How disappointed I was to read your editorial calling for the U.S. bishops to narrow their policy regarding speakers and awards at Catholic institutions. Indeed, at least in my part of the world, the decision of the University of Notre Dame to grant an honorary degree to Barack Obama has been seen by some people as evidence that the church is en route to a substantial dilution of its commitment to the constant struggle against intrinsic evil, which in turn alters the moral judgment of those persons.
For Notre Dame to generate such an effect is true scandal. I pray that the bishops hold strong to their stated policy.
(Rev.) James E. Connell
Sheboygan, Wis.No More Litmus Tests
I found “Sectarian Catholicism” to be quite timely and to state truths about the tactics in the church of those who would call themselves “orthodox.” We need our Catholic scholars and our Catholic universities to be able to examine freely all the so-called “life issues.” At the same time, we need to stop putting constraints on our people and issuing litmus tests, especially on Catholics who serve in higher office, where they have to consider all the people they serve, not just Roman Catholics.
Alexandria, Va.Sharing the Stage
Re your editorial on sectarian Catholicism: It is clear that much of the opposition to Barack Obama speaking at Notre Dame is based on partisan politics. As an observer of New York politics, I have often seen cases in which Catholic opponents of legalized abortion provided a forum to pro-choice politicians.
As far as I know, no one in the pro-life movement thought less of Cardinal John O’Connor for jointly writing a book with Mayor Ed Koch. No one questioned the pro-life credentials of Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, when he held news conferences jointly with Mayor Rudy Giuliani. No one has questioned the New York State bishops for their frequent expressions of thanks to Assemblyman Vito Lopez for sponsoring legislation that would avert a bill allowing retroactive lawsuits over clergy sex abuse. In fact, bishops have often held news conferences with Lopez, who is rated pro-choice by the National Abortion Rights Action League.
It is clear that O’Connor, Donohue, the New York bishops and the University of Notre Dame held the Catholic church’s position on abortion, even when they shared the stage with politicians who were pro-choice.
Brooklyn, N.Y.Lack of Charity
It is a well-known fact that American Catholics are seriously divided on the issue of abortion. The president of the University of Notre Dame, Father John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., precisely because he is an intellectual, should have been able to exercise better judgment than to invite President Barack Obama to speak. It is never legitimate to scandalize so many people, for that amounts to a lack of charity. In this particular situation, that lack of charity was directed toward fellow Catholics who, polarized or not, subtle or not so subtle, love their church and try the best they can to follow its teachings.
I personally doubt the uproar would have grown to such magnitude if Obama were invited only for the commencement speech without being granted an honorary degree, which by all accounts is a powerful symbolic action.
Toronto, Ont.All the Right Enemies
The negative responses to your editorial on sectarian Catholics—and they will certainly come—will focus on intrinsic evil, Democrats and moral rot at your magazine. They will be angry and corrosive. By and large, they will serve to demonstrate the accuracy of the editors’ perceptions, values and writing. Me? I think the editorial superb. Keep on.
Joe Tetlow, S.J.
Lake Dallas, Tex.Open Doors
For over 30 years I have subscribed to America and supported it. It has challenged me intellectually, and there were points of agreement and disagreement over those years. But when I read your editorial “Sectarian Catholicism” (5/11), I thanked God America has been an important part of my faith journey.
At a time of many strident voices, you have put the issues in perspective and described well the Catholic faith that I am proud to be part of. You draw upon the wisdom of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Paul VI in suggesting how we can meet the challenge of political partisanship. Closing doors and windows is certainly not the answer.
Hopefully, the four steps you propose will be taken to heart and enable us to put the teachings of the Second Vatican Council into practice as we face this latest challenge.
(Most Rev.) John J. Snyder
St. Johns, Fla.The Costs of War
Thank you to David O’Brien for his meditation on the death of Pfc. Jonathan Roberge (“A Death in the Family,” 5/18). John Paul II was right: “War is always a defeat for humanity.” And yet established tyranny, it would seem, can only be removed by war. Therefore, we Christians must learn to recognize the seeds of tyranny when and wherever they may appear and uproot them before they can bear bitter fruit. Only then will such sacrifices as that made by Private Roberge be unnecessary. In the meantime we Christians should be grateful for his sacrifice and continue our efforts to establish and maintain peace throughout the world.
Gulf Breeze, Fla.Flor y Canto
Deirdre Cornell’s article on Mary (“Our Mother, Our Advocate,” 5/18) contains insights that can only be acquired by someone who has lived in Mexico. As the author indicates, it is natural for the native Indians of Mexico to think of Mary as “mother.” Mexicans refer to their nation as the “Mother Land,” and include their maternal name in their legal name.
Unlike the U.S. experience, the mixture of the European and native races is evident in the predominantly mestizo people of modern Mexico. While European culture tends to analyze life through the articulation of philosophical concepts, Mexican indigenous culture expresses itself through nature, music, art and dance (flor y canto, as the ancients put it).
There is also something significant and refreshing about insights on Mary from a feminine perspective. Most of our written Christian heritage comes from a male viewpoint. For instance, one would think a feminine hand in the Book of Genesis would refer to a divine mandate to “nurture” nature, not “dominate” it.
Our church continues to restrict severely the role of women in governance and official ministry. I always found it strange, for example, that the Scripture passage about the pain and joy of a mother giving birth (Jn. 16:21) can only be proclaimed and preached during the eucharistic assembly by a man, who has never had that experience. Fortunately for us, the Spirit can work around these obstacles.
(Rev.) Charles A. Hammond
Sandusky, Mich.Upon This Rock
While I am indeed grateful to be reminded of Popes Hormisdas and Silverius (Current Comment, 5/25), aren’t you overlooking an even more famous married pope? St. Peter, of course (Mk 1:29-31), though I can understand why intellectual consistency might make you reluctant to ascribe to him a title that only came later.
New Haven, Vt.