The National Catholic Review
Balanced Approach

The article by Drew Christiansen, S.J., (5/19) drew my immediate attention, because I had spent October 2001 to June 2002 in Jerusalem and on more than one occasion had met and listened to Patriarch Michel Sabbah speak or preach. I first met him in December 1987 in Rome, when he spent his days of preparation for his episcopal ordination in the house where I then lived, and I have followed his work, at a distance, since then. I have always found him to be very balanced in his approach and in his words.

I do agree with the general thrust of the article.

I was taken aback by the statement that George Cottier, O.P., the papal theologian, and other French churchmen supported the idea with vigorous attacks on Patriarch Michel Sabbah in the French Catholic press. Other than an article by Father Cottier in the periodical Nova et Vetera, I have found nothing and am unaware of anything in the French Catholic press. Thus my questions: who else? and where?

Considering where it originates, Switzerland, Proche-Orient Infoat least to me as a Canadiancan hardly be included in the French Catholic press. Further, was what was printed in Proche-Orient Info on Dec. 10, 2002, signed by Father Cottier, or was it a reprint from elsewhere? (I’m sorry, I don’t have access to back issues of Proche-Orient Info.)

Father Cottierand othersmay have done a grave injustice to Patriarch Sabbah, but there may also be a perceived injustice to the French Catholic press.

(Most Rev). John Stephen Knight
Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada
The writer is auxiliary bishop of Toronto.

Their Own Language

Talking about Pope John Paul II’s linguistic proficiency (Signs of the Times, 6/23), a friend of mine, Msgr. Salvador Piñeiro, now bishop of the Peruvian armed forces, told me the following story about the pope’s visit to Peru a few years back. Monsignor Piñeiro was the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Lima and in charge of the pope’s travels. So he accompanied Pope John Paul on his trip from Lima to Cuzco, the ancient capital of the Incas. While in the plane, the pope asked my friend, sitting next to him, to help him with a short speech in Quechua, the language of native Peruvians. Monsignor Piñeiro was embarrassed because he does not speak the language, so he exchanged seats with a police officer who was part of the security contingent. In little more than the hour it takes to go from Lima to Cuzco, the pope was able to master enough of the sweet and kind language of the Incas to greet the proud people of Cuzco in their own language.

William Allison
Paterson, N.J.

Thought and Dialogue

John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., writes a balanced, cogent observation on the tragedy of the university commencement address (7/7). How have all in our society, and perhaps in particular those on Catholic campuses, turned so intolerant of contrary ideas? It flies in the face of what a university is meant to be. Is there an established litmus test about abortion that precludes the inviting of those in our country who have provocative ideas on so many other issues? Without thought and dialogue on any issue we face, society declines.

Thomas Whalen, M.D.
Voorhees, N.J.

Injustice Condemned

A Campaign to Divide the Church in the Holy Land by Drew Christiansen, S.J., (5/19) raised one more facet of Israel’s overarching plan to totally subjugate the Palestinian culture and its people. The idea of making Patriarch Sabbah irrelevant by creating a separate Hebrew-speaking jurisdiction is consistent with Israel’s many strategies, over 55 years, to control the entirety of the Holy Land. This has been the aspiration of Zionism since Theodore Herzl’s first Zionist conference in Basel, Switzerland, in 1885. It is unpopular and, as former Congressman Paul Findley points out in his book They Dare to Speak Out, even dangerous for Jews and Gentiles to challenge the conventional wisdom that accepts Israel as beyond reproach in its state policies and behavior.

Patriarch Sabbah has found that his efforts to balance criticism of Israel with criticism of Palestinians are not good enough. Findley’s research reveals that backers of Israel do not brook any opposition. The trump card that is always thrown in their faces is the anti-Semitism card, which either ruins people’s careers or paralyzes them. Patriarch Sabbah’s positive contributions will never be acknowledged, because he has not given complete obeisance to Israel.

The real coup of Israel’s supporters since the Holocaust has been their ability to transform criticism of Israel into being anti-Semitic. Because of this, few people dare challenge Israel’s daily destruction of Palestinian lives, land, orchards, homes and culture while continuing their unjust occupation. Findley details how the heat from the Israeli lobby is too great for many to bear.

Father Christiansen is correct in saying that Israel is not as concerned about the church as it is about control and setting the church against itself. I am grateful for this fine piece by Father Christiansen, and I hope other Catholic and non-Christian writers will continue to uncover the Machiavellian politics behind much of what Israel does in its efforts to perpetuate its illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Anti-Semitism is an irrational hatred of Jews. To strongly condemn and criticize Zionist policies is a rational rejection of the blatant injustice of a nation state established for Jews. Injustice, for Jew and Gentile, is always to be condemned. Thanks, America, for taking on this area and topic.

Michael Hugo
Mundelein, Ill.

Baited Hook

Your editorial Noble Lies (7/7) seems to challenge future authors to focus on your proposal. Words like white lies and heavenly deception came to my mind after reading your article. I look forward to seeing how others take the bait off your hook of a great idea.

Mark J. Makowski
Minneapolis, Minn.

Peace and Justice

I applaud Is Anybody Listening? by Donald J. Moore, S.J. (7/7). I went to Tikkun’s teach-in to Congress in June. Some legislators seemed to listen at the time; but on the whole, few in Congress or in the media have the courage to listen and to act.

I would hope that religious communities have the spiritual freedom to listen. The present tragedy is not helping anyone, Palestinians or Jews.

Christians especially can be in solidarity with The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, which reports incredible oppression at Bethlehem University, the only Christian university in the West Bank. In the academic year 2000 the campus was attacked by gunfire. Students were absolutely heroic in getting to campus by any means possible, some taking four to five buses, submitting to long delays and humiliations at checkpoints. Students are truly courageous in their determination to pursue an education under humiliating and dehumanizing conditions.

Christians have been reduced to 2 percent of the Arab population of Palestine. If Christians are to be encouraged to remain in the Holy Land rather than emigrate, as more and more are doing, they must be given hope that there is a future for their children in a country in which they can live normal lives, have educational and employment opportunities and be allowed to travel freely and live in dignity and respect.

When people lose hope and are backed into a corner, some can resort to desperate measures. According to the World Bank, 70 percent of Palestinians are trying to live on less than $2 a day; 21 percent of Palestinian children under age 5 suffer from severe malnutrition; 45 percent of Palestinian children suffer from anemia. This is a crisis! Peace can be built only on justice.

Benjamin J. Urmston. S.J.
Cincinnati, Ohio

Awesome Suspicion

As I read Noble Lies (7/7), the term shock and awe echoed through my mind. Was the shock and awe approach used not only in attacking Iraq but also in convincing the American and British public to accept the war? The suspicion that one primary justification for the war may have been based on shockingly poor or even duplicitous use of intelligence is indeed awesome, or even awful.

Frances Heffernan
San Francisco, Calif.

Counterproductive

Donald J. Moore, S.J., provides a reason for hope when he describes the work of Jewish organizations for peace and justice for Palestinians (Is Anybody Listening? 7/7).

Unfortunately, not all the organizations he featured understand occupation the way the United Nations and Geneva Conventions understand it, which is (1) that the Israeli Occupation refers to the 400,000 Israeli settlers as well as the Israeli soldiers in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and (2) that the end of the occupation means the withdrawal of all these settlers as well as all the soldiers.

The Tikkun Community, for example, emphasizes love and caring and says that it is opposed to the occupation. But as noted in materials it distributed at its conference in Washington, D.C., in June, the Tikkun Community also advocates that all 400,000 Israeli settlers on Palestinian land be given the option of staying where they are in a future Palestinian state. Whatever its spiritual underpinnings, Tikkun is counterproductive when it condones this Israeli theft of Palestinian land.

Bob Krasnansky
Ellicott City, Md.

Invigorating

Catholic Identity, New Age and Women Religious, by Patricia McCann, R.S.M., (7/21) provided clarity and a wonderfully delightful breath of fresh air, wisdom and insighta brilliant reflection on some realities as these exist in our lives within the church that we were raised and nurtured in. Sister McCann confirms that our years of growth (the past 50 plus years) have led most thinking Catholics through many mazes of confusion, doubt and messiness, as we experienced life in its authenticity. Sure, hard and fast conclusions were difficult to come by, and most of our 1850-to-1950, Catholic-taught stereotypes were shattered. We found, much to our surprise, that truth is continuously revealed and not an undeviating concrete composition.

I especially concur that the Second Vatican Council provided the faithful energy and new zeal to adapt to times beyond the Council of Trent, where our church institution seemed to be stuck. Sister Pat’s five fundamental questions are relevant for the universal church. Our Catholic sisterhoods have been a major force in the areas mentioned as well as in helping thousands of lay people (maybe millions) cope in a church and world that would rather control than set people free. If I had a choice as to when to live again, the past 65 years would receive my vote. These times have been challenging, changing and invigorating. Thank you for stimulating us.

(Deacon) Jack Rankin
Columbus, Ohio

Life Choices

I loved reading your entire issue on vocation and ministry (7/21). William Spohn’s article, The Chosen Path, phrases the question, What am I called to become? For six years now my religious community has been focused on assisting young adults to answer the question, How might God be calling me to bring about God’s reign? We have worked with over 500 men and women in that amount of time helping many of them find God in the vocation of marriage, single and religious life. Our Life Choices process is truly a ministry to the church.

Diana Rawlings, A.S.C.
St. Louis, Mo.

Comments

John Blakeney | 8/25/2003 - 1:53pm
As a new subscriber to America, I look forward to each issue which is certain to be challenging, relevant, and formative. I am not one who believes that politics has no place in a Catholic magazine, as I believe it is both impossible and inadvisable not to have our spiritual mettle temper our political thoughts and actions. I do, however, question the merit of giving editorial space to columns such as "No Questions Please" (Terry Golway, August 18, 2003) and "Bush's Nuclear Folly" (Ronald E. Powaski, August 4, 2003)that have no religious, spiritual, ethical, or philospohical framework to them. These columns serve only as a forum to the authors' opposition to the Bush adminsistration. Please consider these columns against the backdrop of a column such as "Unjust War, Good Outcomes" (John F. Kavanaugh, May 19, 2003) in which the author renders an intellectual opposition to the Iraq war that challenges readers to consider issues of ethics and to think beyond the author's opinions.

America magazine is a wonderful resource for thinking Catholics; I ask the editors to please continue to present columns and articles that will challenge readers and help us to think for ourselves rather than columns that simply express the author's editorial viewpoint on political issues.

John Blakeney | 8/25/2003 - 1:53pm
As a new subscriber to America, I look forward to each issue which is certain to be challenging, relevant, and formative. I am not one who believes that politics has no place in a Catholic magazine, as I believe it is both impossible and inadvisable not to have our spiritual mettle temper our political thoughts and actions. I do, however, question the merit of giving editorial space to columns such as "No Questions Please" (Terry Golway, August 18, 2003) and "Bush's Nuclear Folly" (Ronald E. Powaski, August 4, 2003)that have no religious, spiritual, ethical, or philospohical framework to them. These columns serve only as a forum to the authors' opposition to the Bush adminsistration. Please consider these columns against the backdrop of a column such as "Unjust War, Good Outcomes" (John F. Kavanaugh, May 19, 2003) in which the author renders an intellectual opposition to the Iraq war that challenges readers to consider issues of ethics and to think beyond the author's opinions.

America magazine is a wonderful resource for thinking Catholics; I ask the editors to please continue to present columns and articles that will challenge readers and help us to think for ourselves rather than columns that simply express the author's editorial viewpoint on political issues.

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