Letters to the editor

Author: Readers

Editor’s note: Letters appearing in the summer 2017 print issue are marked by a double ##.


Yellow brick flaw 


##In your story (“What Notre Dame is made of”) you list 11 buildings constructed of the yellow Notre Dame brick, but not St. Edward’s Hall, built in 1882. Yes, we have an addition that is not of yellow brick, but our original façade and building were and still are yellow brick. I really hope this correction can be made.


Corey Gayheart ’19

Notre Dame and Fairborn, Ohio   


More Notre Dame history


“A Closer Walk,” like a few stories in recent issues, covers the founding of Notre Dame, an educational institution that started largely as a boarding school for grade school (and high school?) aged boys. Who were the original teachers? One previous story (“175 and Counting,” Summer 2017) mentioned Holy Cross nuns as early teachers, but the account of the walk from Vincennes mentions Father Sorin, of course, and seven Holy Cross brothers — who apparently made bricks (“What Notre Dame Is Made Of”).


During my Notre Dame years there were some Holy Cross faculty members, many of them priests teaching theology, but also a few Holy Cross brothers teaching in the sciences. How and when did all this evolve?


John Cramer ’68

Naperville, Illinois


Tess du Lac


##Notre Dame has its own version of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles: Tess Gunty, Tess du Lac. In “The Storied Life,” Gunty is moving through a crisis of transition from what she calls “mysticism” to something not yet definite or defined. She has some sense of how pervasive her crisis has been in modern literature because she sees it in Simone Weil and Joan Didion. Simone Weil is a massive ultimate Jansenist, and what Gunty is moving away from is indicated by a clue she takes from Weil, a thread in the labyrinth of Puritanism, the phenomenon of “attention.” She betrays no awareness of the extent or complexity of this phenomenon in modern thought, in William James, Heidegger and especially Santayana. If she pursued this thread, she might manage a transition to something else. She is very gifted and sensitive.


Joseph Ryan ’59

South Bend, Indiana


Too much Notre Dame


##Regarding Daniel LeDuc’s article (“Notre Dame’s 21st Century Building Boom”) in which he writes there are to be no commercials on the stadium’s video board: I just returned home from the ND-USC game. The big screen showed almost nothing but commercials — all touting how great and humble Notre Dame is. It’s too much, too loud, too one-sided, too unwelcoming for our guests. I love Notre Dame, but I honestly felt embarrassed with the USC guests sitting next to me. It’s Notre Dame shoved down everyone’s eardrums. This barrage will have the opposite effect of welcoming and inviting people to the University. Christ was more subtle, and so Notre Dame should be.


Louise Weber ’88M.S.

Fort Wayne, Indiana


Human life


##It was odd to read Richard Garnett’s black-and-white views in “Life Affirming.” As a lawyer, he should know the entire reason the legal profession exists is to deal with the “grey” that overlays every aspect of human affairs. With respect to abortion, pregnancy may produce totally opposite reactions depending upon circumstances. A woman who wants a child and is in a committed and loving relationship may be overjoyed with the promise of her pregnancy. Contrast this with the terror that an unwed teen, or the victim of rape or incest, may feel at the quickening inside her. Are these two situations to be viewed in the same light?


With respect to assisted suicide, why should one expect a human being to experience unremitting pain in a situation where there is no hope of recovery? This is something we do not put our beloved pets through; so why do this to human loved ones? I have a “living will” because, in part, I see no purpose in transferring personal assets, accumulated over a lifetime, to the American for-profit health care industry when I am no longer “here.” Nor do I feel it just to ask future generations to bear the burden of paying extortionate costs for a few extra weeks of “life” if I am unaware that I am “here.”


Guy Wroble ’77



##It seems futile to reply to an abortion article in a Catholic publication, but “Life Affirming” is built upon overstated, perceived certainties rather than facts. The unborn, disabled and elderly are not “excluded” from our legal regime. Many protections do exist — likely just as many as those that protect foreign children from the cost-benefit analysis leading to American bombs.


The “truth” that grounds the author’s views is a religious doctrine that God imparts spirit to embryo and it becomes “one,” indistinguishable from a grown adult. This is a belief, strongly held by some, but still a belief. Once removed from those who do not assign literal truth to religious doctrine, the moral certainty of illegal abortion crumbles. (Do not mistake this argument as one proposing abortion is good.) Contrary to the author, it is not surprising to me that, in 40 years, a free society of diverse beliefs has chosen not to form a government that would codify religious doctrine into federal law. And the author should clarify what “bipartisan majorities” he speaks of when Pew research shows 57 percent nationally (and 53 percent of Catholics) believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.


Cory Schaffhausen ’99



##Everyone believes in love and compassion. How about making that the basis of our judgments? If human life begins at conception, then God has bestowed eternal life on that “person” at the time. Abortion only ends the first chapter. According to the Nicene Creed, an aborted zygote gets its body back. But defining a zygote as a “human being” leads to a ridiculous conclusion. Modern science tells us only about half of a woman’s fertilized ova implant in the uterus and continue developing. The rest are expelled during a woman’s normal cycle. If they have been endowed with immortal souls, more than half the “souls” in heaven never got past the zygote stage. What body do they get back? How many offspring we never knew will greet us in heaven? But what about the mother who had the abortion? Who is to judge her? Love and compassion are the tools God instructed the Church to use. Leave judgment to God.


Robert T. Wisne ’60

Delaware, Ohio


##Richard Garnett’s “Life Affirming” is incomprehensible. He claims that life is not really winning in U.S. politics because abortion and assisted suicide are legal. He barely mentions the well-being of the people of God in our society, our duties to each other or the role government plays in creating the social conditions we live in. He apparently doesn’t care about the rights of bodily autonomy of women or men which lie at the heart of his obsessions. He doesn’t mention that more than half of us do not have $500 to meet an emergency or why this is the real issue at the heart of a life-affirming society.


Garnett wants more right-wing judges who will strike down Roe v. Wade, or minimize it, and more right-wing legislators to roll back constitutional rights he doesn’t like. He doesn’t point out that those legislators will destroy programs like CHIP and Obamacare, so that we don’t have decent health care. They keep wages low and underfund schools. They uniformly support the interests of capital against workers. In short, they are wrecking the security of millions. He doesn’t say those judges rule in favor of the interests of the rich and their businesses over those of living human beings, making their precarious lives worse. He doesn’t say this president threatens to use nuclear weapons. Those who only support the right-wing political view of life are utterly indifferent to life as the people of God live it in this ugly world.


Edwin M. Walker ’68



One of two main themes in Professor Garnett’s article is clearly political. First, it reads like a lengthy invitation to join the Republican Party. However, he does not offer any compelling reasons to do so. 


His second theme is abortion. The two themes are conflated many times. For example, he mentions the annual March on Washington last January to protest Roe v. Wade; the declaration by Mr. Pence at that march that “life is winning” because abortion rights are contested by politicians in Washington, D.C.; a then-suggested (since put into effect) elimination of “the HHS mandate” for contraceptive coverage, because certain contraceptive drugs “can function as abortifacients”; and, repeatedly, the desirability of having people — all Republicans, he points out — who will uphold, enact, and enforce “reasonable regulations of abortion.”


Professor Garnett does not mention the Women’s March on Washington, which was also in January and was certainly at least as much an affirmation of life as the march he mentions. His suggestion that it was proper to remove contraception coverage because some drugs allegedly might act like “abortifacients” — a made-up word, and one he is careful not to define — misses the mark as lawyers might say. The abortifacient claim is dubious for most if not all of the listed drugs as a matter of actual, scientific fact. If some drugs are objectionable because they might induce abortions, then by all means those who condemn abortion should marshal their evidence to remove those drugs from the list of covered items. Until and unless that happens, the only reason to eliminate contraceptive care entirely is because the real target is not abortion but coverage for contraception.


The motivation behind opposition to abortion, Professor Garnett assures us, is really that “every person matters and no one matters more than anyone else.” Then why does he not propose offering adoption services as covered costs to replace the costs of abortion — costs which themselves are prohibited from coverage under the Affordable Care Act anyway? For that matter, why are adoption services hardly ever offered by opponents of abortion? It would seem to follow that the public cost of providing adoption services is worthwhile on its face as a substitute for having an abortion,


The article concludes with a false equivalency between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton. We are told to believe that Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton both behaved with the same “contempt” for Americans. Hardly. Rather, contempt is on display in this article through its author’s disregard for reality.


Dennis Wall ’73

Winter Springs, Florida


Professor Garnett admirably makes the case that “life” issues are indeed complex and interrelated. I have been a Democrat long uncomfortable with the use of abortion as birth control. And I have Republican friends who have expressed dismay at the pro-life and evangelical extremes in their party.


My one criticism of the article is that the writer slides seamlessly in and out of the public sphere. On the one hand he is a law professor making him eminently qualified to discuss the Supreme Court, the justices and public policy as it relates to Planned Parenthood. But investigating morality and the public sphere is a tricky proposition. There is, of course, public morality. This is where the majority in a polity agree that something is immoral and ought to be punished. Murder is an example. But the key is that there must be consensus.


Abortion defies an easy elucidation vis-a-vis “public morality.” This happened with slavery. Many were willing to die to defend it. Ultimately slavery in the United States was relegated to history. And this discussion was part of the memorable speech by Mario Cuomo at Notre Dame in 1984, which remains to this day a significant exploration of the intersection of law and morality. The points he made there remain today.


Garnett clearly writes from the conservative view that life begins at conception and is inherently worth protecting from that moment forward. But he does not appear to hold to the conservative view that abortion is an evil far greater than the other evils in the world. He cites Joseph Cardinal Bernadin, who refused to be baited into a useless argument about which evil was greater but focused on an interdependence of evils in the world by which people are exploited and taken advantage of by those with power. And while his comments leave much unsaid about the public-private discussion that was examined in detail by Governor Cuomo, he achieves a balance at a time when balance is so desperately needed.


Rick Kalamaya

Longmont, Colorado


Two Tom Dooley awards


##Liam Dacey’s letter to the editor in the autumn issue demands clarification. It is important to differentiate between the Dr. Thomas A. Dooley award, which has been presented by the ND Alumni Association every year since 1985, and the recently created Dr. Thomas A. Dooley award given at the GALA-ND/SMC dinner (GALA meaning gay and lesbian alumni). The Alumni Association’s long-established Dooley award honors a Notre Dame graduate (living or deceased) for outstanding service to humankind. Its roster is a Who’s Who of Notre Dame grads who have made a serious difference in the lives of their fellow men and women.


The two awards unfortunately bear the same name. A casual reader could take Mr. Dacey’s letter to mean that only a person who advanced the LGBT community could receive the award. It could certainly be a part, but the original Dooley award was for outstanding service to mankind and not just a specific group.


Pat Doherty ’58

Northfield, Illinois


Dick Phelan ’58

Naples, Florida


The coach, remembered


Great writing (“Ara”), telling the story of Ara. He’s right up there with our all-time great coaches!


Bob Fritsch ’64, ’74MBA

Boise, Idaho


Regarding Ara Parseghian having “the worst fate imaginable befall his family” because of the final departure of his three youngest grandchildren, a few years ago a newspaper columnist published a letter from a woman who bitterly complained about the supposed goodness of God: “It has been three years since our young daughter, Karen, died. Do you mean God did this on purpose?”


If the woman believes in the eternal hereafter, as I am sure Ara Parseghian did, I would ask the question, “Do you want what is best for your daughter? Certainly she would reply to the affirmative.


The logical response would be, “Because we have a loving God, Karen is now eternally enjoying the very best; that which is far beyond one’s ability to experience in this challenging world.”


If we have the faith to accept this reality, the final graduation to the fullness of life of our loved ones should enable us better to accept the sorrow experienced at the loss of their physical company. We should also be further motivated to live good, purposeful lives.


Father Charles Van Winkle, CSC

Austin, Texas


The vice-president, revisited


I couldn’t help but chuckle at the irony as I read the letters to the editor in the autumn issue castigating the students who left the stadium in protest during Mike Pence’s speech at commencement, as only days prior to receiving the magazine I saw that our esteemed vice president did the very same thing at a Colts game. Of course, the difference is that our students acted out of conviction, with nothing to gain from their actions; the vice president’s actions were nothing but a staged publicity stunt that cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars — and which the Trump campaign later used in a fundraising email. 

Ryan Gendreau ’00
Berkeley, California


Given the uproar over graduates walking out of Vice President Pence’s commencement speech, it was more than a little ironic that Pence himself walked out of a football game when players knelt during the anthem to protest racial injustice.


The walkout on Pence was not the first at Notre Dame. In 1963, shortly after his “segregation now, segregation forever” speech, Alabama Gov. George Wallace was invited to campus by the Texas Club. I was one of a dozen or so students who walked out of his address in protest.


Richard Veit ’67

Wilmington, North Carolina


Some years ago there was a huge movement to rescind the invitation to President Barack Obama to speak at the University because of his pro-choice beliefs. Many contacted me to join the email campaign to the University to pull it. There were threats also of protest.


I believe I would stand on the other side of that protest, and not because of my beliefs as to abortion, but my faith in the fact that the University of Notre Dame is a university first.


To have the president of the United States, or in this case, the vice president, speak at our University is an honor. We are a Catholic institution, but do we not offer courses in comparative religion?


These speakers were elected by the American people. They are not circuit speakers but leaders of our nation. Should our University just invite individuals who only espouse our views? If so, then we are diluting our belief that we are truly an educational institution.


In no way do I believe in Mike Pence’s beliefs, views or past actions, but I commend the University for its invitation. Their speaking and our listening may create a dialogue in which we can educate ourselves, learn how to change their views and others, or rally to vote them from office.


Gregory E. Kulis ’78