The National Catholic Review
Avoid Racism

Thanks to George M. Anderson, S.J., for the interview with James Cone, Theologians and White Supremacy (11/20).

I am a member of a Dismantling Racism team in the greater Philadelphia area, and one of the few Catholic members. Our focus is primarily on racism as it survives today within the Christian churches.

So I was pleased that America used the interview as a cover story. Usually Catholic publications feature stories about racism only on special occasions, as in February for Black History Month. But as the interview indicates, this is an ongoing, serious moral issue and an area where the Christian churches have been very remiss. Many Christians seem to avoid racism on a personal level, but seem oblivious to its deeper systemic life, which affects so many of our structures and institutions, including Catholic theology and the church itself.

Jim Ratigan
Philadelphia, Pa

Full Argument Needed

The recognition that there are thoughtful and sympathetic people on both sides of the debate over medical research and the beginnings of human life was satisfying to read (The Stem Cell Debate, by John W. Donohue, S.J., 11/13). One can hardly praise enough the church’s advocacy of the universal sacredness of human life. In all the recent discussion of which I am aware, however, the belief that human lives begin at conception is simply asserted or taken as a given. It would be of great service to many of us if the church’s formal reasons for believing that human lives begin at conception were represented in some fullness.

John D. Ryan
Port Jefferson, N.Y.

Voices for Moderation

Bob Casey’s convincing victory in Pennsylvania over Rick Santorum for the U.S. Senate suggests that Catholic voters, no less than others, chose a centrist candidate’s moderate, pragmatic positions and rejected extreme stands on the war, immigration, social security, tax breaks, death penalty, family planning and lobbying reform. Catholics did not vote as a bloc, yet a significant majority of them pulled the Democratic Party to the mainstream middle (Signs of the Times, 12/4).

A new modus operandi will be possible: seeking bipartisan consensus on many issues, listening to those not in total agreement on some issues, looking for common ground and accepting possible outcomes when holding out for ideal ones is futile.

On a few issues, having failed to win over the majority of their fellow citizens, Catholics will have to accept their defeat in the democratic process and refocus their efforts to persuade their own and others by education and, as in the case of abortion, by supporting such remedial measures as an increase in the minimum wage and better child care and family health provisions that would make less likely a woman’s choosing to abort.

Looking ahead to ’08, Catholic voices for moderation will, I think, join other centrists in favoring candidates who see in the common good a vision that can unite the country.

Frank McGinty
Jenkintown, Pa.

Really Asking

Thank you for Mary Fontana’s Rotten FruitLessons in Redemption (10/16). In the last paragraph, she mentioned two lessons to be learned from the overlooked, the banged-up, the bruised. One was just how bad things could get; the other was how much could be salvaged. Her words made me reflect deeply, and perhaps she could have mentioned that the character, Elsa, also represented many homeless and poor people on the streets and the unorthodox ways by which they call for help. Elsa seemingly irritated Mary with her persistent, insignificant questions, but she was probably trying to see if Mary would take time to listen before sharing with her the crisis in her life. The article reminded me to stop to listen to what others are really asking. Thank you for the reminder.

Katherine Soh
Savannah, Ga.

Comments

Charles W Misner | 12/16/2006 - 12:03am
John D. Ryan in a letter (11/11) asks that "reasons for believing that human lives begin at conception were represented in some fullness". One can also cite powerful reasons against that view. A New York Times reader wrote, concerning Limbo (7 Jan 2006), that were human souls formed at conception "the typical soul in the afterlife never acquired consciousness, never walked the earth, was never known by another soul and passed to the afterlife without a name" since an estimated majority of fertilized eggs pass unnoticed by their mothers without disturbing the mentrual cycle. [My inexpert exploration of the obstetric literature found support for this opinion that a majority of zygotes fail to implant in the uterus.]

As a scientist my reading of the Incarnation is that it announces a presviously inconceivable compatibility between God and Man, between Heaven and Earth. So I am prepared to watch dignity and spirit evolve as a few cells in an essential environment evolve into a fetus. If God took several billion years to create mankind, He might also take a few months to create a soul.

Charles W Misner | 12/16/2006 - 12:03am
John D. Ryan in a letter (11/11) asks that "reasons for believing that human lives begin at conception were represented in some fullness". One can also cite powerful reasons against that view. A New York Times reader wrote, concerning Limbo (7 Jan 2006), that were human souls formed at conception "the typical soul in the afterlife never acquired consciousness, never walked the earth, was never known by another soul and passed to the afterlife without a name" since an estimated majority of fertilized eggs pass unnoticed by their mothers without disturbing the mentrual cycle. [My inexpert exploration of the obstetric literature found support for this opinion that a majority of zygotes fail to implant in the uterus.]

As a scientist my reading of the Incarnation is that it announces a presviously inconceivable compatibility between God and Man, between Heaven and Earth. So I am prepared to watch dignity and spirit evolve as a few cells in an essential environment evolve into a fetus. If God took several billion years to create mankind, He might also take a few months to create a soul.

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