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  Readers Write

Holy Cross Magazine welcomes letters regarding the magazine's content. Letters intended for publication must be signed and may be edited for style, length and clarity. Opinions expressed in the letters section do not necessarily reflect the views of the administration or the editorial staff.

Praising Pax
Congratulations to Clare Karis for her excellent article, "Keeping up with Clyde Pax" (Holy Cross Magazine, Summer '99). I was privileged to have had Clyde V. Pax as a teacher of history of modern philosophy when he first arrived at Holy Cross in the fall of 1961. The article states: "He (Pax) has come to realize, he says, that "our biggest issue here on earth is to praise the Lord." Fr. John P. Donnelly, S.J., chair of the department of philosophy at that time, is pictured in an edition of the Purple Patcher with the question "Is there a Christian philosophy?"  We know in Christian theology that there are four purposes of prayer: petition, reparation, thanksgiving and praise/adoration. The highest purpose is praise/adoration. I submit that Clyde Pax personifies that purpose and personifies the answer to Fr. Donnelly's question. Holy Cross College was intellectually and spiritually richer due to Clyde Pax's long presence. 

Harry A.M. Rush Jr. '62 
East Millinocket, Maine 


I would like to respond to the question, "What has happened to Holy Cross athletics?" posed by Mr. Joe Neary '74 in your January 1999 issue. Mr. Neary, I regret that you are ashamed of being associated with what you deem the "state of our college's athletic program." The intent of my letter is to suggest that you and other disgruntled alumni attend some other athletic events and enjoy the success of Holy Cross athletics as a whole. 

If it is true pride in Holy Cross that you are looking for, I wish you could have been at the many sporting events that evoked emotion this year-for example, when the women's basketball team won its second straight Patriot League Championship and berth in the NCAA tournament; when the men's hockey team won the MAAC championship; or when my Patriot League Championship field hockey team successfully defended its title, again made it to the play-in round of the NCAA tournament and achieved a national ranking of 18th in a preseason Division I poll. I don't know many athletes, students, or alumni who were or had any right to be ashamed of these days. 

If you do reduce an athletic program to one sport, you eliminate much of what there is to be proud of in Holy Cross athletics. Not only do you miss out on the aforementioned championship teams, you demean those who have been selected as Patriot League players of the year in men's soccer, women's volleyball, women's basketball, baseball, field hockey and "softball pitcher of the year" in 1998-99. You also discredit the countless athletes who won other athletic and academic honors. I would hope that in the future those who wish to criticize the perceived "failures" of one team will not generalize their criticism so as to undermine the many successes of the talented and deserving athletes at Holy Cross. 

Sarah Cox '99 
Dover, N.H. 


I would like to respond to Shawn M. Donovan's '70 unfair shot at the military and me in particular (Holy Cross Magazine, Summer '99). What troubles the writer about the Vietnam issue is "the even-handed celebration of warriors and dissenters as though they are the moral equivalent ." Further, "Is Philip Berrigan the moral equivalent of a three star general (also a Holy Cross graduate) who had command authority in Vietnam?"  I suppose Mr. Donovan considers me a war criminal for having been true to my oath of office, sworn on Mount St. James in 1951. I did my duty in a war that was perceived at the time as a legitimate and unselfish struggle to defend a budding democracy against international communism. For many reasons the war was lost, but that does not invalidate the nobility of intent. The legions of Vietnamese who subsequently fled the yoke of the victors is testimony to that. One has only to look at Vietnam today to make a comparison between what is and what might have been. 

In citing the Commandments and the Beatitudes for his and the Berrigans' pacifism, the correspondent's logic is that all wars are morally evil. (One would also presume, the struggle against Nazism). This flies in the face of the Catholic tradition of the Just War (jus ad bellum, jus in bello) developed by Augustine, Aquinas and subsequent moralists of the Western world. I would not have made a career of the military if I did not sincerely believe that some wars are just and necessary and can be  prosecuted in an ethical manner. There is no gain in saying that the just war tradition was frequently violated by both sides during the war, but that does nothing to invalidate its legitimacy any more than human violations of the Commandments and Beatitudes invalidate them. All are designed to counter that darker side of human nature. 

The Berrigans can be admired for their beliefs and willingness to abide by them. In that sense I consider myself their moral "equivalent," but my commitment to conscience remained within the laws of the land established by the American people. Theirs did not. "Why did so many men of Holy Cross serve in Vietnam and so few resist?" Because they were men of courage and principle. 

As a matter of accuracy, it should be noted that the Holy Cross Magazine was in error. I was not a three star general during the war; that came years later. During my tours in Vietnam I was down in the mud as a middle grade officer, as I was as a junior officer in the Korean War. 

Bernard E. Trainor '51 
Lt. Gen., USMC (Ret.) 
Lexington, Mass. 


To the editor: 
Shawn Donovan '70 poses the question "Why did so many Men of Holy Cross serve in Vietnam and so few resist?", which deserves some comment. 

Mr. Donovan is clearly a committed pacifist, devoted to nonviolence, with the courage of his convictions. All of which I respect. However,  his question assumes a principle also implied in the text of his letter, which is that there is always a True Good and every honest, moral person can absolutely see it plainly, if only they try. As Christians we  believe the former, but as fallible human beings in a complex world we can very strongly doubt the latter. 

By the ideals of pacifism and nonviolence we should never have fought the American Revolution or the Civil War, and certainly not have entered WWII, but prayed for those under occupation or in the death camps and sought by other means to convince Hitler and Tojo that they were simply on the wrong track. That would not have worked, and most Christians accept, perhaps reluctantly, that at times defensive violence is unavoidable. 

Complex moral questions sometimes boil down to asking which is the lesser of two evils, and at times enduring the horrors of war seems to many (myself obviously among them) preferable to the moral bankruptcy of inaction in the face of terrible malignancy. Some may choose to reject that thinking and cling to pacifism as an absolute. Making that choice is a fundamental right of the individual, but it does not entitle them to condemn everyone else as being morally inferior. 

The containment of Communism by the West had momentary hot spots in the long period of the Cold War, Korea being the prime example. (Was that conflict justified? Think of life in North Korea today!)  In 1965 Vietnam appeared to many to be another attempt by Communism to break out of China and spread its repression across Southeast Asia. It was perfectly possible to believe that both Western self-interest and a moral obligation to the South Vietnamese justified supporting the conflict, and John Kennedy has set the tone that we would bear every burden and fight every foe for the cause of freedom. 

So the answer to the question is that at the time more of us saw the situation in that light than as an immoral exercise in military adventuring and wasting human lives. Mr. Donovan may find it difficult to understand that others can be very concerned with moral issues and have the courage of their convictions, yet not embrace his own vision, but that is part of the wonder of humanity. 

R.J. Del Vecchio '64 
Fuguay-Varina, N.C. 


To the editor: 
I was in Vietnam as a General Medical Officer from August '67 to July '68. I volunteered and do not feel guilty for actively participating in our failed and flawed effort to retain South Vietnam as an American ally in our perceived political/military struggle with the USSR and China. Rather than feeling guilty,  I am quietly proud that I went rather than remaining in the USA, safe and snug in a residency program while some other doctor served in my stead in a hostile environment. In 1967, I was uncertain whether or not our involvement was justified. I gave some credence to the appeasement at Munich analogy and assumed that the U.S. government made the proper decision. Thankfully, I survived a few dicey situations and returned intact, older and wiser. 

While there I realized that our efforts were futile and that the continuation of the war would only result in needless death and destruction. So I took part in a few mass demonstrations in Washington, picketed the White House and financially supported politicians who wanted to stop the war. I committed no felonies. 

I have always had deeply felt respect for U.S. military veterans from Vietnam and in general and complete contempt for those such as Clinton, Quayle, and George W. Bush who used social/political connections to avoid going to Vietnam while those less privileged were sent by our presidents and Congress. 

Edmund Wiker, M.D., '62 
Hopkinton, Mass. 


Commencement Cover 
The picture on the cover of your summer issue says it all. It is almost spiritual-the love between mother and son on the day of his graduation from college. 

After having practiced pediatrics for many years, I was always struck by the mother or father looking at his or her newborn through the viewing glass in the hospital nursery. Sometimes fathers or mothers would stand there for 40-50 minutes. Yes, they would gaze at the baby's physical features, but I am certain they would also dream what this baby would accomplish and how, one day, he would graduate from college. Such a day arrived for the Walluses and many other graduates. 

May other of life's passages between parents and children be as joyful and loving as this one. 

John E. Tomley, M.D., '51 
Pittsburgh, Pa. 


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