The National Catholic Review
Call to Serve

The article Religious Life at the Brink, by Donald Senior, C.P., (10/16) was certainly thought-provoking; but what of today’s brothers? I would like to see an article dealing with them and their call to serve Christ, not only with their hands but intellectually and academically as well, according to the spirituality of their order.

Justin De Chance, S.J.
Sacramento, Calif.

Built on Yesterday

As an Irishman living in Ireland through these somewhat tumultuous years, I regret to say I wasn’t too impressed by the article on today’s Ireland by Thomas G. Casey, S.J., Jolted by Affluence (11/27). It is depressingly negative, because it lacks historical perspective, as do the comments of many of the chattering classes he rightly chastises.

Because of the absence of historical vision, both backward and forward, Father Casey fails to talk about what are relatively and historically speaking earthshaking achievements for Ireland, such as ending emigration; achieving full employment; growth in population, bringing us back to 19th-century levels; taking the lower-paid out of the tax net (50,000 more this year); standing on the threshold of an agreement to end 40 years of warfare and 400 years of institutional injustice on an ethnic-cleansing scale; giving away to the third world a larger proportion of national income than does the United States; creating an airline that is the largest domestic carrier in Europe and that has changed the face of modern air travel. Not bad for 12 years!

Of course there has to be a downside. You cannot move that fast without the losses and the failures. We have experienced a level of corruption in business and the professions that would do Japan proud. Or dare I say the United States?

I believe, however, that if we do not recognize and consciously evaluate the relative enormity of what has been accomplished, we will not identify adequately the next steps to be made. All our tomorrows are built on yesterday, aren’t they?

Brian Gogan
Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland

Attention to God

The description of the emerging state of Ireland, Jolted by Affluence, by Thomas G. Casey, S.J. (11/27), is saddening for me. In my lifetime, the story of Ireland and the Irish faith and religion have often been inspiring to me. Now the Irish are descending into the consumerism that has so neutralized the spiritual life of the people of our country.

I struggle with the same consumerism and need for all the right things, and I do my best to be content with the simple necessities: enough to eat, pay my taxes, put extra miles on my car.

The plus side of consumerism is that once one is aware of it, it becomes one of the challenges to be spiritual, pay attention to God and community in all its needs. In other words, to share the wealth.

L. B. Hoge
Brandon, Fla.

Reaching Prosperity

The two cover stories on Nov. 27 and Dec. 4 were fascinating. But they seemed to have a damned if you do and damned if you don’t theme. Would Mexico (12/4) be better off adopting the policies that led Ireland out of comparative poverty into relative prosperity? Or would Ireland (11/27) have been better off if it stayed in a Mexico-like economic situation?

Mexico is a country blessed with substantial natural resources, including energy supplies, a warm climate, fertile lands, wide access to the sea for trade and a population that works diligently, as demonstrated by their performance when they come to the United States. So how can they fail to be prosperous? Comparing Mexico to Ireland, one would expect Mexico to have a much better chance at prosperity.

But then, reading the Nov. 27 issue, I wonder whether America has reservations about a country reaching Ireland-like prosperity.

Walter S. Ciciora
Southport, Conn.

What Comes Next?

I was surprised that James H. Cone (Theologians and White Supremacy, by George M. Anderson, S.J., 11/20) was permitted such leeway in his responses without some clarifying questions or comments on the part of Father Anderson.

Professor Cone castigates Protestant and Catholic theologians equally, because they do theology as if they don’t have to engage white supremacy. Does that include American theologians of color as well? If it does, then either all American theologians are blind to the problem (a deplorable situation for us all), or they do not see things in such dire terms as Professor Cone. I suspect that theologians, like everyone else, are trying to figure out how best to facilitate an integrated society. At some point, the dialogue must be about what we can do together rather than what we have done to each other.

Professor Cone believes that white theologians have not succeeded in making an empathetic bond with the pain and hurts of people of color. On this, I don’t disagree. At the same time, I trust he is not waiting for a turnaround on the part of the theologians. Academia, the world of most theologians, is a safe place, where educated men and women can write eloquently, especially about the poorand stop there. Robert Louis Stevenson remarked with surprise that it was always those with the least to give who gave readily to the poor, without being asked.

Professor Cone says that white theologians interpreted Jesus’ cross without any reference to the suffering of blacks in their midst. He further says that it is amazing to him that few theologians have ever mentioned lynching in connection with the cross or said a public word against it when it was widespread. If this is so, perhaps theologians have no answer for such an abomination against God and man and felt that the only explanation was the cross. Some theologians, to the dismay of Jews, see the cross as a way, the only way, to explain the Holocaust. Pope John Paul II, commenting on priests abusing the young, alluded to the mystery of evil as a possible explanation. For once, even he was rendered nearly mute by the unexplainable.

It should not take a theologian or historian to remind us that we have all been imbued with racism, particularly whites against people of color. The white people and black people I know are aware of it. Few know what to do about it, or they are fearful or clueless about how to engage one another. Whether theologian or not, each of us is accountable for what comes next.

Connie Carr
Philadelphia, Pa.

Sacred and Beautiful

The decision of the bishops to avoid mention of politicians specifically in their statement on Communion, Signs of the Times (11/17), tables for now a controversial issue. But the item is likely to come to the fore again come 2008, as questions arise about observance of church teaching.

The clear teaching of the church is that human life is sacred and beautiful, abortion is evil, the stopping of a human heart also is a violent act, and the legal right to privacy does not confer a moral right to the violence of abortion.

Nevertheless, we are left with human wisdom and no church teaching on the best way to curtail abortions. That Roe v. Wade should be overturned is not church teaching; and those who think its overturning is not wise, however mistaken they may be, are not opposing church teaching.

A strong case can be made, however, that ending Roe v. Wade and banning abortion by law in the states would cut down substantially on the incidence of abortions.

This approach is instantaneous and simple. But many would say that it is too simple and does not take into account the culture of the nation and problems of enforcement. Would blanket prohibition work without majority approval?

The experience of prohibition of alcohol can occasion pause. But abortion is different from alcohol. A partial ban at least could be accepted and enforced, and the danger of an underground industry and gangsterism seems less than during prohibition. Ready evidence of partial-birth abortion, late-term abortion and other circumstances would make many abortions hard to hide. Government support of mothers (economics plays a big role), even rewards, would tend to eliminate causes of abortion. Would such an approach get as good or better results under present conditions than a total ban?

Caution of the bishops in judging those in public life who wrestle with these issues can do much to avert the unseemly controversy that divided the Catholic community during the 2004 election campaign.

(Rev.) Connell J. Maguire
Riviera Beach, Fla.

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