Editor’s note: Letters appearing in the autumn 2016 print issue are marked by a double ##.
Biden, Boehner and the Laetare
##An editorial by William McGurn ’80 in the April 5, 2016, edition of The Wall Street Journal entitled “The Little Sisters vs. Notre Dame” points to the fact that the University, which had once joined with the Little Sisters in their legal action to avoid Affordable Care Act requirements to fund abortifacients and other life-ending methods of birth control for employees, had caved to the law’s opt-out provision, which allows an employer’s insurer to provide the objectionable service. The Little Sisters have held firm.
Once again, as it did seven years ago by honoring President Obama at commencement, the University administration exhibits its lack of regard for and/or belief in fundamental Church direction on life in the womb.
Now comes the vice president (“Colds temps, warm words”), who has taken similar pro-abortion positions all his elected life, to receive the prestigious Laetare Medal. No other issue — not terrorism, not climate change, not income inequality/distribution — divides this country more bitterly than does abortion. The Catholic Church has stood strong for the protection of life in the womb. What is it about the bishops’ 2004 statement regarding Catholics in public life (that they should not act/speak contrary to fundamental Church teaching) that the University administration does not understand? How does it purport to provide the moral leadership and guidance to its students and the greater Catholic community when it honors individuals so obviously at odds with the Church’s position? No amount of disguising this invitation under the banner of promoting civility in political discussion can hide the fact the administration is terribly misguided in regards to the issue of life in the womb.
Thank goodness for the Little Sisters.
Michael P. Dolan ’71
By honoring Vice President Joseph Biden, a Pharisaical character of the ruling class, rather than support the principles for which the Laetare Medal was founded, the University unwittingly has added another chapter to the “tarnished Dome.” Honoring one who publicly opposes the University’s and the Church’s moral principles but who proclaims that he is a “practicing Catholic,” for the sake of peace and for an outward demonstration of collegiality, leads not to agreement but to moral indifference and confusion.
Not only is VP Biden a conspicuous public dissenter to basic Catholic moral teachings on abortion, same-sex marriage (he recently officiated a “marriage” of a gay couple in Washington, D.C.), contraception and embryonic stem cell funding, but he is in direct contradiction to Notre Dame’s own policy prohibiting embryonic stem cell research and he begs the question: How can my University honor one enabling the killing of children in the womb? Lynchpinning the honor in the name of the “common good” that respects the fundamental and inalienable rights of human beings conflicts with VP Biden’s political activism as evidence by his voting record and speeches. The common good is not served by undermining the basic teachings of the Catholic Church and honoring a person who does so in his public life. Father Jenkin’s hope of bringing civility, “respectful dialogue,” “compromise,” and working for the common good was trashed by Congressman John Boehner when he publicly slandered Senator Ted Cruz, calling him “Lucifer in the flesh” and for being “a miserable son of a bitch.”
Mary Ann Glendon acknowledged her conscience when she set an example by refusing the Laetare Medal in 2009 as a protest to the honorary degree bestowed upon President Obama that year. There are many outstanding Catholics in public life such as Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey, who has been a consistent defender for decades of human rights in this country and abroad, including being a leader in the defense of life and women’s rights, and Dr. Robert P. George, Princeton University’s Chair in Jurisprudence, both of whom would be outstanding nominees.
Carl L. Schaefer ’56
Beacon, New York
Shame, shame on old Notre Dame
And on you, too, Georgetown U.
You’ve subtracted your fame.
You have besmirched your good name.
Pro-aborts have brought you shame.
Biden, Richards, Ginsberg, too,
Anti-life — they’re all the same.
Drop “Catholic” from your name.
Your directors are sleeping,
And Our Lady is weeping.
Richard A. Carey
Dignity, labor, capital and animals, too
##In his otherwise excellent essay on dignity (“The Forsaken Virtue”), it is odd that Andrew Barlow ’88 neglects the struggle between labor and capital in contributing to its demise. Following the collapse of capitalism in 1929, the momentum of the progressive era found expression in the New Deal, and the dignity of labor was raised to a level heretofore unseen in human history. This was not to last.
The party of wealth in America, the Republican Party, through its promulgation of supply-side economics, began a concerted campaign to reassert the power of capital. Their premise was, and is, that economic progress is made not by the many having the money to raise the aggregate demand but by the few having the funds to build new productive capacity. This proposition is currently expressed in the mythology of the “job creators” whose taxes must be lowered so that they can create more employment. Thirty-five years of real-world testing has demonstrated that what is actually produced is increased inequality.
While capitalists are glorified, labor has been reduced to the status of a replaceable component which is to be obtained, like all other components, at the cheapest price. A mere cog, by definition, lacks dignity. This makes it perfectly acceptable, and indeed a fiduciary responsibility, to seek higher profits by all means possible — irrespective of the human cost.
Guy Wroble ’77
##I was very touched by Andrew Barlow’s beautiful and cogent essay on human dignity.
However, I must add that I wish he would have taken a little time to consider the dignity found in other, non-human elements of nature. Anyone who has read books, such as Jonathan Safran Foer’s absolutely astounding Eating Animals, will understand how wrong, barbaric and cruel are the ways in which we treat our native cousins, who also were created by God Almighty. As a believer in God, I must dissent from the doctrines of Thomas Aquinas in suggesting that our cruelty to these animals is quite, well, unChristian.
Alven Neiman ’78Ph.D.
##In my travels this summer I came upon a story, “Final Acts” by Sister Joan Sauro, in your magazine. I remember so well, as many adult children of aging and dying parents do, the visits to nursing homes my sisters and I made to my father, mother and aunt. And in the author’s lyrical, delicately woven portraits I see how privileged we were to be concelebrants in these daily liturgies of love. Mutually blessed. Thank you for including this inspiring reminder in your publication.
Dewitt, New York
Thank you for publishing Joan Sauro CSJ’s “Final Acts.” Joan touched a place so tender and opened a floodgate of memories for me. Eugene and Agnes could be Bill and Mary Hogan, my parents. Reading of Tess and Agnes Rose reminds me of so many others in religious communities who dare to love in spite of everything. And the priest and lady friend . . . wasn’t she blessed? Wasn’t he?!
Linda Hogan, CSJ
St. Cecilia’s Church
Warrensburg, New York
The wisdom of trees
##In 1974, while Anthony DePalma was first communing with “The Ancient Ones” in the White Mountains of California, I was on a camping trip in Sequoia National Park, having my own experience with ancient trees. Camping in a grove of trees that were 1,500 years old when Christ was born made a powerful impact on my life. First, to experience a broader sense of time, I took off my wristwatch (which used to “wind me up”) and I haven’t replaced it.
Next, I learned on a ranger’s nature walk that the sequoias require forest fires to burn off the underbrush so their seedlings can thrive. We all have our personal “forest fires,” which can make us stronger humans if we cooperate with God’s grace. Our willingness to carry on and improvise our lives mirrors what these magnificent sequoias have been doing for thousands of years.
Mike Hartnett ’62
##I am grateful to Anthony DePalma for helping me decide on a new journey. There is irony in his message that the astonishing age of the bristlecone is a direct result of the difficulties of its environment. It is in stark contrast to how we are evolving. Yes, we live longer because of substantial gains in medicine, and there will likely be a point this century when a generation will be born with many living well into their 100s with high quality of life. But an attitude is pervading our cultures that we seek easy solutions that eliminate challenges in our lives. Even though there is a perception that scientific and technological gains will make our lives better, it is really human attitudes that make life sustainable.
Jim Kieffer ’70
Nashua, New Hampshire
As a frequent visitor to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in California, I was thrilled to read Anthony DePalma’s article. Here’s a link to my photographic gallery — mcbridephotographics.com/bristleconegallery1. The third photo stars one of my favorite trees in the Schulman Grove, one I named Isadora after Isadora Duncan, the mother of modern dance, because it resembles a dancer about to take flight. While the Schulman Grove is more accessible, the trees in Patriarch Grove are more spectacular and the views more striking — although it takes an extra hour to travel the 12 miles on a very rocky road to get there.
Jack McBride ’62
I learned there was a photo of me in the summer edition along with a story about Dolly’s House because I received several texts from friends, both from my undergrad and MBA days. The magazine was lying, unread, on my coffee table, so I started flipping through the pages to see where this mysterious photo was.
Sure enough, there I was. That’s me playing in the dirt pile with the three children. The picture has to be nearly 20 years old. I don’t wear oversized T-shirts anymore but, looking at the photo, the day came back to me. One of my favorite activities as a kid was to build sand volcanoes at the beach or bury myself in sand. With no beach in sight, a dirt pile was the next best thing to use to build a volcano. And that’s what we’re doing, with one of the kids holding a can about to pour “lava.”
I still work with children, volunteering at Saddle Up! in Franklin, Tennessee, that offers therapeutic horseback riding lessons to children with disabilities.
Marisa Fernandez ’91, ’99MBA
Domers marrying Domers
The summer edition included a story by Nicole Steele Woolridge ’07 in which she writes that during her Freshmen Orientation the incoming students were told 63 percent of Notre Dame graduates end up marrying a fellow Domer. In her story Nicole parenthetically wondered whether that statistic was valid. I have to say I share her skepticism. Does the university really have such data and, if so, is the percentage really that high? I would appreciate any information you could provide or any direction you could give me to help find the answer to my questions.
Gerry Swider ’72
And … and
I looked past the by-line to read "Had game” in the spring issue. After the 10-plus "and, and, and,” in the second paragraph, I thought “What kind of writing is this?” Then I realized it was Brian Doyle, AGAIN! You call this “journalism”?