The National Catholic Review
The Divide

After reading Terry Golway’s column Renew-ing Theology on Tap (3/12), I hope my experience with our local program is not typical. The Archdiocese of Cincinnati sponsors a Theology on Tap program, which last summer was meeting in my neighborhood in Covington, Ky., a city across the river. Mine is a diverse inner-city neighborhood, and our parish is the most inclusive in the area. When we sing All Are Welcome, we mean it. The Theology on Tap schedule included a talk on homosexuality. Since the bar where they meet is near my house and across the street from my church, I decided to find out what they had to say on this topic. What I encountered was appalling. The talk, given by a priest from the Diocese of Covington, was reactionary, psychologically naïve and deeply homophobic. At one point, in response to a question, this priest compared gays and lesbians to Nazis. Amazingly, not one member of the large, relatively young audience challenged these comments. In fact, many expressed complete agreement. If Theology on Tap is using this kind of reactionary theology to appeal to young adults, it will only deepen the divide between younger and older Catholics.

Daniel A. Burr
Covington, Ky.

Left Out Again

I opened my March 12 issue of America and began reading right up front, Of Many Things. It is a commentary by your online editor, Maurice Timothy Reidy. I found it interesting, but.... When I reached the sentence We hope priests, religious and laity from around the world will be a part of our online community... I couldn’t help but think, Ah well...left out again.

I have been reading America for about 25 years. Though I am not a Jesuit, or even Jesuit educated, I have always felt at home with the magazine. I was even thinking maybe I’d check out the online site, and then I read that line.

Now I’m pouting. Not very becoming of me, I know; but this happens often in Catholic circles, and now my old friend left me out too.

Oh, I’ll keep subscribing and reading. I’ll get over my pouting...again. But could you try remembering me and my brother deacons in the future?

(Deacon) Tom Tagye
Orlando, Fla.

Something Intelligent

If, as Maurice Timothy Reidy says, we hope that priests, religious and laity from around the world will be part of our online community then he must be asking the deacons and bishops to go elsewhere (Of Many Things, 3/12). Now, I can understand that you don’t want bishops around, but come on; there may be one deacon out there who has something intelligent to say. Even if there are only a few of us who subscribe.

(Deacon) Tom Jennings
Pennsauken, N.J.

Fostering Inclusion

The how-to’s for Building Inclusive Communities, by Daniel Mulhall, (2/5) address quite well the needs, with proposed remedies, for the church in the United States to become what it should be in the face of continued growth through immigration. Two additional elements should be part of the mind-set as we analyze our reality.

First, the immigrant community comes as church already, with emphasis on assistance in the transition, so that their/our faith may be practiced in a recognizable way, with traditions, customs and culture being accepted and welcomed.

Second, pastoral leadership is critical to assure welcome and acceptance, the bridge for all communities. Without a welcoming, understanding and non-paternalistic attitude, community will not be achieved.

Parishes are composed of many small communities, like senior groups, youth groups and special interest groups. Pastors are called to pastor all those various groups, who retain their identity but are strengthened by and choose to be part of the broader community. Finally, with the gift of many immigrant religious leaders, priests and religious, it is incumbent on all to foster such inclusion and not become isolated themselves.

(Rev.) William J. Reilly
Garfield, N.J.

All-Out Offensive

Regarding Cervical Cancer Vaccinations, in the March 19 issue (Current Comment), I offer these observations.

The manner in which Merck & Co. has marketed the vaccine is disturbing. Normally a vaccine is marketed to the public health community. Then after a few years of experience with the vaccine, public health officials have enough information to recommend good public policy.

Merck, however, launched an all-out offensive to promote a vaccine through state legislatures and executive mansions. The high price per dose and the inherent limitations of the vaccine are only two of the troublesome issues. Other issues include whether the vaccine will need to be repeated at regular intervals and its possible impact on sexual behaviors. For example, having been vaccinated against HPV, will women allow themselves to be exposed to other STD’s, including fatal diseases like AIDS and hepatitis?

(Deacon) Pete Gummere
St. Johnsbury, Vt.

Long-Term Studies

I am a retired gynecologist, and I believe that the HPV vaccine is being excessively promoted (Current Comment, 3/19). The childhood diseases measles, mumps, rubella and others are easily transmitted, with occasionally severe outcomes, few intervention therapies and only ineffective avoidance strategies. Immunization makes sense. Contrast that with HPV infections, which can be avoided by abstinence or condoms and, when contracted, progress slowly, if at all, to a more serious condition (cancer), and for which sensitive surveillance (Pap smears) and effective therapeutic interventions are available. I do not believe the manufacturer has made the case for mandatory immunization. Long-term studies of safety in young girls need to precede mandatory use.

Larry Donohue, M.D.
Seattle, Wash.

Just for Fun!

May I offer another take on the popular nursery rhyme mentioned in All the President’s Men (1/29)?

I have always thought Humpty Dumpty was King Charles II (Catholic) and all the kings horses and all the kings men could not put the Stuart monarchy back together again.

(Rev.) Eugene F. McGovern
Douglaston, N.Y.

Out of Politics

Michael Sean Winters’s statement in At Home With Religion (3/12), that Senator Barack Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope, specifically the aspects referring to religion, would not pass muster as a theological tract in a Catholic seminary is a gross understatement. His parenthetical laud that it might get A+ in homiletics is an insult to any authentic preacher. Certainly his comment raises a question: Is there such a thing as an A+ homily that is incorrect in its theology? I leave that for Mr. Winters to ponder.

Among the many inconsistencies with Catholic theological doctrine in Mr. Obama’s work is his statement that by definition, faith and reason operate in different domains and involve different paths to discerning the truth. Upon reading this and noting that he often presents faith as an opiate for soothing inexplicable human sorrow, I decided to send him a copy of John Paul II’s Faith and Reason to help him make better sense of both religion and sorrow. I have not heard back if he found the text helpful. If he calls, I will ask him if there is actually a difference between his comment and those made by past candidates who have suggested, albeit less elegantly, that governing a religiously pluralistic nation requires parking one’s faith at the door. In a representative democracy, how one sounds is not nearly as important as how one votes.

The title of Mr. Obama’s book itself raises theological concern, as hope for the convicted person is an act of faith, not audacity. Struck by other moments of ambivalence in his memoir, I cannot help feeling that Mr. Obama may view God and quitting smoking in the same way. Ideally, both are good for you; but politicians have to operate in the political world where what is ideal is something we reach for, not actually get our arms around. One wonders: Win or lose, will Mr. Obama be as eager to pen a sequel to his memoir, called perhaps Dashed Hopes, once he learns that God chose wisely to keep his son out of politics.

Patrick Moynihan
Rockford, Ill.

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Sean Reynolds | 3/29/2007 - 3:52pm
Clarification: Theology on Tap

In the Apr. 2 issue of America I came upon the letter to the editor about a particular Theology on Tap presentation in Covington, KY, on the topic of homosexuality – a presentation that the letter writer found to be “appalling.” In the letter he attributed sponsorship of the program to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. I am writing to clarify: Theology on Tap isn’t sponsored by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, but is orchestrated by young adults who generously give of their time developing programs they hope will attract and edify other young adults. The letter writer also expressed the hope that his experience was not typical. This particular program was thankfully an exception, not the norm for Theology on Tap, which provides a unique and valuable outreach to young adults in the Archdiocese. Although I was not present at the session, one of the young adult organizers assured me that the leadership was also dismayed by the talk and that the incident has prompted greater vigilance in screening potential speakers. It would be a shame if Theology on Tap were to get an undeserved black eye from this one incident.

Sean Reynolds Director, Office of Youth & Young Adult Ministry Archdiocese of Cincinnati

Donald P Halpin | 3/25/2007 - 11:45am
Hello!

I am amazed that you are advertizing CFCA, Christian Foundation for Children and Aging. Several years ago I tried to get them to help sponsor children in Zambia. I was outright refused though I had a board of responsible caretakers involved, a very possible list of those who are very needy in Zambia, and a ready system of deposits, and then reception and dissemination of funds towards those same needy.

Apparently Zambia is not needy enough for this Foundation.

But why are you advertising? Are they offering hope - only in Central America?

Apparently there was at one time a problem with a bishop in Kenya who wanted to dominate the funds and donations. That was not the case here in Zambia.

Be careful if you are advertising: is there discrimination?

Thank you,

Donald P Halpin, OFMConv

Deacon Timothy Good | 3/28/2007 - 7:34am
In regards to the comments by my brother deacons as being left out in the article by Maurice Reidy, amen to that! Much good work is being accomplished by the diaconate and we are continuing to grow and thrive in this era of sagging vocations. Even though it is not necessary to be included in prayers and editorials, it is a nice feeling to be occasionally recognised as a functional member of the Church. Now, if only we can have our wives recognized in the same manner.

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