Good Begets Better
Is it my imagination, or is less space being allocated for letters? The stimulating articles prompt stimulating responses, and I’d like to see more.
Christine Matthews, O.P.
Coffee at the Cliff
The article by Paul Robichaud, C.S.P., Tourist or Pilgrim, Rescuing the Jubilee (12/18/99), had immediate draw. I have been considering another trip to Rome in the near future with the hopes of making a more careful study of the sites that color our Christian tradition. He articulated the difficulties inherent in making such a trip a more visceral and spiritual experience, and it was all the more meaningful as these challenges manifested themselves during my first trip to Rome.
But surely this is a two-part article. Father Robichaud, no doubt our good shepherd, sees us potential pilgrims wandering toward the cliff of unfulfillment. To leave us without much more guidance than to say that there are a number of very good books on Rome (and presumably an equal number of seriously flawed ones), and the advice to read up on the subject of pilgrimage does not grant us much guidance.
I wait in gentle anticipation for his next installment in which several good texts are recommended, the elements of an effective pilgrimage discussed and the tools and the orientation put before us. Absent a second article, I would certainly settle for an invitation to coffee.
Paul J. Caruso
A Way Cool Octogenarian
I thought that the review by Richard A. Blake, S.J., of Dogma (12/4/99) was, like, really cool. I am addicted to films, especially the ones deemed controversial by that fringe group, the same outfit that did not appreciate the really cool TV show, Nothing Sacred. And I have been paying the senior citizen rate for a very long time.
Dorothy M. Hartman
WOW, to borrow a term from Father Blake’s review of Dogma. That one picture is worth a thousand words has never been more true than the photo of Sharon Euhart, R.S.M, at the recent U.S. bishops’ conference (12/4/99). There she is in that sea of male noggins, collecting votes as an associate general secretary of the conference in which she can’t be promoted to general secretary because she is not a priest. WOW!
Then I read on the same page as the picture that the stable basis on which my wife and I have been lectoring together for over 20 years is questioned under the new norms for who can be installed as a lector. The image of a patriarchal church refusing to recognize the primal aspirations of over half its members is reinforced.
And we wonder why so many, both young and old but mainly young, are voting by their absence from our pews.
Nicholas E. Bedessem
Heredity or Environment
Thank you for your thoughtful and careful analysis of possible implications of Ex Corde Ecclesiae (12/4/99). I wish more members of the church would remember the history of the plurality of theological discourse and debate over the centuries. Such pluralism was the source of an engaged and vital theology that contributed to the health and vitality of the church. I fear we may be in for a long period of theological Lysenkoism, and the church will only be the worse for it.
Thomas A. Shannon
Bishop John J. Leibrecht’s assurances that procedures for granting a mandatum will be developed in consultation with theologians are welcome. But will these procedures be as juridical as the mandatum? What checks and balances will they bring to this new authority granted to the bishops? Restraints with the weight of law are imperative to keep this power from running amok.
It is not hard to imagine the confusion and controversy, indeed the scandal, of a large university in confrontation with an eccentric or unscholarly bishop, especially in a small diocese. We have witnessed recently the strange spectacle of a bishop excommunicating members of a group to which some of his brother bishops belong. Gentlemanly consultation with theologians is not a sufficient remedy. A bishop’s obtaining of an open evaluation of a professor by a panel of peers must be mandatory in law to be meaningful. A right to appeal is basic. Unless the procedures of implementation are on a sound basis, they will not stand the test of time, and Ex Corde Ecclesiae will end up a non-contributor to its worthy purpose.
(Rev.) Connell J. Maguire
Riviera Beach, Fla.
Commendations to America for continuing to place before its readers articles (6/5/99) and editorials (11/13/99, 12/11/99) focusing on the issues of poverty and homelessness.
The poor disarm us, and we become uncomfortable as they force us to confront our own ignorance and/or complacency. ( I spent seven years working with the poor and homeless in downtown Seattle and have continued this involvement with a recent move to Portland.) The problems can so easily overwhelm: high housing prices, drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness, domestic violence, cutbacks in social services and lack of affordable health care. The struggle, however, must continue! America’s commitment to educate its readers in these and other poverty issues successfully challenges its readers to enter into this struggle.
Though it may take several years, this same struggle moves one to a place of profound weakness. Slowly it encourages willingness to enter into a relationship with each of the poor, committing oneself to that place.
America’s support of those in this sometimes lonely place is empowering. The poor you will always have with youthank goodness, for they become our salvation.
Joseph Carver, N.S.J.
Mary Jo Bane’s article (12/4/99) overlooks the real need for church involvement in welfare reform. To quote the book of Joshua, and the manna ended. Welfare reform is a done deal, and there is no going back at this point. The churches are invited to become hands-on participants in assisting people make the transition from welfare to work and assume their rightful position in mainstream society.
For too long, we have been advocates from afar, sitting comfortably in our pews and homes, hoping that the public assistance system would attend to the needs of the poor. With a few notable exceptions such as Dorothy Day and her Catholic Worker houses, Catholic Charities in its work with refugees and as a contractor with various local entities, and some St. Vincent de Paul societies, the wider church has served the poor only at a distance.
What the poor really need is our personal attention. Individuals and parishes need to become intimately acquainted with and involved in specific people’s lives and personally assist them to find their way to social and economic success. One very effective method is mentoringgiving the gift of personal presence to a family struggling for survival. The most significant deprivation poor people face is overcoming their involuntary exile to the fringes of society. In our small inter-faith program called FaithWORKS! we have volunteers from many congregations coming forward to be companions on the journey with welfare recipients. These ordinary people from the pews assist our clients to gain access to affordable and safe housing, job openings, job advancement and help them to resolve problems with transportation and child care. However, their most important role is to give a person stuck in poverty a vision and the moral support and advocacy that lifts their spirits and gives them hope for a better life.
ùoverty is a systemic, dysfunctional fact of our society. It arises from early neglect, racial bias, social snobbery and toleration of minimalistic and pennypinching efforts to assist the most vulnerable and fragile people who live among us. If we are to truly develop a preference for the poor, we must get to know them intimately and personally; only then will we understand how to help them gain their most important entitlementpersonal dignity and knowing that we really care.
(Deacon) Mike Evans