My fervent prayer is that more parish priests will have the courage to preach Sunday sermons like the recent reflection by Barbara Reid, O.P., on the Holy Family (The Word, 12/22). Sister Reid used biblical scholarship to contrast the theology of retribution found in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament against the teachings of the Gospels and, I might add, the teachings of real life. She was also unafraid to address the patriarchal context of the readings without sacrificing their deeper, applicable messages.
Everyday Catholics need to be trusted with and educated in the fruits of our own rich biblical scholarship, and not just presented with the watered-down versions that seem to tiptoe along the edge in so many Sunday homilies. We should preach the word realistically and compassionately, as our Master did.
Mary L. Piker
San Antonio, Tex.Personal Dignity
I read with great interest the reflections by Drew Christiansen, S.J., on the recent Vatican document Dignitas Personae (“Science, Technology and the Human Future,” 12/22). I am currently serving as an active duty military physician and as the biomedical ethics chair at an Army medical center in Texas, and frequently work in and around the intensive care unit. I can personally attest to many wide and varied clinical cases where ethics committee consultation was requested. These were situations involving challenging ethical and moral dilemmas.
The Catholic Church has been a beacon of light in providing guidance and moral authority on many of the critical biomedical ethical issues surrounding end of life care. I continue to pray that all those who seek the truth and work in the broad field of medicine will thoughtfully and prayerfully consider the recommendations given in this timely document.
Christopher Powers, M.D.
El Paso, Tex.The Laborers Are Many
Re David Gibson’s reflections on Catholic biblical literacy and Bible study in “A Literate Church” (12/8): While the quality of Bible study resources has grown significantly over the years, I would also highlight another essential (if sometimes overlooked) aspect of ongoing biblical literacy: volunteer leaders. The willingness of parish volunteer leaders of Bible study cannot be neglected as one of the great movements of the Spirit in our parishes.
(Rev.) David Loftus
Los Angeles, Calif.Out of Silence
I was interested to see the article on Pius XII by Gerald P. Fogarty, S.J. (“A Pope in Wartime,” 12/15). Ultimately, however, I found the article frustrating. I recognize that the article sets out to show that the pope’s silence was not born from indifference toward the plight of Jews and other victims of World War II. Nevertheless, the pope’s very silence is precisely the difficulty that many—Jews, Catholics and others—have with Pius XII and his legacy. The issue at stake is not whether the pope’s silence was pro-Nazi or not, but the very fact that he was silent at all. Pius XII’s silence is particularly troubling given that others within the church were speaking out against Hitler and even dying for their beliefs.
Fogarty concludes that Pius XII was not silent out of indifference toward the plight of the Jews; but if that assertion is true, is it really to the pontiff’s credit that he remained so?
Holly J. Grieco
Loudonville, N.Y.Who’s to Blame?
Contrary to Peter Quinn’s assertion that “ruinous deregulation” is the cause of our financial crisis (“Mister President,” 1/19), the crisis was caused by Congress’s decision to ignore regulators who warned that “Ninja” loans (“no income, no job, no assets”) were not only contrary to banking rules and all sound economic principles, but that they would inevitably lead to large-scale defaults in the mortgage industry. It was the government’s unwise interference with the mortgage industry at the insistence of Congressional oversight committees in order to satisfy a policy of insuring mortgages for the disadvantaged (a noble goal that also ensured that not-so-disadvantaged borrowers could be granted mortgages with little or no money down) that led to the financial collapse.
Of course, the lack of enforcement of existing regulations governing the sale of these equities exacerbated the problem. As Bob Finocchio Jr. notes in the same article, more regulation is not the answer. Rather, it is the proper enforcement of existing rules that is called for.
Detroit, Mich.A Few More Requests
Re the requests made of the new president in “Mister President” (1/19): Mr. Obama, can you please put Bob Finocchio Jr. on the Board of Trustees of my alma mater, send Daniel Callahan’s wardrobe of hair shirts to the dry cleaner and please pick up a textbook on molecular biology so that learning when life begins is no longer “above your pay grade.”
Millburn, N.J.Neo-Marxist Analysis
In “The Roots of Terrorism” (Editorial, 1/19), you call for “greater international cooperation on sustainable development” and “a renegotiation of lopsided trade agreements.” I would respectfully submit that this borders on a non sequitur in response to terrorist violence. The same states that have spawned terrorists do not need development aid: many are awash in oil revenue, and are frequently in a favorable trade relationship with the West.
Your neo-Marxist analysis of the terrorist challenge is so intent on pinning the rose on economic explanations that it consistently neglects or minimizes the extent to which terror leaps from the members of one religious group, Islam, and is frequently directed against those of the Judeo-Christian heritage (the United States, Great Britain and Israel). This characteristic of the conflict risks over-explanation at times, but it is not irrelevant.
Fairfax, Va.Sign of a New Reality
Bishop Joseph W. Estabrook’s commentary regarding the proposed “civilianization” of military chaplains (“State of the Question,” 1/19) was well stated and compelling. But why would a civilian chaplain be any less influential in the circumstances Estabrook cites? It is illogical to think that a civilian chaplain would not be assigned to a war zone just for being a civilian—note the existence of civilian journalists embedded among troops in conflict.
Also, although it is true that learning the local language and culture is essential for the preaching of the Gospel, missionaries like myself do not assume the disvalues of local cultures, however traditional they may be. Civilian chaplains, standing as a sign of the new reality coming into our history by God’s hand, would consistently remind military personnel and their families of the finality of a Christian perspective, beyond armed strife, just as celibacy and simplicity of life point beyond current disvalues of hedonism and consumerism.
(Rev.) Bob Mosher
Santiago, ChileNot for the Squeamish
The visual elements of the Sacred Heart devotion of which David M. Knight writes (“Heart of the Matter,” 11/10) do not draw me closer to God. Setting aside the spiritual symbolism involved, the sight of a human heart in paintings or medical graphics can be aesthetically off-putting. Mawkish statues of Jesus baring his heart in gory red also do little to inspire me spiritually. For this reason alone, I am not surprised that the devotion has fallen out of favor among practicing Catholics.
One wonders how Father Knight can write that the Sacred Heart devotion is “the fundamental center of all Catholic spirituality.” Surely the many other rich devotions that are popular among the faithful are at least of equal if not greater importance?
San Diego, Calif.Person to Person
The questions John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., addresses to pro-lifers and pro-choicers (“Abortion Absolutists,” 12/15) are invaluable. But he does not quite hit the central issue, which is the definition of personhood, not merely “human life” or “individuation.” Biological evidence now shows that the fetus is obviously human and is obviously alive, and “individuation” emphasizes unity and quantity, but neither notion addresses the more basic concept of personhood.
The parallel at the other extreme is the chronically comatose patient. He or she is quite obviously an individual human who is alive, but the definition or quality or his or her personhood is the object of concern. The philosophical, theological and legal debates on the beginning and ending of human life should focus on what constitutes personhood at any stage of existence.
Austin, Tex.A Walking Saint
I commend Carolyn Whitney-Brown for her article on Jean Vanier (“Jean Vanier’s Gift for Living,” 12/22). I lived with Vanier at Trosly-Breuil in France for about six months in 1969. He should be a candidate not just for the Nobel Peace Prize. If there were a similar prize for “walking sainthood,” Jean Vanier would top my list of those who would be worthy. Whitney-Brown’s article brought back many wonderful memories of an extraordinary human being. It was refreshing to recall, in such troubled times, that God still calls women and men to respond to his prophetic call to witness his will.
Donald B. Sharp, S.J.
San Francisco, Calif.