Clever, You

My Jesuit training from long ago leads me to love your magazine, although at times I do consider it, in matters financial, an addendum to Das Kapital. Imagine my surprise, nay, my amazement, then, to agree with your views on the current financial crisis (“Encourage Savings” and “Gekko and Aquinas,” Current Comment, 11/3). A small, dark recess of my mind, however, is hollering, “Watch out! They’re just softening you up!”

Fernando Palomeque, M.D.

Houma, La.

Toxic Waste

Your commentary on “Bishops and the Conference” (Current Comment, 11/10) gently made its point about the teaching authority of bishops’ conferences, but it missed the larger point at issue: Does the U.S.C.C.B. pastoral letter Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship faithfully follow the Catholic tradition on conscience formation, on the virtue of prudence, on cooperation in evil and on the range of moral issues to which a well-formed Catholic conscience must attend?

In my reading of the document, the bishops’ position on these issues is faithfully Catholic. That is ultimately why their teaching is relevant in the Diocese of Scranton.

But that raises a further question. Is Bishop Joseph F. Martino’s rejection of the document also implicitly a rejection of the Catholic moral tradition on these issues? In pre-Vatican II theology, this would be called proxima haeresi, “bordering on heresy.” If that is the case, then Bishop Martino’s teaching on these issues is irrelevant, if not toxic, in his own diocese.

John Topel, S.J.

Port Townsend, Wash.

Hands off Revelation

In her article on St. Paul’s teachings on women’s roles in church and society (“Paul and Women,” 11/10), Barbara E. Reid, O.P., suggests some sections of Paul’s letters may be later additions. But when we do not understand a passage in the New Testament (or when we do not like it), an easy—and most unwise—way to deal with it is to deny its authenticity.

What then separates us from those who would deny Peter’s authority by alleging that Jesus’ conferral of authority upon him in Matthew’s Gospel is a later addition? What makes us think that we can better determine what was an authentic writing than what the early councils determined to be truly inspired?

I admit I do not understand several of Paul’s writings, but I would not dare to deny their divine inspiration. That would be manipulating God’s revelation to fit my own opinions.

Eduardo Garza

Katy, Tex.

A Fond Farewell

It was with regret that I read the farewell by Daniel J. Harrington, S.J., in his final Word column (“The Last Judgment,” 11/17). His scholarship was appreciated by those of us not so gifted as he, yet still responsible for preaching.

(Rev.) Dan Arnold

Erie, Pa.

Thanks for the Help

Thanks to Daniel J. Harrington, S.J. (“The Last Judgment,” 11/17), for his three years of dedication in sharing with us his insights and scholarly understanding of the Sunday liturgical readings. His column was always the first bit of the magazine I read every week, and I have always found his writings and insights most helpful in sharing my insights about the readings with the people of God in my homilies.

I now look forward to his successor, Barbara E. Reid, O.P., another insightful Scripture scholar who will be sharing her theological expertise with us.

(Rev.) Joe Annese

Henderson, Nev.

Military Clout

Tom Cornell suggests in “The Chaplain’s Dilemma” (11/17) that the military chaplaincy should be disestablished so that chaplains do not “serve two masters.” But chaplains must be commissioned officers in the military if they are to have the clout needed to do their jobs. Consider the account in the same issue by John J. McLain, S.J. (“Showing God’s Face on the Battlefield,” 11/17), of his experience accompanying a seriously wounded soldier to a hospital by helicopter. What chance would he have had to get on that helicopter if he had been a civilian chaplain?

A chaplain walks a fine line between being an officer and a priest to his enlisted congregation.

B. J. Skahill

Shelton, Wash.

The Editorial Wall

I found that the articles on military chaplaincy (11/17) outlined the positions around this issue in a thoughtful manner and fairly represented each side of the question. What seemed to be left out, however, was the role of America in carrying advertisements sponsored by the United States government to attract chaplain candidates.

It is without dispute that the men and women in our military should have religious and spiritual support available to them. However, does the prominence and content of these advertisements cross the line of maintaining editorial independence regarding these “wars of choice” being waged by our country?

Tom Cornell proposes that military chaplaincy be disestablished so that chaplains are not forced to serve two masters. But when your publication carries advertisements recruiting chaplains for the military in such a prominent manner, does the magazine not fall into the same category? Can you take advertising revenues from the military establishment on the one hand and claim literary independence from its political objectives and motivations on the other? To continue this policy brings your editorial credibility into question.

Frank McCaffrey

Weston, Vt.

Last Rites

Re “Showing God’s Face on the Battlefield,” by John J. McLain, S.J. (11/17): There once was a priest ministering to wounded and dying soldiers on the battlefield during World War I. He came to a dying soldier to offer help. The man said, “But Father, I don’t belong to your religion.” The priest answered, “No, but you belong to my God.” It doesn’t get any better than that!

Justin Nolan, O.S.B.

Latrobe, Pa.

A Generous Gift

Lyn Brignoli’s winning submission to your essay contest (“Dragen, Here Is Your Letter,” 10/27) gives new meaning to faith in a most profound way. We all benefit from her obvious humility and spiritual generosity. The essay also reveals in her thoughts and deeds the profound nature of conversion. It merits repeated readings by pastors and other spiritual mentors to capture its full significance.

Thank you for choosing and publishing this inspirational essay. Brignoli has deeply affected my own priorities.

William Huth

Fairfield, Conn.

Semper Reformanda

The excellent review by Michael V. Tueth, S.J., of the new production of Robert Bolt’s “A Man for All Seasons” (“Today’s Man,” 11/17) glossed over one salient line delivered by Cardinal Wolsey in a scene with Thomas More: “There is much in the church that needs reformation, Thomas.”

That idea is as pertinent today as it was in Tudor England. Has nothing changed in 500 years?

John Faust

St. Louis, Mo.

Divine Milieu

I feel that William Reiser, S.J., misses the point of Ancestral Grace, by Diarmuid O’Murchu, M.S.C., in his review (“‘And the Word Became Primate’?” 11/10). Or better yet, he unwittingly seems to drive it home. While Reiser does pose some challenging questions, he summarily reduces this exploration of the evolving Catholic consciousness to silliness by asking whether the evangelist John would say, “And the Word became primate” or “And the Word became cyborg.” This dismissal of O’Murchu’s extensive effort to address today’s crises in both the world and in religion is in itself an example of the patriarchy that suppresses and suffocates those who dare to think beyond the 2,000-year history of Christianity and find there a different reading of our human story.

While Reiser might not find this book “worth the effort” to explore in his course on systematic theology, it is certainly worth a read for those with an evolving Catholic consciousness, for whom Catholic teaching on incarnation, creation, redemption and the Eucharist has become too narrow and suffocating in a world in crisis.

I think that another Jesuit, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., would feel somewhat vindicated by the way that O’Murchu has advanced his thought in order to bring hope to a fragmented world and to bring new meaning to what it is to be human.

Alice MacDonald

Santa Barbara, Calif.

Quality Control

It was a gift to read about the research on Catholic higher education being done by Melanie Morey and John J. Piderit, S.J. (“Identity Crisis,” 10/13). Their scrutiny of the authentic Catholicity of Catholic colleges and universities is quite revealing.

Truth be told, the same criteria can be applied to high schools, even elementary schools. Why have we not ensured that lay teachers in all our educational institutions receive the advantages in faith education that religious teachers were given in the past? How do we deal with the numbers of Catholic students and teachers, uneducated in the faith, who enter our high schools, colleges and universities? Where is the quality control?

Plaudits to Morey and Piderit for bringing into public view a situation that desperately needs attention.

Mary Ann Foy, R.C.S.J.

Redwood City, Calif.

Comments

T. F. STOCK | 11/29/2008 - 5:05pm
I must take exception to Frank McCaffrey's suggestion ("The Editorial Wall,"12/1) that, by accepting advertisements to attract chaplain candidates, you may "cross the line of maintaining editorial independence ... ." On the contrary, by publishing such advertisements, America helps ensure that the pool of candidates for military chaplaincies will include people with the breadth of spiritual vision needed to offer compassionate care and counsel to our men and women in military service. Surely those who have stretched their minds in the pages of America (and, I might add, periodicals like Commonweal and The Tablet from London) can be expected to be sensitive to the moral challenges faced by those called to participate, not only in combat, but in all aspects of military life.
Elaine Tannesen | 11/24/2008 - 8:30am
As a retired special ed teacher, I too would like to add my deep appreciation of Lynn Brignoli's "Dragen, Here Is Your Letter". It reminds me of our students' power to transform by love. In a society that values achievement and control, our students, who required assistance in many aspects of daily life, were considered the most powerful in the school. When I first saw Kelli in her wheelchair descending from the bus, she looked like a frozen statue in her little pink coat. She was unable to move at will any part of her body except possibly to blink. Yet Kelli's lovely personhood shone through and surrounded her with an aura of sweetness. Pushing her wheelchair, reading to her or just holding her hand provided an opportunity for many general ed students to experience her peace. Students learned that you don't have to earn love. One of God's little surprises in this world is who are the real teachers. Thanks for opening our hearts once again, Lynn.
JIM MCCREA | 11/22/2008 - 6:35pm
Fr. Topel's commentary is so very appropriate. I wonder if he is related to the former beloved Bishop Bernard Topel of Spokane? Said bishop most likely would not have taken the position of Bp. Martino.

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