Letters 05.10.2009

Notre Dame Graduation

Honoring President Obama and allowing him to give a commencement speech at Notre Dame is appalling.  The bishops of the U.S. were very specific when, in 2004, they declared, “Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which suggest support for their actions.” Violations of this declaration are rampant at many Catholic universities, and the Notre Dame scandal really brings this crisis to the forefront.

This might not be the best analogy, but would the president of an all-black college allow the head of the KKK to make a commencement speech? I highly doubt that. And even if this did occur, students would protest vehemently and probably boycott the graduation ceremony. To honor our pro-abortion president at Our Lady’s university is a slap in the face to the Catholic faith. Can you imagine what tears the Blessed Virgin will shed if President Obama is given a platform at Notre Dame? She appeared in Guadalupe to stop the sacrifice of children, so we know how very important the unborn are to her.

Memo to students at Notre Dame: If the protests don’t work, think about boycotting the event, as unfair as it may seem. Thousands of empty seats would make a statement, don’t you think?

Michael Rachiele

Pittsfield, Massachusetts

To those of you lamenting the secular direction of Notre Dame, our response need simply be to knock the dust from our feet and walk away.

The reason I take this lackadaisical attitude toward Notre Dame is because I know there are orthodox Catholic universities in this country that have already superseded these old liberal colleges as bastions of our Catholic faith. I know because I just came from one.

My wife and youngest daughter and I just spent the Easter triduum at Franciscan University with our son who is a junior philosophy major at Franciscan. It was awesome. My wife and I both said we felt like we had been on retreat. The highlight was Saturday night where the students started forming a line four hours before the Easter Vigil was to begin in order to get a seat. This was in the fieldhouse, where 2,200 chairs had been set up. We got in line at 5:30 for a service that wasn’t to begin until 8:45 and would last until a few minutes after midnight. The vast majority of students were dressed in their Sunday finest. During the distribution of holy Communion, many students would genuflect before receiving the Blessed Sacrament.

It is truly a university where the faith of our ancestors comes alive. You see it in the perpetual adoration on campus. You see it the faith slogans on T-shirts worn by students. You see it in pictures of Our Lady and the Sacred Heart taped to dorm room doors. I glanced at the current edition of the student newspaper. Its mission statement says it does try to conform to Catholic values. I read a letter from a student who was reminding students that with warm weather approaching to remember to dress modestly. Another letter writer was upset because classes were not canceled on Holy Thursday, the start of the Easter triduum.

Yes, it is sad that Notre Dame has decided to take the road most of our culture and society is traveling. But I just want to tell you that there is still hope for the future of Holy Mother Church in America. I get very excited when I think that the 2,400 students at Franciscan will someday be priests and religious and youth leaders back in their home dioceses. They will be our future Church leaders.  As we sang at midnight on Easter morning: “Alleluia!” 

Daryl Hill

Columbus, Texas

John Paul’s Holiness

Regarding “Blessed John Paul II?” (April 19), I do believe that he will be canonized, although I find that the requirement on “miracles” rather too narrow.

The one overwhelming sign to me of his “holiness” and sanctity was the pilgrimages from around the world to Rome: Consider the numbers of people and how little crime and little trouble, as well as how much community building and bridging of cultures occurred. He was a shepherd of the world to bring all of mankind to Christ Our Lord.

He quoted Our Lord often, starting with the message “Be not afraid” — words we must take to heart. We must not to be afraid to stand in the wind that is our present society and culture.

There is also his pastoral leadership in the renewal and seeding of true faith in so many young people (whom the secular world and its culture of death were claiming as their own because they were young). I have seen young men answer vocations and young women consider the contemplative and cloistered life.

There are hundreds of thousands, even millions of these “little” incidents, where his intercession and example led us to Our Lord and God.

Sandra Dent

Severn, Maryland

Benedict on the Blog

I would just like to thank you for embedding our video on Pope Benedict’s birthday on your website (Daily Blog, “Happy Birthday, Pope Benedict!,” April 16). Thank you also for linking to the video page on our site. May the Holy Spirit guide and protect your wonderful publication.

Joseph J. Rutchik

Outreach coordinator

Apostleship of Prayer

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Umbert’s Friend Cara

As the father of a young man with Down syndrome, Mr. Peter Damien Watson, I was especially pleased to read your “Feeling the ‘Ups’” cartoon about Down syndrome (“Umbert the Unborn,” April 19). Peter was born with marked mental and physical disabilities, and they told us not to expect him to live to age 4. This coming July 1 Peter will celebrate his 34th birthday! Peter lights up our life!

I would love to share your cartoon with fellow parents of children with Down syndrome.

Keep up the good work!

Dr. Richard A. Watson

Mountainside, New Jersey

My 4-year-old daughter, Rose, is learning her letters, loves the slide on the playground, and thinks of Elmo as a member of the family. Also, as an aside, she has Down syndrome. This is the reason why I was deeply troubled after reading the “Umbert” cartoon in the April 19 edition. It was the one in which Cara, the featured baby, introduces herself as a “Down syndrome baby.” Cara notes that “mommy told daddy about me today,” and “they both cried.” However, Cara feels fortunate because presumably, despite this, her parents “promised to love” her forever.

I am disturbed by this cartoon for many reasons. First, we are not defined nor identified by our conditions. It is no less offensive to label a child a “Down syndrome baby” than it is to address a child as a “cancer baby, a spina bifida baby, a blind baby, or a black or white baby.” Babies are babies.

Second, to introduce your readers to the idea that the child’s parents “cried” when they found out about Cara’s diagnosis reinforces the misconception that a child is anything other than a gift. Additionally, it is noted that even though the parents cried, they promised to love Cara forever. Why should this be reported as something reaffirming or surprising? What a powerful and disappointing message you have conveyed.

With over 80% of all pregnancies in which a child is diagnosed as having Down syndrome ending in abortion, I would expect a renowned “pro-life cartoonist” and the editorial staff of a Catholic publication to possess greater sensitivity to the issues I have mentioned. I would also expect the Register to have a deeper understanding of the insidious danger of assigning labels and a corresponding parent’s emotional response based on the perceived value of a child. We all have equivalent worth in God’s eyes. I believe you may have disappointed and offended more readers than you know.

Dr. Kevin Dowling

Davidsonville, Maryland

Response from Gary Cangemi: First, I thank you for your critique because I often struggle with difficult issues in the “Umbert the Unborn” comic strip and go out of my way to avoid offending anyone. Your comments will go a long way to help me better craft the character of Cara and address pro-life issues concerning children with Down syndrome.

The character of Cara was inspired by the presence of Trig Palin at the Republican National Convention. The sight of Piper combing her baby brother’s hair with her fingers went straight to my heart, and I knew I had to add a new character to Umbert’s group of unborn friends.

I was also deeply touched by Sarah Palin’s story and how she struggled with the knowledge of having a child with Down syndrome.

I think it would be intellectually dishonest to suggest that parents in this situation have no cause to grieve or feel sadness for their child. It is a normal human reaction, which I expressed through Cara overhearing her parents cry, a reaction that deserves to be validated.

Knowing that our children face a lifetime of limitations is a difficult and sometimes painful concept for many parents to face, but feeling that pain doesn’t imply that we love our children less or think less of them. What distinguishes us as human beings is how we deal with the challenges with which life confronts us.

Cara’s parents, like the Palins, dealt with their sadness by acknowledging the life growing within the womb and promising to love and cherish their child. I thought this to be a positive message worthy of celebrating in an “Umbert” strip.

You ask why this should be reported as something reaffirming or surprising: I believe you answered your own question when you cited the 80% of children with Down syndrome who are rejected by their parents and slaughtered in abortion mills.

Apparently, giving life to a child with Down syndrome is the exception, not the rule, so I don’t understand your issue with my treating it as an exceptional act that needs to be lauded and celebrated.

Again I thank you for your input and ask God’s blessings on you and your family.