I want to thank Drew Christiansen, S.J., for his recent Memorial Day reflection (5/24) and to tell him how much his words and thoughts resonated with my eighth-grade students at The American School in London. Though few of our students here at the A.S.L. are British, we are guests in a country that still reveres Wilfred Owen and the soldier poets of World War I. Every one of my students knows Dulce et Decorum Est, and “the old Lie” is hardly lost on these 13-year-olds, whose perceptions of America have been shaken both by the events themselves and by the BBC’s reports of the war during the past year and a half. However, Father Christiansen’s frustration at being denied the right to honor those who have lost their lives during the Iraq war is something our eighth graders here can understand, perhaps in a slightly different way.
We have just returned from a weeklong excursion visiting the American, British and Canadian landing beaches at Normandy. We laid a wreath at St. Laurent Cemetery; each student placed a poppy (the flower still worn on many a lapel each Remembrance Day) on the grave of a soldier from his or her home state. Our Israeli students walked tentatively around the teutonic crosses marking the German soldiers’ graves at LeCambe Cemetery, and a few kids became emotional reading the poetic inscriptions and viewing all the flowers that adorn the graves at the British cemetery.
Many of these young people had never seen or visited a cemetery. Many do not believe in God, let alone the Resurrection. For some of our 132 eighth graders, this was the first time they had ever experienced something sacred: consecrated ground, hallowed by the thousands of young men just a few years older than themselves, who gave their lives so that we might live. This did sink in, and it is comforting to know that even as the number of World War II veterans is thinning, there are young people who are still moved by their stories and their sacrifices. Perhaps this is the “anthem for doomed youth” our students will carry with them.
In the May 17 issue, Prof. John Kenneth White of The Catholic University of America is quoted as having responded positively to the question: “Have Catholics always leaned toward the Democratic Party?” That “always” is not accurate if one recalls the history of Catholics in the early days of the American Republic.
The dean of American Catholic history, the late Msgr. John Tracy Ellis, in his classic work American Catholicism, wrote, “That the great majority of Catholics in the early national period consulted their own interests and found them best served by the Federalist Party was true, and after the breakup of the Federalists their choice lay between the Democrats and the Whigs.”
If one examines the lives of such leading Catholics as Bishop John Carroll (1736-1815) of Baltimore and his cousin Charles Carroll (1737-1832) of Carrollton, who signed the Declaration of Independence, one will find that they were strong Federalists. The former, like many Catholic clergymen of that time, was more sympathetic to the party of Alexander Hamilton than to that of Thomas Jefferson, while Charles was a U.S. senator of the Federalist Party. Even Matthew Carey (1760-1839), a publisher who tended toward the party of Jefferson because of its stand against England, supported the economic policies of the party of Hamilton because they were more beneficial to his interests. Certainly, more steadfast than Carey in their loyalty to the Federalist Party were Thomas FitzSimons (1741-1811), a signer of the Federal Constitution who later served as a U.S. congressman from Pennsylvania; William Gaston (1778-1844), U.S. congressman from North Carolina; and Robert Walsh (1784-1859), the founder of the American Quarterly Review.
Thus, Catholic voting is not as simple as portrayed in the article by Matt Malone, N.S.J., “Catholic Voting: A Short History.”
Vincent A. Lapomarda, S.J.
College of the Holy Cross
As Angela Senander forcefully points out in “Standing with Pregnant Students” (5/24), attentive and sensitive care for pregnant students should be an essential part of the pro-life commitment of a Catholic campus. For Jesuit institutions, the Jesuit statement, “Standing for the Unborn,” provides an even more direct challenge.
Ms. Senander notes that her survey of Web sites found that only two of our schools adequately communicate their ability to support pregnant students. My very quick check with our campus ministers indicates that in fact we do much better in actually providing services than in formally communicating their availability. There is honest disagreement about the appropriateness of the Web as a place to share information at this critical time in the life of a student, but there is no disagreement about the importance of being available and helpful. Many schools provide brochures and other literature, and use various opportunities to make known the help that is available.
Campuses are sensitive to a pregnant student’s privacy concerns in providing guidance and adequate health care, dealing with housing issues and offering financial help. On-campus services are provided not only by student health services and university ministry, but also by residence life, counseling and career services, food service and pro-life student groups. These services link with off-campus support groups like the Nurturing Network, which enables students to transfer to other campuses, and Birthright.
I am confident that Ms. Senander’s article will encourage us to re-evaluate the effectiveness of how well we are communicating our ability to be helpful to pregnant students and to improve the support networks we have in place.
Charles L. Currie, S.J.
President, Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities
At a time when the credibility of many of our bishops is questioned or denied by substantial numbers of Catholics, some cardinals and bishops in the Vatican and the United States think they are being pastoral when they use severity and prohibitions in their pronouncements. This is particularly the case where several of them have prohibited Catholic politicians from receiving the Eucharist if they legislatively support abortion (Signs of the Times, 5/7).
That extraordinary pope, Blessed John XXIII, in his opening talk at the Second Vatican Council, was mindful of the presence of errors often condemned by the church. Nevertheless, he said: “Nowadays, however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity.” Is there anything more severe than the denial of the Eucharist to members of the ecclesial body of Christ?
Bishops who act in this manner seem unable or unwilling to engage in public dialogic discourse about the relationship of Catholic faith and conscience in a democracy, where politicians must represent the whole electorate, not only people who agree with Catholic teachings. If bishops continue to deny the Eucharist, preferring severity to mercy, they may find that even fewer Catholics, laity and clergy, will listen to and obey what they say.
(Rev.) Aldo J. Tos
New York, N.Y.
These are lonely times for liberals. “Compassion” has been redefined by a conservative president; the War Against Poverty has been replaced by a war against the poorly housed, the poorly educated, the poorly fed and the uninsured sick; the evil that is war is begetting its unbounded, evil behaviors; institutionalized Washingtonian hubris dismisses the wisdom of religious voices for peace. It is like a remaking of the Napoleonic tragedy after the principles of the Revolution were lost in the subsequent unslaked thirst for power. People who think they know “the truth” are always dangerous.
Therefore, when I read the Of Many Things column by Drew Christiansen, S.J., the editorial “Catholics and Politics 2004” and Raymond Aumack’s “The Jesuits Are Too Liberal,” I did not feel as lonely (5/24). There still are informed and articulate people who have the courage to speak to the awful mess we are in and a weekly magazine that has the courage to print their words.
(Rev.) Robert J. Thorsen
I smiled when I saw the title of Raymond Aumack’s article, “The Jesuits Are Too Liberal” (5/24). It took me back more than 10 years to a gathering of residents in our condo complex in a Memphis suburb. We were newcomers to the area; and while making connections, I mentioned that our sons had attended a Jesuit high school in St. Louis. One of the men asked if my sons were liberal because, you know, the Jesuits are, uh, pretty liberal. I smiled and said that my sons weren’t particularly liberal but that their mother was and that was why they were at that school. What a great conversation killer! Our sons are still fairly conservative, but at least one of them thought from the beginning that we had no reason to invade Iraq.