Father Hartke was one of six siblings. Catholic University of America has gathered the testimony of other relatives to support its case that it is the owner of the dress.
Thomas Kuipers, a grand-nephew of Hartke, said the priest told him “that I could not have it as the dress belonged to Catholic University.” He said he and other descendants of Father Hartke’s sister Inez Mercedes Hartke support the auction of the dress donated to the university.
Margo Carper, granddaughter of Father Hartke’s brother Joseph, also backed the university.
William Largess, who was an undergraduate student in Catholic University’s drama department from 1972 to 1976, said he was with the priest “multiple times” when he took out a dress to show to students that Largess understood was a dress from "The Wizard of Oz."
“I specifically recall Father Gilbert V. Hartke saying that Ms. Mercedes McCambridge gave the dress to the Department of Drama at Catholic University,” said Largess, who is now an adjunct theater professor at George Washington University.
Father Kenneth R. Letoile, O.P., the Prior Provincial of the Province of St. Joseph, described the Dominican approach to the vow of poverty.
“Based on my knowledge of the Dominican Order, and my understanding that Father Hartke made a vow of poverty, as is required for membership in the Dominican Order, Father Hartke was not permitted to possess anything by right of personal ownership,” Letoile said.
If anything was given to him in his personal capacity, he would have been required to donate to his province “in accordance with his vows and solemn profession.”
Letoile said that the Dominican province does not assert any right to the dress.
“I hereby affirm on behalf of the province the Catholic University of America’s full ownership of the dress,” he said.
When the auction of the dress was announced in April, the Catholic University of America said it had documentation which indicates that the dress was gifted to Hartke with the intention it be used to support the drama department.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
If the auction goes forward, proceeds from the sale will endow a faculty chair, a position that will support the current bachelor of fine arts degree in acting for theater, film, and television, as well as the development of a new formal film acting program at the university’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, Drama, and Art.
Jackie Leary-Warsaw, dean of the drama school, is the wife of Michael Warsaw, chairman and CEO of the EWTN Global Catholic Network, Catholic News Agency’s parent network.