Mary Anne Zak
Thomas J. McCarthy’s column (7/29) struck a very familiar chord with me. As a divorced Catholic mother whose marriage was annulled, I can identify with the pain of the marginalized. Who are we to do that to our brothers and sisters in Christ?
I am cognizant of the necessity for rules and regulations in any organization (and family, for that matter), but I totally agree with Mr. McCarthy that it is I, as church, who must assume responsibility for creating and manifesting community.
San Jose, Calif.
Let’s Hear Our Bishops
I enjoyed the article by Joseph A. Califano Jr. (9/9). Thanks to him I found the Internet site and read the text of the bishops’ Faithful Citizenship. I would have liked to copy it and give copies to friends, but I was daunted by the severe copyright notice. While at the site I noticed other valuable documents that I had never heard of. Why aren’t our bishops’ statements touted and available free, not only on the Internet but also in racks at the back of every American Catholic church? Talk about hiding your light under a bushel!
Regarding the recent publicity given to the beatification of John XXIII and Pius IX (8/26), it is important to remember that the authentic basis of devotion to the saints lies in local popular cult. This existed long before the process was taken over by papal authority and the Roman Curia and still serves as the necessary foundation. At present we have a pope who freely dispenses from the rules of the process and appears to be impatient with the normal and slow development of cult.
As a trained liturgist, I have assisted several religious communities in the revision of their liturgical calendars. The complaints (from communities of both men and women) are largely the same: too many feasts of Apostles, too many popes and bishops, too many men and not enough women. They desire to trim the calendar down better to approximate actual and potential devotion. Most interesting is the common insertion of men and women not officially recognized: Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Oscar Romero, Martin Luther King Jr., women mystics and others. This is real cult at work, going back to our origins. It bears watching and has much to commend it.
It is good to remember the principle of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (No. 111): Only those [saints] should be extended to the universal church which commemorate saints who are of universal importance. In the actual reform of the Roman calendar, it was politically impossible to carry this out, and we ended up with a padded calendar. Local communities have been completing this calendar reform and enriching it with new popular cult.
Ken Smits, O.F.M.Cap.
Show Me Where
Thank you for Plow Before You Plant, by William J. O’Malley, S.J. (9/16). As a catechist, youth minister and diocesan director, I applaud his courage and frankness in addressing the current state of catechesis in the United States. He knows what he’s talking about. The picture is not complimentary and a great challenge for all involved in this sometimes devalued ministry.
Catechesis takes hold when the heart is ready to receive the word and a relationship is present. Too often the teaching church chooses to teach first and hope a relationship with God will grow from head knowledge. Perhaps we feel too safe with the decades-old model of offering C.C.D. Or catechists shy away from new models in fear of pastors and parents asking them to show me where these kids are learning their faith. Is it more important to recite the Beatitudes or to live them?
It’s time to move to the catechumenal model, as shown in the General Catechetical Directory. Build a relationship, connect the kids to God, then teach. Their hearts and their souls will be much more receptive, and the seeds will take root. And we will be about the work of forming disciples.
The article Who’s a Catholic to Vote For, by Joseph Califano Jr. (9/9), came out just as I was thinking about the question myself. How are we supposed to do justice to the consistent ethic of life when there is no consistently pro-life candidate? Mr. Califano’s conclusion is that we should be informed and engaged, which is great advice. But he implies, by the title of the article and in his last paragraph, that engagement necessarily includes voting. It doesn’t. I suggest that the option of not voting should be discussed seriously, and that those whose activism doesn’t include voting be heard with respect.
After every election, low voter turnout is blamed on poor citizenship, laziness or some other character defect in the electorate. Furthermore, the idiotic syllogism, If you don’t vote, then you can’t complain, appears on daily newspaper editorial pages and in water cooler bull sessions, and passes unchallenged as though it were somewhere in the Bill of Rights or engraved on the Liberty Bell.
It may be that Catholics should vote so as to choose the lesser of evils. But it’s very hard to participate in evil without being tainted by it. There is often an implied acquiescence involved in votinga feeling that the votee is my candidate now.
How pro-death do partisan politicians have to be (how pro-abortion, pro-war, anti-environment, anti-poor) before we allow ourselves to reject them as a class?
Your religious education issue (9/16) is excellent. It has high quality and considerable balancenot an easy feat. But I cannot praise it unreservedly. I have this long memory of a college English teacher, who in 1964, for short and longer written assignments and assuming integrity, asked us to point out an apparent artistic flaw we found in one of the assigned poems or essays and then make the best case we could that the flaw is not a flaw. My dream is that writers would approach their own topics likewise and then write, not a mere defense of a seeming flaw, but a reasoned praise of it, omitting all else.
Let me be quite concrete. I think William J. O’Malley, S.J., has done thisalmost. I admire his educational take on catechetics. I see it alongside grievous educational mis-takes of mine some years after that English class, but I find his treatment of the Catechism of the Catholic Church here a distinct flaw. For my old teacher I could defend Father O’Malley’s words with integrity. But for an America article I wish he himself had not tried early on to indoctrinate his readers, as it seems to me, by asserting that the strategists...want indoctrination rather than conversion. He should have let readers arrive at something of his insight on their own, as he lets his students do.
I think the approach I have suggested could, at least as a cast of mind, turn the tables on much fruitless polemic from left and right. I think Father O’Malley’s article is almost perfect. I wish more contemporary Catholic and secular journalism got that close.
Philip C. Fischer, S.J.
St. Louis, Mo.