The National Catholic Review

Coastal Planning

In a letter to the editor (“Stupid Human Tricks,” 12/24), William F. Klosterman passionately addresses the difficulties caused by building on the sea coast. But he utterly fails to propose any reasonable solutions. Is he suggesting that New Orleans—with all its history, culture and economic impact—be abandoned? Does he propose that the lower third of Manhattan (with the financial district) and the bank of the East River (with the United Nations) be emptied out? Would he like to see Florence, that cradle of the Renaissance, disappear before the Arno floods again?

My parishioners, who live on a barrier island, are mostly firefighters, police officers, medical workers, teachers and other public employees. They are not in a financial position to abandon their homes and move beyond the flood zone. Also, the barrier islands are not simply “moving oceanside sand bars” but necessary protections for millions of homes and businesses on the mainland that would face the ocean’s power without them.

I wholeheartedly agree that we on the seashore cannot continue business as usual. Responding to climate change necessitates serious planning among ourselves and with the wider community. Simplistic diatribes against living on the ocean are neither realistic nor helpful to that dialogue.

(Msgr.) Donald McE. Beckmann

Long Beach, N.Y.

Southern Christmas

I moved to Florida in 1969, so I can relate to “A Light in the Cold,” by Mary Sweeney, S.C. (12/17), about the connection between cold, northern winters and Christmas. So many of our feelings about Christmas are based on past experiences; we are so sentimental about Christmas. It is as if what is done in the North is the way Christmas should be. The Catholic Church is still too Euro-centered.

But today most Catholics live in the southern hemisphere, where there is no snow. Still these southern regions have much to offer. In Mexico, we experienced Las Posadas, searching for a room with Mary and Joseph on Christmas Eve. At the midnight Mass, the people bring the baby Jesus from their cribs to church where they rock him to sleep. When you see Mexican cowboys, big gruff men in their distinctive hats, rocking a plastic baby, you will never forget it.

I also wonder how much snow and ice there was in Bethlehem when Jesus was born.

Lucy Fuchs

Brandon, Fla.

Thank You?

Re “Of Many Things,” by Matt Malone, S.J. (12/10): Oh my! An essay written by a living Jesuit that actually makes sense to me? An essay that has a beginning, a middle and an end? One that does not resort to some pop-culture version of feel-good spirituality to explain life’s complexities? An essay that actually runs counter to the conventional wisdom that all educated Americans must worship at the altar of “enlightened Europe”? A tacit admission by Father Malone that progress is often, at best, a double-edged sword? An appeal to look to Genesis, not psychology or history, as the basis of man’s inhumanity to man?

I was about to cancel my subscription to America, but now you’ve robbed me of the fleeting joy that doing so would have provided. What happened?

Alvaro MartInez-Fonts

Miami Beach, Fla.

Reimagining Creation

In “Facebook Apologetics” (12/10), Brad Rothrock makes a good case for the importance of philosophical theology as part of a new apologetics, but I think something more exciting is needed. How about a creation story that inspires us?

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., provided this when he explained how God creates through evolution. If you accept the overwhelming evidence that he was right and add a little zoology, especially primatology, you have to conclude that the human tendencies attributed to original sin are actually the result of millions of years of evolution. Our instincts tell us to dominate others, by any means available, so that our genes are the ones that shape the future. God saw this as good because it drove physical evolution. But now we must repent, in the sense of turning away from following our natural impulses, or we will destroy ourselves. We hold the fate of creation in our hands.

That is a challenge that can motivate people of our day, if opinion polls accurately reflect the current zeitgeist. The traditional story that Jesus died to pay for our sins, so that we can be happy after death if we follow the rules, seems unlikely to motivate people in the 21st century. Rather than a sacrificial victim, we need Jesus as a teacher and role model to show us how to do the important work entrusted to us.

Donald Rohmer

Muenster, Tex.

Start from Scratch

In “New Plan to Reverse Decline?” (Signs of the Times, 12/10), Thomas Groome says that closing more parishes in the Boston Archdiocese would be like “rearranging chairs on the deck of the Titanic.” I agree with Mr. Groome that the priesthood needs to expand to married men—and, in my opinion, to women. But that would still be rearranging deck chairs. The most telling figure: “Currently about 16 percent of Boston Catholics regularly attend Mass....”

This would not significantly change with the introduction of married or women priests—as evidenced by the steep declines in church attendance among mainstream Protestants. Catholics who don’t understand the importance of regularly celebrating the Eucharist with their fellow believers will not be moved by married or women priests.

Catholic leaders need to start from scratch in evangelization, reassessing what is really of the essence in following Jesus and coming up with a new language and ways of reaching people where they are. Anything less will result in continued listing of the bark of Peter. We have assurance from Jesus that the ship won’t sink, but he expects the crew, led by its officers, to do what it takes to keep it afloat.

Tom Carney

Johnston, Iowa

Catholic Inequality

I read with interest, “School Daze” (Editorial, 10/15), because of my involvement with Catholic education over 40 years as a teacher, parent of 10 sons who attended Catholic schools and board member on the parish and diocesan levels.

I agree with this statement from the editorial: “It is inimical to a just and democratic society to maintain two separate, unequal systems, whether that dualism is based on race or property tax bases.” The editorial exhorts lay Catholics and church officials to insist on an equitable and effective education for all of America’s children, implying this inequality exists only in the public schools.

Unfortunately, I have experienced and still witness the same inequality in our Catholic school systems. More affluent parishes are able to pay higher salaries and provide educational amenities in their parish schools that less affluent parishes, often in the inner city, are unable to provide in their schools. While I agree on insisting on change in our public schools, lay Catholics and church officials must address the same and difficult issue of inequality and dualism in our Catholic schools.

Catherine Garcia-Prats

Houston, Tex.

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