Regarding Robert K. Vischer’s “Prop 8 & the Rule of Facts” (September 10): The struggle for acceptance and recognition for gay and lesbian couples has resulted in a hodgepodge of state laws regarding same-sex unions. This dilemma can be solved by treating all couples the same way—but not as currently proposed. In the United States, couples go to the local authority and get a license to marry. This is not a marriage. The local magistrate can perform that service, but more commonly, the ceremony is performed by clergy, who are authorized by the state to sign the marriage certificate.

The solution is for states to dispense with licenses, revoke clergy authorizations, and require all couples, gay and straight, to undertake a civil union witnessed by the local magistrate. This would remove the dispute over marriage from the political arena. As in many European countries, if a religious wedding is desired, the couple can then take the matter up with their clergy.

Weehawken, N.J.



Alfred Hitchcock’s body of work has been analyzed by many critics, but it is refreshing to read Richard Alleva on the director’s Catholic sensibilities (“The Catholic Hitchcock,” July 16). I would argue that most, if not all, of Hitchcock’s films present the problem of evil permeating the world. This is particularly evident in Notorious, The Birds, Rear Window, and the transcendent Vertigo. The prevailing theme in Vertigo—that only God can play God—occurs in many other Hitchcock movies as well.   

Chicago, Ill.



Richard Alleva quotes biographer Donald Spoto’s report that, in his last years, Alfred Hitchcock “rejected the suggestion that he allow a priest…to come for a visit, or to celebrate a quiet, informal ritual at the house for his comfort.” But that is precisely what happened.

In early 1980 I was studying at UCLA for my doctorate in philosophy. Tom Sullivan, a fellow Jesuit, said one day that he was going to hear Hitchcock’s confession, and asked if I would accompany him the following Saturday to celebrate Mass at Hitchcock’s house in Bel Air. I said yes.

Hitchcock greeted us in a black kimono-like robe and immediately kissed Tom’s hand; I was dumbstruck. We all went into his study, and there with Hitchcock’s wife, Alma, we celebrated a “quiet, informal ritual.” Tom and I returned a number of times, always on Saturday afternoons, sometimes together, sometimes individually.

I am usually skeptical of stories of apparitions and last-minute conversions. But this is the extraordinary truth. That in his final days Hitchcock deliberately and successfully led people (and biographers) to believe the opposite of what was happening is pure Hitchcock.

Washington, D.C.



Liam Callanan’s Last Word “The Club” (August 13) reminded me of my experience as a Girl Scout camp counselor in California in the 1960s. Our first Sunday, there was a nondenominational service in a redwood grove that almost everyone attended. There was also a Mass in the lodge for the eight to ten Catholic girls, and I was asked to go as the counselor with the Irish Catholic name.

The Mass was said by an elderly Franciscan friar, who remarked that the beauty of the place reminded him of the Italian hills of his childhood. He told us we should help our fellow campers enjoy nature and this special place. The next Sunday the lodge was full, because the Catholic girls had told the others about the friar’s simple and moving talk. He did not return, however, and the sermon was of the ordinary kind. I guess that says something about the message even kids want to hear.            

Madison, N.J.

Published in the 2010-09-24 issue: 
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