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  Readers Write

Letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Holy Cross Magazine or the College. Letters should not exceed 300 words. Due to constraints of space, we will print letters that are representative of the response generated by any given feature in the magazine. Holy Cross Magazine reserves the right to edit all letters for length and clarity.

Words in Stone
For so very many years now, I have had ambivalent feelings about my alma mater. These feelings of uncertainty started within a couple of years of my graduation. While serving overseas with the Navy, two incidents (today I cannot recall what they entailed) caused me to wonder if what I had been taught at the College was really being practiced by the same organization. For the past several years, the articles published in your excellent magazine, coupled with letters to my home from various groups concerned with the moral health of the College, and the endless debates about the continuing (or non-continuing) Catholicity of Holy Cross, have only added to the doubts in my own mind as to the College’s allegiance to the truths and teachings of the Roman Catholic religion.

I am no scholar, my Holy Cross education notwithstanding. I lack the ability to phrase in lofty and learned language my feelings concerning my alma mater. Most fortunately, I am spared that challenging task. Your spring 2003 edition of the magazine has done the job for me in exemplary fashion. I refer to the back cover which shows an anti-war banner spread over the top of Dinand Library on 24 March. Whether such peace-at-any-cost sentiments are more valid vis-a-vis Catholic teaching than the pro-military attitudes of other Holy Cross students is a question I will leave to those far more learned in Church law than I am. My point, however, is this. The banner completely covers the words chiseled in stone that run across the top of the library. The words, I believe, come from the Gospel of John. If I can recall my Latin, the words are: UT COGNOSCANT TE SOLUM VERUM DEUM ET QUEM MISISTI IESUM CHRISTUM.

To this one graduate, it seems that this was the message that Holy Cross was preaching in the 1950s, and it is sad to see it superseded and covered over by the extraneous claptrap and passing political whims of the modern world. I used to believe that Holy Cross was made of sterner stuff.

Robert A. Augelli ’60
Whippany, N.J.


I used to believe that Holy Cross was made of sterner stuff.


The Military Experience
I want to commend your Spring issue on War & Peace. I also want to share a story sent to me by a friend that did not make the big papers. It is a story that shows a unique side of military character that is universal, and shows why the military experience is so worthwhile. (My three years in the Marine Corps are cherished.) This story also sheds a different light on the high level political rift that arose between the United States and Germany which apparently has not quite reached the lower echelons.

Shortly after the invasion of Iraq, an American officer on active duty in Germany was caught in traffic while approaching the gate at Ramstein Air Force Base. By then the German military had assumed control of all gate security 24/7 in order to relieve U.S. troops needed for service in the Middle East. As the officer approached the gate he noticed German soldiers milling about for no apparent purpose. They soon were moving down the line of cars asking that engines and lights be turned off. Suddenly, blue flashing lights appeared on the horizon from the direction of the air base. German security cars were escorting a convoy of U.S. medical buses. Lights were on inside the buses making the hanging IV bags visible. This was the first shipment of our wounded warriors being transported from the battlefield to Landstuhl for medical treatment.

spring coverWhat happened next was not rehearsed. Without any command, the German gate guards walked to the Jersey barriers in the middle of the road and lined up shoulder to shoulder facing the direction of the approaching buses. And on cue, without a word being spoken, the German soldiers snapped a sharp salute as the buses drove past, presenting arms until the last bus passed, "soldier to soldier, rendering honor and respect." It is a naturally acquired value of respect that warriors have for fallen warriors, regardless of nationality, that I suspect can be traced back to the Middle Ages.

Yet the story does not end there. At two a.m., a single C-17 aircraft lands at Ramstein with only one other fallen warrior aboard, 19-year-old Pfc. Jessica Lynch. And who shows up at 2 a.m. to escort her ambulance to Landstuhl? Over 100 German Polizei cars and the entire German contingency assigned to Ramstein, an escort fitting for the highest visiting dignitary.

If this is an example of “old Europe,” God bless ’em. And please hang on to the ROTC.

Richard L. Sippel ’60
Kensington, Md.


The Need for ROTC
Your spring 2003 interview with Capt. Labrecque echoed the thoughts I had during my first days of active duty in the U.S. Air Force. After receiving a commission through the ROTC program, my initial assignment placed me in the midst of a group of recently commissioned officers, a great number of whom graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy and The Citadel. As the war in Vietnam continued, I was amazed at the lack of critical thinking I encountered in my peers. In a nation still bitterly divided by the war, I was surrounded by junior officers who were, generally, astonished that I could be at all sympathetic to, or understanding of, those who genuinely felt the war was not in the best interest of our country. My impression then, as now, was that maybe we should have demonstrations at Holy Cross to expand ROTC. According to Capt. Labrecque, “you have to ask where your officers should come from.” I could not agree more. The military has changed, but it still needs more men and women with a background that an institution such as Holy Cross can offer.

John “Skip” Sweeney ’70
Smithfield, R.I.


The Other War
You have given a good amount of space to ROTC, pacifism and both sides of the Vietnam debate.

What about Holy Cross and its other war?

Lately we’ve had quite a bit of publicity for a movie, Gangs of New York, which portrays the immigrant experience during the mid-19th century. The subject of the movie is thuggery, battles between gangs of immigrants and the native-born, and a portrayal of resistance to the Civil War draft, which culminated in an alleged race riot. Though that era is the same one in which Holy Cross and Fordham University were founded, I have not seen much in the way of objection or alternative to this portrayal.

The relationship of Holy Cross to this subject is not peripheral. As chaplain of the (once famous) Excelsior Brigade, the priest who became the school’s eighth president, Joseph B. O’Hagan, S.J., ministered to the very same community portrayed in the movie: New York City immigrants and their children, many German and other nationalities, as well as Irish. The few pages O’Hagan left behind are a fascinating glimpse of frustration turning into admiration for his wards and their courage, and his witness to ugly manifestations of anti-Catholicism, which was hardly the province of native-born thugs alone, and battlefield carnage. O’Hagan’s Excelsior Brigade was cut to pieces at Gettysburg in July of 1863. During the days of rioting portrayed in the Gangs of New York climax, O’Hagan was ministering to his unit’s Gettysburg dead and dying, giving the last rites of the Church to hero-scoundrel General Dan Sickles, whose leg had been blown off by a cannonball.

When I attended Holy Cross, a prominent history professor remarked to us that the best thing about the place was that it was close to Harvard’s Widener library. I disagree. The best thing about Holy Cross is that it was built by and for the immigrant community that O’Hagan once served.

Holy Cross and Fordham are part of a larger story that brought to America Social Security, labor rights, legislative campaigns for anti-lynching legislation and the Tuskegee airman. And bringing ROTC to Holy Cross, for example, was just another way of leveling the playing field to those responsible for those changes.

Why Holy Cross and Fordham remain silent about this versus Gangs, neglecting their roots, is a puzzle. Perhaps you have too many too eager for admission to the Widener library.

Jim McManus ’70
Phoenix, Ariz.


summer coverA Day at Holy Cross
The photo essay, “A Day at Holy Cross,” was a touching and illuminating portrait of a day in the life of the College. At the risk of nitpicking, I would like to point out that the caption under the photo of Evan MacCarthy ’03 (Page 32,) “... while this year’s Fenwick scholar ...” should, perhaps, have read, “... while one of this year’s Fenwick scholars ... .” In an unusual decision, the Fenwick Committee granted the scholarship separately to a pair of exceptionally talented roommates: Evan A. MacCarthy and John T. Giblin.

Andrew D. Hwang
Assistant Professor, mathematics
College of the Holy Cross
Worcester, Mass.


Commencement Controversy
I write in response to “Commencement Controversy” in the summer issue. Despite the irony of my being cast as the Poster Boy for a challenge to the president and the trustees, I affirm my pride in being the Poster Boy for the unborn and the pro-life movement.

After all is said and done, I find it shameful that Fr. McFarland and the trustees, acting on our behalf, awarded an honorary degree to a self-described pro-choice advocate, Chris Matthews ’67.

Contrary to the assertion in the article, Chairman Collins never contacted me until the trustee decision was taken and he so advised me. There was no contact on the merits, only on the outcome.

I am not looking for vindication. I do, however, find validation in the fact that Bishop Reilly chose to boycott commencement for the first time in eight years; and in doing so, issued the following statement:

“It is my responsibility as the bishop of Worcester to teach and preach the church’s position that all human life be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. Holy Cross will confer an honorary degree on a Catholic person who publicly espouses the view that, in some cases, people have a right to terminate a life in the womb. I cannot let my presence imply support for anything less than the protection of life at all stages.”

It is not a coincidence that Bishop Timlin of Scranton, Pa., boycotted commencement at the (Jesuit) University of Scranton for the same reason: the awarding of an honorary degree to Chris Matthews.

Thus, with two bishops providing imprimatur, I leave it to your readers to make their own determination.

Charles E.F. Millard ’54, D.H.L. ’99
Old Saybrook, Conn.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph
I love you very much.
I beg you to spare the life
of the unborn child that I
have spiritually adopted
who is in danger of abortion.

(Charles E.F. Millard ’54 died on Oct. 20. An obituary will appear in the winter issue of HCM.)


I read with interest Fr. McFarland’s statement regarding the “Commencement Controversy” over Chris Matthews’ honorary degree and invitation to give the commencement address. It struck me as admirably firm and almost preternaturally restrained (besides being the position with which I personally agree). I am glad to see that the institution from which I graduated in 1957 continues to uphold its standards as both a catholic and a Catholic college.

Tony Podlecki ’57
Vancouver, B.C.


As a 1952 graduate of Holy Cross, I was enthralled by the controversy over the Commencement address and honorary degree delivered and bestowed on Mr. Chris Matthews ’67.

I am a physician who trained and practiced obstetrics and gynecology in the late 1950s when elective abortion was illegal (although abortion for medical reasons was legal in most states). I subsequently changed specialties in 1963 and practiced urology/gynecology until 1998 and since then have been a consultant for quality assurance for a major health management plan. During my medical career I have held a position of clinical associate professor of surgery at the University of Illinois Medical College.

As Mr. Mathews has stated, few, if any, responsible people—and certainly no physicians—believe that elective abortion is a good outcome. Elective abortion is a failure of humans to accept the responsibility of bringing a new life into this world. The solution is to educate and help, mostly young people, to not conceive a life, until to the best of their knowledge they are able, and most importantly, willing to guide their offspring to adulthood.

To accomplish the level of no—or at least very few—elective abortions, young people must be taught and indoctrinated in responsible sexual activity. This is essential if the number of abortions in the world is to be reduced to an absolute minimum. Banning birth control except for the rhythm or Billings method (which does not work for many couples for a variety of reasons) is not the answer.

Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae has diminished papal and church teaching authority more than any other topic in the history of modern Catholicism and has greatly stimulated study of the meaning of papal authority, sin and dissent. It is likely the most important single issue that separates young educated Catholic men and woman from a true and unequivocal embrace of their church and its authority. Sexual abstinence before marriage is an ideal to be admired but is and will not be the norm in either the developed or third world countries. Responsible sexual education with all options fully discussed is the best approach in the struggle to reduce and hopefully eliminate elective abortions.

I wish to congratulate Fr. McFarland and Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., for their support of having Chris Matthews as speaker. Their statements and presence underscore the importance of an “educational institution of higher learning maintaining a commitment to thoughtful and open inquiry of all positions in order to fulfill our mission to produce thoughtful and principled and well-prepared leaders for the church and society.” Kudos to both of them!

To Bishop Daniel Reilly of Worcester and Charles Millard ’54, I say that the issue of elective abortion is a very complex one and both sides must approach the solution not with authoritarian pronouncements, but with a spirit of cooperation and education in an honest attempt to prevent unwanted pregnancies both in married and unmarried relationships. Shutting out the possibility of finding a solution because of fixed dogma may give a sense of steadfastness in the short run, but certainly does not add any impetus to the solution.

Donald P. Feeney, M.D., ’52
Rockford, Ill.

It is imperative that the cancer victim knows that he/she has that support.

Walking the Walk
I was touched by your article, “Walking the Walk,” (Summer 2003), in memory of both Glenn Crane and John Bombard. Fighting cancer is a challenge for both a family and a community. It is imperative that the cancer victim knows that he/she has that support. It is inspirational to witness your team’s encouragement toward both teammates’ battles with cancer.

I am convinced that it is this support that keeps a victim alive. (From experience, I believe that it was my family’s support that kept my 29-year-old brother alive for 21 months of struggle with brain cancer, until he finally succumbed. The initial diagnosis said he would live for only six months.)

Keep it up - continue to "Walk the Walk" for other cancer patients who need the continued research and development.

Megan Wagner Modine '90
Red Bank, N.J.


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