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Memory of Millions

While Nicholas Mele makes some important points in his article The North Korea Conundrum (9/8), he begins with a comparison that fundamentally weakens his overall argument. In the second paragraph of his essay, he states that while the policies of the North Korean leadership have resulted in the starvation or malnutrition of millions, which is reprehensible, Americans should perhaps consider the impact of the current and previous U.S. administrations’ policies on the American poor before stigmatizing the North Koreans.

While the American people and their elected officials have often ignored the principles of social justice in legislating policy that affects the poor and marginalized, in no way can one seriously compare America’s past and present faults with the crimes against humanity perpetrated by Kim Jhong Il, his father and their cronies. Such a comparison does violence to the memory of the millions of North Koreans who have died at the hands of the monsters who have led their nation for the past decades, whose atrocities can rightly be compared to those of Hitler, Stalin and the Khmer Rouge.

Anthony D. Andreassi
New York, N.Y.

Something Bigger

As I was writing a check to renew my subscription for what I realized will be my 45th year reading America, I noticed the letter from the new subscriber (Thinking Beyond, 9/8). The writer was questioning the relevancy and value of the various columns offering an editorial position. I must say that I have always enjoyed the columns, and I welcome the opportunity to consider viewpoints from the various members of the extended Jesuit community at America House. To the writer, I offer the following advice born of a lengthening life: I didn’t like shrimp the first time I tried it either.

This is also a good time to recall one of my finest moments in my association with America magazine. A couple of years ago, I received a fund-raising solicitation addressed to Rev. Tom Wieckowski. The salutation read, Dear Father Wieckowski. Wow! For one brief shining moment, I felt as though I really belonged to something bigger than myself. I have the framed letter on the wall in my study, despite the suspicions of my wife about my pre-marital life.

America has been one of the truly enduring pleasures of my life. Keep the good stuff coming!

Thomas Wieckowski
Wyncote, Pa.

Devoted Service

I was happy to read your editorial on the proud heritage of Catholic Relief Services over the past 60 years (9/1). My brother, Gene Moore, worked for C.R.S. during its early years providing food aid in Congo. Later, when he moved on to U.S.A.I.D. in Africa’s sub-Sahara he often worked in partnership with C.R.S. As a member of my congregation’s administrative board during those years, I often bemoaned the fact that appeals were received from so many deserving agencies. Gene always assured me that wherever the need is greatest, C.R.S. is there. In his memory I add my good wishes to yours for many more years of devoted service from C.R.S.

Mary Frances Moore, B.V.M.
Dubuque, Iowa

Way of the Wise

The comments by Dianne Bergant, C.S.A., on the Way of the Wise (9/15), really hit home.

Many years ago I asked a priest friend of mine the same question, How can I help? His answer was that the real question is not How can I help? but rather What are you willing to risk?

The second question, I believe, is even more challenging than the first.

Bill Macchi
Jersey City, N.J.

More Vital

Congratulations to Vincent P. Branick and the editors of America for giving us the wise and thoughtful article, Schooled by Scandals (9/8).

What is more vital for church leaders than a love-motivated openness to ideas at variance with the prevailing view? I think Mr. Branick has rightly suggested that the way church leaders handle dissent may be more significant than we have realized. Since theology must be based in experience, how can church leaders be genuinely committed to applying theology to changing mores and technologies without such loving openness to new ideas?

Finally, America and Mr. Branick have the courage to suggest positive ways of moving the body of Christ forward from the scandal. May we all do our homework and learn from Branick’s school.

Richard A. Lovell
Lancaster, Pa.

Rational Consideration

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger states that weakness of faith was the root cause of the sexual abuse crisis in the United States (Signs of the Times, 9/22). This implies that weakness of faith is a Catholic clergy phenomenon exclusively. Deal Hudson says Dissent is the major cause. The Protestant clergy would be surprised that a conservative Catholic does not see them as dissenters. Pointing, as they do, to a single determinant of the problem is simplistic and too narrow an approach. Enthusiasm for personal points of view can cause intransigence and divert or block full, rational consideration of the problem at hand.

(Rev.) Connell J. Maguire
Riviera Beach, Fla.

Baptismal Vocations

Thank you for your appreciative editorial Valiant Women (9/22), which focused on the indispensable role of women religious in Catholic education in the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries. I have always considered my grade school years with the Caldwell Dominicans and my high school years with the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth among the most graced times of my life. An unabashed sisters’ boy, I have been inspired during my nearly 40 years as a Catholic educator and, I hope, enriched by having these holy, loving, learned and hard-working women as role models.

Greatly reduced in numbers, but no less valiant, are the women religious of today, who strive to enflesh the Gospel in new and challenging ways in the service of God’s people. Embracing the Second Vatican Council’s call to renewal and reform perhaps more sincerelyand at dearer costthan any other segment of the Catholic community, today’s women religious continue to shine like the stars and challenge us all to live our baptismal vocations more fully and more faithfully.

George M. Miller
Reading, Mass.

Political Failure

Paul Farmer, M.D., in his article Haitian Refugees, Sovereignty and Globalization (9/15), makes the incredible assertion that The U.S. aid embargo has been the primary cause of Haiti’s ongoing economic crisis. Haiti’s problems arise from the horribly ineffective and corrupt socialist government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Farmer proudly asserts that Aristide was recently elected with 90 percent of the vote. No one gets 90 percent of the vote in a free and fair election. Aristide’s plurality puts him in the dubious company of other great near-unanimous election victors, like Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein.

The greatest economic and political failure of the 20th century was socialism. What is the point of aid if it is going to be diverted by corruption or wasted by incredible inefficiency? The oil-for-food program in Iraq is a case in point. The money never went to the people. Saddam used it to build more palaces and stashed some away for himself. The rest went to the Iraqi military or Baath Party bureaucrats. Aid, if it is given, should go to religious and private charities where there is evidence it will get to the people. Dr. Farmer’s charity hospital would be a good place to start, but the trickle down aid he proposes is a bad idea.

Jim Collins
Farmington Hills, Mich.

Kingdom of the Poor

Paul Farmer, M.D., reminds us (9/15) that the issue in Haiti (lack of water, health care and education) is transnational, compounded by globalism. The Jesuits at the University of Central America literally had their brains blown out for characterizing the structural injustice in El Salvador as institutionalized violence. Dr. Farmer challenges us to stand up and defend Haiti’s rights. Organizing and letter-writing to politicians is imperative. We should not then just pray for the people of Haiti.

Each year we board planes and descend on the kingdom of Disney in droves. We choose not to see and not to enter the kingdom of the poor, the meek, those who hunger and search for justice, which is only a short plane ride from Orlando.

From Hades, the rich man begged Abraham to raise Lazarus and send him to his brothers to awaken them. Abraham replied that even if the dead should rise and visit them, they would still not listen. Lazarus arrives at our shores and is turned away. Nevertheless, we could descend into Haiti and embrace Lazarus and the suffering Christ in so many ways.

My most powerful moments of awakening come from holding dying children served by the Missionaries of Charity in Port-au-Prince. The word truly becomes flesh when you hold and caress Jesus alive in the children, alive in your arms and heart. In and through the tears, there is a joy and a glimpse of the kingdom never imagined in Orlando. Lazarus is beckoning as never before.

Vince Gallagher
Stratford, N.J.

Reconciliation

In Catholic Peacebuilding (9/8), R. Scott Appleby lists and outlines efforts by various Catholic groups striving to engage in conflict resolution in various parts of the world, particularly in highly indebted poor countries. To this I would like to add the work of RENEW International.

RENEW International has been working in Rwanda since 1999 helping bishops in their efforts to establish a pastoral strategy based on faith-sharing in small Christian communities. One of those is the bishop of Ruhengeri in the northwest of the country. The Diocese of Ruhengeri was one of the areas that suffered most horrifically from the civil war in Rwanda, which started in 1992, the genocide of 1994 and its aftermath. Its bishop, several priests and many religious were murdered, the last being Guy Pinard, M.Afr., a Canadian missionary priest.

Bishop Kizito Bahujimihigo of Ruhengeri, who succeeded his murdered predecessor, has stated that he views the work of RENEW International in his diocese as one of the most important attempts at reconciliation between ethnic factions that he has seen in Rwanda. RENEW workers in Rwanda do not mention the words genocide or reconciliation but try to help Christians read the Scriptures, reflect and act upon their inspiration as small communities.

I welcome the creation of the Catholic Peacebuilding Network and am grateful for the leadership both Caritas and C.R.S. have provided in this important area. May I take this opportunity to thank the C.R.S. office in Kigali for their continuing support of our work in Rwanda.

On the other side of Africa, in Nigeria, the State of Kaduna has witnessed strife between Christians and Moslems with appalling loss of life, especially since March 2000. The archbishop of Kaduna has invited RENEW to come and help Christians of his diocese establish small Christian communities, which would, among other things, explore ways to reduce religious strife between Christians and Moslems and improve relations between the two groups.

(Msgr.) Thomas A. Kleissler
President
RENEW International
Plainfield, N.J.

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