A Return to Collegiality

Thank you for your strong endorsement of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (Current Comment, 12/8). It should be noted that in recent years the Vatican, operating on a narrower understanding of episcopal collegiality, has limited the authority of such conferences. At the same time, after a quite public campaign against the pro-collegiality policies of the so-called Bernardin era, conservative leaders succeeded in drastically reducing the U.S.C.C.B. budget and staff. In the wake of the recent election, conservative leaders have signaled a renewed attack on the U.S.C.C.B. document Faithful Citizenship and the collegial approach it represents.

Readers might consider doing something to support episcopal collegiality, shared responsibility, the U.S.C.C.B. and the consistent ethic of life by speaking up and by joining such groups as Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

David O’Brien

Professor Emeritus

College of the Holy Cross

Worcester, Mass.

New Wineskins

As I read Daniel Cere’s review of Anne Rice’s fascinating story of her return to Catholicism, Called Out of Darkness (Book Reviews, 12/1), I grew worried to discover that Rice “concludes her spiritual memoir by addressing a set of challenging issues that have been at the heart of her fiction and at the center of cultural and religious debates, namely conflicts over gender and sexuality.”

I feared the story of another returnee to Rome who immediately begins railing for the exclusion of others, forgetting his/her own long journey and misgivings on the way back to the church.

How refreshing to read instead that Rice finds the heart of Catholicism in its aesthetic and sensual elements, rather than in clinging to the tangles of church law or an angry theology of exclusion. She is a writer of extraordinary sensitivity, one who could do much to help estranged Catholics in a way that a more defensive apologetics never will.

Jacob Powers

El Segundo, Calif.

Method to Madness

In your comments on the television show “Mad Men” (Current Comment, 11/17), you failed to recognize a secular spirituality expressed in the show that is rooted in the lives of laity raising families and making their living in the workplace. Beyond the “Catholic sensibility” referred to, there is much more that speaks to searching for, and sometimes finding, our living God.

I am sure there is much in “Mad Men” to criticize. But for me, one who raised a family of seven and worked in the “real world” of corporate management for 35 years, the show rings true. And if we believe in a caring and loving God, the scripts speak to how God touches lives in so many subtle ways—ways often not recognized by the church, but authentic just the same.

Art Maurer

Pensfield, N.J.

Promises, Promises

While I agreed with most of “Mr. Obama’s Promise” (Editorial, 11/17), I was extremely upset that you did not even mention Obama’s other promise: that the first thing he will do as president is to sign the Freedom of Choice Act. This act will bring back partial-birth abortion and could invalidate all the state laws for which pro-life groups (I am a member of several) fought so hard. Leaving this promise out of your editorial was a serious omission.

Charles R. Scally

Chalfont, Pa.

Send in the Clowns

I found Franco Mormando’s review of the recent art exhibit of the works of Georges Rouault (“Of Clowns and Christian Conscience,” 11/24) a forceful one, in which art was closely linked with prayer. Thank you for reintroducing me to an artist who has always been on the edge of my consciousness but now will be fully present.

Charles Novo

Houston, Tex.

Sing for Your Supper

Many thanks to James J. DiGiacomo, S.J., for his beautiful thoughts on Advent in “We Should Have Seen It Coming” (12/1). I agree that Advent is a time to be watchful for goodness, to embrace those who are different, to smile and bring compassion, understanding and mercy to those who are hurting. Also, it is a great time to teach children to be generous by encouraging them to write notes to soldiers or distant relatives, to pray around the Advent wreath, to prepare crafts for decorating and to “sing for their supper” with all those beautiful Christmas songs!

Alice Englert

Warrenton, Va.

A House Divided

Gregory D. Foster’s argument for selective conscientious objection for soldiers (“One War at a Time,” 11/17) will become required reading for my high school theology students. As a teacher and pastoral minister, I find it impossible to encourage students to join the military, because there is no recourse to selective conscientious objection. The pope and the U.S. Catholic bishops argued that the invasion of Iraq would not be morally justifiable. What is a Catholic soldier to do? She/he is put in the untenable position of having to be faithful to the guidance of the church or to the orders of his superiors.

Foster’s article clearly reiterates what the bishops have already said, but does so from the perspective of a man with extensive military experience. Perhaps the bishops should join their voices with new urgency on this important issue.

Tony Marinelli

Westbury, N.Y.

Preferential Option

Kudos for your special issue on military chaplaincy (11/17). Any priest who feels the call to minister among people living in poverty should consider a few years of military chaplaincy. There are an awful lot of poor people serving in our armed forces.

Jeffry Odell Korgen

Montclair, N.J.

Loud and Clear

I agree with Drew Christiansen, S.J., that the documents of the U.S.C.C.B. are not widely disseminated or read despite the important, often prophetic insights they can contain (Of Many Things, 10/20). But by facilitating a narrow discussion between themselves and a few experts rather than a broad, fully engaged Catholic debate about serious ethical issues in the political arena, the U.S. bishops have undercut their own role as teachers and pastors. More seriously, they have failed to hold the United States (including all of us who are citizens) to account for failing to follow the guidance they have given.

The military budget decried by the bishops in 1993 was a “mere” $275 billion a year; how can it be that the bishops are not furious over the $800 billion we now pour yearly into those same coffers? Similarly, in 1973 and 1983 the bishops agreed to the “strictly conditioned” possession of nuclear weapons by the United States, but 35 years later those conditions have not been met. Why have the bishops not publicly withdrawn their support of nuclear deterrence?

A third example is the current war in Iraq, which the bishops quite clearly said did not meet the criteria for a just war; but why, once the war began, did they not make that assessment crystal clear to policy makers, Catholics and the general public?

Not all bishops are called to be prophets, perhaps; but as teachers, pastors and religious leaders, they should have a voice that can be heard.

Marie Dennis

Washington, D.C.

Synergy?

In Doris Donnelly’s interview of Mary Ann Glendon (“Soft Power and Hope,” 11/24), the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See sees the three visits of Pope Benedict XVI with President George W. Bush in little over one calendar year as “outward symbols of the close correspondence between the president and the Holy Father” and thinks that there has never been “more synergy of interest between the United States and the Holy See than there is now.”

What does Glendon have in mind? Is the conformity between the two about a preferential option for the poor, a just minimum wage, medical coverage for all and respect for civil liberties and human rights? Or is the synergy of interest about an unjust war, secret renditions, spying on one’s own citizens, subverting the U.S. Constitution, politicizing every department of government and abetting the pollution of the environment?

Since Glendon appears eager to minimize the significance of the Bush administration’s torture policies by comparing them to the presumed behavior of other countries, we are left to wonder about the answers to these and other questions.

David L. Smith, C.S.S.P.

Pittsburgh, Pa.

Comments

Donald J. Ehrenreich | 12/8/2008 - 3:23pm
In this week's Current Comment, i.e., A Heartbeat Away, you do all Catholic Democrats a huge favor by identifying Joe Biden's immense sense of how he does and must act as a national politician. We who believe in and attempt to follow the Pro-Life idea, work to change the minds of those who are not in conformity with the Church. Thank you for providing some fresh air on this matter. We all are praying for all our leaders coming to office so that they might bring a true sense of renewal and belief in the dignity of human life in all its forms.

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