Letters to the editor — web extra

Author: Readers

Oh, Those Indulgences

I just read “Escape From Purgatory” by John M. Nichols in your Spring 2004 issue. Not only was there much truth in the article, but it was also written in such a comical way it was a joy to read. I think you should have Mr. Nichols submit an article for each issue. Rest assured your readers would turn to his writing before reading anything else in each issue.

Mrs. O. F. Zimmerman
Horseshoe Bay, Texas

John Nichol’s article may well be written tongue-in-cheek. To the extent he’s serious, however, he may (as an attorney) appreciate what those having experience in criminal law well know: The world’s serious problems are caused not by people with an excess sense of guilt but by those who have no sense of guilt at all.

Noel J. Augustyn ‘74J.D.
Chevy Chase, Maryland

John Nichols (“Escape From Purgatory”) would commiserate with the main character in a short story by Grahame Green (Collected Stories published in 1973). In “Special Duties” Mr. Ferraro employs a secretary in charge of his indulgences. The calculations of John Nichols reminded me of Mr. Ferraro’s lament about “spending too much time in the lower brackets.” I hope I get to read Bless Me Father.

Anne Russo ‘57 SMC
Albuquerque, New Mexico

John Nichols’’ glib recollections of his Catholic youth in “Escape from Purgatory” have none of the self-effacing charm of, say, Frank O’Connor’’s short stories on the same topics. Worse, Nichols makes no effort to differentiate his own boyish misappropriations of Catholic practice from authentic teaching. Contrary to what Nichols’ account would lead us to believe, the Catholic theology of forgiveness through canonical penance and indulgences reflects a keen and compassionate sensitivity to fallen human nature as well as a loving fidelity to the Sacred Scriptures.

Before Nichols—and vicariously, the editors of Notre Dame Magazine—contribute further to the mammoth disinformation campaign against Catholicism, I suggest they get their facts straight. That is, of course, after they first go to confession.

Michael P. Foley
Visiting Assistant Professor
University of Notre Dame

The Glory Be was a good deal. I used to see how many I could say in one breath. Then when we started praying to the Holy Spirit instead of the Holy Ghost, I worried that I had lost indulgences from the old version.

I don’t remember if there were indulgences earned by serving the 5:30 a.m. Mass on Saturday—but if you served a wedding Mass later in the day sometimes you got a tip.

Thank you John Nichols.

Dick Lambert
Loyola U. Class of ‘70

Please convey to John Nichols — “Escape from Purgatory” — my sincere thanks and admiration for his having expressed his reflections and experiences in such a way. There are no doubt thousands of us here in the Pacific who would associate in every way with what he writes. It is funny, even pathetic — but we are all prisoners of what he mentions to some degree. I have circulated the article here amongst the Auckland Diocesan Administration Office and as well to friends who will also appreciate this text. As director of Mahitahi here in Aotearoa, New Zealand (see www.mahitahi.org), I assisted Daniel and Daniela Stollenwerk prepare for their work in Madang PNG (see his Reflection online). So it has been with pleasure that I read articles from your publication and have shared them with people involved in development projects in our close-by Pacific Islands.

Tim Walsh
New Zealand

Some Offensive Letters

I look forward to receiving Notre Dame Magazine each quarter. The production values, editing, and content are all top-notch. However, after getting the current issue in the mail yesterday, I feel compelled to comment on what I see as a disturbing trend in the letters to the editor.

In the Winter 2003 issue, Rebecca Kroeger accuses 91 percent of American Catholics of apostacy because they do not answer “correctly” an opinion-poll question on birth control. I found this comment deeply offensive. Kroeger needs to pick up a dictionary before writing, and not make such broad generalizations lightly.

In a later issue, Pat Syring claims that Professor Schmuhl is deserving of eternal damnation because his article was deemed sympathetic to Arab Muslims. Thankfully, Syring is not the judge of Schmuhl’s soul, nor of mine. He would do well to remember this. Are pride and anger no longer among the seven deadly sins?

In the current issue, Pat Timon took issue with Martin Sheen’s inclusion in a litany (in a prior issue) of what is great about Notre Dame. Timon derides Sheen as a pacifist, but I submit that Christ was and is the penultimate pacifist. Faithfulness to the totality of Church teaching should take precedence over partisan politics and theological cherry-picking.

Lastly, Andrew Santella’s column lambasting the “touchy-feeliness” of some contemporary liturgies is a lament I have heard many times before, both personally and on BeliefNet, of which I am a member. Santella clearly does not get the idea that the Mass is partly about the embrace (both spriritual and literal) of the faithful. If shaking a stranger’s hand once a week is such anathema to him, why bother being Catholic? In his defense, Santella at least owns up to his curmudgeonly ways.

It has been said on B’net that the new battle lines are not between Catholics and Protestants, but between conservative and liberal Christians. My experience, both at ND and since, bears this out. While I feel a bit exiled these days, I continue to be committed to both the Church and to its most progressive ideas on social justice.

On a much more positive note, John Nichols’ piece on Catholic guilt resonated deeply with me. It was both hilarous (reminiscent of John Powers) and touching. Also well done was Mitch Finley’s article on the return of alienated Catholics. This is a topic I think you need to continue to explore in future issues.

On the whole, the magazine is a great publication. Keep up the good work!

John R. Flory ‘88

The contrast is stunning: In the Letters Section of your Spring 2004 edition, Doug and Mary Ann Smego refer to ’in loco parentis’ as “downright absurd and ludicrous for 2004.” Then, in the edition’s cover article, Anthony DePalma tells of placing the care of his son in the University’s hands—and the very moving story of the support he and his wife, and his son received when his son was so ill.

Thanks to Mr. DePalma for shining a light on the spirituality of ministry that lies at the very “soul of our University”—and especially for sharing a story about the wonderful ministry that men and women like John Conley, CSC, Mark Poorman, CSC and Bill Kirk do every day outside of the public eye. I hope that Mr. and Mrs. Smego were reading well.

Stephen M. Koeth. CSC ‘99
Moreau Seminary

Returning to the Church

After graduating from ND in 1963, after 16 years of Catholic education, I went on to graduate school, then spent three years in the Marine Corps. On my own for the first time, my Catholicism immediately “lapsed.” (“Back in the Fold”) Afterwards, getting married, earning a living, and raising a family, I drifted further away, more through laziness than any theological issue. Then, in 1990, I noticed an article in our local newspaper, announcing an information meeting for our parish’s Re-Membering program, designed to reintroduce “fall-away Catholics” to their faith. I attended the meeting, and returned weekly for 12 90-minute sessions. What was presented was the Catholic religion, dramatically transformed by the Vatican II Council, and from an adult point of view. On the following Holy Thursday, I emotionally returned to the faith of my youth. For the last 14 years I have been an active parishioner, a Eucharistic Minister, and a member of the Re-Membering team. As such, I am a “companion” to others who wish to take a look at returning to the fold.

Like Mr. Finley, I am constantly amazed at why some Catholics choose to leave their faith. The reasons are sometimes trivial, sometimes erroneous, and often out of date. And also like Mr. Finley, I’ve discovered that, for the most part, those that have been away for years, and even decades, often profess that in all those years, deep down they always considered themselves a Catholic. I take great joy in telling them “Welcome back!”

Robert C. Bartolo Sr. ‘63
Columbia, Maryland

Just finished reading Mitch Finley’‘s article “Back in the Fold.” The Bible is the Word of God. It is inerrant in all it proclaims as it was written in the original autographs. The message is simple, God sent his only Son as a blameless sacrifice to pay for our sins. Nothing we can do here on earth is good enough to grant us salvation. Our only recourse is to acknowledge this fact and ask God to let Jesus’’ death atone for our sins and accept His free gift of salvation. (John 3:16 for you football fans.) Once we have accepted this fact then we are asked by God through Christ to spread the message and fulfill the ""Great Commission"" (Matthew 28:18-20). The article never mentions the Catholic church’’s silence on these facts as the cause of alienation.

After living 30+ years as a practicing Catholic, I left the church. I personally believe the church doctrine is counter to the Word of God. I highly recommend readers read the apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Substitute the word “Catholics” for “Galatians” if you dare.

Maybe the reason Catholics are leaving in droves is similar to my own; the church demands performance of arbitrary absolutes, rituals, works and doctrine created by the church hierarchy as a means of controlling the congregation, and inconsistent with Biblical Truth.

Perhaps returning Catholics are searching for the comfort of these rituals and the “controlling hand” of the church. The church compartmentalizes religion conveniently to an hour on Sundays for most. Walking in faith challenges one to put others needs ahead of their own consistently, and to question and challenge those who undermine Biblical Truth. Ironically, I went back to a Catholic church about a year ago for a mass. It amazed me how easy it was to drone on and on repeating the chants, without any thought to what was being said or why. There was nothing personal about it.

If the spiritual tradition of the church obscures the Word of God, get rid of the tradition and get back to Christian faith. There is no need for coexistence of faith and tradition. It is in fact detrimental. This is the focus of Paul’s message to the Galatians.

God wants a personal relationship with each of us. He does not require an intercessory. It wouldn’’t be personal relationship if there was one. I am secure in the knowledge that I will go to heaven based on faith in Christ’’s blameless sacrifice on my behalf. Are you? If not, I urge you to ask Him now.

Gary Hickman ‘’78


Kudos to Notre Dame Magazine for publishing the articles which show differing views of the Iraqi war. But the one story that clearly stands out is the one authored by Father Michael J. Baxter (“Christmas in Iraq”). This picture of Iraq was motivated by humanitarian concerns and, as the author points out, a way of “showing solidarity with the people of Iraq.” No one knows for sure how many Iraqis that the ruthless Saddam Hussein had executed. But we do know that our “smart” bombs and rockets have killed tens of thousands of Iraqi men, women, and children, and maimed many times more. All the untruthful reasons we were given to justify the war have been replaced by, “Oh well, Saddam was an evil dictator.” Is it now our mission to destroy all countries in the world who have “evil dictators”? We are told by straight-faced administration officials that President Bush has a “vision” for a “democratic Iraq.” In all due respect, this president who is arguably one of the most unread and inarticulate in our history, can hardly have a “vision” for a culture and a people for which he has almost zero knowledge. It is all too easy for some Americans to proclaim that we are doing the “right thing” while it is the Iraqi infrastructure and population that are being devastated. When Father Baxter writes of Iraqi cities which are “knee deep in body parts” one can only conclude what an unmitigated disaster to all humanity that this war represents.

Robert J. Williams
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I usually appreciate your editorial decisions, and the idea of first-hand accounts of the Iraq conflict drew me right in. But I would have hoped that at least one of four articles on Iraq would contain some substantive analysis of our behavior in terms of the Church’s Just War doctine (especially given the Church’s position that the justification for war was dubious, a position which the national debate has ignored). Dustin Ferrill’s piece came the closest—mentioning the concept twice—but his analysis limited itself to whether we started the war with right intentions. Surely he knew that right intention is only one of the prongs of the Just War analysis. None of the pieces you published considered (1) whether war was waged as a last resort, (2) whether the damage caused was proportional to the gains sought, or (3) whether the probability of creating a peaceful Iraq made the fight worth starting.

I know that Father Baxter hails from a pacifist Catholic Worker background, so I forgive him for not employing the Just War doctrine —but I found it incredible that two Notre Dame ROTC graduates didn’t leave Notre Dame with the Just War doctrine seared into their consciousness. Could they really have gone through four years of discussions about military doctrine and strategy, and of Catholic philosophy and theology, without their minds instinctively reaching out to determine whether the relevant criteria were met? I think not. It seems much more likely that they didn’t mention the doctrine in their articles because they knew, consciously or not, that starting this war was not just—even if our intentions were righteous.

I am not (yet) a cynic, and actually, I don’t doubt the president’s intentions in starting this war. Nor do I doubt the intentions of the pro-choice crowds in Washington last month. But both have internalized ideologies that are anti-life, and the consequences of both positions are death. As Catholics, we have an obligation to say it like it is. Regardless of intentions, this war was wrongly begun.

Charles Roth ‘96J.D.
Chicago, Illinois

I read with great interest the spring 2004 issue of Notre Dame Magazine. The article by Anthony DePalma was excellent and thought-provoking. We should treasure what makes Notre Dame the special place that it is.

Thank you, also, for allowing Capt. DeKever and Lt. Ferrell to share their experiences in Iraq. Capt. DeKever presented the clearest and most concise case for the war in Iraq that I have read anywhere. Their two articles should put to rest any doubt about having a ROTC program at Notre Dame.

It is exactly the sort of intelligent, compassionate and thoughtful soldiers exemplified by these two men that our country must have in our armed forces if we are to conduct ourselves with honor in war. I am proud of their sacrifices for our country and the fine example they make for Notre Dame.

Thomas J. Lanahan ’93
Atlantis, Florida

Let Go Of My Hand

I loved Andrew Santella’s essay “Letting Go”! I am annoyed by those who think grabbing someone’s hand is more important than the prayer itself. I view this unwelcome hand grabbing as a self-righteous act of hypocrisy. Maybe all the hand grabbers should be forced to sit in a special section.

Tom Mangan ’74MBA

“Letting Go,” by Andrew Santella, pressed a hot-button for me. I’m not the least embarassed or uncomfortable about shaking hands or holding hands with people around me in church. I will often refrain from that practice, however, for health reasons. This is true, especially during cold and flu season. Ask your personal physician what the most common and most effective means of transmitting a cold or the flu is, and chances are that he will say, “through personal contact.”

Perhaps you’ve had the experience of sitting near someone in church who sneezes and coughs into their hands during Mass. Then, at the appropriate time, they generously offer those hands to you. Worse, they may want to hug you.

I don’t feel the least embarrassed or uncomfortable about smiling at that person and keeping my hands in my pockets.

Please people, when you’re feeling at death’s door with the flu, DO NOT succumb to our traditional Catholic guilt, and drag yourself to Mass. If priests cannot exercise good judgement in this area by refraining from pressuring parishioners to exercise the hand-hold during the flu season, then at least do what you can to protect your fellow parishioners, stay home. If you just can’t stand it, make up the Mass with two next week, when you’re feeling better.

Tom Dargis ‘63
Georgetown, Texas

I totally agree with Andrew Santella in "Letting Go" as to the American practice of holding hands with strangers during the Lord’s Prayer. It could be worse, as we have a "triple whammy" at our church. Just before the beginning of Mass we are instructed to "in a show of solidarity, greet your neighbor" (hand shaking). After the required hand holding at the Lord’s Prayer, we are again instructed to "greet your neighbor" (more hand shaking). During these shaking/holding episodes the noise in church reminds me of a Mary Kay convention.

I have traveled extensively throughout Europe, Asia and Mexico and attended Masses in Spain, Notre Dame, the Vatican, etc., where the hand holding/shaking is not done. I wonder if the apostles held hands at the last supper when reciting a prayer,

As Mr. Santella said, a remedy is Just Don’t Do It.

Edward D’Arcy ‘52
The Woodlands, Texas


Having jettisoned religion during my years at Notre Dame—along with a majority of my classmates, according to contemporaneous surveys, and in line with the comment of Father Hesburgh that ND was the best place one could lose one’s faith—I seem to recall more than vaguely that only 11 of the 12 apostles merited beatification and sainthood, requirements for their remains to be classified later as relics. Jennifer Osterhage (Spring 2004, p, 12) comments that one of the University’s reliquaries is assumed to hold remains of all 12 apostles. Are remnants of Judas’ mortal remains therefore now to be considered relics? Is he considered a saint by those at Notre Dame?

Thomas W. Filardo, ‘67

It’s a shame you did not include the web letter from Jack Mahon, class of 1969, in your print issue for the Spring. I too find myself embarrassed to have attended Notre Dame after reading some of the hateful, self-righteous vitriol spewed in some recent letters to the editor (damning people to the fires of hell for example).

Notre Dame magazine used to be one of the best University magazines in the country. Now, it’s nothing more than a public relations arm for the University and some of its more narrow-minded, arrogant graduates.

Paul Czarnecki

A Superb Actor

Julie York Coppens’ article “Ora Jones Lights Up Her Town” (Spring, 2004) is a much deserved tribute to a talented former student who has developed into a superb professional actor. However, in the interest of accuracy, I must note that I told Julie that I first saw Ora in Cabaret, not that I “cast” her. Indeed, that production was produced by a student organization—Student Players. It was directed by a student whose directing work I went to observe that night.

I mention this because such organizations, including the theatre department’s own laboratory series, have long provided students opportunities to get started in theatre on campus as well as to try new and different creative endeavors from the department’s mainstage series. Although often unheralded, these groups through the years have made for a vital alternative theatre scene on campus.

Reginald F. Bain ‘57
Notre Dame Associate Professor of Theatre (Emeritus)
Granger, Indiana


In response to the article “Stomaching Chemotherapy Getting Easier,” acupuncture is also a highly effective therapy. The healing relationship can support the individual body, mind, and spirit. Symptomatology such as dry mouth, metallic taste, nausea, etc., all can be addressed in addition to addressing the patient’s spirits as well as those of the care-givers. Many patients report significant improvements in energy and postoperative healing as well as minimal adverse reaction to chemotherapy and less fatigue and burn reaction from radiation therapy. Many people are supported successfully in the partnership of acupuncture and report feeling better themselves, coming to wholeness.

Mary Beth Gibbons
McLean, Virginia

The Presidential Poet

After uncovering the autumn 2003 issue again from our coffee table I was pleased to read page 49 featuring Jacqueline Vaught Brogan’s article on Charles L. O’Donnell, CSC, poet and president of Notre Dame. Father O’Donnell was president during my time at Notre Dame. I would like to reread again Father O’Donnell’s eulogy of Knute Rockne given in early April 1931 at Rock’s funeral Mass at that time in the Sacred Heart Church. My brother Tom “Red” Hearden, captain of Rock’s 1926 team attended his funeral Mass and often referred to O’Donnell’s eulogy as a master piece. Is a copy still available? Thank you, Jacqueline for revisiting Father O’Donnell’s poetry, as many fortunate have been Another Singer.

Peter M. Hearden ‘37
Boca Raton, Florida

I enjoy receiving your magazine more than anything besides, perhaps, income tax refunds. I feel compelled to share a little private story. Last October, every night, I would visit my father, Tom ’53 in the local hospital’s intensive care unit. He had leukemia and couldn’t talk because he was hooked up to oxygen. On one particular night when we just learned that the days were very limited, I went through the mail before leaving for the hospital. I found Notre Dame Magazine, Autumn ‘03. Great, I thought, there’s bound to be some stories I could read that would interest him. I grabbed it and left. I showed him the picture of Notre Dame’s fall sugar maple leaves and read the poem “At Notre Dame.” Thank you.

Peter Eckland
Lake Bluff, Illinois

We All Want Peace

I met Nancy & George Mairs a number of years ago when we were attending the Newman Center at the U of Arizona. Nice folks and a very courageous couple. However, that said, I’ve never agreed with her philosophy of life and take great exception to the activities of Women in Black on the corner of “Speedway and Euclid.” Not to their right to demonstrate! Not what they want as an end! But to their apparent lack of understanding that it takes two to “Wage Peace!” Why is their protest not aimed at Al Qiada & UBL or Hamas or Hezbollah? As I have written before the only reason pacifists are permitted to be out there demonstrating is because their country has gone to war to defend their rights. We all want peace! I was a naval officer on duty for 22 years, served in Vietnam and certainly worked for peace for all those years. So come on Nancy, how about asking the terrorists to put down their homicide belts?

William D. (Bill) Hohmann ‘58
Tucson, Arizona

Business ethics

Mary Ann Proctor ’’73 impugns (Letters, Spring issue) the ethics of business managers who outsource jobs overseas, causing hardship to “dispossessed” Americans. But the ethics I learned at Notre Dame indicate that managers act ethically when employing foreign workers, who doubtless are more impoverished than their American counterparts, in order to lower the cost of products for poor as well as rich consumers. Moreover, lower prices leave consumers money to buy other things, while foreign workers gain dollars to spend on American goods or investments.

International trade in goods and services benefits both importing and exporting countries. Both buyer and seller perceive gain in every transaction; otherwise one or the other would call it off. Of course international trade hurts some individuals just as technological change hurts others, but society as a whole benefits from both. Economic progress, Joseph Schumpeter pointed out, is a process of creative destruction. Governments should help workers transfer to the jobs of tomorrow, not protect them in the jobs of yesterday.

Terence Byrne, ‘57
Rockville, MD

Core Course

With the realization that I just sent you another comment on an article in ND Magazine I cannot refrain from commenting on the lunancy of the demise of the A&L Core Course. I was aghast at the reduction of teaching load by one-third for A&L professors. My goodness they get 34-hours of out of classroom time a week and all summer off. What a deal!

I thought a liberal arts curriculum was meant to provide an educated, not a trained, student.

Curriculum should not be based on ideas of inclusiveness and relavancy to “modern” students but on the intellectual stimulation and education to be derived from great works of Western Civilization.

Professors with PHDs no better prepared than 18 -year old sophomores to lead a seminar! WOW!

Notre Dame the only Catholic college or university that doesn’t have a core set of texts! And Notre Dame proposes to be the leader of Catholic universities. Which way?

William D. Hohmann ‘58
Tucson, Arizona

I read with interest the article on the demise of the sophomore core courses. Almost a fossil, I took the previous “book of the week” course, the old junior level collegiate seminar under an infuriating fellow named Daniel Koob, even complained to a dean about the demands. Hated the required aggravations until about midyear, when I discovered I was breathing outside the womb—and wanted to be there! The classical analogy is Plato’‘s myth of the cave. Basically, I had learned to read—not just the text at hand, but all texts, incorporating both intellect and a value base.

Research, ladies and gentlemen, is mostly fine and well, though certainly it can easily enough become an absurd little game. Give and take—while wrestling with lasting materials and vital issues—is all that separates education from trade school. All the research in all the schools ever convened matters such a shallow swallow compared to the deep currents that should never be left for ""experts"" to expose. We have authorities too many, not enough thinkers. I could always tell Koob what I thought, but I had to back it up.

Richard Mendola ’’74

What is one to make of the egotism, narrowness, and irresponsibility of the parvenu faculty who have chucked the Western Civilization seminar from the curriculum? There is a distraction in the psyche, a failure to grow up, coincident with the university’s vulgar “rise” to “greatness.”

Joseph F. Ryan ‘59
Yarmouthport, Massachusetts

On Deaths in the Family

The Spring issue was particularly good, especially the article “Soul of the University.” The touching comments of the author with his ill son were truly full of emotion and grace. I wish to comment on the recent obits of various long time faculty and alums. These men, whose lives were so rich, full, and positive for Notre Dame, deserved at least a current or recent picture along with the texts. Where you highlight such men, their picture, formal or informal, would be greatly appreciated by we who love and respect them. Also, on the “death” page with the listings of recent dead—please title the page with “Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord.” Thank you for your service to Notre Dame.

Jim P. O’Shea ‘52
Sunnyside, New York

Festival choice

This is just wrong. The university is not required to sponsor such an event as the Queer Film Festival. Notre Dame, its departments, Gender Studies Program, English, anthropology and film, television and theater, do not need to sponsor a FESTIVAL for immoral behavior. Promoting homosexuality with an officially sponsored Notre Dame Queer Film Festival is amazingly unintelligent. Doe anyone at the university think anymore? Sin will prosper without the Catholic Church nor Notre Dame’s sponsorship. Last I heard the church, including Notre Dame, was supposed to help sinners, not encourage their immoral behavior.

I am but a minuscule contributor, but Notre Dame will have to do without my sponsorship until she officially stops her sponsorship of this event. In case anyone asks what to do with the hole created in the Festival schedule, don’t replace it with pornography, adultery, fornication or even masturbation film festivals, all but the last will be glorified by Hollywood in multiple films that will be commercial successes, and none need Notre Dame’s sponsorship. I admit it will be hard to find a topic where the church’s mission and the film industry’s mission aren’t in some conflict, but please do better than this. I also believe the university owes a public apology (to all the victims and families of homosexual, pedophile Catholic priests) for having been so incredibly stupid and insensitive to have sponsored this event.

Gary F. Hellrung ’69
West Palm Beach, Florida