October 22, 1997

Rev. Walter J. Burghardt, S.J.
Woodstock Theological Center
P.O. Box 551137
Washington, D.C. 20057-1137

 Dear Father Burghardt:

 Thank you for coming to Gonzaga for the Red Mass. I heard many favorable comments about your homily and I was pleased that you showed the connection of our faith to the practice of law.

 However, I write because of a puzzlement about what seemed to be a glaring omission in your homily. Since I recently received the typescript of your homily, I will quote the pertinent passage:

 This list seems to detail those aspects of human justice for which we (as members of the legal profession) should feel shame. No list of course can be exhaustive, but it would seem that the most significant area for which the legal system is shameful is its enforcement of a so-called right to kill the unborn. Although the law is not the only institution in society to blame for the murder of 30-35 million Americans over the last 25 years, it has played a very prominent role. Yet it does not appear anywhere on your list. As I thought about this, I speculated on two possible explanations. One was that you were simply unaware of the fact that as a result of Roe v. Wade and similar kinds of legal opinions, millions of Americans have been denied the protection of law and have become victims of our American holocaust. That seemed unlikely. The second explanation was that you were very much aware of it but thought it inappropriate to mention on such an occasion. That too seemed hard to believe. When I go to Jesuit facilities I often see the pictures of the Jesuits from Central America who were murdered by a right-wing death squad. That event shocked and saddened Jesuits around the world. I imagine what a Jesuit might say if given an opportunity to address the police academy from whose ranks the death squads came. Would he, in reflecting on the shortcomings of the police, lament nepotism and gender discrimination, but pass over in silence the killing of religious workers whose political ideas threatened the status quo?

 Yet if some courage were required to "speak truth to power" in the case of a Central American dictatorship, surely we might hope that in addressing the American legal profession you would not spare us from coming to grips with the responsibility of our profession for the murder of millions of helpless Americans.

 I apologize for any stridency in this letter. I repeat my appreciation for the many fine observations that were made in your homily. But I was, as I said at the beginning, puzzled. I would very much appreciate illumination.

 Very truly yours,

David K. DeWolf