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Nonviolent Tradition

While America and Catholic leaders across the world scramble to determine whether U.S. military action against terrorism meets just war criteria and how indeed we might satisfy those criteria, I am disturbed by the insistence on linking just war principles to Catholic tradition. They are Catholic in the sense that the Crusades were Catholic and the Inquisition was Catholic, but they can hardly be described as Christianif what we mean by Christian is fidelity to the teachings of Christ.

A so-called just war is more humane (in intent, if not in effect) than were the recent terrorist bombings, but please don’t imply that Christ in any way or under any circumstances condoned violence as a response to violence. As Gandhi once remarked, The only people on earth who do not see Christ and his teachings as nonviolent are Christians.

Nan Runde
Pittsford, N.Y.

Alternative Vision

I was very disheartened to read Karla Manternach’s Faith in Focus article (10/15) Staying Catholic at Twenty-Something. At first I connected 100 percent with her opening. I, too, am a twenty-something Catholic. I, too, look around me in church and do not see many peers. I, too, grew up in a family that stressed God’s unconditional love and genuine hospitality. I, too, have struggled to understand and find my place in the church’s difficult teachings. But unlike Karla, I have found that the church is a definitive, revolutionary and direly needed voice in my life and in today’s culture. There are a number of points in the article that particularly distress me.

In her essay Ms. Manternach laments, We want our churchfor the love of God, at least our churchto be different. Our church presents an alternative vision when it proclaims the primacy of life over all else, proclaims the unique dignity of women, calls us to community and tithing and speaks up for workers’ rights in the increasingly one-sided world economy. Our church’s teachings are deep and incredibly relevant for the difficult issues of 2001. They are not intolerant or stagnant.

I see this article as an alarm that I hope will awaken two parties. One is the group of my peers. I hope they will dedicate themselves to digging beyond the superficial image of our church’s teachings and embracing the beautiful foundations upon which those teachings are built. The second party includes our priests and church leaders. I hope they will become better educators about the depth and truth of our faith. It is a faith that speaks to the spiritual and social conditions of despair that haunt both this culture and this generation. Catholicism is a faith that demands diligent education. We must all dedicate ourselves to this.

Elizabeth Thompson
Sidney, Ohio

Unconventional Holiness

A letter by an Episcopalian priest, John T. Farrell (7/30), commenting on Mary C. Sullivan’s book on the correspondence between Florence Nightingale and Mary Clare Moore (reported in the article by John W. Donohue, S.J., Sisters in Mercy, 6/4) raised the thorny issue of Nightingale’s standing in the Anglican Communion. Father Farrell is under the erroneous impression that Nightingale was reared in the Unitarian Church but later joined the Church of England. She was baptized in the Church of England and remained in it all her life, although she early flirted with conversion to Roman Catholicism and always had difficulty with the complacency and social conservatism of her own church. There are strong Wesleyan influences in her background, for her family supported the dissenting churches in Derbyshire. True, some of her views were unconventional, especially for her time (they would be less so now), and it is not easy to classify her.

Nightingale read widely not only in the medieval mystics (your correspondent is right about the interesting material there), but St. Augustine, other church fathers, the Puritans, metaphysical poets, the German historical school, liberal French Dominicans of the 19th century, French Protestants, Wesley, Luther and on to contemporary religious tracts and novels. Her Bible is annotated in six languages in addition to English. She gave advice on an edition of the Bible for school children. She wrote sermons (which were not given in her day). She wrote theological essays. Her massive correspondence shows throughout a significant faith component. Those who subscribe to the Unitarian interpretation might check out Nightingale’s warm correspondence with evangelicals and Roman Catholics and the numerous references to the need to be born again.

The books by Sullivan and Barbara Montgomery Dossey on Nightingale make an excellent contribution to our understanding of this most interesting Christian woman and her call to service, but there is much more. The Collected Works of Florence Nightingale, publication of which begins late this year, will have four volumes on her spiritual journey and faith. That Nightingale is now included among the American Episcopal Church’s Lesser Saints is welcome news.

Lynn McDonald
Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Pastoral Dilemma

This is in response to the article by Charles Zech on second collections and stewardship in general (11/5).

I am pastor of a parish with a school (K-8). Our parish has stressed stewardship as a Catholic way of life for the past several years. We are making progress, but it is a slow, uphill struggle to get Catholics to change their way of thinking and behaving when it comes to patterns of giving.

When statistics are quoted about Catholic household giving compared to Protestant household giving to their specific church, are we including the 30 percent to 35 percent of Catholic households no longer practicing and therefore making no identifiable contribution to any parish collection? When the inactive Catholics are removed from the statistics, then the level of giving by the rest of the parish families begins to approach Protestant giving. (At least this is the experience in our parish.)

It is not my experience that families who send their children to Catholic schools are more generous than other families. Some are, but many give the bare minimum. The section of Mr. Zech’s article with which I strongly disagree deals with his remarks on the shenanigans of pastors like myself who insist on a certain amount of giving by parents with children in parish schools in order to qualify for Catholic tuition rates (a better phrase is subsidized tuition rates). Please note: if any family is having financial difficulty, exceptions are always made. It seems to me that the shenanigans apply far more to those Catholics who want everything and want everyone else but themselves to pay for it. Until we initiated a policy of contributing a certain dollar amount to the offertory collection from Catholic-school parents, the majority of them were giving an average of $5 weekly. The parish in turn was contributing almost $15 weekly per child to the parish school. This parish subsidy went to the operating budget of the school. There is also financial assistance that is increasing all the time. The largest single item in the budgets of most parishes (with schools) is the school subsidy.

It is pastors and finance councils who must wrestle continually with these issues. Sometimes it seems like a balancing act in a three-ring circus. It is a dilemma many of us face year after year as dioceses raise their assessments, school tuition increases yearly, health insurance and insurance in general goes up astronomically and collections increase at a snail’s pace.

The paragraph about executive directors of the second collections being hard-working, dedicated professionals who do a marvelous job in the face of daunting odds sounds to me like the job description of most pastors I know.

Joseph Zuschmidt, O.S.F.S.
High Point, N.C.

Equity

The article by Thomas T. Brundage, Resolving Disputes Within the Church (10/29), needs review at least in its application to disputes involving lay workers.

Disputes involving safety, discrimination, organization, wages, leave, child labor, work injury, whistle-blowing and other protections are matters that the worker has a right to pursue or have reviewed by civil laws or regulations if such course is opted. A five-tier canon law process, although a licit administrative option, should respect the disputants’ right to pursue governmental options before, during and after a canon law decision. Unilateral canonist decisions might lack the insight of adversarial or expert proceedings conducted by labor law professionals. Canonical advocates should not be provided, as suggested for the Archdiocesan Court of Equity; the disputant should be permitted to opt for a personally chosen advocate.

The principle of subsidiarity does not seem operable when each case has the potential that the archbishop will accept or amend the recommendation. The disputants’ further appeal could be costly and give the media a field day at the archbishop’s peril. There are no worker disputes that cannot be administratively finalized at the parish or institutional level with any necessary help from the diocesan personnel department.

William J. Clark
Bayville, N.J.

Less Each Year

Charles Zech’s article, The Problem of the Second Collection (11/5), failed to address the problem. Repetitive second collections, whether they be for national, diocesan or parish purposes are not only unappealing to the laity; they are also liturgically out of order.

Besides, there are too many special collections. Pastors know that. It’s time national agencies that are receiving less each year come to the same realization.

(Msgr.) Michael R. Braun
Bakersfield, Calif.

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