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Hopeful Heart

Several of my community read with delight Living With My Sisters, by Jeffrey J. Guhin (7/19). Here is a young man whose heart is in the right place, regardless of having to sacrifice his vocation to the sisterhood! Sisters need priests of this caliber in their livesthose who question their comfortable lifestyle, their positions of privilege and power, and those who listen rather than lecture. I salute Jeffrey and his vocation. His reflections give me hope.

Mary Ann Foy, R.S.C.J.
Redwood City, Calif.

Core Values

Thank you for Jeffery Guhin’s article Living With My Sisters (7/19). It was refreshing to read such a thoughtful reflection about what we can all learn from women religious.

I am a recent graduate of a college run by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. During my time there, I received an education infused with the B.V.M. core values of freedom, education, charity and justice. In watching the B.V.M.’s, I have learned what it means to be a person of faith called to live in interdependent relationships with others. This group of women truly knows the meaning of the word community. Now that I am working for the church, I hope to use the model of leadership that I have learned from them in my own ministry, an egalitarian model rooted in diversity, respect and inclusion. If Mr. Guhin remains willing to learn from the example of others, values the gifts of all members of our community and continues to remain open to the Spirit, he is on his way to becoming a wonderful example.

Dan Abben
Manchester, Iowa

New Joy

The article by John C. Haughey, S.J., Christ-ianity and Church-ianity (5/24) was right on the mark. And Msgr. William E. Biebel’s letter, Moving Beyond (7/5), provides good insight on why we Roman Catholics are not comfortable being personal in our expression of faith. Although I have second-generation Boston-Irish roots, my 40-plus years of ministry among African-Americans have opened me to a deeper meaning of faith, praying with enthusiasm and celebrating with a joyful spirit.

African-American Catholic spirituality centers on personal faith, the Scripture, community and joyfulness. It is a treasure for the church. When will it be discovered and promoted by our church leaders, pastors, teachers and writers? It is the New Evangelization!

Robert M. Kearns, S.S.J.
Los Angeles, Calif.

Profound Changes

Fervent thanks for the issue of America that arrived today! It confirmed and documented the many profound changes in the church that have occurred in my 87 years. The Second Vatican Council proved to be a harbinger.

Irony abounds: the church has long supported education at all levels. Science and mathematics were not slighted in my four years at Canisius during the Depression. But I have found little carryover in the parishes we joined during my working years in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts. Press exhibits, discussion groups and contact with other churches were rarely approved by pastors. In one parish the pastor supported a men’s study group that examined the bishops’ letter on war and peace. Inevitably that led to consideration of other issues, ending with the naming of a new pastor.

Richard C. Spitzer
North Chatham, Mass.

Overwhelming Presence

According to the recent article by Drew Christiansen, S.J., Reverence Over Reason? (8/2), two rabbis have been highly critical of the Catholic Church for its inability publicly to denounce The Passion of the Christ for being anti-Semitic. In New Orleans, where I work with the Jewish Federation, I can say that here this was not the case. Here the population is mostly Catholic, and the archdiocese has an overwhelming presence in the day-to-day life of most of the citizens of this city.

Why was this the case? To begin with, Archbishop Alfred Hughes publicly released a statement restating the teaching of the Second Vatican Council in direct reference to the movie, prior to its release. But the archdiocese did more than that. I was invited by the director of religious education of a local Jesuit parish, Emile Noel, and the young adult coordinator, Arthur Laughlin, to speak on this issue at their young adult Catholic group, an audience of 50 people each time. We had two sessionsfirst to address the concerns about the film before it premiered in theaters, and another afterward to discuss its impact.

Further, I was able to comment on the movie because I, along with the staff of the federation, went to see the movie with the same director of religious education, who then explained much of the movie from a Catholic perspective for over two hours over a post-movie lunch. And, along with Emile and the Rev. James Tarantino, the ecumenical officer of the archdiocese, a number of Catholic churches and synagogues in New Orleans will initiate a historic Catholic-Jewish adult educational program based upon the video series Walking God’s Path, at the behest of the church. An interfaith Passover seder this spring with college students at Loyola and Tulane universities and a three-faith program celebrating Abrahamwith the Islamic communityare other recent examples of the way these two communities have worked and will continue to work together.

There may be other communities where the Catholic Church was silent on this matter. But this is simply not the case in Greater New Orleans, where the relationship between the church and the Jewish community can easily be understood from the comments of one spokesperson from the archdiocese, who, alongside me on a panel discussion on the movie, stated that there is no place in our society for anti-Semitism. When asked to respond or add to this comment, I simply stated that there was no need for additional comment. It is easy to dwell on what does not take place. It would be more useful for the developing of stronger bonds for the future to accentuate what has and will take place.

Adam Bronstone
Metairie, La.

Starting Point

I am writing in response to the article Reverence Over Reason? (8/2). I am a Roman Catholic but have had a Jewish name since I married, almost 40 years ago. In the words of Drew Christiansen, S.J., my ties to the Jewish community color[ed] the way [I] viewed the movie. Definitely! My path into ministry has been though many years of relationships with Jewish family and friends.

Yes, I saw the movie. But I probably would not have seen it if I had not agreed to lead several discussions at local churches. I am very grateful that you published several excellent articles on the movie. I used all of them in my teaching. I found it excessively violent and a confusing mix of biblical and extrabiblical material. And I can see why my Jewish friends were so concerned. But it can be a starting point for dialogue.

It troubles me that so many people viewed the film uncritically. I know most Christians did not come to discussions like the ones I helped to lead. At one local Catholic church, a rabbi and the pastor led a public discussion of the film that was enlightening. Thank you for all the great articles that you publish. I hope that concerns about this film encourage other groups to have dialogues on the issues.

Elisabeth Ryan Goldstein
Seattle, Wash.

Order of Jurisprudence

I have been waiting several weeks for America to bring the contribution of the late John Courtney Murray, S.J., to bear on the difficult question of how a Catholic politician can claim to be truly Catholic and personally opposed to abortion, yet conscientiously adopt a public policy position that apparently favors it or at least does not oppose it. The article by Gregory Kalscheur, S.J., American Catholics and the State (8/2), has now done this, quite splendidly in my opinion, with his lucid explanation of Father Murray’s views on why morality and law are not coextensive in their functions, and on the impact this can have on a Catholic politician’s stance.

Permit me to add as a corollary this brief reference to an earlier chapter of Murray’s We Hold These Truths. In Chapter 2, entitled Civil Unity and Religious Integrity, Father Murray cited a remarkable parallel between the thought of Roger Williams who, he observed, had many a quarrel with the Roman papacy, and none other than Pope Pius XII, on the issue of how to reconcile these sometimes conflicting values in a pluralistic society such as ours. Both Williams and the pope, he notes, relied on the parable of the tares in Mt 13:24-30. After quoting the parable, the pope stated (to a group of Italian jurists on Dec. 6, 1953): The duty of repressing religious and moral error cannot therefore be an ultimate norm of action. It must be subordinated to higher and more general norms which in some circumstances permit, and even perhaps make it appear the better course of action, that error should not be impeded in order to promote a greater good. In the order of jurisprudence, as opposed to that of ethics or theology, wrote Murray, the highest and most general norm is the public peace, the common good in its various aspects.

We may, of course, disagree with Father Murray and even with Pope Pius XII. But at least we should admit the possibility that a Catholic politician who agrees with them might have gotten to his or her paradoxical public policy position in very good faith.

Paul A. Becker, Esq.
Bluffton, S.C.

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