It would be a mistake to assume that the recent meeting in Rome of the World Synod of Bishops did very little to alleviate the associated problems of the unavailability of the Holy Eucharist and the shortage of priests (Signs of the Times, 10/31). A decision to go with married priests, suddenly and everywhere, would have been a colossal disturbance. But the ordination of married viri probati was floated at the synod. Married convert ministers are considered such, and are ordained. Therefore, the policy of ordaining viri probati is already in place. This policy can easily be extended, a quantitative change only, to permanent deacons. They, of course, would have to request priestly ordination. There is little reason to think they would not be offered the same treatment as converts. Neither of these groups, by the way, has been involved in the sexual scandal.
(Rev.) Connell J. Maguire
Riviera Beach, Fla.
Robert Ellsberg’s article on Charles de Foucauld, Evangelism of Presence (11/14), brought to mind an evangelism of presence that is being carried out today by Bob McCahill, a Maryknoll priest who has lived among the Muslims of Bangladesh since 1975. His work is mainly with the sick and needy. In his book, Dialogue of Life: A Christian Among Allah’s Poor (Orbis, 1996), he describes his mission: not to convert his neighbors to Christianity but to witness the love and compassion of Jesus. As my faith teaches, he writes, so I believe. Muslims are not lost; they have the same chance as do Christians to be saved by their goodness of life and concern for others. I seek out the physically lost, that is, those on the path to bodily deathto save them, to help them have a better life and, not coincidentally, to illustrate for them Jesus’ unselfish way. Robert Ellsberg asserts that Foucauld wanted to bear witness to the Gospel by living it, by being a friend and brother to all. Father Bob McCahill has lived out that vision for over 30 years.
George M. Stapleton
Park Forest, Ill.
Just a couple of comments on the Nov. 14 issue. In Signs of the Times America quotes Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J., that the council needs to be understood in conformity with the constant teaching of the church.... This cliché offends the history of the church by subscribing to a view of its history that cannot stand the light of day, unless of course he is referring to those few teachings that deserve such recognition. In that case, we can forget most of the favorite subjects for debate that trouble the church today.
On the Letters pages, Leon Suprenant seems to represent that wing of the Catholic laity that swallowed a seminary text without digesting its contents. The present situation in the church is due chiefly to such indigestion on both right and left. If more Catholics, both clerical and lay, had a profound understanding of the history of the church, they would gain perspective and realize that their issues should not divide Catholics but encourage them to work together. It is silly to talk about the priesthood as if the 19th-century model was the way Christ wanted things. The priesthood is sacramentally central to Catholicism. Even when leaders stumble, Catholics need to unite in solving the existing problems, not perpetuating favorite mythologies. One faith, one church, one baptism has never been a formula for stagnancy.
James M. Powell
In the news section, Signs of the Times, on Nov. 14, there is a story about Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J. (Dulles Discusses Benedict XVI’s Views on Vatican II) with a picture whose caption says the cardinal was walking with Joseph A. O’Hare, S.J., of Fordham University, in the streets of Rome on Feb. 20, 2003. The year is not correct. The caption refers to the day before he [Cardinal Dulles] became a cardinal and that historic date was two years earlier, Feb. 21, 2001.
Vincent A. Lapomarda, S.J.
Edward M. Welch advocates taxing wealth in his article Taxing Work (11/14). While on the surface this may seem like a good thing, in fact it has many pitfalls. The wealth he advocates taxing includes dividends and capital gains. Corporate U.S. dividends are actually taxed twice, once when the company reports income and again when the dividend is distributed to the stockholder. Mutual fund capital gains payouts are taxed, even though an investor chooses to reinvest those gains and does not take out any wealth. Many retired folks who have worked and saved and invested in stocks and mutual funds (now categorized as wealth) all their lives rely on those dividends and capital gains for their income. To raise taxes on these payouts would be unconscionable for these seniors.
Raising the cap on Social Security would drastically affect small-business owners, who according to Small Business Administration reports make up over 90 percent of all employers. Small-business owners would likely hire fewer workers and limit their expansion so there would be fewer workers who would pay taxes.
I agree that Congress has spent recklessly, including much pork, and caused the deficit to increase dramatically. But even there the deficit, as measured as a share of G.D.P., is expected to drop sharply, not rise.
All in all, taxing wealth in this day and age may not be what Jesus would have wanted, considering all of the above.
Marianne S. Battista
James Gill’s essay Advise and Consent (10/31), should cause the body politic to reread Allen Drury’s book Advise and Consent. How I wish politics were like a friendly cribbage game. But the adage All is fair in love, war and politics still prevails. When Christ said, Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s, he made a very profound statement about our human nature. Now is the time for all good persons to rise above our weakened nature. Just how we can come to the aid of our fellow man in the current political system is a puzzler.
Thomas M. Whaling
Laguna Hills, Calif.