Drew Christiansen, S.J., rightly says in “A Conspiracy of Bishops and Faithful” (9/27) that a revival of the church in the United States “will be fully realized when there is wide consultation and cooperation by the bishops with Catholics of varying shades of opinion bringing the Gospel to life in our increasingly secular culture.”
Unfortunately, the “official” church, both here and in Rome, all too often presents itself in the guise of a global monopolistic corporation. The hierarchy too often presents itself as the senior management and board of directors who have the right and power to determine, on their own, the “corporation’s” policies, practices and senior appointments.
Lay people are encouraged to assume that they have nothing to say about these matters. And for the most part, they are satisfied with the situation. The few voices that speak out against this corporate model are treated like “crank” shareholders at annual corporate meetings. They get very little attention. Their influence is almost nil.
Practically speaking, only the hierarchy, through concerted effort, can change things. Is there any significant evidence that it is interested in “wide consultation and cooperation”?
Bernard P. Dauenhaur
Bethlehem, Pa.You’re Eating My Pizza
Your editorial “Israel’s Choice” (10/11) reminds me that Gideon Levy, Israel’s pre-eminent journalist, was in the United States in September and saw no hope for negotiations with Netanyahu at the helm. The meetings are largely photo-ops to keep the United States and Europe at bay. Israel continues to play the United States like a harp, always holding out some dismal hope that they are sincere partners for peace. They are not. They hold all the cards and can do to Palestinians what they want. This is the reason they always refuse international watchdogs with any clout like Desmond Tutu or independent United Nations observers. As one Palestinian told us in August, “How can you negotiate over a pizza when one side keeps eating it?” The only way settlements will stop is by external pressure, and Obama has political energy only for the economy. He will not go to the well on this issue and stop the settlements.
Another annoying point is the Catholic groups, potential witnesses to the oppression, who embark on nostalgic tours to buildings, holy places and the like but miss the “living stones“ of the Palestinians.
Toronto, Ont.The Elephant in the Room
As I read your editorial “Israel’s Choice” (10/11), it seemed to me there is one person truly suitable to bring peace to this troubled land: a man who can understand the Jewish way of thinking and pretend to understand that of the Arabs, who is aching for his place in history and has all the ability to do it—Bill Clinton.
If President Obama were to give him this job and carte blanche, he would come closer to the holy grail than anyone else. His experience in Ireland and his failed experience in the Arafat dealings would place him in good stead. He understands the need to temper idealism with pragmatism, and the saving of countless lives there could make amends for his position on abortion.
If Clinton were to work full time on this problem, I am sure that within a couple of years we would see real progress. I hope the president is aware of the seriousness of this matter and the need for resolute action. The Palestin-ians are the wounded elephant in the American dining room.
Rome, ItalyThe Means Is Extraordinary
The article “What’s Extraordinary,” by Gerald D. Coleman, S.S. (8/30), both informed and concerned me. I write as a retired professor of biology and hospital chaplain. He uses the term “nutrition and hydration” 14 times. I wonder whether he thinks the two are co-joined in medical practice. The two are unequal in importance, physiologically and medically, and should be treated that way by ethicists as well. He mentions “tube feeding,” which bypasses the mouth by placing food/fluid directly into the stomach. Fluids can also be delivered by intravenous infusion, which bypasses the entire digestive system.
If I read Father Coleman correctly, he accepts that “giving of nutrition and hydration is considered ordinary care even when medically administered.”
I agree that food and fluid are truly “a natural way of conserving life” and so can be considered “ordinary” in that context. But when food and fluid are delivered in a medical way, they are “extraordinary.” Reasons: They are prescribed by medical doctors, using medical solutions processed for use only by prescription and delivered by medical personnel using invasive procedures in a medical situation. Considered in a worldwide context, where poverty, the lack of medical expertise and the lack of proper, medically safe products and equipment are scarce, too expensive or entirely lacking—how can artificially administered nutrition and hydration be classified as “ordinary”?
Father Coleman uses two papal sources and one from the U.S. bishops; but he omits the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of ‘over-zealous’ treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted.”
John Ostdiek, O.F.M.
Quincy, Ill.Eyes on That Intimacy
Robert Brancatelli argues in “Liberating Catechesis” (9/13) that we have too many rules and regulations for catechesis, many coming from church publications. He has in mind perhaps the General Catechetical Directory (1971) and the General Directory for Catechesis (1997). The second, considered a revision of the first, shined as a bright star for the world of catechesis. It could liberate catechesis. Its theme is intimacy with Jesus Christ.
I returned recently from two months in southern Africa, where I saw many catechetical activities at Mass each Sunday. The elderly, middle-aged, young adults, teens and children, over the course of three hours of celebration, sang, danced, processed, presented offerings and received the Eucharist. With no choir practice and no accompaniment except a single drum, their multipart singing surely rivaled that of the angels. They knew why they were there, what they were doing and to whom their prayers of praise were directed.
Catechesis has many expressions and can overcome difficult circumstances. It should be guided by the General Directory for Catechesis. If regulations get in the way, keep our eyes and ears focused on the theme: intimacy with Christ.
Elaine McCarron, S.C.N.
Nazareth, Ky.Acid Plus Debris Equals Steel
Kyle T. Kramer’s “Appalachia’s Wounds” (10/4) makes the evil of mountaintop removal obvious. But mining corporations have long been engaged in destroying the environment of Appalachia’s residents by polluting rivers and streams with acid mine drainage and blocking up valleys with debris and causing destructive flooding.
In addition, property owners often own only the surface of the land and find that the property becomes undermined and collapses. If these concerns had been part of the equation, so that mine tunnels were not left to collapse and debris was not dumped into valleys, it would be possible to morally support the extraction of coal, since it is unfortunately needed to manufacture steel, a metal we cannot do without.
Las Cruces, N.M.