The parish of St. Mary Church and Catholic Campus Ministry in Oxford, Ohio, includes Miami University. The city is small and the school large, so not surprisingly the majority of the catechumens and candidates in our adult initiation program are college students. Each week our R.C.I.A. session includes a “faith sharing” presentation, and while this is occasionally by an Oxford resident, most are made by students. As a former catechumen and now a member of the initiation team, I’ve heard many college students speak openly and comfortably about their faith. I can’t explain the experience recounted by John C. Haughey, S.J., (5/24) of students who “are not shy in talking about their moral convictions” but tend to be nonvocal about “a personal relationship with Jesus.” The students I have seen and heard have spoken with joy and conviction of their awareness of a close, personal relationship with our Lord. They are comfortable describing their awareness of God in their lives, relating how they turn to him in thanks and in need, and sharing the value of their prayer life. I don’t have an explanation for this difference. I only know how grateful I am for the affirmation these students so readily give.
Susan M. Frazier
I want to congratulate Raymond D. Aumack for his wonderful article, “The Jesuits Are Too Liberal” (Faith in Focus, 5/24). He expressed exactly my viewpoint on the controversial and difficult issues troubling the church and the world.
I am an 80-year-old Catholic, active in my parish (especially in adult Christian initiation, which I look at as the best part of Catholic life today). I must confess to feeling discouraged when I see how much needs to be done in so many areas, local and worldwide, to bring about the reign of God. But I do what I can in my own corner and trust that God will raise up younger and wiser people to bring about the ongoing counterreformation of which Mr. Aumack speaks. Thanks to Mr. Aumack for articulating so well the thoughts of many “liberal” Catholics.
Little Neck, N.Y.
There has been some discussion in America of the opinion that “the Jesuits are too liberal” (5/24). I know of no scientific poll, such as the Rev. Andrew Greeley would conduct, that has explored this question. So my comments, based on reading America and knowing some Jesuits, simply represent my own impressions. It is entirely possible, of course, that America is not representative of the opinions of most Jesuits.
Let’s start by saying that, in the United States today, as a practical matter “liberal” means liberal Democratic. I see some overlap in beliefs by liberals and Jesuits, but there is certainly not an identity of beliefs. In no particular order, here is a nonexhaustive list of areas in which similarities and differences may be noted:
Abortion. Clearly the Jesuits do not share the liberal view, which seems to regard an abortion as a rights-affirming event, and a partial-birth abortion of a viable fetus as an especially joyful one.
Gay Rights. There seems to be a strong Jesuit sympathy for homosexuals and a desire to provide ministries for them and recognition of them within the church. I have detected no rush to support gay marriage, and this would be rather awkward in view of the pronouncements of the pope and the U.S. bishops. So the Jesuits fall short of the liberal ideal in this regard.
Sex. Jesuits do not share the “anything goes” beliefs of liberals but, like other Catholics, are still working out what to keep and what to discard from the body of traditional teachings.
Racial Quotas. Jesuits are very much in accord with liberals, who favor racial quotas under euphemistic disguises.
Immigration. Jesuits are in accord with liberals, perhaps a little beyond them. Neither group has a clear and rational position. While not advocating opening the borders, both seem to argue that if you manage to immigrate illegally you should be welcomed, on fuzzy Christian (in one case) and humanitarian (in the other) grounds. Interesting that the conservative Wall Street Journal advocates an open borders approach, though on different and equally one-dimensional grounds.
School Vouchers. Here there is a real parting of the ways. Jesuits seem to like vouchers, which are toxic to liberals (except poor black liberals).
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Liberals, except for a fringe on the left, consider criticism of Israel beyond the limits of acceptable speech. Jesuits freely criticize Israel and tend to support the Palestinians.
The United Nations. Jesuits, like liberals, take the United Nations seriously and hold the view, despite overwhelming contrary evidence, that it is useful in preserving peace, the reason for its founding.
The Invasion of Iraq. There is agreement here between Jesuits and liberals in opposing the war, though even liberals are not unanimous. That may also be true of Jesuits.
The Welfare State. This is shorthand for a host of tax and public policy matters, too numerous to try to list. Jesuits and liberals share the same general approach, favoring a greater role for the government than conservatives do in providing public services and imposing taxes to pay for them.
Political Violence. Liberals do not believe that conservatives are entitled to free speech or assembly. They noisily demonstrate against conservative speakers, support rowdy and violent demonstrations and are planning to disrupt the Republican convention in New York City. Jesuits as a rule avoid such totalitarian positions; but shockingly, some have referred approvingly to the Seattle demonstrators, whose violence and nihilism repel those who believe in a civil society. I hope this is not a trend among Jesuits. It certainly bears watching.
Preferential Option for the Poor. Liberals would use different words, but undoubtedly would approve of the sentiment. This “option” often takes benign forms, like running special schools for inner-city kids, but may take annoying forms, like laying guilt trips on stressed-out family men who are coping with tough jobs, mortgages, enormous tuition bills and various life crises.
I hope this adds a bit of structure to the question.
I am a graduate of both a Jesuit high school and Jesuit university. After reading America for over a year, I am sick of your liberal editorializing (5/24).
Kenneth Hehman, M.D.
Bonita Springs, Fla.
Congratulations for printing “Rights of Accused Priests,” by Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J. (6/21).
Would that the formulators of the Dallas charter (2002) had heeded the advice of the only cardinal in their midst who is not a diocesan bishop. That a prelate of the stature and theological persuasion of Cardinal Dulles—while decrying the evil of sexual abuse—would cogently remind us all of the rights of accused priests is consoling, to say the least. The reminder is likewise a welcome counter to the publication of the names of priests who were alleged but not proven to be abusers. Let us hope that the message of Cardinal Dulles will serve to avert other tragic malignings like that of which the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was an innocent victim.
Mary Anne Huddleston, I.H.M.
After thoroughly reading the “Catholics and Politics” issue (6/21), I am saddened that the Eucharist has become a political weapon. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago denied holy Communion to gay activists because “they were using the Eucharist to make a political statement.” What exactly was he doing? In “Caught Between God and Caesar,” Joseph A. Califano Jr. refers to bishops playing “the Eucharist card.”
In “Prophecy for Justice,” my own archbishop, Raymond Burke, defends himself saying he is not using Canon 915 “as the imposition of a canonical sanction.” But he and Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs, among others, not only would deny the Eucharist to certain politicians who “obstinately” persist “in manifest grave sin”; they also advocate withholding the sacrament from those who vote for such politicians.
And, finally, in “Unholy Politics” a voice of reason sounds through the Rev. John Beal. He says, “Zeal to protect the Eucharist from profanation by sinners can unwittingly lead to an even greater profanation by transforming the eucharistic celebration into a continuation of politics by liturgical means.”
As a Catholic who regards the Eucharist as the ultimate gift of life, I wonder why our bishops cannot look to Jesus for guidance. At the Last Supper, Judas had already made betrayal arrangements, and Jesus knew it. After supper, Jesus announced that Peter would cause scandal by publicly denying him. Yet Jesus, the “highest” priest, did not withhold that first Eucharist from either of those public sinners. I hope our bishops take note.
Maleen Harvey Corrigan
St. Louis, Mo.
I am writing from Jerusalem at the end of a three-month stay and want to thank Drew Christiansen, S.J., for his clear analysis of the position of Christians here in the Middle East, (“Shrouded in Mystery,” 5/24). A friend just said to me “It’s so complicated.” But that’s not an out. We must try to understand and find creative ways to improve a muddled situation. Even if Christians are under fire from some Arab or Muslim extremists, that fact can never allow us to respond in kind. We are all brothers and sisters under one God.
I was so looking forward to your selection of the 2004 Foley Poetry Award winner (6/7). Disappointed does not even begin to state how I feel. How can you select a piece for a poetry contest that does not fit the criterion of a poem or poetry?
According to Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition:
poem—a composition in verse;
verse—a line of metrical writing;
metrical—relating to, or composed in meter;
meter—systematically arranged and measured rhythm in verse;
poetry—metrical writing, verse.
The selection made by the editors of America may be creative writing of a thought, but is it poetry?
Mary O’Kelly Hughes
Middle Village, N.Y.
Thank you so much for awarding the 2004 Foley Poetry Award to Tryfon Tolides for his well-crafted poem. I’ve read it and reread it 100 times, rocked by the image of animals being wantonly destroyed because they inconvenience us. I witness this regularly as an animal shelter volunteer. People relinquish dogs because they bark and cats because they scratch on the furniture. There is no tolerance for the “other,” no meeting the creatures halfway. We must learn to live in peace with ourselves, with one another and with God.