The National Catholic Review
Potential Abuse

Your bias is showing again in your editorial The Patriot Act and Civil Liberties (8/1). The various points you raise allow for easy correcting responses. I’ll use one as an example, namely, the potential abuse you apparently see of the right/prohibition against unreasonable search. The act requires that a search warrant be obtained from a federal court by convincing a judge of the reasonableness of a search in the particular circumstances.

I presume you must have known that related relevant fact. I also presume you would agree there could be a number of good reasons for the need to search the living quarters of a suspected terrorist.

You reference your contributing authority citing the need for changes in the act to provide a notion of checks and balances. What changes? I think it would be generally agreed that a search warrant approved by a federal court provides such a notion of a check and balance.

This is the type of slanted editorial opinion which detracts from your image of objectivity and seems inconsistent with the test of intellectual honesty.

John J. Van Beckum
Brookfield, Wis.

Musical Appeal

Thank you for your articles on the St. Louis Jesuits by Jim McDermott, S.J. (5/23, 5/30). Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus do many missioning rituals to send U.S. young adults to our lay volunteers’ house in El Salvador. Thanks to the solidity, depth, and musical appeal of the St. Louis Jesuits’ Here I am Lord, we have never in 13 years found a better sending-song, though many have been written over the years. The families are always touched as they sing the words in the context of sending family members abroad on a church mission.

Kathleenjoy Cooper, A.C.J.
Miami, Fla.

Acquired Wisdom

I was moved by A Veteran Remembers by James R. Conroy, S.J., (8/1). Thanks to Father Conroy for writing and to you for publishing it. Being a U.S. citizen abroad, there are things I can think, but I hesitate to say them out loud.

Father Conroy is both citizen and participant in one of many U.S. wars in recent years. The authority of his critique is that of an acquired wisdom borne of years of soul searching by one who has been there and is also a citizen of the country responsible. Would that those making the decision to send our fellow U.S. citizens to war were blessed with the same credentials.

David A. Ratermann
La Paz, Bolivia

Memories

As I read the superb article, A Veteran Remembers, (8/1), I was flooded with memories of my World War II service as a 19-year-old medic in France and Germany. I was spared the horror of combat, because I served in a hospital behind the lines. I did, however, have extensive experience of the products and byproducts of war: ambulances and hospital trains laden with wounded, sometimes frozen, men; truckloads of yellow men, jaundiced from a hepatitis epidemic that had crossed from the German lines into ours; dazed soldiers with the 2,000-yard stare of combat fatigue; a berserk sergeant trying to kill the German prisoner-of-war litter bearers who were carrying in horribly wounded soldiers; the malignantly sentimental slogans and pictures that the Germans had painted on their barrack walls; numb elderly Germans wandering in the rubble of their bombed-out cities; desperate women offering themselves for a pittance; men and boys scrabbling for discarded cigarette butts; and civilians who were constantly hungry and cold.

If some of the belligerent neocons who rushed us into the unnecessary and unjust invasion of Iraq had had any personal experience of war, they might have hesitated before committing the catastrophic blunder they have inflicted upon our beloved country.

John S. McGovern, M.D.
North Eastham, Mass.

A Different Perspective

A friend gave me the article by James Youniss, I Know It When I See It, (7/4), asking for my reaction to it. At first I was most impressed by the author’s compliments about Germany. It was just wonderful for me to read about my homeland, which I left 40 years ago. Since then I have studied social and educational issues in Europe and especially Germany. Being a Catholic, I am also very familiar with church-related issues. Most of the good things described in the article are true but incomplete. A short visit to Germany certainly does not give a comprehensive picture, nor can I here. While reading the article, I cringed, as I do when my European colleagues declaim about their American experience of two or three weeks at a small and relatively unknown educational institution in the United States, proclaiming: The Americans do this or that. There is so much left out or not told.

Let me illustrate. Most people in Europe do not know anything about the European Union, the European parliament or even about their own country. Life goes on without knowledge or care. There were European elections during one of my frequent visits to Germany and the United Kingdom. No one I talked to knew what the elections were about, and the turnout was less than 20 percent. None of the European countries, especially in the West, is willing to give up its status. They are fighting to keep their nation’s priorities. France and Germany dominate the E.U. and want to get the most out of the union to suit themselves.

Many older Germans are not very likely to cheer their winning team as Americans do, but not out of guilt or thinking back on times past. It is the nature of the older German to hold back from cheering. The young ones have learned from Americans to be very rambunctious, and on a victory night one cannot sleep very well in city centers.

Health care and employee rights are based on socialism and not necessarily on religion. We should not forget that Germany was the breeding ground of Socialism, National Socialism and Communism. Karl Marx and other leading socialist philosophers were born and wrote in Germany.

My letter seems to be harsh and quite opposite to the writing of James Youniss, but it is intended to show that the grass is not greener on the other side. Studies and frequent travel to Europe have shown me that Europe is no better than our United States. In fact I believe that they have learned too much from us and have failed just the same.

Hans G. Lingens
Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Parable

As I read the responses in the Letters column (8/1) to the essay by James Youniss, I Know It When I See It (7/4), I was reminded of the parable of the two sons (Mt 21:28-32). The German people as described by Youniss and confirmed by several letter writers can be likened to the first son who refused his father’s request to go out and work in the vineyard, but did his father’s bidding out in the vineyard. He didn’t talk the talk, but he walked the walk. The second son, who said Yes, sir to his father’s request, but did nothing can be likened to many Christians in our own country who ignore the poor, the homeless, the hungry and the marginalized in our own communities, our country and the world. They talk the talk, but do not walk the walk.

I wonder.

John M. Young
Dix Hills, N.Y.

Inspiration

What a treasure of inspiration was the July 4-11 issue of America!

I rejoiced, deeply moved, reading this great article by James Youniss. Born in Germany during World War II, my three sisters and I survived hungry and homeless childhood years and don’t have to see the scarred condition of churches and landmarks, left unrepaired, to remind us of the horrors of World War II. Although I was only 5 years old at the end of the war, the occasional nightmares remind me of still very painful scars.

German-American since 1967, I do not hesitate to take pride openly in Germany’s postwar achievements.

Thank you, James Youniss, for seeing and knowing Christianity in Germany! And thanks to Dennis M. Linehan, S.J., for the Magis 2005 article.

Yes, this is a great moment for the church and especially the church in Germany.

Erika Olson
Novato, Calif.

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