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Direct Involvement

After reading Terry Golway’s No Questions, Please (8/18), I made an effort to get as close as I could possibly get on a personal basis (for someone that has no direct involvement) to what goes on in Iraq. I did this by reflecting on a house that one passes on the way into town. It’s a modest row home, and the porch is bedecked with flowers, ribbons, pictures, and an R.I.P. notice for Victor with a lettered sign below it: We love you Victor. Victor was a soldier who died during this war in Iraq. I will wait for someone to tell me that Victor’s death was justified. If/when someone does, I will ask the person to accompany me to knock on the door of Victor’s family to ask them if the death was worthwhile. In the meantime, I can only imagine the family’s sense of loss. And doing so reveals that Victor and others should not have been sacrificed. My personal consolation is that they perfectly laid down their lives for their friends, and in this they are privileged to know Christ.

Ignacio J. Silva
Lancaster, Pa.

Diversity

I read with great interest and appreciation Christopher Pramuk’s article, O Happy Day! (8/18). I strongly agree that being part of a racially, ethnically and economically diverse local church is a fine way to prepare for our seat at the heavenly banquet table. Like him, I am blessed to be part of a parish whose members encompass blacks and whites, rich and poor, gays and straights, old and young, mentally and physically abled and disabled. As people line up for Communion, I am always moved by such diversity, such small c (universal) Catholicism.

I want to offer two suggestions for churches and dioceses who want to move in this direction. They come from our parish’s now five-year-long racial healing process. First, for understandable historical reasons, the murals, statues and other artworks in most U.S. churches are European-American. A visiting black sister from the Blessed Sacrament community told us, When I enter a church, I look around to see if there’s anything that represents who I am. That simple comment led us to add to our art (sometimes replacing old art) about 20 large icons of saints and others of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. The 20 percent of our parishioners who are black or Latino expressed great appreciation for this change, which acknowledges the church’s vast diversity and, I’m sure, has attracted other people of color to join us.

My second suggestion addresses the diocesan level. Just as most of us are not aware of church art that sends a non-inclusive message, so most of us do not think about whether our diocesan structures reflect the diversity of the universal church and set an example of inclusivity.

A recent exploration in Philadelphia, done for our 10th synod, found that we have no black or Latino bishops and no people of color heading offices beyond those specifically set up to address black and Latino concerns and very few people of color at influential levels in the administration. The higher you go, the whiter you get, a black staff person told me. No affirmative action program exists in the archdiocesan offices or at the seminary. Few diversity training events have been held. No full-time black faculty members teach at the seminary. No program exists to teach the faithful the church’s official stand against racism or to help them understand how to overcome racism.

Certainly these lacks are unintentional, just as was our failure at the parish to make our art inclusive. But if the Catholic Church in the United States is no longer to reflect the scandal of Sunday worship being the most segregated hour of the week, then we need to do more than make fine statements and celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We must change long-established attitudes and practices of exclusion that speak much louder than our words.

Richard Taylor
Philadelphia, Pa.

Not on Schedule

In Justice, Law and War (8/18), the Rev. Phillip Brown fails to shed much light on any word in the title. While asserting that war is not and cannot be just, Father Brown makes the inconsistent statement: Whether one thinks [emphasis added] the war in Iraq has been just or unjust. Pope John Paul II hardly suggested that we could consider this war just or that the situation left no alternative but war.

Father Brown’s use of surgery as a metaphor for war suggests a superficial grasp of the horror and destruction of war, especially modern war, which is directed at civilians and brings harm to humans and the environment long after hostilities end. Agent Orange and weapons using depleted uranium are hardly surgical instruments. In fact, these tools of war come back to haunt those employed by the surgeon.

In Just Policing, Not War (7/7), in contrast, Gerald Schlabach, examines the real meaning of our just war tradition and what it requires of us. We would do well to examine what exhausting alternatives to war means. It is only from an ivory tower that one can hope that justice will resume after a war. We now see that a war does not end on schedule, despite proclamations to the contrary.

Patricia A. Keefe
Nonviolent Peaceforce
St. Paul, Minn.

Hope for Miracles

Since I was born a Brazilian, was raised a Catholic and am now an American citizen, I found Catholics and Protestants in Brazil (8/18), by Maria Celi Scalon and the Rev. Andrew M. Greeley, very interesting. But it seems to have overlooked an important turning point for the church in Brazili.e., the effects of liberation theology (Leonardo Boff, Paulo Cardinal Arns et al.) in the molding of Catholic opinion, especially under the military rulers of the period 1964-75.

In a country with one of the most unbalanced income distributions in the world, liberation theology’s preferential option for the poor, stressing social issues like land reform, is certainly academically correct. But it missed an essential point of the Brazilian people’s psychethe yearning for the supernatural, the hope for miracles, the pageant of the processions.

As the upper classes become more secularized, the poor are easy prey for evangelicals with their singing and television pastors. And of course the local alternative of the syncretic coupling of Catholic saints and African rites increased substantially as well.

Now that Brazil has elected, with a substantial majority, its first president of lower-class origin (his advisor in ethical matters is Frei Betto, a well-known liberation theologian), we must see if the detected trends continue.

Eduardo R. Silva
Miami, Fla.

Issues That Matter

On behalf of the Catholic Relief Services staff around the world, I would like to thank you for your recent editorial, Catholic Relief Services (9/1), recognizing C.R.S.’s 60 years of work. We at C.R.S. always appreciate a pat on the back. Many of us in the agency regularly look to America for your perspective on the issues that matter so much to us; as long admirers of your good work, we were proud to read your praise of us.

Our mission to help those in need around the world, and to further connect American Catholics to their brothers and sisters overseas, compels us forward each new day. Your kind recognition offered us a moment to reflect upon and appreciate what we have achieved, and it inspires us to do more and to do it better.

Ken Hackett, President
Catholic Relief Services
Baltimore, Md.

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