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to see it superseded and covered over by the extraneous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
I used to believe that Holy Cross was made of sterner
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,
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
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
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
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.
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
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
If this is an example of “old Europe,” God
bless ’em. And please hang on to the ROTC.
Richard L. Sippel ’60
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
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
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
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
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
Jim McManus ’70
A 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
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
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
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
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.