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‘Why we write in Viewpoint’

| Friday, October 3, 2014

The Observer adheres to a centuries-old American newspaper tradition of publishing its “Viewpoint” editorial page so that everyone can voice all opinions. By sharing daily editorial space with the Notre Dame community, the theory stands that it creates more dialogue otherwise narrowed by the editorial board that manages the newspaper. I personally relish in being a weekly voice in the wilderness — not the guy pacing the sidewalk outside the diner and wrapped in sandwich board proclaiming the end of the world is upon us — but like John 1:23, “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness. Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!”

Too often religious dogma or tradition trump widening the spotlight on overall service to others like Pope Francis now preaches. While the times and society have tempered past orthodoxy steeped in rigidity against women, minorities, gays and issues like divorce, religious institutions still dig in their heels at proposed change. The editorial page can loosen those heels. Academically speaking, the theory sounds stellar. Practically speaking, our electronic age has morphed reader responses to a point that people either somehow miss and do not read what is actually written, or they contribute evidence that further enhances the topic through new enlightenments.

Submitted for your approval, this writer emphatically believes that Condoleezza Rice should be held answerable for her complacency that caused thousands of unnecessary war deaths. Academically, the premise can be supported well enough to uphold the charge. Possibly, when documents are declassified 50 years from now in the George W. Bush Presidential Library, the evidence will overwhelmingly ring true through additional and substantial support. Until then, Rice is promoted to sit on football commissions and corporate boards that can pay her in the $100,000 range to decide playoff structures or profit strategies. Obviously, one cannot misread much in that succinct of a viewpoint editorial indictment.

Yet, many — especially two readers who responded to this semester’s columns and shall be fictitiously called the Professor and Mary Ann — usually either misread the content or enhance the premise with valuable firsthand evidence. Since today’s modern daily norm embraces short-handed text limitations, misreading is not uncommon. With the advent of anonymous comment posts that encourage snarky or unfounded charges, firsthand evidence can effectively squelch campaigns of misinformation.

My semester’s initial Capitol Comments column published on the football weekend the Irish opposed the University of Michigan. In it, I “played” on ironies that Madonna, the pop icon singer, is aging as evidenced by her daughter, a freshman at Michigan this fall. It further toyed with Madonna, Our Lady atop the Golden Dome, mother of our religion’s central figure whom we regard as the Mother of God. But while I thought my column explained how my generation began with the Beatles then turned to become “disciples” of Madonna in the 1980s, a Notre Dame professor zeroed in on my worshipping false idols. He extended an invitation for me to become a disciple of Jesus Christ who can forgive sins and give the gift of ever-lasting life and ever-lasting goodness.

Professor, all I really characterized was some ever-lasting good music. Call me a material boy, but I lector twice a month at St. Matthew’s Cathedral where I occasionally serve with Donald Cardinal Wuerl. On those occasions, I always ask him a challenging question like why the cardinal did not comment on Notre Dame graduate (’76) and former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s execution of a woman with a mere 72 IQ, yet considers McDonnell pro-life due to his abortion stand. McDonnell was the only person who could have spared the woman’s life.

My second column indicted the business ethics courses of religious institutions like Notre Dame and Regent University where McDonnell graduated, before he was convicted of 11 felonies that included accepting bribes while in office. To my surprise, a senior at Notre Dame’s Mendoza School of Business — whose father graduated with McDonnell — shared firsthand accounts of how Notre Dame has not balanced Catholic Social Teaching with the traditional business curriculum.

Students with strong Catholic social beliefs say that the blaring noise of a national No. 1-business school ranking makes it nearly impossible for social sentiments to be voiced. They expected to learn something uniquely Notre Dame, like marketing from a consumer-protection standpoint. They crave an emphasis on preserving the human rights and dignity of employees, laborers and consumers. Instead, they attend a required six-week Business Ethics course. Otherwise, they spend three years crunching numbers, learning how to maximize profit and hearing that government regulations and labor unions are meddlesome and not crucial. Perhaps inventing new social conscience courses will help maintain a best-in-the-nation ranking.

It can be easy while inside the Notre Dame Catholic Disneyland bubble to misread a tongue-in-cheek ranting from beyond those ivy-covered walls. While Viewpoint shares opinions and dialogue, it serves to mold more important life-setting roles for young adults who will carry on service to others. My fortune cookie yesterday read, “All the darkness in the world cannot put out a single candle.”

That is why I write.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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