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The Laetare Medal Misfire, Chapter 2

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Notre Dame has chosen a dissident priest to receive the 2017 Laetare Medal.


After last year’s unsettling award of the Laetare Medal to Vice President Joe Biden despite his championship of abortion rights and same-sex marriage, one might have hoped for a respite this year.

It was not to be.

On March 26, Notre Dame announced that the Laetare Medal will be awarded at Commencement this year to Rev. Gregory J. Boyle, founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles.

The announcement describes Father Boyle’s laudable work for some 30 years with men and women who have been incarcerated and involved with gangs. His organization “is now the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world.”

That’s on the plus side. There is, unsurprisingly, quite a negative side: Father Boyle has openly dissented from the Church’s doctrine on same-sex marriage and has ridiculed its teachings respecting ordination of women and reception of Communion by Catholics married outside the Church.

In a widely publicized 2010 interview in connection with California Proposition 8, the referendum to ban same-sex marriage that was strongly supported by the Catholic bishops, Father Boyle not only disagreed but put the bishops on the wrong side of God.

Father Boyle said that, in judging the proposal, it was important to ask, “How does God see sexual orientation” and “Does God feel like same-sex marriage could happen?”

Father Boyle’s answer:

I don’t think anybody who has a connection to God and God’s understanding and depth of compassion who’s going to say no.

“And this,” he said, “is contrary to the party line.”

Later on in the interview, Father Boyle characterizes opposition to same–sex marriage – the “party line” – as “demonizing people.”

Shifting to the question of women priests, Father Boyle said the Church’s justification for the teaching was “shameful, “nonsense” and not “honest.” What would be honest, he added, would be to say, “I’m frightened that women will be ordained.”

Finally, as to the withholding of Communion from Catholics married outside the Church:

Hello?! What are we doing? Come on!

To be clear, we do not suggest that anyone who has at some time expressed disagreement with a significant Church teaching is automatically disqualified for the Laetare Medal. But here we have a prominent priest telling a television audience in the context of one of the most heated political battles in California history, not simply that he disagrees with the Church on the issue, but that he regards the Church’s teaching on homosexual sex and same-sex marriage as contrary to God’s will.

Nor did he simply say that he disagreed with the Church’s teaching on the ordination of women and the discipline respecting the Church’s central Sacrament. Rather, he ridiculed the teachings and by extension the Popes and bishops who established them.

In sum, Father Boyle displayed an utter contempt for the magisterium and its – that is, the Church’s – “party line.” He looks for truth elsewhere.

And so once again Notre Dame is scorning the bishops’ injunction against honoring persons who oppose the Church’s “fundamental moral principles” while it is also repurposing the Laetare Medal.

The Medal’s stated purpose is to honor Catholics “whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the Church and enriched the heritage of humanity.”

Father Boyle’s impressive history of good works, which we, too, admire, surely meets the “enrichment” standard. It is the “illustrated the ideals of the Church” element that is the sticking point with honorees like Vice President Biden and Father Boyle. The unstated but evident rephrasing to accommodate the honoring of Father Boyle is “illustrated some ideals of the Church while ridiculing others.”

Commencement will see an unusual pairing: Vice President Pence, a former Catholic who strongly agrees with Church teaching on same-sex marriage, and Father Boyle, a Catholic priest who dissents from that teaching and is being honored for “illustrating the ideals of the Church.” Perhaps the notion is that it all comes out even this way.


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29 Responses to “The Laetare Medal Misfire, Chapter 2”

  1. The denial of The Filioque is the source of all heresy; to deny The Unity of The Holy Ghost, is to deny The Communion of Perfect Complementary Love Between The Father and The Son, and thus deny The Divinity of The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity.

    “Claiming to be wise”, the modernists have indeed “become foolish”, for they have deceived themselves by failing to recognize that to deny that God, The Ordered Communion of Perfect Love, The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, Is The Author of Love, of Life, and of Marriage, is to deny Salvational Love, God’s Gift of Grace and Mercy.

  2. Marilyn Murphy April 19, 2017 at 5:31 pm

    If it is “follow the money” trail that get down to the nitty gritty, some have spoken of the GI Bills that contributed to the changes at Notre Dame and other once Catholic Universities. When these government programs with the money came in, the governing boards all suffered loss of Catholic influence and power. Gradually edging out the voting power and control over univesity policy, hiring, firing and teaching positions, soon there was no real Catholic say-so left. How many truly Catholic religious are on the boards now? Who controls the purse? Old story, with government “help” comes government “control”. They used to call it “selling out”. I am not a graduate of any of them and this is just a “self-educated opinion”. Strip them of the power of the Catholic Name….It is not Our Lady’s University, now Our Mother anymore. Face it, they only use the name. Take the Catholic names away and start over, they do not merit the Catholic ID anymore. Better to be smaller, poorer but genuinely Catholic. Authenticity says it all.

  3. Jack Gallagher April 10, 2017 at 6:31 pm

    This is hard to read about, and harder still for me to write about, because I have met Fr. Greg Boyle. At that time, his views on the issues of gender for priesthood, Holy Communion discipline, and the definition of marriage were not raised, because the focus was on Homeboy Industries.

    After reading the comments so far, I have to say there is a point of irony. That is because, in Fr. Boyles talk (that I attended, circa 2007) about Homeboy Industries, he emphasized that Jesus was not a social justice-monger, and neither was he. His organization is not about helping out the less fortunate; nor is it about straightening out wayward gang members into pillars of the community of upright youths. His motivations are much, much deeper, because the mission is about recognizing and really believing in kinship. Convincing a gang member that he’s not a “throw-away,” rightfully rejected by mainstream society, but rather a member of our family, with whom we want to spend our time and with whom we want to be in communion, because he belongs, is no easy feat. Acceptance of the gang member into one’s family comes first in Fr. Boyle’s world. Money, a job, etc., are not a reward dangled out as an incentive to convince someone to quit the gang member lifestyle. And besides, it wouldn’t work. That is especially true when you consider that when one offers the prospect of tatoo removal, an entry level job in a silk-screening shop, becoming faithful/responsible to/for one spouse and committed to raising children – as opposed to life as a gang member (as Homeboy Industries does), you’re likely asking said gang member to accept a major financial cut in his current lifestyle. Again, no easy feat. No; instead, one needs to start by telling gang members that they are already members in our holy family – that our motivation to help is sourced in a desire to call them to “come home” – that our motivation to help is the same as it would be for any of us to help a member of our immediated family, because we genuinely want their company; we genuinely want a relationship. Kinship. That is the key that Fr. Boyle employs to try to unlock the world of gangs in east L.A.

    I remember feeling humbled when I left that talk.

    This does not, of course, grant a free pass to Fr. Boyle to thumb his nose at the Magisterium. This does not mean that ND shouldn’t do a better job at choosing Laetare Award recipients.

    There is a second irony. If it’s true that Fr. Boyle finds it repulsive to limit the priesthood to men, to withhold Communion from Catholics married outside the Church, to limit Catholic marriage soley to couples of opposite gender, as part of authentic membership in the Church, it seems at least eyebrow-raising that Fr. Boyle would bother to remove tatoos, provide jobs in silk-screening (rather than illicit drug dealing), or advise that gang members marry their girlfriends and tend to their children as part of membership in that same family. If accepting people just as they are is truly the hallmark of familial love, then why require anyone to make any changes to their lives at all, lest they perceive that we are making that love “conditional?”

    As I struggle with this, I think the distinction that I always come around to is that it is one thing to express willingness to accept someone, “warts and all,” into one’s life (certainly others have done so for me) and it is quite another thing to give them a medal, no matter what those warts are.

  4. Yamile M. Barquet April 5, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    It is unfortunate that for political correctness and financial gains, or to mask their own sinful ways, many priests and nuns today encourage sin. Instead, they need courage to speak the truth. Through love and mercy they can free the individual from the sin that chains and condemns him/her to a life of pain and sorrow. They must remember that they are the shepherds who are called to lead their sheep to salvation. We must pray for them, for through their actions or inactions, through their dishonesty and disobedience before God, they continue to crucify our Savior and pierce the heart of our Blessed Mother Mary while losing precious souls.

  5. Cynthia Ontko April 5, 2017 at 9:35 am

    Alumni and other financial contributors to the university need to step up by withholding their support. Money talks. Unfortunately, differing opinions, as well as Truth, seem to be ignored

  6. Coming into our 40 year reunion, complete with golf outing and other University sponsored activities, I wonder what direction our class would have their children follow. Zahm Hall Chapel was used as a study hall in those undergrad days, and now looks the part of a chapel. There was no conscious disrespect for the Blessed Sacrament behind the curtain, by those students who ran highlighters over text books. just a few feet away from the tabernacle.
    Is the gist of Jenkins’ picks for honor a conscious disrespect for the teachings of the Church? Social justice does not preclude a humble following of ” 2000 years of Magisterium teachings” and respect for both Life and the Catholic Church. Biden choice was laughable, and Father Boyle is controversial. At least Pence is there, be it for balance or prestige of the Vice Presidency. Pray for the Faith of our children.

  7. From Dr. John Lyon (1954, 1955):

    Social activism has for some considerable time been the default position in the Church. The performance of the works of mercy has ever been with us, but since the time of Bacon and Descartes, and especially since the age of enlightened darkness after them, this action has taken a novel stance. When St. Martin split his coat for the shivering beggar, he presumably had no thought of creating an order of half-cloaked cavalry and thus ending roadside beggary. But we have such ideological fantasies. We are out to renew the world materially by conquering nature, and have come to see this as our Christian vocation. We become complicit in Bacon’s supposed program of puttong nature to the torture and forcing her to tell us all her secrets. Man shall master her, and be her only measure. Martin was out to renew the world spiritually by means of a significant act of mercy. For us, perhaps, the matter tends to be one of justice, and should in one way or another be mass-manufactured, to the end of an efficient, equitable realm on this earth of peace, justice, and human development.
    There is another reason for social action becoming the common default position of Catholics today. It is a great consolation from the rigors of theology, that “Greek thing,” so abstruse and brain-racking, and from the derivative agonies of attempts at Christian philosophy. And human sexuality! What a morass! Don’t try unravelling God’s purposes in that area, or devising some means of commerce between the sexes ancillary to population control via a natural law ethic conjoined with passages from Genesis and Romans! Human sexuality is the tar-baby of moral theology. Would Mother Theresa have her iconic position today had she devoted her efforts to right-to-life issues instead of simply caring for the destitute and dying? As one respectable American bishop is said to have put it, there has been too much attention in the Church to “pelvic issues.”

    So it is little surprise that Notre Dame should award its Laetare Medal to a theologically unorthodox and disciplinarily rebellious priest … who is on the right side of social activism. The Gospel reduces to Matthew 25 plus the tactics of Saul Alinsky. Natural law is reduced to pre-stoic days, human sexuality is abandoned to the winds of change and genomenal editing.

    How often is social activism a substitute for belief? A screen for agnosticism? Seventy years ago Georges Bernanos made the assertion that too often it was, and that though men were being seduced by the blandishments of the mechanical economic order with its bottom line of efficiency, God would be neither mocked nor fooled by it. (See Bernanos’ Last Essays, 1947.) Nietzsche’s florid passages about science as a prime example man’s despectio sui come to mind.

    Jacques Maritain was much devoted to Saul Alinsky’s work, and presumably to his methods. (cf. his statement in The Peasant of the Garonne [1968, p. 23] that there were only three revolutionaries in the world worthy of the name: Eduardo Frei in Chile, Saul Alinsky in the U.S. … and himself!) Yet with broad strokes Maritain castigated the “masked Manichaenism” of pre-Conciliar Catholicism and the “masked Pelagianism” that came after (53). The great concern for too many of the great ones after the Council “is the temporal vocation of the human race, with its march, embattled but victorious, to justice, peace, and happiness.” (56) A human grab-bag of “huge illusory hopes” travels with the Christian now, and weighs him down. The world is to be transformed materially, not spiritually (cf., 199).

    So it is little surprise that Notre Dame should award its Laetare Medal to Fr. Boyle. Just how Teilhardian or transformative he is I have no idea. Orthodoxy, however, seems no longer to be his doxy, as it was for Chesterton (or Belloc?) And as for the University? Who knows? Perhaps it will institute a “Portare Medal,” that may be carried wherever an awardee “travels”: not just geopraphically but mentally and spiritually. It may even soon travel in the good company of Louvain and assert the inalienable human right of abortion. The words of “Notre Dame, Our Mother” may come to be transposed into “Notre Dame, why bother?/ Come down from the blue/ Use your gold to help us/ Make the world anew!”

    And we are here as on a darkling plain … surrounded by God’s grandeur.

    (Dr.) John Lyon 1954, 1955

  8. Bill Longhi '51 April 2, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    Did it not all start with the Land O’ Lakes statement of 1967?

    • Good point, Bill. The declaration of independence from religious authority has an obvious relation to ND’s disregard of the bishops’ injunction against honoring those who publicly oppose important Church teachings.

    • “I dream of an outbound church, not a self-referential one, a church that does not pass by far from man’s wounds, a merciful church that proclaims the heart of the revelation of God as love, which is mercy…” Pope Francis

      When Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is self-referential, it reflects The Word of God Made Flesh; it is when those who are Baptized Catholic, deny Christ, that it appears as if The Church of Christ has become the church of me, where we declare what is Good and what is evil.

      The Church of Christ Is The True Church, Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
      Thus we can know through both Faith and reason that Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is both outbound and self-referential.

      It is not Loving or Merciful that when meeting each other where we are, we desire that we remain in our sin. For if it were true that it was Loving and Merciful that we remain in our sins, and not desire to overcome our disordered inclinations, so that we are not led into temptation, but become transformed, through Salvational Love, God’s Gift of Grace and Mercy, we would not need Our Savior, Jesus The Christ.

      The Sacrifice of The Cross, Is The Sacrifice of The Most Holy and Blessed Trinity, “for God so Loved this World, that He sent His Only Son…”There is only One Son of God, The One Word of God, The Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the World, Our Only Savior, Jesus, The Christ, and thus only One Spirit of Perfect Love between The Father and The Son.

      It is not possible for a Baptized Catholic to remain in communion with Christ and His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, while condoning abortion and same-sex marriage, simultaneously. One cannot be assenting to The Word of God, while dissenting from The Deposit of Faith. One cannot be in communion with and autonomous from Christ’s True Church, simultaneously.

      “And he said to me: Write: Blessed are they that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith to me: These words of God are true.”

  9. “I don’t think anybody who has a connection to God and God’s understanding and depth of compassion who’s going to say no.”

    Love is not possessive, nor is it coercive, nor does it serve to manipulate for the sake of self-gratification.
    No one who has a connection to God and God’s understanding and depth of compassion would deny the Sanctity of the marital act by condoning the engaging in or affirmation of sexual acts that demean the inherent Dignity of our beloved, including in relationships where a man and woman have been united in marriage as husband and wife.

    Our call to Holiness, has always been a call to be chaste in our thoughts, in our words, and in our deeds.

    It is out of Love and respect for God’s beloved, that God says No.

  10. Marshall Sprigg, '81 March 31, 2017 at 1:20 am

    I agree with Charles Smith that service to the poor seems to excuse deviation from almost any other Catholic teaching. Certainly there are other candidates for the Laetare Medal who do not have Fr. Boyle’s baggage. Repeatedly honoring people who openly challenge Church teachings is not about encouraging dialogue; it is simply a way to demonstrate political correctness. As a result, Notre Dame has effectively endorsed “cafeteria Catholicism” and made hypocrisy acceptable. It is very sad to see Father Jenkins and others like him lead astray those they are entrusted to shepherd.

  11. A “diocesan bishop” is entrusted with the care of a local Church (diocese). He is responsible for teaching, governing, and sanctifying the faithful of his diocese.”

    I think it is clear that there are many Bishops who have failed to teach, govern, and sanctify the faithful of their diocese.

    It is not possible for a Baptized Catholic to remain in communion with Christ and His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church if he/she denies that God Is The Author of Love, of Life, and of Marriage, by condoning abortion and/or same-sex marriage.

  12. Richard Benkendorf March 30, 2017 at 8:57 pm

    I value the efforts of Sycamore. I will not stop praying for the University of Notre Dame and the removal of Fr. Jenkins before he ruins the last vestiges of the faith. I wonder how many souls are at risk with attendance at ND under this ‘leadership’?

  13. Bill… you and your Sycamore Trust group of Catholic Warriors for Truth perform superb work. Not to correct your good work, but please permit me to suggest it should read The Laetare Medal Misfire, Chapter 3.

    Chapter 1: The attempted balancing act of Obama with Mary Anne Glendon, ending up with no one
    Chapter 2: The attempted balancing clown act of Boehner & Biden
    Chapter 3: The attempted balancing act of VP Mike Pence with the dissident Catholic priest, Boyles
    Chapter 4: guaranteed there will be yet another back-handed balancing slap to the Catholic faith

    You do not win heaven by balancing bad off of good or wrong off of right. There is no right way to do the wrong thing. You win heaven by boldly and courageously choosing to stand on the right sideline of two sidelines to choose from. Choose not to sit on the sideline in the shade & shadows of pride, prestige and hubris where you believe God stands with you. But rather choose to stand upright in the light of the Gospel on God’s sideline of truth.

    • Quite right, David. We should have marked as Chapter 1 Mary Ann Glendon’s refusal to accept the award because of the contemporaneous honoring of President Obama. Let us hope Chapter 3 is the closing chapter, but let us not bet the farm. Or even a fence post.

  14. John McNamara '86 March 30, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    Fr. Jenkins is once again placing his own personal position and pride over long-established Church doctrine in a way which has a strong likelihood of confusing students at Notre Dame and elsewhere, not to mention their parents, about where the Church stands on the big moral issues of the day. No one wants to talk about it, but if you are going to protect the faith, looking at how Fr. Curran was handled at Catholic University of America in the mid 1980’s is the way to go. Of course St. John Paul and Cardinal Ratzinger were consistently more firm on Catholic doctrine than Pope Francis, who is the subject of a lot of discussion about his waivering on Catholic websites. When there is no cat, he’s away,the mice will certainly play. At this rate, one has to wonder whether there will be a cat left to come back, or whether the Catholic Church is in danger of becoming an institution run by mice, instead of saints. Let us pray for our opponents that they have a change of heart rather than a lengthy stay in Purgatory, and that God share with us his wisdom in what to do and his strength to do it.

  15. Leo P. Callaghan, '55 March 30, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    So once again, Our Lady and her sons and daughters must bear the embarresment and humiliation of the infected thinking emanating from the office of the President of our beloved Notre Dame. Our University now stands with the counter-culture that states that what was right is now wrong and biased and what was wrong is now to be honored on all human levels as “the new and correct thinking.” How tragic. In view of other happenings at the university, how long til we join the likes of other “Catholic Universities” in our surrender of our Catholic Heritage for the cape of secularism?

  16. Two points: 1) Fr. Boyle’s remarks on same-sex marriage, women’s ordination, and Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics are shallow and, quite frankly, lacking in any coherent, intelligent thought. They are nothing more than bumper sticker slogans. As such, they reveal Fr. Boyle to be a shallow thinker. I would dare say that shallow thinkers are not the kind of people a University with Notre Dame’s intellectual designs would want to honor. That the nostrums that Fr. Boyle spouts are heretical make it even more remarkable (not in a good way) that ND, a school that prides itself as being an epicenter of serious Catholic thought, would honor Father Boyle with its highest award. I am embarrassed for my alma mater. 2) A small nit: Popes did not establish Church teaching on marriage and ordination. Jesus established those teachings; the Popes expounded them.

  17. Richard Creedon '62 March 30, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    Poor Father Jenkins.
    He has to waste valuable time continually scraping the excrement off the bottom of his shoes. Maybe we should take up a collection to buy him new eye glasses so he can see where he is walking….before he steps in it again…..

  18. Daniel Costello March 30, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    My recollection was that Proposition 8 was not “unsuccessful”. Rather, it was successful, passing by a 52-48 margin, and the Catholic Bishops’ support was instrumental in its passage (along with the Mormon Church). It was later ruled unconstitutional by the courts (the 9th circuit, of course) and the state refused to defend the law. It finally “fell” with Obergefell.

    • You’re quite right, Dan. We had in mind the time of Father’s TV interview in 2010 when the court ruled against the Proposition 8 amendment, but we didn’t phrase it clearly. We’ve corrected it. Thanks for pointing this out.

  19. Like so many clerics these days, this one is completely convinced of the correctness of his own opinions, and unable to wonder for a second if maybe Holy Mother Church and 2000 years of very wise people may just be wiser than he. That can only be, of course, the fruit of a very deep hubris.

  20. As a student with at least some degree of interest between 1975 and 1979 it was apparent that there were people of considerable influence on campus, including some in the theology department, who would have been quite comfortable with an overt, public rejection of much of the moral teachings of the Catholic Church by the university. It appeared to many (most?) interested observers that, given his own roots in the theology department and what little he would say to most specific topics in theology or with theological implications other than “civil rights,” that Fr. Hesburgh was pretty comfortable with Notre Dame moving to the vanguard of such a movement, for lack of a better way of expresing it, the “American Church” movement.

    It wasn’t readily apparent until several years later to a student/young alum, even knowing the key personality in a minimal personal way, but the transition in the Diocese of Fort Wayne and South Bend from Bishop Leo Pursley to Bishop William McManus also had the effect of giving license to the open disparagement of the concept of one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church rooted in Rome.

    Following the elevation of St. John Paul II to the papacy the openness of the rebellinion disappeared quite rapidly. Change wasn’t obvious by the time I graduated seven months later, but it was before many friends had graduated in 1980 and 1981. Although dissenting opinion has certainly been given wide bearth in the academic affairs of the university and some degree of public exposure the idea that Notre Dame was where “the Church does it’s thinking” wasn’t quite so widely touted as had been the case my first three years as a student.

    Over the last eight years, and perhaps from the beginning of his presidency, Fr. Jenkins seems to be determined to tell the world the extent to which Notre Dame is willing to march to a different drummer than Mother Church. At this point I am left to ask to just what extent he’s also trying to deliver a message that those of us who value the teachings of Mother Church that we need to get out of the way of “progress”? Did he have to triple down on awarding the Laetare Medal to V.P. Biden last year and the public fete of Justice Ginsburg last fall?

  21. The new Catholicism is all about ” Social Justice”. What can you do for the community. Doctrine and traditional practice are legalistic abstractions and are the province of Pharisees. Hold whatever concepts that make you comfortable but get out there and help your neighbor. Sentamentalism rules the day. If it makes me feel righteous it must please God. God is infinitely sentimental. He is pure Emotion. That is the new Theology embraced by Notre Dame.

  22. Fr. Hesburgh’s goal was for Notre Dame du Lac to be recognized as the
    “Catholic Harvard”. Fr. Jenkins seems to be working with half of that goal in mind.

  23. I have published an online article examining the views and actions of Fr. Jenkins and have called him a heretic. Add this as one more particular. I don’t “demonize” Fr Jenkins by calling him a heretic. A heretic can be a nice fellow, and raise money for good causes, and be a “good” person and be a priest or a bishop. Some of my friends are heretics. I have written Fr Jenkins and told him I pray that he’ll return to the Faith.

    Query: will the bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend attend this commencement?

  24. Such a sad statement for Notre Dame to present such an ironic contrast of the Vice President, holding to strong Catholic principles supported by Sciptural teaching (Romans) who is an Evangelical, versus a priest who has been affected by the culture rather than feeling a responsibility of shepherding people toward salvation. “To whom much is given, much will be expected”. Pray for Fr. Boyle and those at ND who are party to setting this horrible example by honoring such proabortion pro sodomite “marriage” people such as Joe Biden and Barack Hussein Obama in the past, and now this priest! Disgusting!

  25. Ralph J Argen MD March 30, 2017 at 11:59 am

    I’m sorry to say I’m not surprised. It seems where there are and very few things the university is doing that seems to fit to me and where I came from and when I was there 1949 to 1953