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Letters to the Editor
"Faith & Science"
Your "Faith and Science" forum (winter '07) made for a fine early morning read as today began. Two aspects of the forum stood out as I read.
One: lots of ease all around the table, it seems, with speaking and listening without a compulsion to resolve all differences. I don't think I noticed any backdoor attempts to proselytize. The forum seemed a model of the civility that is a hallmark of the academy.
Two: Robert Garvey's comment that "we hardly ever talk about where science screwed up," which appears fairly late in the forum, surfaced my awareness of something I was missing throughout. The forum participants tend to discuss the practice of science and the practice of religion — and the practice of being an academic institution generally — only in terms of people when they are up to their A game, so to speak. I wonder whether a second forum with the same participants might wrestle with the humanity of the women and men who practice science and who practice religion, every one of whom carries burdens, is subject to the ambiguities, inconsistencies, meannesses that are part of the human condition. No one that I know — and I expect the forum participants would agree — has constant and lifelong access to themselves at their best; nor does a college, nor a city. . . . How does the practice of science or of religion engage, not just put up with, the mix of human nobility and elegance with human violence and mediocrity? Both appear in every human being and notably influence the wide world which provides the foundation for any human practice and in everyone who aspires to serious practice of either discipline. Something like an affective, aesthetic, moral Heizenberg uncertainty principle.
That said, I loved reading the Forum.
Rev. John Staudenmaier, S.J.
Assistant to the President for Mission and Identity
Editor: Technology and Culture
The University of Detroit Mercy
Your article "Faith and Science" was interesting and thoughtful. Fr. Clark quoted St. Ignatius as saying that "everything that is available to us in creation can be a means of finding God." Would St. Ignatius agree with the Vatican that embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) should be prohibited? Your article briefly mentions this issue but nowhere is the conflict resolved; apparently there is still a "divide" between faith and science. I find that prohibiting ESCR is cruel and irrational, a blow to millions of disabled people everywhere. But a promising development is that scientists recently have found stem cells in amniotic fluid, without destroying the embryos. While ESCR should continue, this development could take away the sting of irrational dogma.
Richard B. Treanor '53
"The Strategic Plan"
In the article "Prior Proper Planning: Cooking up a Plan for the Next Five Years on Mount St. James" (fall '06), Senior Vice President Frank Vellaccio, speaking as the chair of the Planning Steering Committee (PSC), states that "Holy Cross has never had an identity crisis. We're a small, liberal arts, Catholic Jesuit college." Such a statement runs contrary to previous public pronouncements made by Vellaccio. Moreover, it appears to me to be another attempt to assuage the concerns of alumni that Holy Cross may be compromising its identity as a Catholic institution, in order that the senior vice president can have the cover to continue to steer the College in a secular direction.
Holy Cross, as much as the administration tries to deny it in the public square, is in an identity crisis. The ideals of higher learning promulgated by the likes of, on the one hand, Cardinal Newman in his lectures on the "Idea of a University," and Pope John Paul II in Ex Corde Ecclesiae, and, on the other hand, U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review, are not completely compatible. In reality, when there are partially mutually exclusive ideals, some ideals must be sacrificed.
Rather than pretend that these tensions don't exist while the administration tries to tell every interested party what they want to hear, I suggest that the Holy Cross community openly dialogue about what kind of college we want to be, and where our Catholic identity fits into that mission.
Joseph T. Nawrocki '05
Notre Dame, Ind.