Letters to the editor

Author: Readers

Editor’s note: The letters that appeared in the autumn 2008 print issue are marked with double pound sign (##). The original, longer versions of some of these letters also are included here, although a shorter version may have been used in the print issue.

Human designing
##Father Malloy (“Gift of Life”) misses the point a bit — in his otherwise touching and clinical summary of the four-way kidney transplant he shared with his nephew and two former strangers — when he wonders “what God had in mind in endowing us with two kidneys when biologically we need only one.” God didn’t have anything in mind, didn’t give us two of nearly everything. He gave us evolution, and evolution provided us with two sides of the brain, two kidneys, lungs, eyes, ears, legs, arms, urethras and more (but only one pancreas, appendix, mouth, head and more). Why can’t people accept evolution as a fact, as evidence for the existence of God — our only evidence for the existence of God?
Charlie Calisher ’61M.S.
Red Feather Lakes, Colorado

More Holy Cross Memories
##Thanks to Andrew Pauwels for bringing back some great memories. If I might add some to be remembered:
• The kindness of Fr. Hofmann, rector for many years
• Pranks giving Mr. Moran (the night watchman) a hard time
• Original icebreakers: swimming out into the first ice on the lake each winter
• Hog consumer reports: if your vending machine doesn’t work, it’s in the lake
• The Italian restaurant, opened for a few years (a branch of Frankie’s, withour beer)
Fred Voglewede ’70, ’72MBA
Huixquilucan, Mexico

##I couldn’t help but notice a glaring omission in the “Seen & Heard” summary of Notre Dame’s recent Princeton Review rankings when the editors inexplicably ignored our alma mater’s ranking as the No. 1 most homophobic school (“alternative lifestyles not an alternative”). I can only hope that the explanation lies in the fact that this ranking is something about which Notre Dame should be ashamed. More disappointing, though, is that Notre Dame consistently ranks near the top (bottom?) of this category. I continue hoping that Our Lady’s University can move out of this category sometime in my lifetime when all members of the Notre Dame family can feel respected as God’s creation. We alumni should demand, and work for, nothing less.
Matt DeCarolis ’99
Los Angeles

How Catholic?
##Jay Dolan (“The Right of a Catholic To Be President”) quotes John Kennedy addressing the Greater Houston Ministerial Association: “I believe in a president whose views on religion are his own private affair.” Kennedy was asserting, as he did on other occasions, that doctrine would not influence his presidential decisions. In retrospect no evidence indicates it ever did. But if Church teachings do not inform a person’s actions, then that person is not truly Catholic. As a friend of mine once quipped, “John Kennedy proved that a Catholic can be president but not that a president can be a Catholic.”
Terence Byrne ’57
Rockville, Maryland

In the autumn addition of ND Magazine, Jay Dolan omits two important aspects of his argument in, “The Right of a Catholic to be President.” Kennedy did not win the election because he won the controversy over religion, but he won simply because of the mundane fact that his father bought votes in West Virginia and Chicago. In addition, Nixon claimed he decided not to contest the election for the good of the country.
Had Kennedy been running against a person with the philosophy of Al Gore, he would surely have lost and tarnished the family name irreparably. The Kennedy’s came very close to just being a footnote in history.
But this is often the case. Had Lisa Meitner not had insight about the fission process in 1939, a million Japanese and a million Americans would have lost their lives in the siege of Japan.
Thomas R. Freeman ’61 almost
Via email

In his assessment of the 1960 presidential election, “The Right of a Catholic to be President,” Jay Dolan concludes that “Kennedy’s religion hurt him more than it helped him.” While correctly pointing out that “Kennedy received a majority of the Catholic vote,” Dolan contends that Kennedy “clearly lost votes because of his religion.” However, the case might be made that Kennedy actually earned the necessary electoral votes he needed to win the presidency precisely because he was Catholic. The heavier-than-normal Catholic turnout in certain key states voted overwhelmingly in favor of JFK. Without piling up disproportionate majorities of the popular vote in Catholic neighborhoods in Chicago, for example, Kennedy would not have earned Illinois electoral votes and, consequently, he would not have become America’s first Catholic president.
William J. Martin ’77Ph.D.
Lockport, New York

I greatly enjoyed Jay Dolan’s Autumn 2008 article on “The Right of a Catholic to be President.” I was living in rural Pennsylvania during the election of 1960. There were only a few Catholic students in our high school, and things did get quite tense during that period of time. However, I must point out one error that slipped into Dr. Dolan’s excellent essay. Reverend John Hagee is not anti-Semitic. In fact, just the opposite is true. In books, sermons and public appearances, Dr. Hagee has stressed tat Christians must always work to safeguard the existence and survival of the Jewish homeland. Rev. Hagee is the personal friend of several Israeli leaders, and he has received high honors from the State of Israel.
James Michael Quill ’73Ph.D.
Onalaska, Wisconsin

Global warming
##“It is not ‘the sky is falling’ hysteria to suggest that the well-being of the Earth and its inhabitants could be approaching a crucial juncture.” So states Kerry Temple. But isn’t that just what it is? (It may be that the author believes he is providing a service to society with his essay expounding on the truism that “The prospects for tomorrow depend upon our actions today.” What he is actually providing is self-indulgent moral preening based on a casual disregard for scientific objectivity and journalistic responsibility.) His claims, both outright and implied, about the threat of climate change, are at best highly dubious, and at worst, directly contradictory to current science. (This latter description applies at minimum to his assertion that global warming is responsible for tornado and hurricane activity — a claim that not only is not confirmed by the leading hurricane and climate scientists, but positively refuted by them.)

Temple posits that “most people today” acknowledge anthropogenic global warming. Perhaps true — and not surprising considering the barrage of pop-science journalism that promotes the belief — but so what? Climate change is a scientific question before it is a political one, and the evidence supporting it is almost entirely projections from computer climate models. These models have not managed to conform to historical climate change, and still cannot account for something as basic as the effect of changes in cloud cover on climate. The complexity of climate simply does not lend itself to computer modeling. Temple essentially dismisses any doubts as “a minority opinion” (Copernicus’ “opinion” was in the minority at one time) then proceeds to declare throughout the rest of the piece that dramatic interventions are necessary to forestall climatic catastrophe. A great deal of literature supporting the “minority opinion” is readily available; to dismiss it at such a crucial juncture seems to me less than diligent. [Nary a mention of the 10-year (so far) hiatus in warming since 1998.]

Consider the implications of Temple’s claim, as well as the trends in the science of climate change that contradict his argument. The more that is learned about this issue, the less catastrophic the worst-case scenarios become. The most recent IPCC projections for sea level rise, for instance, are one-tenth what Al Gore and others were predicting only a few years ago. Most truly responsible climate scientists (the most prominent alarmists are not climate scientists at all) see the catastrophic scenarios as highly unlikely.

Next, consider the actions that would be necessary to effect even a minimal reduction in greenhouse gas levels. There are no plausible scenarios in which the 80 percent reductions in U.S. emissions that are called for can be accomplished without wrenching economic costs, in taxes and in regulation. It would require returning to energy consumption levels of over 100 years ago. Non-fossil fuel sources of energy still account for a small fraction of what we use. As a wealthy nation, perhaps we could absorb these costs (but why would we?), but what of China, India, the Third World, where fossil fuels are all that is available and all they can afford? [The prescriptions of the global warming extremists are recipes for a human disaster much worse than even the worst-case global warming scenario that is supported by the evidence.] To follow these prescriptions would be analogous to me — an Ohio resident — spending thousands of dollars on earthquake insurance. It just isn’t rational.

Mr. Temple, and Notre Dame Magazine, the prospects for tomorrow depend upon your actions today. Climate change is well down the list of problems about which the world needs to worry. By joining the cacophony of voices claiming otherwise, you contribute to a political atmosphere that threatens to lead to an enormous increase in world poverty, not to mention egregious curtailments of individual liberties.
James M. Pier ’85
Fairview Park, Ohio

##As an engineer, I remain a skeptic with regard to the link between short-term observations of climate change and human activity. However, I found the most recent issue to be a remarkably balanced and rational exposition of this controversial issue, in particular Kerry Temple’s article. I do believe there is great irony in the fact that the one measure that could without question have an impact on human activity remains anathema to the Catholic Church: a responsible program of population control.
John P. Heinrich ’69, ’71M.S., ’76Ph.D.
Fort Collins, Colorado

##In his environmental piece Kerry Temple says, “There will be many times when the bottom line must defer to a higher calling,” and this is more or less the crux of the problem. Years ago Bush Sr. declared the “American way of life” (profligate consumerism) “is not negotiable.” His son refused to join Kyoto or set tough emission standards. Mr. Cheney urged us to drive on, use as much gas as we wanted. NASA’s premier scientist James Hansen had his work routinely “edited for content” by the White House. A major oil company spent millions deliberately misleading the public with junk science until the truth on global warming became unavoidable.

It is “special interests” that keep such leaders in power, and their business model, profits first, has been the most stubborn opponent of environmental progress. Americans are tired of corporate greed and many are fed up with a corporate-dominated government. We can’t wait to solve the Earth’s climate problem until it makes sense in some boardroom. We have a moral directive to act.
Dennis Lopez ’74
Rockport, Maine

I was pleased to see so much of the Autumn 2008 issue devoted to the problems of environmental degradation and declining resources. Sadly, however, while acknowledging the role of overpopulation in exacerbating these issues, Notre Dame Magazine didn’t have the courage to challenge the Catholic Church’s archaic opposition to artificial means of conception prevention.

There are no solutions to these problems that don’t begin with stabilizing our population at a sustainable level that allows all people to enjoy a high standard of living. For example, what have we gained if we reduce our per capita consumption of fossil fuels by fifty percent while our population doubles? Nothing.

It’s nice that the Catholic Church finally recognizes the potential of humans for destroying the environment and consuming all of the earth’s resources. Now it’s time for the Church to follow that train of logic one step further.
Pete Murphy’ 71
Via email

Thank you for your article about Kristin Shader-Frechette and her work on environmental pollution and cancer. My husband and I think it’s one of the best Notre Dame Magazine articles we’ve read. We have shared it with our kids who live all over the country and with our friends here in Fargo Moorhead (North Dakota and Minnesota). I grew up in Whiting,Indiana, next to Hammond, and the details of the article really struck home.
Michele McRae
Via email

The recent article on the new ND Office of Sustainability and Jim Mazurek prompts me to point out that the buildings on campus are no doubt in need of better insulation. I do not remember that Zahm, Lyons, Howard and Walsh halls, the dormitories of my undergraduate stay there had double-paned windows, whether since corrected. I remember in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during the early ’80s when natural gas prices first had one of their first jumps in modern memory the many homes that had to be retro-fitted with foam insulation through holes drilled in their outside walls, standing out within their communities until the patches could be painted over.

It also might be said that the Vatican in Italy has gone on record as having invested in sufficient renewable energy credits in the European markets to claim to be the first world state to become carbon neutral. Going even beyond this, installation has begun on the roofs of their buildings, some quite old, of photovoltaic panels to offset electrical energy consumption. The Catholic Church is not being left behind and perhaps Notre Dame will no longer be soon either.

This latest issue took the right step in addressing environmental concerns, in my opinion.
Tony Chessick ’61
Tehachapi, California

Much of the Autumn 2008 issue can be summed up as: “You’re either with Al Gore or you’re against life on earth.” Why not just send out that admonition to your mailing list on a Post-it note and save a few trees? The intellectual depth of the publication wouldn’t suffer a bit.

What a farce you made of discussing global warming! Give McKibben, et. al., a rest. You could actually perform a service for the ND community if you would present factual discussion of the issue by technical experts instead of emotional propaganda by a social activist. Is that too much to ask from a publication that is supposed to represent an Institution of Higher Learning?
John Zink ’65, ’67MSME, ’70Ph.D.
Tulsa, Oklahoma

I enjoyed reading your article “The Signs of These Times.” A few facts to ponder:

According to Climateaudit.org’s Steve McIntyre, global sea ice has actually increased. On a global basis, world sea ice in April 2008 reached levels that were unprecedented for the month of April in over 25 years, exceeded only by levels in 1979 and 1982. (I am old enough to remember a Time Magazine cover about that time warning about global cooling and another ice age.)

At the National Center for Science Research, Gore’s favorite scientist Tom Wigley reported that if all developed nations complied with the emissions requirements of the Kyoto Treaty, the earth’s temperature would be lower by 7/100 of a degree Celsius in 50 years.

The Tennessean, a carbon offset company Gore helped found and invests in, is set to profit from global-warming hysteria. Climate Change Capital controls almost $1B of carbon offset investments and has made millionaires of it founders. Follow the money.

Yes, we may be warming. I doubt man is causing it.
Ron Retzke
Via email

The Autumn 2008 ND Magazine just arrived. Since now could probably be one of the most important periods in the modern era, I was looking forward to some discussion on the election, economy, the Iraq war, or any number of issues touching upon TODAY’S problems.

Instead I got, The World on thin ice, butterflies, Rwanda, Being neighborly, Katrina, and Bangladesh. I thought Dolan might segue from the struggle to elect a Catholic president to the efforts to elect a black president, or even a woman V.P. But he passed.

Notre Dame Magazine should present the school as a nationally regarded University, with its content a little more weighty
Thomas J. Arnold ’56
Via email

The autumn issue with its eye-popping cover illustration and thought-provoking articles on global warming was a great issue. That is, except for the final sentence of the editor’s column, which states, “Please recycle this magazine when you’re done.” Blink. You must be kidding. Not on your life. I have saved every issue since 1974.
David Luthy ’65
Aylmer, Ontario, Canada

I had a few comments that might offer a solution to your paper dilemma. Paper is considered a commodity. However, each company has its own ways in which it produces paper. This includes both the method by which the pulp is obtained and the business practices followed to convert this pulp into paper.

For 100 percent recycled mills, the sources of pulp are numerous, and the methods used to collect the recycled paper vary from company to company. One item that should be noted is that for most high quality paper, the source of the post-consumer waste is corrugated fiberboard (i.e. boxes). The typical images of old receipts, envelopes and sheets of paper, being converted back into the new pages of our magazine may not be entirely true.

There are also numerous sources of pulp for those mills that produce pulp from trees. Two important factors that determine the source of pulp include the type of trees such as loblolly, eucalyptus and maple and the region of the world in which they were harvested such as various regions of the US, South Africa and Canada.

The environmental impact for each one of these mills varies both with the source of the pulp and the business practices. However, it is not always obvious which mill is better for the environment. For example, as tree growth, forest management and harvesting practices improve, the paper mills can produce more pulp per acre than in the past. This means that not as much land is necessary for paper production. As such, the excess land owned by paper mills is being sold.

It is developers that typically pay the best price for the land in regions where tree growth is relatively fast. In those cases, a managed forest can be converted into buildings. There have been cases in the southwest United States where various environmental groups are aligning with paper mills to try to keep the land in active forest management instead of being developed.

Thus, the solution I am discussing is to conduct research to determine which of the non-recycled mills have business, forest management and wildlife management practices that are beneficial to the environment. These mills typically have a hydropulper where post-consumer waste is converted back into pulp and then mixed with the virgin stock. Thus, we could purchase the same percentage of recycled paper, but be certain that the non-recycled paper is coming from a mill that could actually be benefiting the environment.

In addition, look closely at the various discharges for both air and water pollutants of whichever mill is being used to produce the paper. This is because even a 100 percent recycled mill must still bleach the paper and use extensive amounts of water to make the paper. Finally, investigate the ultimate discharge stream of the treated wastewater. If the stream is of high quality and low volume, the ecosystem is more at risk to any upset in water treatment.

In case you were wondering, I worked for a paper mill in Savannah, Georgia, from 1993 to 1998. The first three years were in the environmental group, and the last two were in the paper process group.
Charles L. Arvin ’03Ph.D.
Via email

Olympic moment
It is quite an achievement for a Domer to win gold and silver medals in the summer Olympics. We readers deserve to learn more about this remarkable young woman, other than a tiny photo. I for one believe that an interview would be appropriate for an early issue.
Ed Burke M.D. ’51
Wonder Lake, Illinois

Hopi culture
I was dismayed by the morass of non sequiturs, unsupported assertions and flights of fancy in Mr. Jake Page’s article, “A People in Place”. While I am happy to accept that his friend, Mr. Sekaquaptewa, was a remarkable man who led a fulfilling life, that is likely Mr. Page’s only supportable claim. Mr. Page offers a Disneyfied Hopi culture of wise tribal folk as a sustainable counterpoint to a world he mistakenly asserts is fatally flawed. Our survival is not so precarious, nor tribal wisdom so admirable, as he claims.

Hopi society is not “self-contained community” or a blueprint for a simpler, more sustainable life. The Hopi reservation, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, has 7,000 people living on 2,500 square miles of land. The “viable” tribe he celebrates leads a life closer to Thomas Hobbes than Jean-Jacques Rousseau. They suffer 18 percent unemployment, 43 percent of Hopis live in poverty, and 40 percent of all Hopi homes lack plumbing. The Hopis do not live in balance upon the land, standing apart from our consumerist society. They survive entirely upon state and federal funding — and the $2200 per capita they receive yearly in mining royalties from the Peabody Coal Company. According to the Arizona Department of Commerce, 1,302 Hopis on the reservation held jobs in 2004; 1135 (87 percent) were government or government-funded jobs. Only 50 people (4 percent) worked in agriculture.

Growing the Hopi corn at the center of their “sustainable culture” is clearly less attractive to real-life Hopis than a job writing grant applications.

I was relieved to see Mr. Page acknowledge his clear intellectual debt to Thomas Malthus, as he warns us of rapidly depleting arable land and energy sources. Mr. Page follows by describing potential medical challenges in literally apocalyptic terms. Western civilization’s continual innovations have prevented Malthusian sufferings for several centuries. Yet the intrepid Mr. Page goes Malthus one better telling us these are inevitable problems that will lead not only to a collapse of our civilization, but roil our eternal souls. In fact, he did not list a single problem that lacks a solution. Yes, some solutions will be messy, expensive and slow but we know how to address each doomsday scenario he raises, and have already begun the work in earnest.

I am sure that if our European-style civilization were to disappear (and take those Federal remittances with us) the Hopi villages would indeed revert to their pre-Columbian culture. An idyllic world of 20 year life expectancies, where tribal members suffering severe fevers were thrown off cliffs. Such a life of repose sounds simply smashing.

I’m pleased Mr. Page enjoyed his friendship with Emory Sekaquaptewa. But Mr. Page failed to make any reasoned case that our world is doomed or that Hopi culture offers an appealing alternative. I’m disappointed Notre Dame Magazine published a puerile social commentary that would not have survived the peer review of a Freshman Seminar class. A liberal university exists to train minds in rigorous and disciplined thought. I had hoped your editors would be better able to recognize its absence.
Michael Francl
Class of 1985

Breaking barriers
I was disappointed to see that of eight distinguished and successful female graduates featured in tribute to the anniversary of co-education (Summer 2008 issue), three were either divorced or separated. Celebrating a seminal moment in Catholic higher education was slightly tarnished by highlighting individuals who were unable to keep their promise of holy matrimony. Surely there are other female graduates who have not broken this holy bond. At the same time, perhaps it underscores precisely how difficult it was (or is) to be a successful woman. Carrying the weight of great expectations as graduates of a prestigious university, trying to stay competitive in a career while continuing to carry the traditional familial responsibilities is an extremely difficult burden to bear. This fact, maybe more than any other, demonstrates the difficulty these women faced breaking the barrier.
Justin Farishon
Via email

Troubling reunions
What was essentially a “throwaway” line by Robert Schmuhl in an Alumni Travel Program article in the autumn issue really hit me hard as I ponder whether to attend my 50th reunion next June. Schmuhl quoted an anonymous “alum from the 1940s” who said he didn’t want to return to the campus because “I want to remember my Notre Dame.” I share that feeling.

There are lots of personal reasons for my hesitancy about coming back, not the least of which is the recent deaths of several classmates with whom I enjoyed spending time. Shaking hands with guys I was not close to 50 plus years ago doesn’t seem very enticing, nor does the fact that the 50 Year Club no longer seems to have a monopoly on the venerable Morris Inn, generating a need to find space in a nearby motel.

But there is an even more troubling aspect to the Class Reunions, as I see it, and that is the incessant appeal for contributions to the University. Alumni coming back for a Reunion are expected to help make “our” class gift the biggest ever, in both amounts raised and in the participation rate.

With so many worthwhile charities to support (Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities for starters) I find it difficult to continue supporting an institution that appears to believe that expensive investments in new buildings and new programs will enable it to finally shed the reputation of just being a good Catholic college with a national following that would appeal to the average Catholic.

Turn the book store into a Nordstrom lookalike (Brother Conan would never have allowed a piano in his lobby because he needed the floor space) and spend huge sums to renovate the fairly new Hesburgh Library and invest in real estate up and down Notre Dame Avenue all you want, but not with my money. Just like the alum quoted by Schmuhl, I want to remember the Notre Dame that used to be, not the uppity Harvard and Yale competitor that the people in charge now want it to become.
George Clements ’59
Alpharetta, Georgia

Broken connections
In a letter to the editor in the Autumn 2008, the writer says, “women will continue to be second-class citizens at the best Catholic university in the United States until there are women priests.” My question: How in the world would women priests prevent women from being second-class citizens? OR, how does ordaining women have anything to do with citizenship? AND, what is the connection between Notre Dame Magazine and the “best Catholic university in the United States”?
Frank Grimaldi ’47
Kansas City, Missouri