Up So High
To say I have been profoundly moved by Nourishing Head and Heart, by Walter J. Burghardt, S.J., (3/20) is an understatement. Not since John Powell’s ministry lit a spiritual fire in me in the 1970’s has a Jesuit knocked me so flat and raised me up so high! If Walter Burghardt’s most exciting time of life began at age 78, I have a distinct feeling that, although only a lad of 70, I have some spiritual excitement ahead, especially in pursuing his call to action in loving God, others as ourselves and even the world upon which we dwell. I immediately sent a copy of his article to my congressman, and hope many more will do the same. Can you imagine what could happen if this brand of Christianity were to be proclaimed instead of what we have been hearing? Thank you, Father Burghardt: ad multos annos!
Richard M. Snyder
The Mission Itself
Visible Means of Support? by Lisa L. Ferrari, (3/27) raises some important issues. The continued support of our troops by those who either opposed the war in Iraq from the start or whose support has since waned is grounded in our fundamental faith in our military and how it relates to our nation as a whole. Our American system takes for granted that the military is a separate and distinct entity of our government that is under the direct and absolute authority and control of our civilian leadership. In short, war-making is decided by our civilian leadership, and then the military is commanded to carry it out.
While we must always give the utmost deference to the experience and expertise of our generals, war policy is always a decision of the civilian leadership. Our system requires that our military neither make war on its own nor refuse to fight a war determined to be necessary by the civilian leadership.
This understanding extends all the way to the boots on the ground. While we expect our soldiers to exercise varying degrees of discretion in carrying out their missionparticularly in avoiding the killing of noncombatantswe have never tolerated and ought never tolerate anything from our military that compromises the mission itself, regardless of the political disagreements that may exist at home. In this context, those who support the troops understand that the troops are doing their duty, and at the risk of life and limb. Such duty is honorable and praiseworthy, even assuming a lack of justification for the war. Our system has made a more fundamental choicethat we do not hold our military accountable for the missions defined by our civilian authorities. To neglect this distinction puts the system itself in jeopardy.
Having said that, this analysis speaks only to the larger question of war-making and execution; it does not speak to instances that we would consider atrocities or war crimes. All soldiers are morally and legally obligated to refrain from such acts and even to disobey an order that requires such an act.
Those who disagree with the war but support our troops rightly place responsibility on our civilian leadership while respecting and honoring those who carry out their duties to this country and the system that has served it so well.
Some Public Scrutiny
As a cradle Catholic who has been dismayed by the more than decade-long crisis in the church regarding its hierarchy’s and priests’ involvement in sexual misconduct, I am pleased to see the review of seminary formation in all its aspects (Will the Seminaries Measure Up? by Ronald L. Witherup, S.S., 3/20). This process can only result in positive developments for a stronger clergy if conducted with full transparency. However, I cannot help but question whether there is a shift of emphasis away from the hierarchy to the parish priest. I am unaware of any similar review of the episcopacy of North America in regard to their decision making and management of what has now been clearly identified as a broken clergy. I would hope the bishops of North America will stand the same public scrutiny the seminaries are experiencing.
In response to Will the Seminaries Measure Up? by Ronald D. Witherup, S.S., (3/20) as a lay student at an institution for older men pursuing the priesthood as well as a small Catholic college for lay people, I witnessed the apostolic visitation last fall. But, being a layperson, I was not asked or allowed to participate in the interview process, although I have attended part time since 2001 and have seen many seminarians come and go. Last year, 14 seminarians were ordained to the priesthood, which is a remarkable number these days. One bothersome fact that surprised me, however, was that there were only about 40 seminarians in the fall of 2005, when ordinarily the seminary handles anywhere from 60 to 80 seminarians in any given semester.
Was there a connection between the low number of seminarians in the fall and the much-advertised fall apostolic visit? And if yes, why?
Joseph P. Nolan