Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: March 1996

March 1996

Notre Dame: No & Yes

I want to commend you for printing David Solomon’s insightful essay, “What Baylor & Notre Dame Can Learn From Each Other” (Dec. 1995). I know exactly what Solomon is talking about. As a 1978 graduate of Notre Dame, it was only about five years ago that I literally awoke one morning wondering why I wasn’t as well versed in Catholic doctrine and Scripture as I was in English literature and American history. As a father struggling to rear my children, it is not enough for me to teach my kids “tolerance and niceness,” and I often wish I was better prepped in my faith by Notre Dame.

That being said, Notre Dame is a profoundly spiritual place. There is something mystical in the memories of alumni and family trouping back after a football game to Saturday evening or Sunday morning Mass. As the years go by, it is the images of people with heads bowed in prayer by the Grotto which reflect in my mind more brilliantly than the summer sun off the Golden Dome or the helmet of Joe Montana.

Moreover, Solomon is exactly right about parents “impoverishing themselves” to secure a Catholic education for their children. It is troubling to me that the cost of Notre Dame is well beyond the reach of middle-class Catholic families. Notre Dame ought to use its huge endowment to cut tuition, similar to what Muskingham College recently did.

Michael S. O'Connor

Cleveland, Ohio

Compiling an Honor Roll of Catholic Higher Education

Your heightened interest in the Catholic quality of Catholic higher education is evident from your recent articles on Christendom College (Nov. 1995) and Notre Dame (Dec. 1995).

There are other institutions besides Christendom that are trying to maintain their Catholic identity and ethos in a hostile world. Among them are Thomas Aquinas (California), Mount St. Mary’s (Maryland), St. Meinrad (Indiana), St. John’s (Minnesota), St. Anselm (New Hampshire), Thomas More (New Hampshire), St. Vincent (Pennsylvania), University of Dallas (Texas), and especially Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio). It would be nice to be able to locate a complete guide to these and other reliably Catholic institutions.

Mark G. Barrett

Indianapolis, Indiana

Hispanics Can Stand Tall

Regarding Thomas Storck’s “Why Hispanics Are Not ‘Politically Correct”‘ (Nov. 1995): One of the treasures of the New York Public Library is a 1543 edition of the first book printed in the New World, Breve y mas compendiosa doctrina Cristiana, printed at the expense of Archbishop Zumarraga in Mexico City.

It was almost 100 years later that the first piece of printing was done in the English-speaking colonies. It was a broadside, The Freeman’s Oath, printed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1639. No copy survives.

Archbishop Zumarraga is mentioned in Prescott’s History of Mexico, but only in reference to his having destroyed Aztec manuscripts. No mention is made of the first press or Doctrina Cristiana. Very probably he had never heard of either. This serves to confirm Storck’s thesis.

Hispanics can stand tall. Olé!

Elizabeth Daly

Sound Beach, New York

Part of the Gathering Force

Apropos of your November 1995 editorial, “A Gathering Force”: When we were Episcopalians hoping for reunion with the Church of Rome, we thought the NOR was one of the best publications in what was then our Church. Several years ago we decided to “come out of the cold,” and joined the Roman Catholic Church. How wonderful this has been for us spiritually, and what a joy it has been to find the NOR again, but as a Roman Catholic publication! It seems that we have all come home.

Alan & Betty Orr

Los Gatos, California

Just a Joke?

Oh dear! The Right Message has been explained with the Wrong Reasons by the Wrong People. I refer of course to Sheldon Vanauken’s “A Humble Proposal” (Jan.-Feb. 1996) and Jack and Karen Taylor’s responses (Jan.-Feb. 1996) to it. Could it be that Vanauken’s proposal mimics Jonathan Swift’s “Modest” one and is to be taken tongue in cheek? I can only hope so, but I have my doubts: The Taylors’ responses seem so serious.

I too believe that men must be the only Catholic priests, and my most solid reasoning has been that Jesus Christ established it so. Had He or His Father wanted it any other way, it would have been, for Christ was an advocate for females — no one needs to cite biblical passages to prove that to me. Even in His quiet reprimand of Martha, He is patient, compassionate, understanding — and wise. Vanauken and the Taylors are not. I know they are only human — me too — but what incredible harm they do, unknowingly, for their cause of opposition to women’s ordination.

Jack Taylor’s references to kitchen work to boys finally getting away from their sisters and moms, and to general female “fussing” smack of misogyny. Perhaps the images he sees on the altar speak of his own personal history, but he need not infer his personal biases within the hearts of others, nor offer such sexist reasoning in place of graceful theology. Since when do we lay personal experience, prejudice, and name-calling as foundations for universality and catholicism? Others who believe the holdout against women in the priesthood is made up of just such prejudice-based fears will only find fuel for battle in Taylor’s remarks, and I can’t blame them.

And as for Karen Taylor’s insistence that the young girl, in persona Maria, be dressed in white and pass a weekly chastity exam: This is where I began to wonder if your whole symposium wasn’t just a joke. My sense of right was insulted. Aren’t we all human? Isn’t the priest human too, in persona Christi though he may be? Are we to assume that every celebrant is as pure as Mrs. Taylor wants that young girl to be? Or do we assume that the priest doesn’t need to be? Why one and not the other? I’ve known, loved, tolerated, and forgiven angry priests, rude priests, alcoholic priests, gay priests, priests who’ve had affairs, priests who’ve left. Such weakness is not the norm, certainly. Yet never were these men asked to prove themselves week after week, and surely their moments with Christ on the altar remain more significant than any in which that young girl would participate. Why do Vanauken and the Taylors insist that one young girl be purer than the men on the altar? (A stark feminist would say, “See? Once again, women must be more qualified and do the same job better — for less pay!”)

It is for these reasons and so many more that Vanauken’s proposal will not work.

Karen Gookin

Ellensburg, Washington

Editor's Note:

Vanauken and the Taylors are not proposing a double standard. They want high standards. We hope you do too, but we’re not sure you do. You say your “sense of right was insulted” by what you impatiently misconstrue and caricature as a “weekly chastity exam.” Was your sense of right insulted by those priests with what you call “weaknesses” — e.g., who’ve had affairs, who are “gay”? You say you’ve tolerated and forgiven them. On the surface, that sounds nice. But if you’ve forgiven what hasn’t been repented of — which is what that old “aren’t we all human?” refrain of yours seems to signal — then aren’t you tolerating some things that shouldn’t be tolerated? Yes, Christ was “understanding.” But He didn’t say, “I tolerate your weakness.” He said, “Go and sin no more.” Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart would probably still be thriving today if everyone around them had just tolerated their “weaknesses.”

Theatrical Nonsense

Sheldon Vanauken’s “Humble Proposal” (Jan.-Feb. 1996) is a sacrilegious obscenity. To trivialize the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the re-enactment of Calvary, by linking it to a symbolic, pseudo-wedding ceremony is blasphemy in the extreme.

The notion that one cannot be considered a viable member of the Mystical Body of Christ unless a person of one’s own gender is at the altar performing some unnecessary, contrived ritual, is preposterous. I know that my own reception of the Blessed Sacrament in no way would be enhanced by having another female, supposedly representing me, acting as an interloper at the altar.

Holy Communion is, and always has been, an intimate encounter between God and the recipient, and anyone who does not understand this will not be helped by the addition of theatrical nonsense to the already much abused Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Rosemary Lawler

St. Louis, Missouri

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