4 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, March 5, 2002
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(I) is very much
against the tradition
of the church;
many saints had a
gay orientation, and
many popes had
- A. W Richard Sipe, a psychotherapist and
former priest, as quoted in yesterday's
Boston Globe, on the Vatican's response to
the Catholic Church sex scandal, which said
that gay men should not be ordained priests.
..__ _ _ _ _ _pN
'° . ..
SAM BUTLER Ti S OAPBOX
Rewriting history, the populist way
GEOFFREY GAGNON G-OLOGY
t's been an embarrass-
ing couple of months
for Doris Kearns
1 Goodwin, the seemingly
incomparable voice of
American history now up
to her elbows in contro-
versy stemming from the
revelation that she's pla-
giarized material for her
books. The news of Goodwin's struggles with
originality came on the heels of an admission
from famed war historian Stephen Ambrose
that he too lifted phrases.
In fact, if your only access to "historians" is
through the newsprint of recent newspaper reports,
you might be convinced that the history business is
awash in scandal and deceit. But the propensity to
plagiarize, at least recently, calls into question not
the type of purposeful work of serious academics,
but rather it damns the popular historical books
that Ambrose and the like churn out as fast as Bor-
ders can stock them. If we're going to be asked by
publishers, TV hosts, and even the authors them-
selves to treat these writers as historians then we
should demand that they act like scholars.
The embarrassment began for Goodwin when
she admitted to using several lines from another
book on the Kennedy family - an incident that
Goodwin reportedly apologized for in the form of
a financial settlement. Yet just last week The New
York Times reported that Goodwin's researchers
had uncovered more than 50 places where she
copied phrases - a far cry from the several acci-
dental lines the author had originally owned up to.
The fact is, people like Goodwin have become
celebrities first and historians second. The folks at
PBS who frequently tout Goodwin as a regular
commentator on "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer"
have asked the author to take a break from her
appearances "until all outstanding questions are
This news probably didn't go over well at
Jeri Charles Associates, the Washington-based
firm that arranges appointments for some of
the nation's most engaging public speakers,
and the firm that has Goodwin listed in
"$20,000 and above" range for an appearance
- right there with cultural luminaries like
NBC's Greg Gumble.
Goodwin has become a lecture-circuit and
television celebrity who is an author with an
interest in history - this alone hardly makes
her a historian.
The lifted phrases, Goodwin maintained in
last week's Times story, were unintentional
results of poor note taking. The author said that
she and her researchers had become confused as
to what they had copied for notes and what they
had written themselves. The mix up, Goodwin
alleges, led to the accidental inclusion of dozens
of stolen phrases.
This should be more of an indictment
against the environment that creates socialites
and celebrities out of academics than it is a
charge against historians in general. To consider
that the allegations against Goodwin and others
have surfaced despite the enormous benefits they
seem to enjoy - like vast research staffs to
name just one - makes clear the fact that these
popular historians are a far cry from those gen-
uine scholars toiling in Tisch Hall with chalk on
their hands. To think that people like Goodwin
could so blatantly disregard the ethical standards
that would seem obvious to even students
doesn't mean she's not a decent writer - it just
means she's a poor historian.
In an age where historians even have
research teams, much less television gigs to go
along with big dollar book contracts, you have to
wonder if the scholastic standards prized in aca-
demic settings are applied. The type of Holly-
wood historians that Ambrose or Goodwin have
apparently become on their speaking tours prob-
ably bares little resemblance to those who work
the Angell Hall lecture circuit on a daily basis -
but that doesn't mean that the ethical expecta-
tions should be any different.
It doesn't even take imagination to wonder
what would occur if this sort of "confusion" took
place in the classroom. Any student who's read
the plagiarism paragraph in any syllabus handed
out on this campus could explain tlt theft,
intentional or not, is theft. The fact is however,
that this little spat with controversy will not
destroy Goodwin's career the way it would
threaten my enrollment or my professor's job.
Goodwin will return to writing and to television
and will likely reclaim her crown as America's
historian - and probably quicker than it'll take
for her staff to "research" her next bestseller.
The failure comes in treating celebrities like
historians without demanding they act like acade-
mics - a failure not lost on those taking note at
the University of Delaware where Goodwin's
offenses are being taken seriously. The school
politely withdrew an offer it had made asking
Goodwin to speak at its commencement. Citing
fears that a campus setting could become an
embarrassing place for a "historian" embattled in a
plagiarism debate, the university's president said
he decided to rescind the school's offer - no
doubt to the chagrin of her speech agents at Jeri
Charles Associates. .
Geoffrey Gagnon can be reached
Catholic notions of purgatory, tree houses
AUBREY HENRETTY NEUROTICA
t's weird to be back in the
Our Lady of La Salette
parish center after all this
time. It reminds me of pan-
cake breakfasts and Sunday
school and construction paper
." and dumb icebreakers at con-
firmation retreats. It smells
like my elementary school
cafeteria. It feels like Lent.
My mom volunteered to help set up this
art show/bake sale (what is a church event
sans the Ladies' Guild bustling about with
sweets?) and asked me to come with her. I
think she hoped the church would suck me
back in if I got close enough, would make
me wish I had not stopped going to Mass
the instant I started going to college.
See? Remember Father George and his friend-
ly beard and his nifty paintings? How could you
not love this man and everything he stands for?
Remember the Lloyds? Kelly's a Eucharistic
Minister now. She's devout and happy. See?
I smile at Father George, feeling suddenly,
inexplicably guilty. I do like his beard and his
paintings. I hope he will not ask about my spiritu-
I should not feel guilty; I made a decision and
by God (get it? God?) I will stand by it. But I do
feel guilty. Maybe I have made a horrible mistake.
Maybe I should come groveling back to the
church. Maybe I should become a priest.
Have I lost my mind? A young lady cannot
just barge into the tree house of the priesthood
uninvited. No, outside there is a sign, clearly
marked "No Girls Allowed," and an invisible tita-
nium force field. The boys inside have squirt guns
and water balloons. And rocks. These vehement
exclusionary tactics have always puzzled me.
Catholicism is puzzling. Take purgatory. I
was in seventh grade the first time I saw the word.
It kepftappearing in this tattered blue prayer book
I had, so I, bold and curious youngster that I was,
asked my catechism teacher about it one Wednes-
day evening. What was all this purgatory busi-
ness? And why had there not been poster board
presentations with relevant magazine clippings on
the subject? I wanted diagrams, visual aids. I
wanted parables with memorable titles.
My teacher was a frank and cheerful woman.
She answered frankly and cheerfully: "I'm not
sure we're teaching that anymore."
She explained purgatory in terms of sins and
souls and clothing and being properly dressed for
formal dinners. Your soul was the formal attire. If
it had too many stains (sins) on it by the time St.
Peter was checking the guest list for your name,
you went to Hell. If it had fewer, but you still
looked a bit riff-raffy, you went to purgatory. You
stayed there and kept quiet and thought about
what you had done. It was like sitting in the cor-
ner for time out. "But I don't think we're teaching
What? You're not teaching it anymore? Can
you do that? Just change your mind like that? Say,
oh, hell (or purgatory, as it were), we don't
believe that anymore and then watch as the con-
cept vanishes in a poof of dogmatic modification?
Is that allowed?
Who decided about purgatory? The Pope?
Was he unwinding at the Vatican one sunny after-
noon, reading a little Revelations and sipping a lit-
tle lemonade, when he thought to himself, "You
know, this purgatory thing's kinda silly. I think
I'll sack it. Tomorrow. There will be a memo. I
can finally use that cool Jesus-on-a-pogo-stick sta-
tionary Ron gave me for my birthday. Goody,
And if you can discard one moral absolute,
who's to say that in 20 or 50 or 100 years, they
won't decide it's okay, say, for women to be
"Oh, no. That'll never happen. You'll see
married priests before you see female priests."
"Women can't be priests. It's in the Bible."
It is? Where?
"Well, it's not in the Bible per se. But you see
Jesus didn't have any female apostles -"
What about Mary Magda - .
"And there were no women at the last
What are you talking about? It was Passover.
There would have been women and children
everywhere. Besides -
"Shhhttt! And anyway, it's tradition. No Girls
Allowed. Invisible force field, remember? God's
divine force field. And lasers. Also invisible.
Sorry. Does anyone else have questions?"
The best friend of the boy I had a crush on
raised his hand and asked if this would be on the
test. I banged my head against the wall. No, frank-
and-cheerful said. This would not be on the test. It
wasn't important. Just forget it.
Aubrey Henretty can be reached
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Horrific violence in India
must spur academic debate
To THE DAILY:
As members of the Indian community on
campus, we express our collective shock,
sorrow and outrage at the spate of violence
that has wreaked havoc in the state of.
Gujarat in western India over the past sever-
al days, leaving more than 500 people dead
in its wake. We condemn in the strongest of
terms the burning of passengers traveling on
a train, as well as the gruesome cycle of
retaliatory killings that has followed. We
community, especially those with ties to South
Asia, to engage themselves - to debate the cir-
cumstances that can lead to a tragedy of this
magnitude in the world's most populous
democracy - a country that enshrines in its
constitution the protection of all its residents,
regardless of religious faith.
Associate Professor of Political Science and
Director of the Center for South Asian Studies.
Associate Professor of Finance at the School
of Business Administration.
"out" LGBT ally. I'm also an Eagle Scout. And
I'm worried that the rhetoric of the wild-eyed ide-
alogoues will get the better (or bring out the
worst) of everyone.
If the Boy Scouts lose donation money, it's
not going to affect the old men in the national
office who make the rules. It's not going to hurt
the kids, or the Scoutmasters, in the affluent and
middle-class neighborhoods. It's going to hurt the
kids who belong to troops in underprivileged
areas, whose schools already provide few or no
extra- or co-curricular programs to teach skills,
spend time constructively with friends and have
role models. These are the troops that need subsi-
dies because they can't rely on member dues and
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