Quality of Transcendence
The article by John W. O’Malley, S.J., (8/26) exploring the beatification of Pius IX was informative and, to be sure, helped to provide me with contextual information that I did not get elsewhere. In his article, Father O’Malley reflects on the notion of holiness and models of sanctity. In acknowledging Pius’s intellectual deficiencies, he states that sanctity is an affair of the heart, not the head.
I am not so sure. Why would holiness infuse only the emotional life of the heart and not the whole personthe heart, the head and the body? Father O’Malley also discusses the pitfalls of examining historic figures who lived in a quite different cultural context from our own. When it comes to holiness, however, should not one of our guideposts be the quality of transcendence that we find in that person’s lifei.e., the capacity to see beyond the small-mindedness and limitations that characterize every period?
I must confess that I will certainly not be looking to Pius IX as a model of holiness for my life.
St. Paul, Minn.
June 3, 1963, was a very sad day at La Salle High School in Arequipa, Peru. I saw older, conservative brothers with tears in their eyes as well as everybody else. I learned later that it was a very sad day everywhere, even in New York, where somebody ran through the streets crying, Our pope is dead; what are we going to do?.
So why is it that when our pope was beatified, everybody was talking exclusively about Pius IX’s merits or faults? I could understand that happening in the secular press, but in America (8/26)? Isn’t Pope John much more relevant to us than Pope Pius IX?
For several weeks I have been waiting for America’s celebration of Pope John. I’ll keep waiting.
The article by John W. O’Malley, S.J., (8/26) presented a fairly accurate portrayal of what can be gleaned from the circumstances of Pius IX’s reign as pope. The negative as well as positive actions of Pius IX are understandable in light of a bygone era. But I do find a serious flaw in the statement about judging the standards of his day against our own, I do not think it is fair to judge the sanctity of any person based on the circumstances of his or her time nor our own. There is a standard that is timeless. The message of Jesus contained in the New Testament, I believe for Christians, is timeless.
I did not observe the beatification ceremony, and our local paper might have misrepresented a statement from John Paul II with regard to the beatification not to judge Pius IX by his actions but by his devotions.
I do not believe we can use the societal standards of any given era as a norm for sanctity. If these two issues were acceptable, that would mean we could not judge the present society and individuals by their closeness to the Gospel norms but by their ties to the cultural norms of society. Anyone can demonstrate great external devotion but act contrary to the Gospel. The many monarchs and dictators who attended church regularly and had the friendship and support of high-ranking churchmen were responsible for the unjust deaths of hundreds of thousands. Carrying this a step further would mean much of modern day immorality does not matter as long as the person responsible has private devotion. Since this beatification seems politically motivated, maybe this shows the withdrawal of the Holy Spirit’s support for papal infallibility.
(Rev.) Arkad Biczak
Continue the Dialogue
Bravo to Eileen P. Flynn for writing her sensitive but challenging article Responding to the Gay Agenda (9/30) and to America for publishing it. Each of the reasons she proposes for maintaining dialogue on this issue is clear and compelling. Her quote from the gay marcher who said, Jesus loves me raised a host of questions in my mind about unconditional love and the nature of sin. The common rejoinder, Love the sinner, not the sin, is too simple in light of the complex moral and human issues that Flynn articulates so well.
During the Persian Gulf war, I raised the question in my parish, Why is one man killing another considered patriotic, and one man kissing another considered wrong? Yes, I believe the dialogue needs to continue at all levels in the Catholic Church.
Credibly to All
No one can underestimate the tremendous service that America magazine provides to the contemporary Catholic Church. Your recent article Responding to the Gay Agenda (9/30), by Eileen Flynn, was a perfect example of this.
As someone engaged in full-time pastoral ministry, I find it increasingly difficult to proclaim the church’s teaching on human sexuality in a way that can speak credibly to all. The refusal of the church to engage in constructive dialogue with all whose knowledge or experience is relevant in renewing our understanding of human sexuality is truly tragic. It leaves ministers like me struggling to maintain some integrity as we seek to avoid contradicting the church publicly while still dealing humanely and compassionately with homosexual persons who seek our counsel.
The only consolation I find is that after 40 years of life and 16 years in the Society of Jesus, I am still naïve enough to ask myself, What is the solution that Jesus himself would recommend?
Mark Hallinan, S.J.
New York, N.Y.
With regard to Responding to the Gay Agenda, by Eileen P. Flynn (9/30), I propose this: If it is true that a certain percentage of human beings are born with a predisposition to be attracted to individuals of the same gender, does this necessarily legitimize sexual activity between such individuals? Isn’t it equally true that a very high percentage of married men are at some time in their married life attracted to women other than their wives?
It is probably an important part of personal growth to manage such attractions well. One may learn to avoid undue escalations, be aware of the dangers where such exist, learn that to love does not necessarily mean to want to go to bed together. Perhaps one may even learn the difficult art of keeping one’s emotional priorities in order.
It is probably one of the major fallacies of our culture to assume, or to accept as true, that attraction to another person should regularly lead to physical intimacy. In by far the most cases it shouldn’t.