Those Who Love Them
With gratitude, I applaud America for Of Many Things by Patricia A. Kossmann, the editorial on Elder Abuse, Elderhood for the World by Thomas E. Clarke, S.J., and On Dying Well, by Myles N. Sheehan, S.J., in the July 29 issue. I could write glowingly about each one, but succinctly say instead how refreshing it is to see America cover subjects that many in the Catholic press avoid.
My own advocacy about elder care arose when my mother was physically abused in an Illinois nursing home and my mother-in-law suffered similar mistreatment and neglect in an Indiana nursing home. (My sister and I resorted to nursing homes only after years of on-hands caregiving. Our mothers needed professional help. So, in good faith, we finally chose care centers; but we only exchanged one set of problems for another. Our mothers are now at peace with God.)
Around the same time that I discovered how harsh care can be in secular (for-profit) care centers, I also began volunteering at St. Augustine Home for the Aged, operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Indianapolis. What a joy to be there! The environment is consistently clean and serene, and one immediately feels the presence of Christ. If what they are doing could be replicated by all nursing homes, elder advocacy would fall by the wayside, because loved ones would enjoy proper care, safety and dignity. Residents at St. Augustine have happy elderhood, and they die well in the care of those who love them.
Shirley Vogler Meister
John W. O’Malley, S.J., is too gentle with Pius IX (8/26). The pope acted in accord with his conscience. The ultimate justification used by an extremist or fanatic.
Pius IX undermined the church’s intellectual credibility with his Syllabus of Errors. By his fierce espousal of a union of church and state, he seriously affronted American views on democratic government and furnished a specific reference for anti-Catholic feeling. Cartoons by Thomas Nast featured grotesque images of Pius IX and of crocodiles, jaws shaped like bishops’ miters, crawling up to the nation’s capitol flying the papal flag.
Both scholarly and demagogic sources quoting Pius IX helped to deny full entry of Catholics into American political life. It took several generations of subsequent popes and thoughtful Catholic theologians like John Courtney Murray, S.J., the experience of Catholics and non-Catholics serving together in World War II and, in the opinion of some commentators, the coming to the papacy in 1958 of the genial John XXIII to dispel the shadow of Pius IX and in 1960 to see John F. Kennedy elected as the first Catholic president.
(Msgr.) Harry J. Byrne
New York, N.Y.
I very much appreciated the commendation by George Anderson, S.J., of the Society of Friends (Of Many Things, 8/12). Historically, the Quakers were at the forefront of the struggles against slavery, dehumanizing prison conditions and women’s inequity long before more mainstream churchesincluding the Roman Catholicgot the message.
My wife and I have often said that if we weren’t Catholic, we would have been Quaker. There would be both gain and loss in such a move. Her parents belonged to a Friends meeting 80 percent of whose budget went outside the maintenance of the meeting itself, since it neither owned buildings nor employed professional ministers. My parish recently spent $3 million to repair a roof and gild a ceiling. On the other hand, when my father-in-law was dying, despite his lifelong objection to organized religion and despite the kindness of individual Friends, an Episcopal priest (a woman) had to be imported to perform a ritual blessing that seemed to allow him to die in peace.
Nonetheless, I agree with Father Anderson that we billion Catholics have much to learn from those mere thousands of Friends whose influence continues to exceed their number.
Far From Easy
Thomas J. McCarthy's statements about "the infamously grueling annulment process" (From This Clay, 7/29) hardly do justice to the tribunal personnel and other pastoral ministers striving to make people as comfortable as possible in a difficult situation.
His sister's experience is unfortunate but not typical. While parties in his group claimed to "know someone who had begun the annulment process in good faith only to throw up their hands after...a chilling, humiliating ordeal," a discussion with others who stayed the course might have revealed a totally different perspective.
Nullity trials are far from easy and certainly far from perfect. While changes are needed, they will not come from one-sided presentations of the issues.
(Msgr.) John R. Amos
Judicial Vicar, Archdiocese of Mobile