Letters to the Editor

Author: Readers

The importance of St. Paul

I found myself quite disappointed with Paul Elie’s article about St. Paul, “The Least of the Apostles.” While the author claims that he has studied his namesake, either he doesn’t understand how Paul’s letters fit into his overall ministry, or he chose to isolate them from the context of Paul’s in-person preaching during his trips to the churches he helped establish, as well as the specific challenges those churches were facing. Either way, the article comes up short from a historical perspective.

At a time when people are leaving the Church in droves, and young people specifically are under constant attack regarding the faith of their ancestors, the magazine missed a tremendous opportunity to educate a new generation on the greatness of Paul’s mission. Instead, you published a story which diminishes Paul’s importance to the early Church and leaves the reader with more questions than answers.

Tim Kelleher
Franklin, Tennessee


Elie correctly identifies Hans Küng as a Swiss theologian — since the Vatican formally dismissed Küng as a Catholic theologian many years ago.

Also of interest is Elie’s eagerness in name dropping many non-Catholic notables, most with obvious heterodoxy such as Martin Luther. Contrasted with the saint, we discover the author unsure of which letters were “authentically composed” by Paul, as well as uncertainty of the meaning behind several of Paul’s pronouncements.

Elie emphasizes that, like St. Paul, “we’re working things out as we go.” Which is how believers in ecumenism and modernism harmonize Christian things in today’s “new world.”

Lawrence Jakows ’81MBA
Scottsdale, Arizona


A recent pro basketball game telecast offers anecdotal evidence that Paul may still have some play in modern culture. Broadcaster Mike Breen offered this prognosis late in the fourth quarter of a lopsided game: “Barring a bigger turnaround than Paul on the road to Damascus, this one is over.” Alas, the game was lost, but what a line.

Tom Antonini ’85, ’88J.D.
Toledo, Ohio


Wealth distribution and creation

Ian Marcus Corbin writes in “America Unraveled” that the sense of precarity has risen in America — even amongst members of the middle class. The cause is not hard to find.

After graduating from Notre Dame, my first full-time full-year pay in 1979 came to $9,919, which made my marginal tax rate 21 percent. The top rate of income tax at the time was 70 percent. These rates, with minor modifications, had existed for decades. They were not to last.

In 2023 my ’79 wage, adjusted for inflation, was equivalent to $41,630. After the Reagan, Bush and Trump tax cuts, a person earning this amount would be in the 12 percent tax bracket. The top income tax rate has also been reduced to 37 percent. The result is that, for my entire working life, the federal government has not collected enough in taxes to maintain America’s physical and human infrastructure at a first-world standard. The costs of many things, including higher education and retirement, have been pushed on to the individual even as the national debt has exploded.

History indicates that when taxes go down, inequality goes up. And when taxes go up, inequality goes down. So, it’s still your choice Domers. Do you want America’s children to grow up in a society that benefits the many? Or the few?

Guy Wroble ’77


The Harvard philosopher’s assertion about wealth being “taken from the bottom 90 percent of households and delivered to the top 1 percent” is out of date by roughly 500 years. Back then, wealth consisted almost entirely of agricultural land, a limited resource, so a feudal lord having more of it necessarily meant serfs having less.

Today, the vast majority of wealth is created largely through technological advancement. And unlike land in old England, there are now almost no limits to how much can be created, except for limits imposed by misguided political policies that arise from mistaken understandings of modern economies.

Bob Boldt ’95J.D.
Altadena, California


Thumbs up — and out

Thanks to Sean Sullivan ’60 for sharing his experiences in “My Notre Dame Wasn’t Your Notre Dame.” I admire what he cobbled together to get his Notre Dame education. I can relate to a few pieces of his experience, having followed him nine years later.

I tried living off campus junior year, but the trudging back and forth the first two weeks made it clear I could never handle the winter. Kudos to his stamina.

As for hitchhiking, that was my primary means of getting back to Maryland. I too caught a ride in a VW Beetle, but with slightly less drama: I shared the back seat with a person-sized painting and watched an 18-wheeler spin loose a rear tire just as we pulled alongside it. Fortunately, it wobbled its way at 65 mph over to the shoulder before jumping the guardrail and disappearing into the night.

My finances were better than his, but I also served in the academic slave-labor system at $2.25 per hour working in the geology department. Those were some days.

Don Barkman ’69
Oak Ridge, Tennessee


I compliment Sullivan for describing the financial challenges he overcame while attending Notre Dame. Two aspects of his piece were especially noteworthy, the first being his stoic acceptance of his lot in life — no complaining, no “poor me,” just a dogged sense of determination, while displaying a terrific sense of humor.

The second is how it made me ponder my own Notre Dame experience. I had the luxury of an NROTC scholarship, which relieved me of financial worry. Sure, I knew back then I was lucky, but my gratitude for my own good fortune has increased, which makes me take stock of how lucky or blessed I have been in life.

Jack D’Aurora ’77
Columbus, Ohio


I can sympathize with my friend Sean Sullivan and his economic and academic travails in the 1950s. Those of us receiving benefits through the Korean War GI bill received $990 a year. Tuition at ND was $700 a year, so you can do the math.

Your professors signed off each month to show you were still in school. One hitch: Your first check, including pro-rata payment for September, didn’t arrive until November 20.

This meant you had to bankroll something from your summer job to meet the September payment. If you were short, an interview with the bursar was in order. These sessions were often a time of promises and sometimes of humiliating negotiations.

I never could afford to live on campus. The closest I came to that was a weekend retreat in 1961 at Fatima Retreat House when I was a reporter at the South Bend Tribune.

During my student years, protecting my job was a high priority. As a result, I attended summer school three years. This meant I had enough credits to finish classes in January 1959, although I did come back in June as Father Ted gave me my sheepskin.

Jim Griffin ’59
Middletown, Connecticut


The CO2 sniff test

Activities recommended by Scott Russell Sanders in “Mending the Riven Planet” are obviously beneficial and will help the Earth, but he makes the same mistake I see in so much of the mainstream media: making bold statements about CO2 and climate change while providing no scientific evidence.

The first scientific report I ever read on this subject was “Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide,” published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons in 2007. It showed quite clearly how global temperatures had started rising in the early 1800s up through the time of this report. The rate was constant at about 0.5 degrees centigrade per century. It also showed that sea-level rise and glacier shortening started at about the same time and at a constant rate.

I personally prefer the sniff test of common sense; namely, that the CO2 concentration in Earth’s atmosphere is about .03 to .04 percent. There is no way that this infinitesimal amount could have any significant effect on climate.

John Finneran ’67
Granbury, Texas


To honor God’s creation

Thank you so much for Sanders’ article. Can you imagine if Catholic institutions around the country used their (often large) property holdings to replace their hellscape grass with either permaculture gardens that could feed the food insecure, or rewilded their spaces with native plants? What an example they could set. And what a way to honor God’s creation that we are called to steward and protect.

Debby Reelitz ’92
North Granby, Connecticut


The potential and spiritual peril of psychedelics

Thank you to Kenneth Garcia ’08Ph.D. for “Changing Minds,” his informative and personal discussion of psychedelic science. For many decades we have been denied reasonable access to evidence-based research on this complex, promising and unduly controversial class of pharmaceuticals. With more enlightened legislation a lot of catch-up work may be accomplished, including in my home state of Oregon. We are in the infancy of realizing the potential of these neurotransmitter analogs for therapy and, yes, for personal growth. As Garcia negotiates his journey with disease, I encourage him to remain open to the entheogenic path.

Tom Rafalski M.D. ’81
Yachats, Oregon


Thank you for Garcia’s thought-provoking and sensitive article. To paraphrase my favorite line, saying that psychotropic hallucinogens are “entheogens which generate God within” is just “psilly.” Perhaps, we should refresh our memories of St. Thomas Aquinas and God as The First Cause. The Creator does not need us mere mortals to create an experience of Him via brain synapse altering chemicals.

Juxtaposing this season of Lent with the message of “The Magic Mushroom Conference,” I wonder how sitting in a room under the influence of psychotropic drugs helps to build-up the Kingdom. Where is the almsgiving or acts of charity or putting aside one’s selfish interests in order to work for the greater good? I was reminded of the film The Agony and the Ecstasy about Michelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel. Joy, which is much deeper than pleasure, is naturally earned after one has performed some good work.

The author mentions that critics of using these drugs for spiritual enlightenment might call the practice a form of “cheap grace.” I say that is putting it mildly. Notwithstanding possible therapeutic effects for truly sick patients in a controlled environment with highly-trained health professionals, one could argue that using hallucinogens to “create God within” is an illusory and insidious form of idolatry.

Ottavio Berardis ’85
Lakeland, Florida


On a mission

I was very impressed with “Mission Statement” by Kerry Temple ’74. How prophetic were Father Hesburgh’s predictions of “enormous new moral problems” and that “universities . . . will be at the heart of generating the people who, in turn, generate the change.”

I believe Temple was correct to say that “the call seems even more critical today than it did in the 1970s.” A big part of this challenge is to examine the influences on many of our universities. One should especially pay attention to the sources of the enormous contributions that the universities accept.

Cy Letzelter ’64
Centennial, Colorado


I’m 70, and too often I am alarmed about the kind of world and country that my children and grandchildren were born into. As parents have worried for centuries, I have concerns and fears about the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being and happiness of my children and grandchildren in a world where our leaders and institutions, at home and abroad, appear to have lost focus on “mankind’s betterment and progress.”

I pray my worst fears are unwarranted and that God will strengthen my faith in him and in his power to guide us all towards mankind’s betterment.

I fervently pray that our “differences of culture and religion and conviction can coexist with friendship, civility, hospitality, respect and even love” and the conversation “is not foreclosed.”

Rita P. Campanile ’81J.D.
West Orange, New Jersey


Making an indelible mark

Seeing the messages left for posterity on the study carrels in Hesburgh Library (“Stillpoint”) reminded me of a less destructive way graduate students had of memorializing their time at Notre Dame. Untold numbers of dissertations were written in the small rooms that line the walls of the upper floors of the library. When it came time to depart their assigned room, grad students often wrote their name, the dates of their occupancy and the subject of their dissertation on the underside of the desk. When I finished my dissertation on the American writer John Cheever in my fourth-floor study room, I did this and found inscriptions from two of my predecessors.

Daniel Burr, ’73M.A., ’77Ph.D.
Covington, Kentucky


The Molemen

I loved Kerry Temple’s story about the Farley Molemen. It is so Notre Dame — a deep friendship among the Molemen that has lasted more than 50 years and to the point of supporting a dying member. At my 45th reunion last June I got to meet Kerry in person. We had a great conversation. He encouraged me to write the story of my friendship with Gerry Faust. I know Kerry did not want any fanfare about his retirement, but a big thank you to him for his service to ND magazine for 40-plus years. Bravo for his fine work and dedication to Notre Dame.

Paul Coppola ’78
Washington, D.C.