The National Catholic Review
Who Owns What?

Forgive me if I am confused on the current question of who owns and/or controls assets of Catholic parishes. Two items in the Signs of the Times section (2/6) seem to express contrasting viewpoints on this issue.

First, Archbishop John G. Vlazny of Portland, Ore., asserts that the archdiocese has no authority to seize parish property or assets to satisfy claims against the archdiocese.

Second, the Vatican has denied appeals from members of parishes that were closed by Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley, O.F.M.Cap., of Boston. While there were other reasons given for these closings, the financial distress of the Archdiocese of Boston is an underlying cause. Did the parishes and the parishioners receive the benefits from disposing of these assets, which were claimed without their consent?

The Wall Street Journal of Dec. 20, 2005, reports the situation of St. Stanislaus Kostka parish in St. Louis, which has been placed under an edict because the parish board will not turn its assets over to Archbishop Raymond L. Burke to be under his control. These assets reportedly include a cash fund of some $9 million.

Do the parishioners, who have paid for parish assets, have control except when the local bishop wants those assets? It seems to me that the bishops are working both sides of the street.

John L. Coakley Jr.
Kansas City, Mo.

Enlightened

You have regained my confidence in America by printing the article St. John of the Cross, Mystic of Light (1/30), by Lawrence S. Cunningham. It is both expository and inspiring. While it is just a magazine article, in it Mr. Cunningham touches on some of the depth for which one reads the Spanish Carmelite. Tying in St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas as John did, Mr. Cunningham ably gives one a flavoring of the saint’s deep and somewhat radical spirituality.

If you can’t provide the jabs, as America once did, at least give us articles with spiritual substance. I will look forward to more enlightened writing.

James N. Letendre
Charleston, S.C.

Real Thomas

What a wonderful article by Thomas F. O’Meara, O.P., on Thomas Aquinas in Africa (2/6). When I started to read it I thought, Here goes another exercise in theological nostalgia recommending the philosophia perennis as the only true way to approach the truths of the faith. Instead I found the real Thomas, the philosophical explorer open to all thought to which he had access, not the know-it-all scholastic with a finished, unchanging, infallible system.

I have also often wondered how we would give an account of, for example, the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist to someone from a completely different culture that knew nothing of the Aristotelian terminology of substance and accident. Do we have to teach them Aristotle, then Thomas and only then the Eucharist? More sensible, gracious and interesting to discover how they would address this doctrine and others in their own non-Western terminology, culture and worldview.

In fact, what of modern Western philosophies? Can the real presence be accounted for by a Wittgensteinian? There must be more than one way to theologize, and Father O’Meara and his students are on the road to discovery. Sounds very exciting (not to mention the baboon).

Peter Farley
Freeport, N.Y.

Greater Glory

As I am perusing the letters (1/16, 1/30) discussing the new direction that America is taking (or perceived to take), one thought comes into my mind: it would be a sad day for the church and the country (all of us) if the editors ever fell into the trap of making a respectable magazine into a conservative or progressive publication. It would be a day of betrayal. It would hand over America to an ideology in place of an intelligent and responsible search for the understanding of the mysteries of heaven and earth. We all want to be conservative in the sense of wanting to preserve and protect our Tradition (please note the capital T); we all want to be progressive in the sense of seeking a deeper intelligence of our faith and a wiser way of handling God’s creation. America must never give up the noble labor of raising hard questions; it should never exchange possibly disturbing but truth-seeking articles for charming communications. It should say what the church and the country need to hear for their greater good: there is no other way of serving the greater glory of God.

Ladislas Orsy, S.J.
Washington, D.C.

Keep Us Together

A recent spate of letters (1/16, 1/30) either complaining about or applauding the contents of this magazine strikes me as unfortunate.

If the editorial position of America were the focus of such approaches, these missives would be understandable; instead, they are part of the broad scene we see today where folks basically want to hear what fits in with their preconceived views.

If America is to retain a position as a lively forum for ideas in the church, where the ongoing process of discernment (with the tensions of disagreement that implies) continues, then a broad approach is both correct and necessary.

Continuing dialogue in charity is what will keep us together as a church, even if it makes us uncomfortable.

Robert A. Nunz
Los Alamos, N.M.

Truthful Answers

Just when I was worried that you had caved in to pressure, you publish a magnificent, provocative, informative article by Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Shiite Muslimsthe Party of Aly (2/6). This is the first definitive, authoritative piece I have seen in the magazine on Islam. Long overdue! However, I hope you follow it up with many more articles on Islam, because we all are now confronted with this faith, about which most knew or cared little. In future pieces I hope you address the elephant in the living roomnamely, fear: the general opinion of many of us that Muslims intend to convert us or kill usthat, plus other decidedly non-Christian agendas.

Father Mallon seems to imply that Christians can live peacefully with Muslims. I hope so, but what their radical wing says and does concerns us all. So many questions that beg for real and truthful answers.

J. Peter Smith
Vero Beach, Fla.

Confront Liars

When I read Terry Golway’s essay You Can Make This Up (2/6), it was immediately obvious that his comments apply not just in a literary context, but in the whole arena of politics. As Mr. Golway says, readers turned not on the author [a k a propagandist] but on the journalists who exposed James Frey’s frauds. The truth-tellers were condemned.

Don’t we meet people every day who refuse to believe the truth about the lies and corruption in our government? People respond as they have been trained to do.

Fortunately there is hopeat least for some. Wouldn’t it be exhilarating if we could depend on television personalities and media pundits to confront the liars also in the political arena?

Hugh Skees
Miamisburg, Ohio

Comments

Nicholas Clifford | 2/16/2006 - 1:44pm
Mr. Coakley asks a serious question about the ownership of parochial assets, and he (and we) deserve a serious answer. Might American perform the useful service of commissioning an article on the subject, looking and the legal, financial, and -- not least -- pastoral implications?

A related question has to do with the $45.7 million offer made by the Diocese of Spokane to settle 75 sexual abuse suits. Where, precisely, is the money for this -- and for similar diocesan settlements elsewhere -- to come from? The sale of assets? The collection plate? Loans from other sources? Money donated to the church, but intended for other purposes?

Nicholas Clifford

Nicholas Clifford | 2/16/2006 - 1:44pm
Mr. Coakley asks a serious question about the ownership of parochial assets, and he (and we) deserve a serious answer. Might American perform the useful service of commissioning an article on the subject, looking and the legal, financial, and -- not least -- pastoral implications?

A related question has to do with the $45.7 million offer made by the Diocese of Spokane to settle 75 sexual abuse suits. Where, precisely, is the money for this -- and for similar diocesan settlements elsewhere -- to come from? The sale of assets? The collection plate? Loans from other sources? Money donated to the church, but intended for other purposes?

Nicholas Clifford

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