Our readers
Alternatives to Abortion

Your editorial The Abortion Debate Today (2/16) offered some excellent insights. However, we suggest that there is an additional and very relevant consequence of a consistent ethic of life: Pro-life faith communities must be prepared to offer expectant mothers realistic and effective alternatives to abortion. This may take various forms, like financial assistance, counseling, shelter and medical care.

As long as women feel that they have no choice but to abort, the culture of death will prevail. When life-affirming alternatives are as easily available as abortion, the culture of death will lose its appeal.

Mary Anne and Pete Gummere
St. Johnsbury, Vt.

Joseph and Friends

The article on the saints by Lawrence Cunningham (2/23) described very well one of our most beautiful devotions. I also appreciated his view that in the eucharistic prayer, the names of all the saints listed there should be included. Pope John XXIII added to that list the name of St. Joseph. At that time we had only one eucharistic prayer, the Roman Canon. I feel certain that if the pope had lived long enough to see our current eucharistic prayers, he would have included St. Joseph in all of them. Our bishops should direct that inclusion now. Also, who are the saints depicted at the head of the article? Could the men be St. Francis de Sales and St. Vincent de Paul, and could the women be St. Jane Frances de Chantal and St. Louise de Marillac?

Charles E. Miller, C.M.
Camarillo, Calif.

Only French Saints

Are all the saints in the illustration at the beginning of the article United in Happiness (2/23) clerics and women and men religious? Their garb suggests that. If so, are there no lay saints who could have been portrayed?

John W. Padberg, S.J.
Institute of Jesuit Sources
St. Louis, Mo.

Effective, Inclusive

The Real Agenda (2/23), Robert M. Rowden’s defense of Voice of the Faithful, is reassuring, especially as it concerns this lay association’s fidelity to the teaching authority of the magisterium.

The question that needs to be answered, though, is what diocesan and parish structures already exist that allow the laity to have a voice in the decision-making processes of the church, and are these structures working in an effective way to take into account the voice of the laity? In other words, shouldn’t we attend to the structures we already have and improve them?

Since the Second Vatican Council, most dioceses and parishes have had pastoral councils. Bishops have personnel committees and a whole host of other committees to assist in the leadership of the diocese. It would be better to enhance these pastoral councils and personnel boards with competent lay people, who would indeed have a voice. Do we really need more structures? I think not. Simply make the ones we have effective, and where laity are excluded, include them.

(Rev.) Allan J. McDonald
Augusta, Ga.

Loves Unreservedly

Thank you for the fine article The Bible, the Jews and the Passion by Eugene Fisher (2/16). Those Christians who persist in referring to Jews as Christ-killers seem to have missed the point of Jesus’ crucifixion. Anyone who has made the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in any form has contemplated Jesus on the cross asking the Father to forgive all of us. Not one of us humans can honestly stand before that victim and declare our innocence.

I know that I am cowardly enough and craven enough that I could have been one of the crowd who called out, Crucify him, or one of the soldiers who obeyed orders and nailed him to the cross or one of the disciples who ran away.

As St. Paul writes: For there is no distinction (between Jew and Gentile), since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift (Rom 3:22-24). All of us are the recipients of God’s amazing grace who loves us all even though we are all Christ-killers. Jesus, the Jew, reveals who God is, one who loves all of us unreservedly, unconditionally and undeservedly.

William A. Barry, S.J.
Weston, Mass.

Enactment

While I enjoyed reading Abortion, Faith and Politics, by John F. Kavanaugh, S.J. (2/16), I was frankly disappointed with your lackluster editorial The Abortion Debate Today in the same issue.

Yes, your editorial was professional and informative. Yes, one needs to keep one’s emotions in check as one examines this most contentious of issues. But legalized abortion has resulted in the destruction of 40 million American lives.

Legalized abortion is destroying diversity in this country. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, Black women are more than three times as likely as white women to have an abortion, and Hispanic women are two and a half times as likely. Is this not a human tragedy of immense proportions?

In addition to the damage to the American human infrastructure since the enactmentI use the word deliberatelyof Roe v. Wade in 1973, the 1973 abortion decisions establish precedents that are fundamentally destructive of basic constitutional guarantees like due process, equal protection, the right of people to be secure in their persons and the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Does anyone really believe that a late-term abortion does not inflict cruel and inhuman punishment on the fetus?

I have publicly questioned the wisdom of President Bush’s Iraq initiative. But as misguided as that may have been, it pales in comparison to the rank inhumanity of the national Democratic Party and its shameless embrace of legalized abortion.

Richard H. Escobales Jr.
Buffalo, N.Y.

Exercise of Power

John Kavanaugh, S.J., speaks from an ethical point of view in Abortion, Faith and Politics (2/16) regarding the actions of Bishop Raymond Burke, now archbishop of St. Louis, but I think he misses the larger issue. This was action based on the attempted exercise of power and force, hierarchical and political. It may have worked long ago, but no longer. The laity have lost their fear of arbitrary actions by their bishops and have replaced it with trust in a good God and their own judgment. Archbishop Burke’s action is selectively ethical and patently political, in that he addressed only elected officials he opposed on one issue, abortion, but not those voting against other issues the church opposes, like the death penalty, war and issues of simple justice.

I wonder if the bishops and ethicists have ever considered what would be the outcome of success in this approach. What would happen if the bishops uniformly condemned Catholic politicians whose ethical and moral positions they opposed, and the politicians acquiesced to their bishops’ demands? Would it not put us back to pre-Kennedy times, when Catholics were thought to be beholden to their bishops and pope and therefore unsuitable for high public office? Would not these same politicans lose their jobs in many cases, because their place in an egalitarian system would be compromised? And then who would the bishops go to regarding other justice issues, such as health care, especially for children, and concern for the poor?

Archbishop Burke’s action makes very little sense, unless it is seen simply as an attempt to exercise power. What are the ethics regarding that?

Robert J. DuBrul
Palm Harbor, Fla.

Scandal

In Abortion, Faith and Politics (2/16), John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., should have reminded all politicians that by calling attention to their Catholic faith and in the same breath voicing support for abortion rights, a public act of scandal, as defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Nos. 2284-6), is committed. Paragraph 2286 is directly applicable to people in their position. It reads: Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion. Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structure leading to the decline of morals....

Catholic Democratic senators who deny support to or oppose judicial appointees because of an appointee’s belief in the Catholic teaching that abortion is a moral evil should be reminded, even by denial of the sacrament, that their political beliefs provoke scandal.

E. Patrick Mosman
Pleasantville N.Y.

Captive Audience

I am a faithful reader of James Martin, S.J.’s writings in America and find that I am nearly always in agreement with his views, but I have to draw the line on his article Sexand Realityin the City (2/16). I write from some experience. Recently, I was somewhat of a captive audience while visiting friends, who are fans of Sex and the City, and sat through several back-to-back programs. To put it mildly, I could find little to recommend it to anyone, for any reason, as it presented a plethora of gratuitously foul language and sexual activity. It represents the type of appalling entertainment that is increasingly being shoved down the throats of the television-viewing public these days, both young and old. Father Martin really had to strain to find even a smidgen of something positive in this program, which, thankfully, has been discontinued.

Dick McAdams
Meadowbrook, Pa.

Critique and Doctrine

I hate to say it, because I believe that Phillip Berryman believes that he’s arguing for more sensitivity among Catholics, but his attempt to persuade the reader that the Bush Doctrine (2/23) is against Catholic teaching fails because of lack of remembrance. Does Mr. Berryman not remember 9/11? The Bush doctrine has resulted in the Taliban falling and Saddam Hussein being out of power for good. How can one claim that the preponderance theory has failed to help humanity, when so many people are in fact free and able to live without fear of persecution?

I understand that Catholics have to be leery of subscribing to any thought that places America as an international behemoth that should never be questioned. But as a superpower, we have a duty to prevent atrocities from occurring around the world. Sure, we have supported regimes that we shouldn’t have, but we have also stood for freedom when many countries decry its effects.

Let’s take some credit where credit is due, rather than sit by passively and allow an ineffective United Nations to watch as further Bosnian situations continue. Mr. Berryman needs to re-examine the just war theory, and realize that certain situations call for ignoring world opinion.

Articles like this make me question whether there is a serious divide among those who shape Catholic doctrine and philosophy. Is Crisis magazine more appropriate for someone like me?

I ask not as a criticism of your own magazine, but as an inquiry into searching for a united philosophy that all American Catholics can feel confident in supporting, primarily regarding war and other social issues, like gay marriage and civil unions.

Ryan Breitenbach
Fairfax, Va.

Basic Needs

The article by the Rev. Willard F. Jabusch, Father Has an Accent (2/16), did not emphasize the impact of some foreign-born priests on the laity in our parishes. Under the assumption that we ought to be grateful to have any priests at all left to celebrate the Eucharist, we often find ourselves with priests who cannot be understood linguistically or culturally. A priest who is affable but cannot preach a comprehensible homily is a clear indication that lay people must courageously stand behind the small efforts being made to ordain women and married men to the priesthood.

It is possible that older Catholics will tolerate very poor homilies and attend Mass out of a sense of duty, but it is not reasonable to suggest that this will keep our young people coming to our liturgies. At a time when other religions are evangelizing and attracting converts in large numbers, we do not have the luxury of accepting a lack of effective preaching and a mediocre liturgy. People will eventually go where they are fed or stop going completely.

Many Catholics are obviously crossing over parish boundaries and seeking out the best in a total worship experience, but it appears that in the near future there will be fewer, if any, parishes that meet our basic needs.

We are allowing man-made rules to weaken our life as a church, and we are not accepting the available and willing resources of women and married men in total priestly ministry.

The old defense that we must bring something to Mass and not go expecting something in return is not going to keep us afloat. We can go on praying for vocations at every Mass, but if we continue to ignore the vocations already just waiting to be accepted and allowed to enter, what possible future is there for this community of faith?

R. J. Kowalik
Dunellen, N.J.

Comments

robert f. patterson | 3/10/2004 - 3:45pm
I read my friend Bill Barry's letter about "The Passion." I belong to a very active and educated parish. I exchange opinions with my children and relatives. I have not found a single Catholic who has not fully empathized with the movie. I did not find a single instance in the movie that was anti-Semitic, unless someone wants to make it so. Several of us found the scourging exaggerated for several reasons. But apart from that, I found the characterizations of Annas and Caiaphas no more anti-Semitic than John Post's "points" in the long retreat. We all know that Christ died for our sins. Every Catholic repeats this in our Act of Contrition. Before I entered Shadowbrook I was practically engaged to a Jewish girl. I never once thought of her nor her family as Christ-killers. I see absolutely nothing in the movie that encourages anyone to blame Jews other than those who condemned Jesus historically. Christ was crucified. Somebody did it. The Jewish people who were present accused Him. Otherwise the Gospels are fallacious. The ROmans carried out the crucifixion. Christ offered His life for our Redemption, but somebody killed Him, otherwise He must have committed suicide. That is what the movie showed. We are morally guilty, all of us. But neither we nor all Jews physically put Jesus to death. I am anything but anti-Semitic. In all my writings, even as an editor of the Daily Gleaner in Jamaica, I have tended to favor the Israelis. I cannot see anything in the movie which is meant to be anti-Semitic. If we cite some of the things Mel Gibson said on T.V. interviews, of course they are inane. But they were not in the movie.
Katherine M. Leahy | 2/29/2004 - 5:21pm
Thank you for William Jabusch's "Father Has an Accent." Thank you also for reminding us of the lengths to which some Catholics will go in pursuit of the vindication of their pet causes by printing Mr. Kowalik's letter to the editor in response. It is unfortunate that Mr. Kowalik seems to view foreign-born priests a second-rate substitute for native English speakers; and it is further unfortunate that he decries the presence of priests from the developing world in American parishes as a misguided "man-made rule" while twisting his borderline xenophobic distaste for a homily colored by a foreign accent into a call for the adoption of a couple of man-made rules of his own -- the ordination of women and the introduction of a married priesthood.

My family's parish in suburban New Jersey had the pleasure of receiving a priest from Nigeria a few years back. In a town where "suffering" is very often defined by the general population as failure to receive a new Volkswagen Jetta for your seventeenth birthday or failure to achieve retirement by 55, Father Charles is a portrait of humility and joy and an outstanding addition to the community. We are lucky to have him. Does his native Ibibo sometimes compromise his adopted English? Certainly. Parishoners have responded with no small amount of Christian love by offering to assist Charles in improving his English rather than scoff at his earnest efforts and demand the defiance of Church dogma to get a replacement they find more suitable. And I should say that I find his homilies no less incomprehensible than those delivered by some of the beloved but often obtuse Jesuit academics who generally peppered theirs with antiquated theories and obscure polysyllabic words when I was in college.

Perhaps Mr. Kowalik could stand a little more practice in Christian charity.

robert f. patterson | 3/10/2004 - 3:45pm
I read my friend Bill Barry's letter about "The Passion." I belong to a very active and educated parish. I exchange opinions with my children and relatives. I have not found a single Catholic who has not fully empathized with the movie. I did not find a single instance in the movie that was anti-Semitic, unless someone wants to make it so. Several of us found the scourging exaggerated for several reasons. But apart from that, I found the characterizations of Annas and Caiaphas no more anti-Semitic than John Post's "points" in the long retreat. We all know that Christ died for our sins. Every Catholic repeats this in our Act of Contrition. Before I entered Shadowbrook I was practically engaged to a Jewish girl. I never once thought of her nor her family as Christ-killers. I see absolutely nothing in the movie that encourages anyone to blame Jews other than those who condemned Jesus historically. Christ was crucified. Somebody did it. The Jewish people who were present accused Him. Otherwise the Gospels are fallacious. The ROmans carried out the crucifixion. Christ offered His life for our Redemption, but somebody killed Him, otherwise He must have committed suicide. That is what the movie showed. We are morally guilty, all of us. But neither we nor all Jews physically put Jesus to death. I am anything but anti-Semitic. In all my writings, even as an editor of the Daily Gleaner in Jamaica, I have tended to favor the Israelis. I cannot see anything in the movie which is meant to be anti-Semitic. If we cite some of the things Mel Gibson said on T.V. interviews, of course they are inane. But they were not in the movie.
Katherine M. Leahy | 2/29/2004 - 5:21pm
Thank you for William Jabusch's "Father Has an Accent." Thank you also for reminding us of the lengths to which some Catholics will go in pursuit of the vindication of their pet causes by printing Mr. Kowalik's letter to the editor in response. It is unfortunate that Mr. Kowalik seems to view foreign-born priests a second-rate substitute for native English speakers; and it is further unfortunate that he decries the presence of priests from the developing world in American parishes as a misguided "man-made rule" while twisting his borderline xenophobic distaste for a homily colored by a foreign accent into a call for the adoption of a couple of man-made rules of his own -- the ordination of women and the introduction of a married priesthood.

My family's parish in suburban New Jersey had the pleasure of receiving a priest from Nigeria a few years back. In a town where "suffering" is very often defined by the general population as failure to receive a new Volkswagen Jetta for your seventeenth birthday or failure to achieve retirement by 55, Father Charles is a portrait of humility and joy and an outstanding addition to the community. We are lucky to have him. Does his native Ibibo sometimes compromise his adopted English? Certainly. Parishoners have responded with no small amount of Christian love by offering to assist Charles in improving his English rather than scoff at his earnest efforts and demand the defiance of Church dogma to get a replacement they find more suitable. And I should say that I find his homilies no less incomprehensible than those delivered by some of the beloved but often obtuse Jesuit academics who generally peppered theirs with antiquated theories and obscure polysyllabic words when I was in college.

Perhaps Mr. Kowalik could stand a little more practice in Christian charity.

Recently in Letters