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 email@example.com.
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.
JOHN J. MACDOUGALL ’53
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
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.
TONY SCHIAVO ’93
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
“See how these Christians love one another?”
NORMAN J. WELLS ’50
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.
MARTIN DROZ ’76
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
Let’s be clear, the sexual abuse scandal engulfing the Church is
about pedophilia, not homosexuality.
ROBERT J. KANE ’71
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.
ERNIE GULLA ’60
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
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.
YALE RICHMOND ’43
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.
MICHAEL ABRAMOV MA ’92
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.
THOMAS S. HERMES ’73
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.
DAVID G. POWER ’72
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