Letters to the editor Autumn 2007

Author: Readers

Editor’s note: The letters that appeared in the Autumn 2007 print issue are marked with a double asterisk (**).

Children of divorce

**Thank you for publishing the article “Breach of Faith” by Lynn Cassella-Kapusinski. The article presented a compassionate and hopeful perspective on the detrimental effects of divorce and separation on children. I’m glad to see Notre Dame making an effort to address this issue and to be open about the pain caused due to the actions of parents. In many ways, my experience matched the author’s. During my time at Notre Dame my parents underwent a tense time in their marriage, resulting in a separation. The fallout resulted in much emotional upheaval in my life. Unfortunately, the religious individual to whom I turned for counseling refused to listen to my story, which felt like further rejection and isolation. I still carry this experience with me.

The article pointed out several truths. First, when a child’s life is enveloped in upheaval, the upheaval is often caused by pain. Second, pain placed in a child’s life is not their own creation but comes from events beyond a child’s control. Third, the pain must be met with compassion, which leads to God’s healing. The first step toward healing comes from the simple acknowledgment of hurt.

Elizabeth Bajura Warnick ’92
Bruceton Mills, Wisconsin

Anger management

**The article by Andrew Santella, “Why So Mad?” sounds like it was directed to me personally. Here are my principal gripes: The tailgater and the phone solicitor. I could go on and on; then again I have a short fuse for many things. But rage is not unique to our current times since it has been a problem for centuries. They say Jesus himself drove out the money changers in the temple, and it was an example of justified rage. Saint Jerome was said to have to heave himself in the snow to control his rage. If a saint had the problem, who am I to criticize?

John Harford ’51
Oakmont, Pennsylvania

Notre Dame’s O’Malley

**It is always pleasant to have a central essay (“The Abiding Presence of the Place”) by Kenneth Woodward, whose writing has cogency, flexibility and occasional brilliance, and who understands the genius loci—the spirit of place, circumstance and tradition at Notre Dame.

I share his love for Frank O’Malley. But I think sometimes his praise is that of the generation of the late 1940s and of the ‘50s, which takes itself, rightly or wrongly, as the keeper of the central inspiration of the Catholic mind. He refers to O’Malley as “imbued with the spirit of European Catholic humanism.” Who would deny this? But it was with a branch of humanism that he was chiefly concerned (a French Catholic evangelicalism), and it was not much in contact with the European naturalism begun in the Renaissance and brought to remarkable fruition in 20th century science and art. This tradition is critical, empirical, materialistic in the revolutionary sense of Spinoza and Santayana.

To a student seeking his roots here, O’Malley was only marginally helpful. Both he and Notre Dame could only delay maturation. And it remains problematic whether this special coordination and harmony of nature and spirit is pertinent to Notre Dame’s humanism or outside the fold.

Joseph Ryan ’59

When told about cancer

**As a recent cancer survivor, had I written John Monczunski’s article (“It’s Not Always a Death Sentence”) I would have titled it: “Cancer, God’s Greatest Gift to Me.” It was only after facing death from cancer that I began to really live. Life anew started when I embraced cancer as a special gift from God. I was then able to face life and death without fear. Life without fear allowed me to surrender to God’s will. My personal and professional life, while still very active, became simpler, was focused on faith and family. Prayer became much simpler: praying for the knowledge of God’s will for me and the ability to get it done.

Will my cancer come back? Probably. Will it be terminal? Probably. Will I be ready? Absolutely. Am I a better person for having received cancer—God’s greatest gift to me? Absolutely.

William L. Kallal ’66
Cheyenne, Wyoming

Speaking of Notre Dame

**The Andy Burd interview with Notre Dame’s brain trust (“Notre Dame Unplugged”) was illuminating while simultaneously disappointing in the context of strict adherence to Catholic teaching/dogma. While there is an understandable shared opinion by the three participants that it would not be in Notre Dame’s best interests to have an all-Catholic student body, the provost goes on to say that Notre Dame “combines an institution which is committed to a distinctive Catholic mission, Catholic character, with the highest level of academic excellence.” He further opines, “We are a pre-eminent Catholic university—maybe the most pre-eminent Catholic university.”

Paradoxically, when Father John Jenkins was questioned about speaking out on embryonic stem cell research, he dropped it like a hot potato, saying “A university is a sort of ongoing conversation. It invites different perspectives. Now at Notre Dame we have that conversation informed by a tradition, a religious tradition, a moral tradition, so that should always give shape to the conversation. We should not be in the business of delivering manifestos, but in the business of having conversations.”

I submit these are legitimate goals of a university, but not when they conflict with the precepts of Church teaching. Or are we becoming so liberal as to dismiss fundamental moral judgments? Notre Dame has a legacy to be a Catholic bastion, especially with today’s declining spiritual commitment.

Bill Waddington ’45, ’47
Bayville, New Jersey

**After having recently attended my 50th reunion, I found myself feeling very proud of being at least a small part of Notre Dame’s marvelous growth over the past 50 years. Having just read “Notre Dame Unplugged,” I must conclude that “the best is yet to come.”

Guy J. Bentivenga ’57
Frankfort, Illinois

I found the discussion very interesting. They didn’t talk about football and yet how many would care about Notre Dame if it hadn’t been for football and how many would have cared about Notre Dame football if Notre Dame hadn’t been Catholic? Today football and Catholic are being questioned. The academic standards are not. The cost of forty-something is mentioned but not the true cost of eighty-something per student to run the University each year. It is interesting that now those who are no longer smart enough to get into Notre Dame or rich enough to pay are being asked to subsidize those who are. They didn’t talk about that.

Tom Wich ’63
Clarendon Hills, Illinois

For shame

I was shocked to read in the Summer issue (Domers in the News) that you woud find noteworthy a graduate’s participation in the Guantanamo Military Tribunals. The slightest research reveals Hicks was held for over five years illegally and presents a myraid of questions regarding his “guilt.” Not to mention the tribunal technique itself being found flatly illegal by the U.S. Supreme Court. I might as well have read “…Klansman cleared in kangaroo court.”

Justice is at the heart of all religions, including ours. Multiple transgressions of law have occured under this renegade administration determined by many to be ripe for impeachment: torture, warrant-less wiretrapping, black sites, escapist “signing statements,” excesssive secrecy and boldface lies that led to the present disastrous war. Never has public policy been at such variance with public opinion. Last I heard, we were still a democracy. That an ND graduate takes part in these egregious usurpations of power and that your magazine celebrates such atrocious complicity is disgraceful.

Dennis Lopez ’65
Rockport, Maine

Shame on you for printing the horribly misleading letter in the summer 2007 issue about global warming from John Zink without disclosing his ties to the petrochemical industry! John Zink LLC of Tulsa, Oklahoma, serves these markets: hydrocarbon processing, chemical processing, oil and gas exploration and production, and power generation. I would think it’s a common courtesy to let your readers know when such a glaring conflict of interest exists. Moreover, in a general sense the letter failed to add any balance or insight to the article it was responding to; It did not meaningfully relate in any way to the SUBSTANCE of Bill McKibbens article; worse, it was pure self-interested unscientific propaganda about climate change of the type that began circulating when I entered Notre Dame 20 years ago.

Dave Brach ’92
Salt Lake City, Utah

(Editor’s note: We do not require that letter-writers detail their business associations. Letter-writers have a right to their opinions, whether they works in a related industry or not. We do, however, check for a possible conflict of interest in cases where a letter-writer may, for instance, be promoting or attacking a political candidate.)

Too pious?

What has happened to Notre Dame? We were an ignorant bunch who started out as freshmen in 1953—ignorant of the world as well as most other things—but we weren’t culpably so. The world we lived in was ignorant, and worse. We didn’t do slavery any more, but we did the next worst thing—and it wasn’t very different. We were at war, again, and in fact have spent the rest of our lives being at war. Notre Dame was still a football school with morning checks to make it Catholic. But Notre Dame helped us—or most of us—to think, and to think pretty well.

When I was back at Notre Dame in graduate school—I did all three of my degrees there, before going off to the University of Michigan to teach for 30 years—it was a lot better, as a university. In my last year on campus, as an instructor in English, I had excellent students and excellent teachers like Joe Duffy and Ernie Sandeen and Jim Robinson. In the fall of that year the Texas Club invited presidential candidate George Wallace to speak on campus. Such a mean and stupid invitation caused me to go see Father Hesburgh. I asked him not to allow Wallace to preach segregation at Notre Dame. He responded by warning me that if he did, his successor someday might veto our having Martin Luther King on campus—and suggested that if I were so adverse to Wallace’s speaking, perhaps I should organize a demonstration opposing his speech. Our demonstration was a fizzle, though we got good publicity: The New York Times ran a front-page picture of one of our graduate student nuns carrying a sign that read “Christ Made Us All One Race.” I was momentarily proud of Notre Dame’s Catholic heritage and even my own. And in the spring, Father Ted brought Dr. King to speak at Notre Dame.

And Notre Dame Magazine became, over those years, a good magazine, filled with interesting and thought-provoking essays be interesting people. I read most of it every issue. But I don’t read it any more. It reminds me of the old Religious Bulletin, stuffed under doors on campus. It ceased publication in 1963, I think, after the young priest who was the editor gave us a whole bulletin—both sides—on masturbation. It began, “The most serious existential problem of our time is masturbation.”

Notre Dame Magazine hasn’t stooped to such as that, but it is terribly piously old-style Catholic, and awfully much old Noter-Doter stuff.

Bert Hornback ’57, ’61M.A., 64Ph.D.