The National Catholic Review
The Editors
It would be foolish to pretend that in the wake of the announcement of the departure of Thomas J. Reese, S.J., as editor in chief of America, the past weeks have not been turbulent ones for the editors and staff, for many of our readers and for others as well who are concerned about the Catholic Church. The story of the last few years of the magazine, which has been told with varying degrees of accuracy in the media, has prompted much discussion among Catholics across the country. And discussion is always good for the life of the church.

At the same time, some of these voices evince a sense of creeping despair about the present state of affairs. Certainly there are causes for serious concern: the sexual abuse crisis that rocked the church in the United States, the dramatic decline in vocations to the priesthood and religious life and the shuttering of parishes and schools in almost every American diocese. All these have caused immense sadness among the faithful. Perhaps not surprisingly, a note of doom and gloom has increasingly crept into conversations about the future of the church, especially in the United States.

But the tendency to think the worst about the future must be resisted at all costs. Throughout the church’s history, some of its greatest saints have spoken of the need for hope and the absolute impossibility of Christian despair. In his Spiritual Exercises St. Ignatius Loyola reminds the retreatant that it is characteristic of the Spirit of God to build up, to console and to give hope even in the darkest and most confusing of times. Conversely, what St. Ignatius calls the enemy is known to cause gnawing anxiety, to sadden and to set up obstacles. The thoughtful Christian, counsels St. Ignatius, seeks not only to understand the workings of this enemy, but also to work against the temptation to follow the path leading to despair.

Discouragement may be a natural human emotion in the face of difficulties, but despair is rightly seen by the great spiritual writers as the antithesis of the Christian message. In 1961 Thomas Merton wrote in his book New Seeds of Contemplation that despair is, ultimately, a form of pride that chooses misery instead of accepting the mysterious designs of God’s plans and acknowledging that we are not capable of fulfilling our destinies by ourselves. Despair places our own limited perspective above God’s.

The next year, Pope John XXIII addressed the question of widespread discouragement, in both the secular and religious spheres, in his opening address to the Second Vatican Council. In the daily exercise of our pastoral office, he told the council fathers, we sometimes have to listen, much to our regret, to voices of persons who, though burning with zeal, are not endowed with too much sense of discretion or measure. In these modern times they can see nothing but prevarication and ruin.

John considers this line of thought and rejects it: We feel we must disagree with those prophets of gloom, who are always forecasting disaster.... He asks Christians to trust firmly in God and issues a call that is difficult to accept. Nevertheless, it lies at the heart of our faith: Divine Providence is leading us to a new order of human relations, which by men’s own efforts and even beyond their very expectations, are directed towards the fulfillment of God’s superior and inscrutable designs.

And everything, said John, even human differences, leads to the greater good of the church.

But the message of Christian hope is based on more than simple reliance on quotations from even the holiest of men and women. For the Christian believes not so much in quotations, or in elegant turns of phrase or in theological propositions, as in a person: Jesus Christ, the ultimate message of hope.

We had hoped, the disciples on the way to Emmaus tell the man they do not recognize as the risen Christ. We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel, they say in the Gospel of Luke. Are there any sadder words in the New Testament? The disciples have placed their trust in the one they thought would deliver them from bondage, the one they thought was their Lord, the one they thought was the answer. Now their great project seems to have come to an abrupt and painful end.

But the risen Christ is already with them. On the road to Emmaus, he consoles his friends not only with an explanation of the past but also with hope for their futurea future in which he has promised to be with them.

Even in confusing times, the Christian trusts that, as St. Paul says, All things work together for good for those who love God. And in this thought we take counsel from holy men and women in our midst, from the saints and martyrs in centuries past, from ecumenical councils throughout the ages and, most importantly, from the one who promises to be with us until the end of time.

Comments

GERALD B KINNEAVY | 5/19/2005 - 10:41pm
Editor: Forty-five years ago this June, I received my B.A. degree from a Jesuit university. Those were the days when everyone was required to take virtual minor degrees in both philosophy and theology. The education I received I cherish; it has grounded me academically to go on for a Ph.D. and spiritually to spend my retirement years as a chaplain for hospice. What I cannot bend my mind around these days is how Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J., was so abruptly relieved (read resigned) of his editorship at America—a magazine which has supported me intellectually and morally, especially in these last years of grim scandal in the American church—a scandal far greater of the hierarchy than of abusive priests. Dear Jesuits: you taught me to value standing up for the “right thing,” to oppose injustice wherever it is found—within mother church or on the margins of our society. What happened? Should we not be talking about, reading about, thinking about the critical issues of our society and church—even if the hierarchy refuses to believe they are issues? Have we caved in to a nostalgic power structure looking to renew the child-mentality of the pre-Vatican II Catholic? It is a great disappointment to me to watch yet another intellectual boundary cut away. I feel certain that the new editor will not allow the magazine to be reduced to devotional mush, but on the other hand—if our intellects, wills and hearts continue to be challenged in the magazine, how long before he, too, will be sent out to western sunsets and sabbaticals? I feel like Cicero howling in the senate: “quousque tandem abutere, Catalina, patientia nostra!” How long, O Blessed Fathers, Bishops, Cardinals, and Popes, will you try our patience? Of course we won’t stop our subscriptions! Of course we will continue to stand up when our bishops refuse us communion for being Democrats, Republicans, or whatever strikes their fancy in a given year. As a medievalist in years gone by, I have finally come to an experiential understanding of root causes of “anticlericalism”—whether in the Middle Ages or 18th Century France: it’s precisely a result of this kind of secret maneuvering, evidence of power run amuck. May God have mercy on us all.

Gerald B. Kinneavy, Ph.D. Neskowin, OR

Patricia Amann | 5/19/2005 - 6:14pm
I am dismayed and deeply troubled that we do not have free press, and an opportunity to form an informed concience. I truly think that by not allowing the type of balanced coverage of issues that we had with America magazine under Tom Reese, the readers will not be as able to do what they were born to do, and that is to come to adulthood in their faith. Spoonfeeding the faith the way the hierarchy would like mocks our dignity (God given) as image of God. We were meant to use our reason and free will, not to be censored as in a totalitarian state, the kind that the pope himself has condemned in the past. Moving in this direction will only hurt the hierarchy in the end, because robots can not love God back.

Austin J. Maher | 5/16/2005 - 5:10pm
The Editorial "We had hoped..." was very well done. It wisely counseled Hope instead of Despair. But it is also wise to remember the other sage advice: Pray like everything depends upon God, while working like everything depends upon you. As Donald Cozzens reminds us in "Faith that Dares to Speak", we are not obliged to remain silent like the docile flock of the 19th Century.

edward m killilea | 5/18/2005 - 12:52pm
May 18 2005 This editorial is excellent. The "power of and faith in" the Holy Spirit to guide our church is essential. However the last editorial was too confrontational. The two lead articles in this issue are again thought provoking at best or confrontational at worst. Is the magisterium of the Church only to be follow when one agrees? Does our Holy Father deserve our respect and prayers or just our complaints that "How did the Spirit chose him?" God did chose him so let's relax. "Communio" is not friction between the laity, bishops and the Holy See. The danger we face is Pride. Ed Killilea
Sister Mary Luke Baldwin, SSND | 5/16/2005 - 9:03pm
Thank you for helping me to transcend the gloom and look gently at the mystery. Once again the wisdom of Ignatian spirituality touches into the heart of our experience.

Peace to you. With gratitude and prayer.

Joe Muriana | 5/16/2005 - 11:33am
Pentecost 2005

Dear Editor:

On one level, the brouhaha surrounding the recent resignation/removal of Father Thomas Reese S.J. as the editor of the national Jesuit weekly America provides a kind of publicity for this publication, and by extension for all Jesuit ministries and enterprises, that money just can't buy. The Jesuits have persevered in maintianing an essential modicum of intellectual inquiry and spiritual integrity in confronting the manifold challenges of living one's faith in the contemporary post-modern world, largely with great aplomb, and this is reflected in all their pastoral and educational ministries. They have not always succeeded, but at their best they have been faithful to the demand of "magis", or great heartedness, that charism at the very core of Ignatius' vision. This is consistently demonstrated no place better than in the pages of America Magazine.

On a quite different level, this act, so early in the pontificate of Benedict XVI, has been a "shot heard round the world". But, like that message that the British attempted to send on the "green" at Lexington, it may not result in the kind of "lesson" for its intended recipients in the ultimate reception that it is accorded by the "post clerical sex-abuse scandal, post-Vatican II, American Catholic Church -- now peopled, in depth, by many intelligent, no non-sense laity. When the proximate target of such a lesson is a "mild mannered", insightful, caring and courageous, but judicious correspondent like Tom Reese S.J., then people do more than shake their heads in wonder. This event has sounded a tocsin and become the prophetic warning shot that sadly signals an early end to the "papal honeymoon". I believe that those who fired this shot have grossly miscalculated the temperament and sensibilities of the Laity, who now are essential to running many of the institutions -- charitable, educational, social welfare, and even those more overtly spiritual and apostolic -- within the American Church. These good hearted folk have now been awakened and sobered. The world over the past century has seen what an awakened and sobered America is capable of, and this is no less true of the American Catholic Church. People so warned know that it is time to keep their powder dry, while they go about proclaiming the kingdom of God as best as they can, " bringing good news to the poor, sight to the blind, binding up the wounded" and transforming many unjust arrangements and institutions in our broken world.

Tom Reese's own faith is a model for us all...and even if his Jesuit brothers cannot come out directly and say so...one only need point to his thoughtful fidelity,quiet intelligence and spiritual integrity that was always so evident and rooted in all of his reports and public appearances from Rome during the papal transition. I for one am voting with my wallet. I finally broke down and subscribed to America myself, instead of reading the "dog eared" copy in the library, as just one simple way to affirm what Tom Reese and America magazine stand for. There are others who will not see my wallet open up so easily. Now at least and at last we are psychologically prepared and steadied. No time for "sunshine soldiers". In the words of the Apostle Paul -- who also enjoyed a challenging and at times confrontational relationship with Peter-- "For freedom Christ has set us free, stand fast therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (Gal 5:1). May we all keep that faith!

With warm regards and greatest respect. -- Joe Muriana

Stanley P. Kopacz | 5/13/2005 - 11:08pm
I've been a subscriber to America for about thirty-five years. In that time, it's become my second parish and a home away from home. The recent events have felt like a home invasion. Actually, I'm better equipped to deal with a home invasion. But this?

I know it only increases my fears about this new pontificate. It is too predictable. I'll remain a subscriber to America. Fr. Reese was an excellent editor in a line of excellent editors. I have full confidence in Fr. Christiansen. But I have no confidence in the present hierarchy.

marie deangelo | 5/13/2005 - 5:20pm
Every member of the Catholic Church has been affected by the priest sex scandal. I do not feel despair, but a deep sense of powerlessness. How do you bring about change in a 2000 year old institution that embraces such a culture of silence, denial, and refusal to correct injustice?

Most of the Catholics that I know, love their faith and do not have any desire to change doctrine. However, church leaders, and practices that enable the most vile preditors to cause immeasurable harm to the innocent - changing their lives forever-must be met with the most harsh form of punishment there is.

Our church does not resemble the faith taught to us by Jesus Christ; many in our leadership resemble the people whom Jesus railed against when He walked this earth. How does one bring about change in an organization where one has no voice? We are not raising our voices because no one will listen.

Michael E. Miller | 6/1/2005 - 1:12pm
Dear Editor,

This is the first time I have sent a letter to any editor. I was strongly moved and encouraged by your editorial. It gave me great hope for myself, the church and the world. The quotes from St. Ignatius, Thomas Merton and Blessed John XXIII plus the comments about not dispairing and trusting that Christ has better plans for us than we do was exactly what I needed to hear when I heard it. The good news is the article reminded me that I too get to trust Christ regardless of my circumstances. We all get to trust God regardless of what we think our circumstances are. It was a message I sorely to needed to hear. I want to thank you for bringing it to me.

On a very personal note, I was pleased that you quoted both St. Ignatius of Loyola and Thomas Merton in the same article. I am very willing to listen to both of these gentlemen. I am a Benedictine oblate and I went to Jesuit schools for eleven years.

God bless Father Reese and Father Christiansen and the new work the Lord has planned for them to do.

Pax, Michael Miller

Jim and Mary Ellen Schroeder | 5/19/2005 - 3:56pm
We are deeply troubled by the action to remove Thomas J. Reese, S.J. as editor in chief of the magazine. What is more troubling is the understanding that those calling for his removal have not been identified. Anonymous complaints should not even be given consideration.

We are deeply disappointed by the action of the Jesuits. We had thought better of them.

Jim and Mary Ellen Schroeder

Betty Coonan | 5/16/2005 - 5:27pm
A classic shot in the foot! In an effort to exert complete control over the minds and thoughts of the faithful, the Vatican has forced a pullback from the one magazine sure to give a calm, reasoned presentation of a knotty issue. Now only those who don't find themselves in the delicate position of the Society of Jesus are free to have at it. Expect strident declarations filled with animus and disdain. The "nice guys" no longer patrol the block

Ross Reyes Dizon | 5/16/2005 - 10:13am
When I feel my heart sinking at hearing about such affairs as that of Father Reese’s recent resignation as America editor or that of the prohibition imposed on Father Roger Haight, S.J., to teach theology in Catholic institutions, I do put my trust in the Holy Spirit “to build up, to console and to give hope even in the darkest and most confusing of times.” The same Spirit, I believe, has opportunely reminded me of two articles that had graced the pages of America.

In “Ten Helpful Distinctions” in the Oct. 14, 1995 issue, Father Robert P. Maloney, C.M., points out that the hierarchy is one ministry among others in the church, albeit it a very basic one. He then goes on to say:

“The life of the Church throbs in the hearts of all believers, especially in the most humble, the most abandoned, the poor. Saint Vincent de Paul used to say: ‘The poor have the true religion.’ It is important, while giving the hierarchy its due place, not to exaggerate its role. Basically, it serves the Church. At times when there are tensions between some Church members and the hierarchy or scandals within the hierarchy itself, it is useful to note that the Church is thriving at its roots in the lives of the poor.”

Father Reese would have us focus on the poor too. His “2001 and Beyond: Preparing the Church for the Next Millennium,” in the June 21-28, 1997 issue, discussed Christian witness as a fifth strategy of church reform. Father Reese said then:

“While others worried about church politics, church structure and church documents, these two women [i.e., Dorothy Day and Mother Teresa] and millions of other Catholics simply lived the Gospel by working or volunteering for programs aimed at helping the poor and making the world a better place. They witnessed to the Gospel in the world with their time, energy and money. Their witness is so loud and so clear that they remind the rest of us of what really matters.”

It said that Father Henri de Lubac, S.J., (later a Cardinal) wrote The Splendor of the Church soon after the Vatican came down hard on him and his writings. A shining light capable of leading to Christ still arises above all, as Benedict XVI himself affirmed last May 9, from simple human beings.

(Deacon) Bob Slobig | 5/24/2005 - 12:46pm
Thank you for the May 23, 2005 editorial’s powerful message of hope. Before the magazine arrived, I had just read Commonweal’s scathing denunciation, the NCR’s disturbed editorial and Sr. Joan Chittister’s lamenting reaction. These are voices to which I turn every week, and I was troubled. I share their grave concerns about what the Vatican’s pressure and Fr. Reese’s resignation mean for Catholic intellectuals and the Catholic press, yet I had the sense that something crucial had not yet been said.

Were not our hearts burning within us? I was craving the message in your editorial. It surpassed all of the others. The apt allusion to the disciples on the road to Emmaus touched and encouraged me. I was grateful all over again for my own Jesuit education, for the urge to find God in all things, and for being reminded of the good news that in our darkest times, the risen Christ is walking with us and speaking to us.

Thank you, Fr. Reese, for your courage and grace, which fill me with hope. Fr. Christiansen, keep up the good work.

Manuel Medeiros | 5/19/2005 - 9:12pm
I am dismayed and frustrated by the evident heavy-handed tactics of the Vatican, and I am deeply disappointed by the lack of will displayed by the Jesuits. I am a pre-Vatican II Catholic who is only recently returning to the Church after 30+ years elsewhere. I thought times had changed. But Vatican II's breath of fresh air has surely grown stale if the forced resignation of Fr. Thomas Reese is an example of today's "aggiornamiento." I hope that America's board of directors can assure readers of continued straightforward and candid discussion of issues that are important to American Catholics. For if I had wanted to subscribe to L'Osservatore Romano, I surely would have done so. 

Fr. Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B. | 5/19/2005 - 12:33pm
I'm writing from Rome. The news that Tom Reese was "forced" to leave as editor of America was ill-timed, coming so close to the election of Pope Benedict XVI. It could wisely have been held back a few more months without endangering the faith of thousands of readers. The timing makes one wonder if Fr. Reese is the last victim of Cardinal Ratzinger or the first victim of Benedict XVI? The London Tablet defines itself as an international newspaper, "a paper of progressive but responsible Catholic thinking, a place where orthodoxy is at home but ideas are welcome," a fitting description also of our American Jesuit weekly.

Is Catherine Pepinster's job, as lay editor of The Tablet, safer than if she were a member of a religious order? Fr. Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B. 1100 Franklin Street San Francisco, CA 94109 Phone: 39 339 690-5041 (Cellular, Italy) e-mail: lorenzoni@aol.com

Marian McMechan | 5/16/2005 - 4:18pm
I have just subscribed to AMERICA magazine, having been made aware of it by the press coverage of the forced resignation of its editor. I found the article "We had hoped" to be a flicker of encouragement in these times. I am one of those who loves the church deeply and despairs at what is happening to it. I look forward to the first issue.

RSHorton | 5/16/2005 - 12:45pm
I just want to know if the Vatican told you to write this editorial. how can we trust anything you write now, now that you've had an editor fired by the vatican? How can we trust you will continue to be the voice of ALL sides of the issues? Renee Horton Tucson, AZ

Robert J. Fahey | 5/14/2005 - 9:34am
Your editorial raises the issue of Fr. Reese's departure but addresses it only at an ethereal level. What precipitated his departure? Now that he is gone will there be a course correction for the magazine? What is it to be?

Your counsel against despair is appreciated but I am one reader who would appreciate transparency above all.

A.J. Wagner | 5/13/2005 - 8:50pm
For the last several years I have looked forward to the arrival of America in my mailbox for its broad minded explanation of modern day issues that challenge our Church. I am now looking forward to the next issue with much apprehension.

What is the point of this magazine if it fails to explain fully the different points of view shared by Catholics? What is the point if it fails to challenge the faithful with ideas that are not held by the Magesterium?

I can get the Pope's point of view in many publications and from the pulpit. America has offered views that come from thoughtful, inteligent, prophetic, and inspired individuals who surely speak for the Holy Spirit even when they speak with a different voice.

I am not canceling my subscription yet. I am hoping that America can continue to find a way to challenge me to be faithful by showing me the wisdom of our Church as it stands up to those who would challenge such wisdom. And I am hopeful that where I accept such alternate views, I do so with a complete understanding of its source, its logic, and its compatability with an understanding of a Church that truly reflects the vision of Christ.

If America can no longer meet this challenge, I will find other sources that are faithful to the people of the Church and not just the Magisterium.

Marc Schiavone | 5/19/2005 - 2:53pm
My compliments to the editorial staff of America magazine in their discussion of Thomas Reese’s resignation (Vol. 192, No. 18, 5/23/2005). Events surrounding his decision suggest that the Vatican aims to promote the dissemination of Christian doctrine by suppressing reasonable discussion concerning interpretation of Christian doctrine. Too easily, we could be swept up in a storm of anger against such a latter-day counter-reformation. The editor, however, calls us to remember that “. . . the Christian believes not so much in quotations . . . as in a person: Jesus Christ, the ultimate message of hope.”

When our children were baptized, my wife and I vowed as parents to be their first teachers in faith. Our children – as teenagers – now sober us with their questions as well as with their answers: my 12 year-old son (who has never heard of Thomas Reese, S.J. or of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) recently asked me: “Are the Jesuits separate from the Roman Catholic Church?”; some days later, he told me: “I like being a Catholic . . . after all, Jesus is the Messiah.”

The children of our Christian community stand before us now as the “future church”, and literally so. As their elders, we now stand challenged with a critical task: to nurture them in the teachings that draw us together as one family in faith, and – at the same time – to encourage them to ask questions about matters that drive us to bicker as one family in faith. Thus we would prepare them to make a mature informed choice concerning the future of their Christian community in a post-Christian world.

Robert A. Nunz | 5/19/2005 - 2:49pm
NPR listeners were quite incensed by the Station playing a parody of Pete Seeger's "If I Had A Hammer" at a party supporting Tom Delay. NPR then interveiwed Seeger, who advised that folks should only laugh at what happened for we have to keep laughinmg from crying,

That might tbe the advice we should get from Fr. Reese and America, for surely the curial and hierarchical action was meant to signal a tightening of the levers of power over Church discourse.

The crudeness of the action would be laughable if not that it was so sad. That(probably a few) bishops were able to bring about this outcomwe shows how devoid of insight they were in regard to the influence of Fr.Reese; the behaviour of their colleagues who stood by and allowed this process to proced in secrecy can only be charitablky described as cowardly,

If leadership thinks this action will reduce serious discussion of Church issues to party line apologetics, they are greivously mistaken.

Brian Emerson | 5/17/2005 - 3:24pm
As a twenty-something progressive Catholic and dedicated America reader I am saddened by the departure of Thomas J. Reese, S.J. from the magazine. Open minded, critical, and multifaceted discussion of Church issues, as can be found in the pages of America magazine, are things which keep me holding onto this Church. Pressure from top Church officials to oust or regulate people who foster honest thought and dialogue about difficult issues is disturbing. I hope that the editors of America will continue Reese's legacy of publishing an excellent magazine.

John J. McCann | 5/16/2005 - 12:22pm
The resignations of the last two editors show that it's difficult if not impossible to publish a journal of opinion in the church today.

I assume that the current political or cultural scene can be criticized with impunity (more articles on the evils of abortion) but when it comes to the actions of the church and matters of its theological stance, the only opinion that can be published is that the current administration of the church is doing a splendid job and no changes of any kind should even be considered.

This is not good.

Marc Schiavone | 5/19/2005 - 2:53pm
My compliments to the editorial staff of America magazine in their discussion of Thomas Reese’s resignation (Vol. 192, No. 18, 5/23/2005). Events surrounding his decision suggest that the Vatican aims to promote the dissemination of Christian doctrine by suppressing reasonable discussion concerning interpretation of Christian doctrine. Too easily, we could be swept up in a storm of anger against such a latter-day counter-reformation. The editor, however, calls us to remember that “. . . the Christian believes not so much in quotations . . . as in a person: Jesus Christ, the ultimate message of hope.”

When our children were baptized, my wife and I vowed as parents to be their first teachers in faith. Our children – as teenagers – now sober us with their questions as well as with their answers: my 12 year-old son (who has never heard of Thomas Reese, S.J. or of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) recently asked me: “Are the Jesuits separate from the Roman Catholic Church?”; some days later, he told me: “I like being a Catholic . . . after all, Jesus is the Messiah.”

The children of our Christian community stand before us now as the “future church”, and literally so. As their elders, we now stand challenged with a critical task: to nurture them in the teachings that draw us together as one family in faith, and – at the same time – to encourage them to ask questions about matters that drive us to bicker as one family in faith. Thus we would prepare them to make a mature informed choice concerning the future of their Christian community in a post-Christian world.

Robert A. Nunz | 5/19/2005 - 2:49pm
NPR listeners were quite incensed by the Station playing a parody of Pete Seeger's "If I Had A Hammer" at a party supporting Tom Delay. NPR then interveiwed Seeger, who advised that folks should only laugh at what happened for we have to keep laughinmg from crying,

That might tbe the advice we should get from Fr. Reese and America, for surely the curial and hierarchical action was meant to signal a tightening of the levers of power over Church discourse.

The crudeness of the action would be laughable if not that it was so sad. That(probably a few) bishops were able to bring about this outcomwe shows how devoid of insight they were in regard to the influence of Fr.Reese; the behaviour of their colleagues who stood by and allowed this process to proced in secrecy can only be charitablky described as cowardly,

If leadership thinks this action will reduce serious discussion of Church issues to party line apologetics, they are greivously mistaken.

Brian Emerson | 5/17/2005 - 3:24pm
As a twenty-something progressive Catholic and dedicated America reader I am saddened by the departure of Thomas J. Reese, S.J. from the magazine. Open minded, critical, and multifaceted discussion of Church issues, as can be found in the pages of America magazine, are things which keep me holding onto this Church. Pressure from top Church officials to oust or regulate people who foster honest thought and dialogue about difficult issues is disturbing. I hope that the editors of America will continue Reese's legacy of publishing an excellent magazine.

John J. McCann | 5/16/2005 - 12:22pm
The resignations of the last two editors show that it's difficult if not impossible to publish a journal of opinion in the church today.

I assume that the current political or cultural scene can be criticized with impunity (more articles on the evils of abortion) but when it comes to the actions of the church and matters of its theological stance, the only opinion that can be published is that the current administration of the church is doing a splendid job and no changes of any kind should even be considered.

This is not good.

GERALD B KINNEAVY | 5/19/2005 - 10:41pm
Editor: Forty-five years ago this June, I received my B.A. degree from a Jesuit university. Those were the days when everyone was required to take virtual minor degrees in both philosophy and theology. The education I received I cherish; it has grounded me academically to go on for a Ph.D. and spiritually to spend my retirement years as a chaplain for hospice. What I cannot bend my mind around these days is how Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J., was so abruptly relieved (read resigned) of his editorship at America—a magazine which has supported me intellectually and morally, especially in these last years of grim scandal in the American church—a scandal far greater of the hierarchy than of abusive priests. Dear Jesuits: you taught me to value standing up for the “right thing,” to oppose injustice wherever it is found—within mother church or on the margins of our society. What happened? Should we not be talking about, reading about, thinking about the critical issues of our society and church—even if the hierarchy refuses to believe they are issues? Have we caved in to a nostalgic power structure looking to renew the child-mentality of the pre-Vatican II Catholic? It is a great disappointment to me to watch yet another intellectual boundary cut away. I feel certain that the new editor will not allow the magazine to be reduced to devotional mush, but on the other hand—if our intellects, wills and hearts continue to be challenged in the magazine, how long before he, too, will be sent out to western sunsets and sabbaticals? I feel like Cicero howling in the senate: “quousque tandem abutere, Catalina, patientia nostra!” How long, O Blessed Fathers, Bishops, Cardinals, and Popes, will you try our patience? Of course we won’t stop our subscriptions! Of course we will continue to stand up when our bishops refuse us communion for being Democrats, Republicans, or whatever strikes their fancy in a given year. As a medievalist in years gone by, I have finally come to an experiential understanding of root causes of “anticlericalism”—whether in the Middle Ages or 18th Century France: it’s precisely a result of this kind of secret maneuvering, evidence of power run amuck. May God have mercy on us all.

Gerald B. Kinneavy, Ph.D. Neskowin, OR

Patricia Amann | 5/19/2005 - 6:14pm
I am dismayed and deeply troubled that we do not have free press, and an opportunity to form an informed concience. I truly think that by not allowing the type of balanced coverage of issues that we had with America magazine under Tom Reese, the readers will not be as able to do what they were born to do, and that is to come to adulthood in their faith. Spoonfeeding the faith the way the hierarchy would like mocks our dignity (God given) as image of God. We were meant to use our reason and free will, not to be censored as in a totalitarian state, the kind that the pope himself has condemned in the past. Moving in this direction will only hurt the hierarchy in the end, because robots can not love God back.

Austin J. Maher | 5/16/2005 - 5:10pm
The Editorial "We had hoped..." was very well done. It wisely counseled Hope instead of Despair. But it is also wise to remember the other sage advice: Pray like everything depends upon God, while working like everything depends upon you. As Donald Cozzens reminds us in "Faith that Dares to Speak", we are not obliged to remain silent like the docile flock of the 19th Century.

edward m killilea | 5/18/2005 - 12:52pm
May 18 2005 This editorial is excellent. The "power of and faith in" the Holy Spirit to guide our church is essential. However the last editorial was too confrontational. The two lead articles in this issue are again thought provoking at best or confrontational at worst. Is the magisterium of the Church only to be follow when one agrees? Does our Holy Father deserve our respect and prayers or just our complaints that "How did the Spirit chose him?" God did chose him so let's relax. "Communio" is not friction between the laity, bishops and the Holy See. The danger we face is Pride. Ed Killilea
Sister Mary Luke Baldwin, SSND | 5/16/2005 - 9:03pm
Thank you for helping me to transcend the gloom and look gently at the mystery. Once again the wisdom of Ignatian spirituality touches into the heart of our experience.

Peace to you. With gratitude and prayer.

Joe Muriana | 5/16/2005 - 11:33am
Pentecost 2005

Dear Editor:

On one level, the brouhaha surrounding the recent resignation/removal of Father Thomas Reese S.J. as the editor of the national Jesuit weekly America provides a kind of publicity for this publication, and by extension for all Jesuit ministries and enterprises, that money just can't buy. The Jesuits have persevered in maintianing an essential modicum of intellectual inquiry and spiritual integrity in confronting the manifold challenges of living one's faith in the contemporary post-modern world, largely with great aplomb, and this is reflected in all their pastoral and educational ministries. They have not always succeeded, but at their best they have been faithful to the demand of "magis", or great heartedness, that charism at the very core of Ignatius' vision. This is consistently demonstrated no place better than in the pages of America Magazine.

On a quite different level, this act, so early in the pontificate of Benedict XVI, has been a "shot heard round the world". But, like that message that the British attempted to send on the "green" at Lexington, it may not result in the kind of "lesson" for its intended recipients in the ultimate reception that it is accorded by the "post clerical sex-abuse scandal, post-Vatican II, American Catholic Church -- now peopled, in depth, by many intelligent, no non-sense laity. When the proximate target of such a lesson is a "mild mannered", insightful, caring and courageous, but judicious correspondent like Tom Reese S.J., then people do more than shake their heads in wonder. This event has sounded a tocsin and become the prophetic warning shot that sadly signals an early end to the "papal honeymoon". I believe that those who fired this shot have grossly miscalculated the temperament and sensibilities of the Laity, who now are essential to running many of the institutions -- charitable, educational, social welfare, and even those more overtly spiritual and apostolic -- within the American Church. These good hearted folk have now been awakened and sobered. The world over the past century has seen what an awakened and sobered America is capable of, and this is no less true of the American Catholic Church. People so warned know that it is time to keep their powder dry, while they go about proclaiming the kingdom of God as best as they can, " bringing good news to the poor, sight to the blind, binding up the wounded" and transforming many unjust arrangements and institutions in our broken world.

Tom Reese's own faith is a model for us all...and even if his Jesuit brothers cannot come out directly and say so...one only need point to his thoughtful fidelity,quiet intelligence and spiritual integrity that was always so evident and rooted in all of his reports and public appearances from Rome during the papal transition. I for one am voting with my wallet. I finally broke down and subscribed to America myself, instead of reading the "dog eared" copy in the library, as just one simple way to affirm what Tom Reese and America magazine stand for. There are others who will not see my wallet open up so easily. Now at least and at last we are psychologically prepared and steadied. No time for "sunshine soldiers". In the words of the Apostle Paul -- who also enjoyed a challenging and at times confrontational relationship with Peter-- "For freedom Christ has set us free, stand fast therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (Gal 5:1). May we all keep that faith!

With warm regards and greatest respect. -- Joe Muriana

Stanley P. Kopacz | 5/13/2005 - 11:08pm
I've been a subscriber to America for about thirty-five years. In that time, it's become my second parish and a home away from home. The recent events have felt like a home invasion. Actually, I'm better equipped to deal with a home invasion. But this?

I know it only increases my fears about this new pontificate. It is too predictable. I'll remain a subscriber to America. Fr. Reese was an excellent editor in a line of excellent editors. I have full confidence in Fr. Christiansen. But I have no confidence in the present hierarchy.

marie deangelo | 5/13/2005 - 5:20pm
Every member of the Catholic Church has been affected by the priest sex scandal. I do not feel despair, but a deep sense of powerlessness. How do you bring about change in a 2000 year old institution that embraces such a culture of silence, denial, and refusal to correct injustice?

Most of the Catholics that I know, love their faith and do not have any desire to change doctrine. However, church leaders, and practices that enable the most vile preditors to cause immeasurable harm to the innocent - changing their lives forever-must be met with the most harsh form of punishment there is.

Our church does not resemble the faith taught to us by Jesus Christ; many in our leadership resemble the people whom Jesus railed against when He walked this earth. How does one bring about change in an organization where one has no voice? We are not raising our voices because no one will listen.

Michael E. Miller | 6/1/2005 - 1:12pm
Dear Editor,

This is the first time I have sent a letter to any editor. I was strongly moved and encouraged by your editorial. It gave me great hope for myself, the church and the world. The quotes from St. Ignatius, Thomas Merton and Blessed John XXIII plus the comments about not dispairing and trusting that Christ has better plans for us than we do was exactly what I needed to hear when I heard it. The good news is the article reminded me that I too get to trust Christ regardless of my circumstances. We all get to trust God regardless of what we think our circumstances are. It was a message I sorely to needed to hear. I want to thank you for bringing it to me.

On a very personal note, I was pleased that you quoted both St. Ignatius of Loyola and Thomas Merton in the same article. I am very willing to listen to both of these gentlemen. I am a Benedictine oblate and I went to Jesuit schools for eleven years.

God bless Father Reese and Father Christiansen and the new work the Lord has planned for them to do.

Pax, Michael Miller

Jim and Mary Ellen Schroeder | 5/19/2005 - 3:56pm
We are deeply troubled by the action to remove Thomas J. Reese, S.J. as editor in chief of the magazine. What is more troubling is the understanding that those calling for his removal have not been identified. Anonymous complaints should not even be given consideration.

We are deeply disappointed by the action of the Jesuits. We had thought better of them.

Jim and Mary Ellen Schroeder

Betty Coonan | 5/16/2005 - 5:27pm
A classic shot in the foot! In an effort to exert complete control over the minds and thoughts of the faithful, the Vatican has forced a pullback from the one magazine sure to give a calm, reasoned presentation of a knotty issue. Now only those who don't find themselves in the delicate position of the Society of Jesus are free to have at it. Expect strident declarations filled with animus and disdain. The "nice guys" no longer patrol the block

Ross Reyes Dizon | 5/16/2005 - 10:13am
When I feel my heart sinking at hearing about such affairs as that of Father Reese’s recent resignation as America editor or that of the prohibition imposed on Father Roger Haight, S.J., to teach theology in Catholic institutions, I do put my trust in the Holy Spirit “to build up, to console and to give hope even in the darkest and most confusing of times.” The same Spirit, I believe, has opportunely reminded me of two articles that had graced the pages of America.

In “Ten Helpful Distinctions” in the Oct. 14, 1995 issue, Father Robert P. Maloney, C.M., points out that the hierarchy is one ministry among others in the church, albeit it a very basic one. He then goes on to say:

“The life of the Church throbs in the hearts of all believers, especially in the most humble, the most abandoned, the poor. Saint Vincent de Paul used to say: ‘The poor have the true religion.’ It is important, while giving the hierarchy its due place, not to exaggerate its role. Basically, it serves the Church. At times when there are tensions between some Church members and the hierarchy or scandals within the hierarchy itself, it is useful to note that the Church is thriving at its roots in the lives of the poor.”

Father Reese would have us focus on the poor too. His “2001 and Beyond: Preparing the Church for the Next Millennium,” in the June 21-28, 1997 issue, discussed Christian witness as a fifth strategy of church reform. Father Reese said then:

“While others worried about church politics, church structure and church documents, these two women [i.e., Dorothy Day and Mother Teresa] and millions of other Catholics simply lived the Gospel by working or volunteering for programs aimed at helping the poor and making the world a better place. They witnessed to the Gospel in the world with their time, energy and money. Their witness is so loud and so clear that they remind the rest of us of what really matters.”

It said that Father Henri de Lubac, S.J., (later a Cardinal) wrote The Splendor of the Church soon after the Vatican came down hard on him and his writings. A shining light capable of leading to Christ still arises above all, as Benedict XVI himself affirmed last May 9, from simple human beings.

(Deacon) Bob Slobig | 5/24/2005 - 12:46pm
Thank you for the May 23, 2005 editorial’s powerful message of hope. Before the magazine arrived, I had just read Commonweal’s scathing denunciation, the NCR’s disturbed editorial and Sr. Joan Chittister’s lamenting reaction. These are voices to which I turn every week, and I was troubled. I share their grave concerns about what the Vatican’s pressure and Fr. Reese’s resignation mean for Catholic intellectuals and the Catholic press, yet I had the sense that something crucial had not yet been said.

Were not our hearts burning within us? I was craving the message in your editorial. It surpassed all of the others. The apt allusion to the disciples on the road to Emmaus touched and encouraged me. I was grateful all over again for my own Jesuit education, for the urge to find God in all things, and for being reminded of the good news that in our darkest times, the risen Christ is walking with us and speaking to us.

Thank you, Fr. Reese, for your courage and grace, which fill me with hope. Fr. Christiansen, keep up the good work.

Manuel Medeiros | 5/19/2005 - 9:12pm
I am dismayed and frustrated by the evident heavy-handed tactics of the Vatican, and I am deeply disappointed by the lack of will displayed by the Jesuits. I am a pre-Vatican II Catholic who is only recently returning to the Church after 30+ years elsewhere. I thought times had changed. But Vatican II's breath of fresh air has surely grown stale if the forced resignation of Fr. Thomas Reese is an example of today's "aggiornamiento." I hope that America's board of directors can assure readers of continued straightforward and candid discussion of issues that are important to American Catholics. For if I had wanted to subscribe to L'Osservatore Romano, I surely would have done so. 

Fr. Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B. | 5/19/2005 - 12:33pm
I'm writing from Rome. The news that Tom Reese was "forced" to leave as editor of America was ill-timed, coming so close to the election of Pope Benedict XVI. It could wisely have been held back a few more months without endangering the faith of thousands of readers. The timing makes one wonder if Fr. Reese is the last victim of Cardinal Ratzinger or the first victim of Benedict XVI? The London Tablet defines itself as an international newspaper, "a paper of progressive but responsible Catholic thinking, a place where orthodoxy is at home but ideas are welcome," a fitting description also of our American Jesuit weekly.

Is Catherine Pepinster's job, as lay editor of The Tablet, safer than if she were a member of a religious order? Fr. Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B. 1100 Franklin Street San Francisco, CA 94109 Phone: 39 339 690-5041 (Cellular, Italy) e-mail: lorenzoni@aol.com

Marian McMechan | 5/16/2005 - 4:18pm
I have just subscribed to AMERICA magazine, having been made aware of it by the press coverage of the forced resignation of its editor. I found the article "We had hoped" to be a flicker of encouragement in these times. I am one of those who loves the church deeply and despairs at what is happening to it. I look forward to the first issue.

RSHorton | 5/16/2005 - 12:45pm
I just want to know if the Vatican told you to write this editorial. how can we trust anything you write now, now that you've had an editor fired by the vatican? How can we trust you will continue to be the voice of ALL sides of the issues? Renee Horton Tucson, AZ

Robert J. Fahey | 5/14/2005 - 9:34am
Your editorial raises the issue of Fr. Reese's departure but addresses it only at an ethereal level. What precipitated his departure? Now that he is gone will there be a course correction for the magazine? What is it to be?

Your counsel against despair is appreciated but I am one reader who would appreciate transparency above all.

A.J. Wagner | 5/13/2005 - 8:50pm
For the last several years I have looked forward to the arrival of America in my mailbox for its broad minded explanation of modern day issues that challenge our Church. I am now looking forward to the next issue with much apprehension.

What is the point of this magazine if it fails to explain fully the different points of view shared by Catholics? What is the point if it fails to challenge the faithful with ideas that are not held by the Magesterium?

I can get the Pope's point of view in many publications and from the pulpit. America has offered views that come from thoughtful, inteligent, prophetic, and inspired individuals who surely speak for the Holy Spirit even when they speak with a different voice.

I am not canceling my subscription yet. I am hoping that America can continue to find a way to challenge me to be faithful by showing me the wisdom of our Church as it stands up to those who would challenge such wisdom. And I am hopeful that where I accept such alternate views, I do so with a complete understanding of its source, its logic, and its compatability with an understanding of a Church that truly reflects the vision of Christ.

If America can no longer meet this challenge, I will find other sources that are faithful to the people of the Church and not just the Magisterium.

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