The National Catholic Review
Hammering Out the Issues

In contrast to the sledgehammer approach used by many priests and bishops, the Rev. J. Brian Bransfield (“Conscientious Election,” 10/13) offered a thoughtful and nuanced argument. However, his list of significant moral dilemmas is telling. He writes that “marriage, racial equality, the environment, adequate distribution of resources and the right to life are not competing events. They are cousins, if not siblings.”

How is it, however, that he fails to mention the issue of the morality of war? Is it because he cannot defend the Bush administration’s unjust and immoral war in Iraq, which was wholeheartedly supported by the Republican presidential candidate? Such a pretense of nonpartisanship is even more cynical and insidious than that sledgehammer approach favored by other Catholic clerics.

Rosemarie Zagarri

Arlington, Va.

A Southern Pen

I am from the apparent “non-place” where Walker Percy lived and wrote, and am flabbergasted at the Rev. Andrew M. Greeley’s omission of Percy’s name from his list of truly “Catholic” writers (“The Last Catholic Novelist,” 11/3). Othe-rwise, I enjoyed Greeley’s reflections.

Edie Eason

Covington, La.

Midwestern, Too

Many thanks to the Rev. Andrew M. Greeley (“The Last Catholic Novelist,” 11/3) for his thoughtful and evocative essay on the Catholic imagination and Jon Hassler, whose recent passing I had failed to note. The death of a favorite novelist is like a sacrament of the communion of saints—the author’s characters, like Hassler’s, become our friends over time and live on and nourish us as we remember them through rereading.

It surprised me, however, that Ron Hansen’s name was not among the other Catholic novelists mentioned by Greeley. Coming from Nebraska, Hansen is a worthy successor to Hassler, who may not have been the last Catholic novelist after all.

James J. Conn, S.J.

Rome, Italy

Time for a Bailout

Re Terry Golway’s article on “Print’s Demise” (11/3): I cannot imagine a world without newspapers, yet I am aware of the reduced readership and revenue opportunities for this industry. I fear their demise is a threat to democracy. A good example is the story in The Washington Post that revealed the poor condition of military hospitals and how our wounded soldiers were being treated. This story could not have been told without the diligent work of a newspaper reporter.

Let us hope that a rescue plan will arise and save the printed word.

Thomas Mackay

Hopewell, N.J.

Eating Away

Thank you to Terry Golway for his article on the troubled newspaper industry (“Print’s Demise,” 11/3). I have been a newspaper reporter for 18 years and expected to retire as one, but then termites started eating away at the foundations. I deeply appreciate defenses of the newspaper industry like this one.

Dan Sheehan

Emmaus, Pa.

The Shadow Side of Sports

I found your issue on “The Soul of Sports” (10/20) informative, given the knowledge and experience of its authors, but also deeply disturbing, because the negative sides of sports culture were only hinted at.

While Dave Anderson (“The Games of Tomorrow,” 10/20) gave a nice overview of amateur and professional sports worldwide, I would have liked him to comment on the corrosive effects of big-time sports on higher education: the recruiting abuses foisted upon high school athletes as well as the way an institution’s mission is frequently undermined by watered-down courses, dishonest marketing and the extensive class time athletes must miss to be competitive.

Elinor Nauen (“A Sporting Chance,” 10/20) attests to the positive shift in women’s sports due to Title IX legislation, but she fails to note that the same abuses long acknowledged in men’s collegiate sports are now rapidly appearing in women’s sports as well, particularly in college basketball.

Brian McCue

Bay Shore, N.Y.

Harrumph

The cover photo of your issue on “The Soul of Sports” (10/20) featured three basketball players, two from the University of Notre Dame and one from Marquette University. My first impression was that this was a tribute to two headliner Catholic universities and a fine example of Jesuit ecumenism. Inside, however, I found no story about these schools, but an explanation of the cover photo—Marquette beats Notre Dame in 2008! Another look at the cover conveyed the sweet Jesuit message—one Marquette is worth two Notre Dames? So much for hopefulness about a story equating excellence with both Notre Dame and Marquette.

I’ll just be thankful that “snootiness” has not thus far been designated a deadly sin. I will follow the training I received from the good Holy Cross order to overlook others’ faults, ignore this supercilious Jesuit tidbit, keep my subscription and enjoy the worthwhile content.

John F. Dunn, Esq.

Decatur, Ill.

Youth in Sports

Your editorial on sports (“The Sporting Life,” 10/20) contributes to a much-needed dialogue regarding sports and their role in our society. We also need to give serious consideration to the role of sports in our Catholic institutions. How do the sports programs in our Catholic schools and organizations reflect or violate our mission and values?

Sports are a great way to connect with young people and to help them discover what individuals and teams can do and be. More than a few young people and families have decided that sports arenas, and the lessons learned therein, are more deserving of their weekend time than going to Mass.

Sports in Catholic settings can be a vehicle for learning moral lessons, catechesis, service to others, prayer and much more. This requires that we train coaches and work with our Catholic schools to integrate intentionally and strategically our Catholic mission and values into all aspects of sports programs.

The measure of our success in sports in Catholic settings is how well we help young people grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. Since young people and parents care deeply about sports and invest significant time and resources in them, the opportunities are plentiful.

Greg Dobie Moser

Executive Director, National C.Y.O. Sports

Washington, D.C.

Life Lessons

Re your editorial “The Sporting Life” (10/20): I have had the great privilege of coaching football and wrestling for eight years. Two lessons I have learned dominate the way I approach sports as a coach, fan and parent.

First, regardless of the sport, success demands a team effort. A team consists not just of players and coaches, but also spouses, parents, students, administrators and community members.

Second, sports are not an end in themselves, but merely a means to an end. While winning is fun and important, it is not the ultimate goal, but rather a mark of progress on the way to that goal. I have told my players during our prayer services that we go to practice for the same reason we go to the chapel—to become better people. The virtues necessary to be successful in sports are Christian virtues: discipline, self-sacrifice and a commitment to something bigger than oneself.

Jerry McGrane

Dyersville, Iowa

Angelic Message

Lyn Burr Brignoli’s prize-winning essay (“Dragen, Here is Your Letter,” 10/27) on her relationship and experience with Dragen, a young man afflicted with Down syndrome, leaves all of us closer to God. Through Brignoli’s effort and eloquence, God has spoken to us through the angel that is Dragen.

Brignoli’s spiritual journey with Dragen would seem to be the essence of continuing mystagogy. Dragen is clear evidence, if not “proof,” that human suffering does not need to be meaningfully explained but embraced and shared. As for the God who indeed lives in our hearts, we can only thank him for the grace that inspires our “letters” and our acts of love.

Bob Redig

Youngstown, Ohio

Where Is Thy Sting?

Lyn Burr Brignoli’s essay (“Dragen, Here is Your Letter,” 10/27) provided much-needed perspective on the depth and breadth of God’s love. Brignoli wrote that “he already knew of God himself. I was merely giving him a language to express it.” But she gave him more than language; she participated in his life, and he in hers. This is a tribute to Brignoli and Dragen both, and indeed to the broader community that fosters living in this way.

What is suffering in comparison to such living?

Clyde Christofferson

Reston, Va.

Without Prejudice

“Can Citizenship Be Earned?” by David DeCosse (10/13), was an excellent, balanced article that, if read carefully and without prejudice, can help many people (as it helped me) to understand a bit more objectively the complexities of the immigrant problem in our country. DeCosse speaks of legitimate concerns and shows a real understanding of sincere people on both sides of the issue.

Pushing Catholic social doctrine without even acknowledging the injustices caused by illegal actions does not help in finding solutions. If our politicians and fellow citizens could read this article without letting their prejudices or fears interfere, they would be able to discuss the immigration problem more openly and objectively.

Roger J. Bourgea, S.M.

Boston, Mass.

Recently in Letters