposterous wars have cost the United States $3 trillion; considering how 22 U.S. veterans commit suicide each day; and considering how 9/11’s many mysterious and unexplained events led to unjust wars, lost freedoms and millions dead suggests that, if anything, you were extremely gentle.

Finally, considering how we profess to be a Christian people, where is the mass outrage at such injustice and inhumanity?

Jack Gibbs ’86
Ashland, Oregon

**Michael Desch’s article was disappointing and troubling. It was nothing more than a politically motivated infomercial masquerading as a discourse on the use of military force and a regurgitation of the anti-involvement, anti-war rhetoric voiced by the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. It sounds remarkably like President Obama’s policy of limited engagement. How is that working? Have six years of “restraint” created a more peaceful world? I think not.

What is needed is a comprehensive global strategy that uses economic, political and military resources to wisely but aggressively address the burgeoning threat of Islamic terrorist groups to the whole world. The United States should be more proactive, not restrained. Anything less is unacceptable. Evil is like cancer: Ignore the early warning signs and it will kill you.

John Carr ’64
Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania

**Professor Desch’s taxonomy of grand strategies is an elegant academic construct but, as one whose military career included “strategizing” in the offices of the Chief of Naval Operations, the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Security Council, I find his construct of dubious normative value. I’m sure Desch recognizes the wide gulf that exists in the “primacy” category between nation-building and the elder Bush’s decision to launch Desert Storm. But then “restraint” was not a realistic strategy for either president where a militant Iraq was concerned. Sadly, the incumbent president, a committed “restrainer,” has effectively ignored our interests and abdicated responsibility for maintaining adequate capabilities to defend them. By weakening our armed forces and opting for “leadership from the rear,” a grand strategy of “restraint” has weakened our alliances and reduced respect for U.S. leadership around the world.

The basis of any grand strategy must be the protection of a nation’s core interests — the touchstone of a rational, defensible strategy. In the post-World War II era our grand strategy evolved from two such considerations: the determination to block the advance of Soviet power and communism into Western Europe, the Near East and East Asia and maintaining the absolute power amassed and demonstrated in our defeat of Japan and Germany, including the advantage conferred by our nuclear weapons.

Certainly, the policy choices made during the Cold War and the wars fought in Korea and Vietnam were seen as consistent with these protections, as have subsequent engagements. The simple conclusion is that the protection of the interests we have deemed “vital” should lead us to continue taking a leading role in a troubled world. Unless we are prepared to reset our interests and concede primacy in the regions we have sworn to defend, a strategy of restraint or passivity in the face of inimical powers seems imprudent.

Philip A. Dur ’65, ’66M.A.
Rear Admiral, USN (Ret)
Destin, Florida

Reference the article “Show Some Restraint.” The article seems to overlook the point that some nations believe that they can act irresponsibly and if they get into trouble the United States will step in and bail them out. I lived in Cyprus in 1966, a few years after the country won independence from Britain and descended essentially into civil war between the majority Greek population and the minority Turkish population. The war was ended by U.N. troops, who separated the two ethnic groups for decades. There were occasional bomb blasts and shootings when I was there, but they were few in number and rarely fatal.

One day I was talking with a Greek businessman who said that he wanted a union with Greece. I reminded him that Cyprus’s economy was much stronger than Greece’s, so Cyprus would end up shouldering the burden, and that when Crete united with Greece, Greece kicked out all the Turkish residents. Turkey, only about 20 miles away, could very quickly stifle any move toward Greece. Another businessman said, “That’s all right because the U.S. would land all those Marines and save us.”

That is the attitude of many nations. They feel that they can do irresponsible things because the United States will bail them out. We have to stop trying to solve everyone’s problems and concentrate on solving our own.

Jon McKenzie
Via email

Thanks Professor Michael Desch for “Show Some Restraint,” a significant article mapping strategy alternatives for our country’s pursuit of world peace, or perhaps, at best, somewhat peaceful co-existence among nations. As an ROTC student of the Viet Nam War era, fully aware that our country has not won a war since 1945, I appreciate the strategy of restraint. The article should be required reading for the 2016 presidential election. Since that is unrealistic, I wonder how Notre Dame, with its various strong peace initiatives, could play a role for elevating campaign dialogue beyond petty politics and beyond our national political pastime of avoiding actual work on the real, hard issues of our time? As the article demonstrated, analysis and practical approaches for global peace has been more the domain of the academic world than our political world. Who will cause that to change?

John Maimone ‘70
Hendersonville, North Carolina

In this issue of ND Magazine; and the other articles, ABOUT NOTRE DAME, were so well done! “’Hall Traditions” were so refreshing and interesting, The “Walker,” “Failure is not an option” . . . ALL interesting and insightful on today’s campus activities.

Then why would an editor then, not question, much less delete, some of these quotes from
the “Show some Restraint” article; for brevity, I will just take from TWO PARAGRAPHS remarks that are subjective, contentious, argumentative and could be argued by many smarter than me, these are not at all completely accurate, some, if not indeed . . . falsehoods.

‘’after toppling the Taliban . . . we had him cornered in..eastern Afghanistan’‘/
’’Bush took his eye off the prize’’/‘’Saddam distracted the President’s focus’’/Sadam dabbled with weapons of mass destruction’’/ ‘’warmongering at its fever pitch’‘/’‘occasional support for anti-Israel terrorism’‘/’‘FULLY, if grudgingly, complied with UN’s disarmament resolutions’’

There are so many refutations to just these examples could fill up the next issue of ND magazine.

Why in Notre Dame Magazine are these allowed?? To say that these statements are implicit with media buzz-words, and indeed loaded with half-truths, some actually NOT BASED ON FACTS; a obvious lack of objectivity does not strike me as the purpose at all of ND Magazine. Indeed we all may disagree, and we like a debate on issues of this type, but to issue these inflammatory statements in ND magazine strikes me as NOT the reason this Old Alumni reads and enjoys ND Magazine

Jack Revord ’58
Glenview, Illinois

World issues

I would like to comment on the current issue and add a postscript which may interest those interested in Irish history. As a ’64 Ph.D. residing for the past 20 years in Hungary, I consider the current issue of Notre Dame Magazine an outstanding collection of articles especially relevant to current world issues. The primary world issue, to one residing in an area of controversy and conflict, is the question that April Feng raised in a deeply personal, poetic and in a truly realistic manner: how can we accept and respect differences, suspend judgment and keep an open mind toward divergent beliefs and cultures. Her article makes an outstanding contribution to this issue.

The second article that is equally important and based on scholarly thinking is that by Professor Michael Tesch. It is in fact time for the U.S. to rethink foreign policy in terms proposed by Professor Tesch. His proposal of selective engagement is certainly one of the most realistic options to consider. He mentions the use of that strategy in the Cold War period, known as containment of the Soviet Union. At that time I was a doctoral student at Notre Dame, an assistant to Professor Stephen D. Kertesz, who represented an articulate advocate of that foreign policy direction, as we know it was successful. Unfortunately, he did not live to experience that success. These two articles are of such quality, that they should be regarded as formative ideas at the national and international level.

And now to my postscript: My doctoral dissertation at Notre Dame concerned the political ideas of Joseph Eötvös, a 19th century Hungarian writer, reformer and statesman, seeking to reform Hungarian social and political institutions. As a young writer he visited England and Ireland in the 1830’s. As a result of his experiences in Ireland, he wrote a detailed study of conditions in Ireland, entitled “Poverty in Ireland” and published in Hungarian in 1840. A well-known Irish publisher, Phaeton Publishing Ltd. In Dublin discovered this study and considered it of such importance that it published it in English this year. My dissertation, transformed into a book, published by the American Philosophical Society in 1972, was the primary source for the publisher’s introduction of the author in this publication. The reason for its importance is that Eötvös utilized sources for his study which have been unknown to historians since that time.

Let me quote the publisher’s statement on this matter: “Interestingly, the extremely important documents from which Eötvös quoted — the Reports of the Commissioners for Inquiring into the Condition of the Poorer Classes in Ireland, chaired by Archbishop Richard Whately — we had never heard of until we read the Eötvös essay. Those reports have been pretty thoroughly suppressed here, and replaced with the Cecil Woodham-Smith version of Irish history, which was that the Irish were the best-fed people in Europe before the famine. We are immensely grateful to Eötvös for opening our eyes to our own history. Indeed, as a result of what we have learned from researching the background to this essay, we have decided to publish an illustrated edition of the Whately Commission reports and other documents from the 1830s later in the year.”

The publisher authorized me to transmit this quotation from his letter. This postscript can be regarded as an interesting example of the importance of international research.

Paul Bődy ’64Ph.D.
Via email

Absolute See

I find the Buddhist idea of ‘absolute see’ (seeing without judging) that April Feng discusses to be very intriguing. I don’t think there is a comparable idea in western philosophy with its emphasis on analysis and criticism. The world would be a much better place if more people adopted this practice.

Raymond Yee
Via email


One tradition that I was sad to see disappear was one that was in existence in the 50s and probably for many decades before that. It was simply that no one should walk up the steps of the administration building until they graduated. It was a tradition that, as far as I could see, no one violated during my stay there with one exception. On my first day on campus while wandering through the registration process I inadvertently walked up the steps.

Jack Barthel ’58
Cutchogue, New York

Thank you for the piece on hall traditions in which you mentioned traditions no longer indulged in, for better or worse, specifically North Quad’s tradition of streaking during the first heavy snowfall of winter, although I am dismayed to note not only the tradition in the past tense but also to decry the politically correct present tense term. Bun run? Come on. We were streaking.

Charlie Donnelly ’75
Via email

We just received the spring issue and are really disappointed that the magazine would highlight the “Knights” tasteless conduct on page 7. Do you think Father Hesburgh would appreciate this kind of “talent?”

Christopher Loomis
Via email

One tradition that I was sad to see disappear was one that was in existence in the 50s and probably for many decades before that. It was simply that no one should walk up the steps of the administration building until they graduated. It was a tradition that, as far as I could see, no one violated during my stay there with one exception. On my first day on campus while wandering through the registration process I inadvertently walked up the steps.

Jack Barthel ’58
Cutchogue, New York

Father Ted tribute

Reading Professor Schmuhl’s beautiful tribute to Father Hesburgh in the last issue of the magazine reminded me of my one and only interaction with Father Ted. It was Fall 1988 and I was a freshman who knew absolutely nothing about Notre Dame’s history or the legend of Father Ted. I was in the library making copies of certain pages of a calculus book that I didn’t feel I could afford at the time.

A man came up to me, as I was strategically using my dimes to copy key pages in the text, and asked me what I was doing. I somewhat dismissively explained that I was both taking and tutoring calculus, but “that there were really only a few pages in the ridiculous 400 page book that were necessary” for me to get an A and to do my tutoring job. Needless to say at this point, I was very immature, arrogant and had poor oral communication skills, particularly when dealing with adults.

Well, the man just asked a few more questions and we had a nice conversation about calculus and how my freshman year was going. At the end of the conversation, I introduced myself, we shook hands and he said, “Nice to meet you, I’m Father Ted Hesburgh”, walked away with a gentle smile as I got back to my copying without so much as a clue as to whom I had just met.

I was probably the only person on that entire campus who didn’t know who he was. Most men of his stature at that time would have likely been offended and/or even scolded me for not treating him as the icon that he was. Truth be told, I get “big-timed” as a 44 year old man by a lot of people who are much more successful than I, but Father Hesburgh had a conversation with an 18-year old ignorant kid in which he genuinely made me feel like an equal. That man transformed a University that transformed my life (and those of countless others), yet he maintained a humility that demonstrated he was a servant leader who truly modeled his life in the image of Christ.

Professor Schmuhl’s anecdotes captured Father Ted’s commitment to a Christ-centered, humble but also humorous life so much more eloquently than I ever could. They moved me so much that I was compelled to share my (embarrassing) story in appreciation for all that Father Hesburgh did for those of us within the Notre Dame family and the entire community of Believers throughout the world.

Michael Cipriano ’92, ‘93
Via email

Letters fan

The Letters-to-the-Editor section is my favorite part of Notre Dame Magazine. I like reading the views of my fellow alumni and other readers. They have very good insights worthy of further thought. Thank you for giving them a voice!

Paul Coppola ‘78
Washington, D.C.

Fighting cancer

Just read “Invincible No More.” Kudos to Michael Rodio, the author. Our son, Tres, and brother of Kerrie Wagner Debbs, class of ’89, had a glioblastoma multi-form four. Both brain tumors sound so similar being described as a tree trunk with its roots or as it was described to us as an octopus with its tentacles. Duke University is working on a cure using polio vaccine. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if both universities — all research facilities — could work together, share their information and come up with a cure so much more quickly? To the Perris — keep up the good work, your positive spirit, and God bless.

Ruthanne Wagner, parent, Kerrie Wagner ’89
Via email

Walk the walk

The answer to Joe Farrell’s question, “Is Notre Dame Catholic?” (Spring 2015) should be obvious. Notre Dame has always been a Catholic university despite what Mr. Farrell thinks about Catholic doctrine and social issues. Providing benefits to same-sex couples is a basic human right. Same sex marriage is the law in Indiana (as well as 36 other states). The questions he wants to ask are: “Is Notre Dame above the laws of the State of Indiana?” and “Should Notre Dame discriminate against same-sex couples?”

The changes in Indiana are not the result of actions by the so-called “gay lobby”; rather it is the realization that love is love and spousal benefits are appropriate regardless of the sex or sexual orientation of two individuals who choose to be married.

If Mr. Farrell wants ND to “walk the talk,” then we should reflect on the University’s response to the recent Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) passed by the Indiana legislature and signed by the governor, Mike Pence. While the CEO of Apple Computers, the NCAA, Charles Barkley, several state governors, and many university presidents in Indiana protested against the obvious bigotry behind RFRA, Notre Dame was conspicuous in its lackluster response. Where is Notre Dame’s leadership in human rights, equality, inclusivenessand social justice?

In the atrium of LaFortune, there’s a large photograph of Father Ted arm-in-arm with Martin Luther King. I wonder if Father Jenkins will ever be photographed with LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) leaders. That would be “walking the talk.”

The Notre Dame/Saint Mary’s family (students, faculty, staff and administrators) has had LGBT members for generations. Would Mr. Farrell deny health benefits to their spouses just because of his interpretation of Catholic doctrine and in defiance of state law? Do they not deserve the same benefits as other married couples? To quote Pope Francis, “Who am I to judge?” when he was asked about same sex couples.

Perhaps some prayer and reflection might temper some of the letter writer’s opinions. Maybe he should visit the Grotto, too. There he will find a statue of Dr. Tom Dooley ‘42, an LGBT alumnus of Notre Dame.

Tom Hubbard ’72
Seattle, Washington

A letter in the Spring issue urges the university to throw its metaphorical body on the tracks by denying spousal benefits to same-sex couples, in defiance of the law of the land. While ostensibly defending Catholic principles, the letter writer ignores an important one: freedom of conscience.

Notre Dame’s Theology Department has an endowed professorship traditionally held by a rabbi. There’s no greater violation of Catholic principles than denying the divinity of Jesus, but by having that chair Notre Dame does something that’s positive in several ways.

John Doe ’11 and Richard Roe ’13 probably won’t have their wedding performed in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Following their own consciences they may have it performed elsewhere, perhaps with the surreptitious blessing of a maverick priest. To coin a phrase, “Who am I to judge?”

The writer, correctly, doesn’t urge denial of benefits to Mary Moe ’98, now on her fourth husband with no annulments in the books. Generally speaking, apoplectic defense of Catholic principles seems mostly limited to hating on gays. My perception is that there are two main reasons for this.

First, some “don’t like what they’re doing” and will resort to specious theology in an attempt to force their tastes on others.

Then there are those preaching against their own demons.

Bill Langlois ’53
Visiting Professor 70-71