Category Archives: Letters to Big Shots

John 11: 50


Here is a letter I have written to Fr. Robert Shanley, President of Providence College, and who is currently presidentially presiding over the very dignified and collegial lynching of a great scholar, a devout Catholic defender of the Truth, and a good and decent man.  I imagine him in his robes of office: aloof, yes, compassionate, of course, aware of all the necessary facts, without question, and deeply concerned for the lives, and souls and the, well, the reputations about to be supported or sacrificed for the greater good of the school and benefit of all mankind.  It is what presidents do…when not playing golf or hosting benefactors, delivering speeches and looking magisterial and compassionate, wise and consoling, boundlessly merciful and intuitively practical; when being, in a word, godly:


Rev Robert Shanley, O.P.


Providence College

1 Cunningham Square

Providence, RI 02918 USA


Dear Father Shanley,

You have been described to me by people better informed than I am as a philosopher, an art of which I have only a passing knowledge.  And as a priest, and a Dominican at that, I am reasonably sure that you are more than well versed in Catholic theology. Indulge me in a little bit of my own background, stories from my youth about philosophy and theology.

Father Anthony Rubsys, who went to Heaven, I am sure, in August, 2002, was a refugee from Communism who came to America during the Hungarian uprising.  He was a biblical scholar fluent in seven languages, a good and gentle, a loving, man.  He taught me in class and counseled me out of it.  He was extremely intelligent, extremely gentle and deeply concerned for The Good.  Why else not, I have often wondered while thinking about and praying for him; a man who saw and suffered much, all of it the result of when and where he lived before coming to this country, through the horrors of Nazism and the Second World War and the soul sickening weight of post-war Communist rule.

As an assignment in one of his classes, I wrote a paper on Thus Spake Zarathustra.  I was taken then with the Strauss tone poem, and stupid student stuff.  So I wrote the paper and handed it in.  Several days later Father Rubsys returned it with this note in his handwriting above my title, which was something like Superman, “Why do you waste your time on this when the faith has so much more to offer, to study?”  I cannot remember much beyond the title of the thing I wrote about. Nor can I remember much about the music, except what bit of it opens that film by Stanley Kubrick.  Few, I suspect, will remember much about it, if anything at all in another hundred or so years.  Almost no one knows the film’s music’s title.

Harry Blair was a much decorated World War II veteran, a tank commander in Gen. Patton’s Third Army, a tragic man, and a Shakespeare and Renaissance scholar.  I took every class of his that I could and got to know him very well.  He drank too much; but, I suppose, he had every reason to do that.  When he taught King Lear his classroom was filled beyond capacity. His rendering of the King’s speech in the storm on the moor brought more than one student to tears, myself included, as we listened to an old man pour out his grief at having given his life to his children and been misunderstood, spurned, betrayed, cast away.

I once had a letter published in the school’s newspaper…the editor was a friend of mine…and Harry read it, of course.  The letter called for the “aggiornamento” underway in Rome to be extended and applied at the school, for there to be a radical change in, well, just about everything.  I remember I called not only for windows to be opened but walls to be demolished and ended with “I would have no church at all!”  Brave words, I have thought more than once since.  Brave words for the inferno we face, now.  We sat together, Harry and I at the bar in the Pinewood drinking an afternoon beer and he showed me the issue of the paper with my letter, quietly asking me what had possessed me to write it.  Seriously I answered at length about all of the things I saw that were wrong and needed changing.  “You are very young,” he answered, and then we went on to talk of other things, though I do recall him wondering aloud about the lady I was soon to marry and asking how she felt, how I might feel when I was a father.  But, there he left it.

Bear with me, please, Father.  I do have a point.

There is no doubt that Alexander Solzhenitsyn was a philosopher like yourself, and a great and good man.  Were he a Catholic, I suppose his cause would already have been introduced.  In many ways he was a martyr for the truth, and a lover of the beautiful in people, in society and in all of creation; even when found in the Gulag, anterooms to hell built and maintained by hell’s servants here on earth.  Maybe that’s overly dramatic, but, nevertheless…  Joseph Pearce, who wrote an excellent biography of Solzhenitsyn, has written his own story, and a fascinating one it is.  He calls it Race With the Devil, and discusses his descent into violent racism and hate, and ascent from it through the grace of God.  Indulge me in a quote from Pearce’s book:

“My descent into delinquency was aided and abetted by the progressive philosophy adopted by the school. No effort was made to impose discipline, which resulted in the triumph of anarchy in the classroom… (The) disruptive elements made it difficult, if not impossible, for teachers to teach and for students to learn.”

I apologize for the size of the quote.  I cannot figure out how to change the font. Nevertheless, it’s the sad truth and the tragic cause of the matter at hand, and the inevitable result of the choice in this matter (and in how many others?) you and the faculty quislings who brought this complaint against Professor Esolen to you seem, for all of your wisdom, training, education and Catholicity, to have made.  That the “death” of one man is necessary.

And, I cannot understand why you did what you did; a great disservice to the students , confirming them in their stupid and uncharitable,  selfish and infantile behavior…at the same time causing pain, anxiety and worry to not only this good man and his family, but thousands of other people who have never yet met the man face to face but know and treasure him through his prolific good works, his brilliantly clear and consistently charitable mind, and his reliably masterful scholarship.

You are a priest and pastor, too, finally much more important callings than mere president.  Have you acted in this instance as either one?

I expect that  Caiaphas was thought a wise and good man, a president, so to speak, who gave no help when help was needed.  And, of course, we all know what to think of Pontius Pilate, who simply gave up before the angry mob.

Which of the two should one say best describes you in this matter?

Yours truly,

Peter Gallaher

PS:  I only know of one other person named Shanley, a fellow I came across many years ago when I was working.  He was a Wormtongue, covert slave to Saruman.  In other words a coward and a traitor.




Notre Dame, Umm, God, Err, Save Us

Yet another point of view.  The emphases were, as far as I can determine, in the original.  Is this not a lamentable throwback to the Middle Ages?  The very cheek.  Read on…:

“March 31, 2009

Reverend John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.

President University of Notre Dame

400 Main Building

Notre Dame, IN 46556

Dear President Jenkins:

I wish to express in my own name and on behalf of the Catholic community of this Diocese, my dismay and outrage at your decision to invite the current President of the United States to address the 2009 graduates of the University of Notre Dame and to receive an honorary degree.  This decision of your flies in the face of the expressed directive of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in the year 2004, that Catholic institutions not so honor those who profess opposition to the Church’s doctrine on abortion and embryonic stem cell research. I would ask that you rescind this unfortunate decision and so avoid dishonoring the practicing Catholics of the United States, including those of this Diocese. Failing that, please have the decency to change the name of the University to something like, “The Fighting Irish College” or “Northwestern Indiana Humanist University.”

Though promotion of the obscene is not foreign to you, I would point out that it is truly obscene for you to take such decisions as you have done in a university named for our Blessed Lady, whom the Second Vatican Council called the Mother of the Church.

I sign myself

Very truly yours,

The Most Reverend Thomas G. Doran, D.D., J.C.D.

Bishop of Rockford”

The Bishop, of course, is merely a Bishop, and not a scholar; not the head of a multi-billion dollar endowed university with an international reputation and a large campus with over 500 faculty members, many of whom aren’t Catholics, but all of whom are, themselves, scholars, and, by definition intelligent, acute, and discerning men and women.  As is the case with their President, they understand everything necessary to understand about invitations to Commencement Speakers.  It is germane to their profession, on a par with the arrangement of the furniture in the Faculty lounge and the choice of wines and brandy at the annual awards dinners.  These are not things Bishops are expected to know, and would not understand.

Thus, the Bishop cannot possibly know the many subtleties, nuances, shades and penumbras of meaning and the depth of intelligence required just to begin to get one’s mind around them all with regard to this question of the President of these Untied States coming to address the graduates of the pre-eminent Catholic University in the, well, in the whole universe. The awe factor alone is daunting to consider. Let us leave aside the momentary and passing concern of the lives of beings about whom no one can come to an agreement as to whether or not they have a right to it…life, that is.

Let the Bishop count his collections, toll his beads, confirm his confirmandi, visit the sick and bury the dead…those he can find…those that haven’t been thrown out with the rest of the medical waste. The real work, the sherry drinking, the exacting task of understanding nuance and being tolerant of all of the diversities one comes across in the course of a university president’s day is being done, and done well by the Reverend President and all of the other intelligent and well educated Catholic Presidents of Universities we have, by God’s grace, been privileged to be privileged with.


Damn right.

I particularly find the Bishop’s last sentence, an obvious reference to the performance of the Vagina Monologues at NDU last year, to be egregious and ill tempered.  It is typical of a bishop, I might add, and to be expected of a man who sees things like this only in black and white.

I suppose one might offer a prayer…not that one is supposed to pray if one chooses not to think that prayer is required, or  encouraged, or to be believed in…one may, merely as an observation that prayer is, sometimes, uttered…I say one may offer a prayer that there are not many more such Bishops as this.  Thank, umm, God…or Influences, or…umm…

FOCA Letter

Dear Congressman Hxxxx:

I chose “Other” as the issue from your list of topics.  I pondered choosing Health or Welfare, both of which make some sense to me in context.  But, “Other” is, as well, applicable.  It could stand for any, or all, of the categories you list as issues which might affect your constituents…and you…since, really, the issue is one dealing with life.

By that you may already have guessed that I am writing you regarding the issue so passionately written about in our Declaration of Independence, and, until recently in our history thought to be sacrosanct: the right to life.  How strange I find it to be writing to a Congressman to urge him to stand in support of that right and to vote against what has come to be called The Freedom of Choice Act when it is next introduced for review, debate and vote.

I am old enough to remember the way that our newspapers and other media dealt with the “human wave” attacks against UN troops in Korea, when thousands of Chinese and North Korean soldiers were hurled against positions in a mad attempt to overwhelm them.  Many of them were armed with nothing but sticks, many were unarmed.  They were expected to take weapons from their fallen comrades.  The methods were deplored as inhuman, and much was made of the “Godless Communist” callous disregard for human life.  I grew up when knowledge of the Holocaust, the mass exterminations of subject people, manufactured famines, the gulags and the purges by Nazis and Soviet Communists of “enemies” was fresh in the minds of everyone.  The universal judgment, here, was that such bestiality was uncivilized, inhuman and completely beyond the high ideals and total respect for the rights of individuals to live free from of persecution and death which were chief among our fundamental founding truths.

All the evidence is simply stated and incontrovertible…as ample testimony before Congress shows…that a human being is a human being from the moment of conception.  Indeed even pro-abortion people allow that what is taking place is the death of a human being.  To date, this country, which once was able without shame to criticize as inhuman and bestial the wanton destruction of innocent human life because someone chose to do has sanctioned the death of millions of innocents.  A cruelty which was punishable by death has become a right to be defended.

More’s the pity, those who wish not to assist by any means in the carrying out the slaughter, will have that right stripped from them under this FOCA bill if it passes.  One may conscientiously object to serving in the Armed Forces.  One may not under this bill object to the moral equivalent of murder as they see it, which it truly is.

If you believe there is nothing wrong with this,I urge you to change your mind on the subject, and to state publicly your opposition to the introduction of the bill.