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BCM welcomes letters from readers. Letters may be edited for length and clarity, and must be signed to be published. Our fax number is (617) 552-2441; our e-mail address is bcm@bc.edu.



Your special issue on the crisis in the Church [Fall 2002] was excellent, especially the article by Kenneth Woodward, “In Crisis Comes Opportunity.”

Like Woodward, I want a disciplined discussion of the big issues. As a lifelong professional social scientist, I oppose ordaining women and married men, for reasons that are “sociologically compelling.” After witnessing the drastic decline of mainline Protestant denominations, I hesitate to reject clerical celibacy. And over the past 30 years, I have been close enough to several local Protestant leaders to observe the way that strong policy controls by church boards of politically conservative laymen have rendered more liberal pastors impotent.

About the inadequacies of our priests as lecturers, I disagree with Woodward. In a small parish in the non-Catholic South, I am fascinated by the tenacity of the faithful. At an age when I have learned to listen fiercely to the words of the daily gospel and to attend carefully to the Mass, I have come to depend upon insightful homilies by humble priests who seem to speak from superior minds, hearts, and lives.

Thank you. I envy you all the opportunity to discuss these issues in this forum.

Huntsville, Alabama

Editor’s note: For those who cannot attend Church in the 21st Century events in person, Boston College provides video and audio webcasts of many presentations at no charge. To peruse the sizeable and growing archive of recorded events posted for viewing on-line, go to www.bc.edu/church21.


In “First Night” [Fall 2002], Richard Higgins reports that Jack Connors, Jr. ’63 “offered Boston College’s evolution into a largely lay-administered university that nevertheless remains Catholic in identity and mission as an example for the broader Church.”

If the whole Church were to be run the way Boston College has been run, traditional Catholic teaching would be presented on an equal footing with every other philosophy in the world—attacked, criticized, and routinely declared inferior to, say, Marxism. The Ten Commandments would have to be replaced by the Ten Norms of Political Correctness. Criticizing a protected group would result in immediate excommunication.

The Pope would be a mostly powerless, fundraising, handshaking figurehead, and the Church would be run by an unelected council of laypeople.

And a large percentage of Church revenue would have to be expended in the support of a truly first-class Vatican athletics program.

Cherry Hill, New Jersey


Praise for the casting off onto a sea of troubles in Conte Forum [“First Night,” Fall 2002]. Christians have not fared well in forums.

It’s not for me to offer a solution to the prevailing hierarchic and hieratic hubris, nor to tame the bureaucratic beast “in ecclesia.” On a fraternal note, savor Thomas Aquinas on fraternal correction: “Note that when danger to the faith is imminent, then superiors can be admonished by subordinates, even through public argument.”

“See how these Christians love one another?”

Professor Emeritus, Philosophy

The crisis in the Catholic Church is not about sexual abuse. This “crisis,” like a cancer, has been festering for a long time. The purpose of the Church, like Christ’s own ministry, is to be a guide for those who are willing to do what they know is right. In order to provide this spiritual guidance, the Church must be led by individuals who have been willing to make this rare journey themselves. Without them, there is no Church.

To say that the Church is a democracy that should be guided by laypeople is to validate the failed mission of the Church. Can you imagine the crowds telling Jesus how to run his ministry?

One does not need an organized Church in order to do what is right. Yet a true community can be of great benefit. Many today, including the young, are turning away from the Church, for the simple fact that it has no power—no power to help them in their daily struggles, no power to overcome the problems in their lives. To see that the Catholic Church had no power to protect itself from the influences of evil was no surprise.

Start with your own life. Take one moment at a time and do what you know is right. Your transformation will follow. When you change, your community will also change.

Temple City, California


In his survey of recent books on the clerical sexual abuse scandals [“Divisions of the Faithful,” Fall 2002] Charles R. Morris tips his hand early on. Mr. Morris has arranged his bedside reading in two orderly piles as the stacks conveniently “break roughly along ‘conservative’ . . . and ‘liberal’ lines.” No need to wonder which line of critical analysis occupies the higher moral ground. It’s the conservatives, in Mr. Morris’s view, who “strikingly and refreshingly . . . tend to be much tougher on the failures of the bishops.” Their failure to do what? To address the “lavender clerical subcultures” that they have allowed to “flourish within their seminaries and priestly communities.”

The implication that homosexuality and pedophilia are inextricably linked, the one inevitably leading to the other, is as offensive as it is baseless. The Right (those refreshing conservatives) has had a field day dispensing this particularly insidious brand of disinformation.

Let’s be clear, the sexual abuse scandal engulfing the Church is about pedophilia, not homosexuality.

Granby, Connecticut


Re “Fighting Words,” by Seth Jacobs, in your Summer 2002 issue: I remember standing on the bow of the USS Henrico as a young ensign in early 1961, while work was being done on the anchor chain in preparation for a seven-month tour to the Far East. Dr. Tom Dooley’s name was brought up somehow, and I remarked that I was reading his book Deliver Us From Evil.

The first-class bos’n in charge replied that he had served with Dooley in the early 1950s. When I mentioned the rumors of Dooley’s sexual orientation his reply was: “What does that have to do with his good works?”

His respect and admiration for the man were supremely evident.

Modesto, California


In rereading the letters on Dr. Tom Dooley in the Fall 2002 issue, I wondered why I had not written one myself. I met Dooley in Laos and was aware of his CIA connections. We in the American Embassy, whom he belittled, were very skeptical about his efforts in opening a small medical center in northern Laos, more aptly described as a first aid station.

We felt at the time, and I still do today, that any effort to improve public health in Laos should have been made on the national level, where it would have reached many more people, rather than in the isolated and distant north, an area that was of interest to the CIA.

When I served in Laos, in 1954-56, there was only one European-trained doctor in the whole country, and he was the Minister of Health. Half the newborns died during their first year, and the average life expectancy was about 40 years.

Tom Dooley would have achieved more if he had done something to improve those statistics, rather than satisfying his own ego by helping a few people in the mountains of northern Laos.

Washington, D.C.



Larry Wolff’s article “Shelf Life” [Summer 2002] was a delightful ode to libraries. However, I have to take exception to points made about the San Francisco Public Library’s hasty weeding of books: An article in the June 2001 issue of Library Journal listed the problems in San Francisco, and chief among them was moving into a new central library that had less shelf space. That is a rarity.

As for discarding old newspapers: Librarians use interlibrary loan tools such as the Online Computer Library Center database first to be sure that an original issue exists at another institution. While most agree that looking through an old newspaper is more enjoyable, there are certain advantages to preserving historical materials on microfilm: It saves wear and tear on fragile newsprint, and the microfilm can last 50 to 75 years. Microfilm also copies easily and stores compactly.

As a professional public librarian and a former archivist, I am keenly aware of the differences between research or academic libraries and public libraries. One distinct difference is that public libraries do regularly and systematically “deaccession,” or weed materials off their shelves—as a professional responsibility—in order to make room for books that will suit the changing information and diversion needs of their clientele.

This is an accepted practice, and it is taught at library and information schools throughout the United States. Books are deaccessioned because of their condition or outdated information; because there are duplicate copies in the library; or because a particular book simply does not leave the shelf and has little or no enduring value.

I work at a branch library within the Austin public library system. It’s a small storefront location that holds fewer than 40,000 volumes. The branch librarian and I routinely weed books so that we can accommodate others we have ordered.

Historical collections, on the other hand, rarely deaccession. And the analogy of the San Francisco library does not necessarily fit with the mission of such esteemed institutions as the Widener Library at Harvard or the Bapst Library at BC.

Austin, Texas



I’m sorry to contradict the article by Kilian Betlach [“Off the Wall”] that appeared in the Summer 2002 issue. I came to Boston College in the fall of 1969, and the writing on Gasson Hall had already been there for some time. ROTC was removed in 1970 or 1971, so Betlach’s protest theory doesn’t add up.

During my freshman year, I was told by my RA (a first year law student who had just graduated from Holy Cross) that the defilement had come at the hands of Holy Cross seniors the night before our big rivalry game in 1967 or 1968. That was later confirmed by my brother-in-law, Richard C. Mahony ’69.

Winnetka, Illinois



I read with great sadness of Professor Raymond McNally’s death. I had the great good fortune of taking a number of classes with him during the late 1960s and early 1970s, including European history and especially several classes in Russian history. Although he was a teacher of magnificent generosity, charm, and intellectual breadth, I remember him most for his sense of drama and theatricality.

In those days, he wore his hair rather long and flowing (although not as long or flowing as most of his students did), and he wore a black cape to class.

McNally would enter the lecture hall with a flair, striding down the steps to the stage with his cape flying out behind him. Then, with a flourish he would spin, remove the cape, and lay it over a chair. All of this telegraphed his fascination with Dracula and Dracula’s real-life counterpart, Vlad the Impaler, a subject he researched and wrote about with his BC colleague Dr. Radu Florescu.

Several years ago, when my then 13-year-old son had to write a history paper, I showed him their book In Search of Dracula, and suggested that he read it. In the process of being fascinated, he learned a great deal about medieval history, the fall of Constantinople, and the rise of the Ottoman Empire. Not a bad legacy for a truly dedicated teacher of history.

Belmont, Massachusetts


Editor’s note: Boston College English professor Carlo Rotella’s Good with Their Hands: Boxers, Bluesmen, and Other Characters from the Rustbelt has been published by the University of California Press. Rotella’s article on women’s boxing, “Get Busy, Girlfriend,” in BCM Winter 2002, was drawn in part from this book.

Also, Against Consolation, by Robert Cording, Ph.D.’77, has been published by CavanKerry Press. Cording’s collection includes the poem “Pause: (for Robert),” which appeared in BCM’s Spring 1999 issue.

Both volumes are available at a discount from the BC Bookstore by clicking here

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