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Metaphor or Myth

One important conclusion in Creationism and the Catechism, by Joan Acker, H.M. (12/16)that God creates suffering and death (evil?)is empirical tunnel vision. We need to look outside the tunnel to see metaphysical reality.

Focusing our vision of sin on chronological events turns sin into a material action rather than the relationship that it is. The discovery of death in the universe chronologically prior to the existence of humanity is not the intractable problem that Sister Acker’s writing suggests. The real problem is the attempt to judge the relationships of human spirits, such as sin and innocence, within the restrictions that empiricism imposes on human understanding. A more appropriate forum would be a metaphorical courtroom where we can examine a broader range of evidence without being hampered by the prejudice that intangible equals unreal.

For example, there is the common human perception, which cuts across cultures centuries before the Hebrew Scriptures, that two forces are at work in the universe: a good, creative one, and a bad, destructive one, which leads humans into evil. Complementary to that is the common human experience of being born into the relative paradise of innocence, then in two or three years beginning to succumb to the apple of rebellion, and in a few more years beginning to recognize our nakedness. After that we spend a good portion of our lives attempting to convince ourselves and others, especially the One out there, that the devil made me do it.

Are these perceptions and experiences myth, or are we seeing reality through a glass, darkly? Wisps of perfume, or simply nostalgia? I think we make more complete use of our human powers when we recognize that these perceptions and experiences have probative value and make a good circumstantial case. We should look at fallen angels and Adam and Eve as metaphors for reality, not myths. Theologians would do us all a service by working to dispel the notion that God creates suffering and death, an idea that itself fits more neatly into the category of myth.

James Crafton
Dayton, Ohio

Wisdom Lost

A Pro-Life Strategy of Persuasion by Msgr. Harry J. Byrne (1/22) seems so very accurate both in its analysis and the changes in approach it recommends. Many thanks to Msgr. Byrne for laying it out so courageously and well.

Recent U.S. campaigns do indicate that Catholic wisdom is being lost to the general public because of our approach and our failure to address the very important issue of the empowerment of womenand not holding men accountable for their key impregnating role. Our current Catholic approach is all the harder to take when women, who still bear most of the ethical judgment and responsibility for pregnancy, are kept out of formal Catholic ethical deliberation on the whole matter. Where indeed are the men and all their responsibilities in pregnancies?

Mary Schmuck, R.S.M.
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Concern Among Many

Regarding A Pro-Life Strategy of Persuasion (1/22), it seems to me that voters in the United States, Catholic or not, have many issues of concern, not just the issue of abortion, which seems uppermost in the utterances of clergy and some Catholic groups. The pro-life movement seems to be concerned exclusively about the unborn. There is in society, however, a concern among many citizens about the alarming incidence of the death penalty carried out in the United States. Rarely does one encounter the kind of rhetoric against the death penalty that one reads and hears from pro-lifers against abortion. There is a church stand against the death penalty, but the issue is muted. The notion of pro-life is inclusive of all human life, but the stand against the death penalty is all too often a neglected issue.

Mildred Thompson, O.P.
Mobile, Ala.

More Rhetoric

James Wolfensohn, president of The World Bank Group, in his article A Call to Global Action (1/8) says that we must move beyond rhetoric in order to treat the grave problem of world poverty, the reality of which he so accurately describes. Yet his article is precisely that, rhetoric.

It is quite annoying continuously to hear talk from certain international organizations such as the World Bank about the poor, the poorest of the poor and the need for their participation in resolving the problem. Wolfensohn rightly acknowledges that globalization is a part of world reality, but he gives no critique of the neoliberal economic policies that actually dominate the process and that are completely lacking in any consideration of social consciousness and responsibility. Rather than speaking of debt cancellation and justice, he is concerned about the importance of making the debts of the poorest nations sustainable, that is, subjecting them to unending debt service payments and to the conditions imposed by the global economic powers. Furthermore, there is no methodology provided that would enable the participation of grass-roots people, who are truly the ones who suffer the effects of the tremendous debt burdens. Participative opportunities are simply not made available to them. Let it be mentioned that N.G.O.’s are by no means the solution, although they can be helpful. Over the last decade or so most of them have been involved almost exclusively in micro-loans, but not in human integral development programs.

Although the article is valuable for describing the tragic reality of grave world poverty, its call for people of good will to unite in order to change this situation is hollow. To be able to harness the benefits of globalization to deliver prosperity to the many, as Wolfensohn desires, will require a serious change in the rules of the game. An energetic commitment to justice is necessary, not simply good-will charitable acts.

Jack Moynihan, M.M.
Chicago, Ill.

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