The National Catholic Review
Jailhouse Blues

Your editorial on the prison industry (“Prison Nation,” 3/9) paints a shocking picture. It would be helpful to remind ourselves that while the terminology varies, there are only three goals of imprisonment: the punitive (punishment for offenses), the rehabilitative (reintegration of the offender into civil society) and the protective (restraining the offender from doing further harm). It might be helpful if judges were required to declare the weight of each of these factors in any prison sentence.

The concept of prison term limits might also profitably be explored. While the public might need to be protected from some felons indefinitely, does locking a person in a cell for over 10 years add any likelihood to the possibility that the prisoner will be rehabilitated?

Robert V. Levine

Collegeville, Pa.

History’s Mysteries

While reading Emilie Griffin’s review of Help My Unbelief, by William J. O’Malley, S.J. (“The Quest for Certitude,” 2/23), I was taken aback by the statement that “the Roman Catholic Church seems to be the original from which the others branched.”

I suspect that the Orthodox churches would disagree quite vehemently with that statement. Until 1054, when the formal schism occurred between the Eastern churches and the Latin rite church, there was no Roman Catholic church.

The Roman Catholic church is better described as the largest survivor of the original churches instead of “the original.”

Jim McCrea

Piedmont, Calif.

Applause

Many thanks to Mary M. Foley for sharing her experiences as a pastoral minister (“Exceptional Pastoring,” 3/9), and many thanks to America for publishing her article. Having worked with and for parish coordinators in my many years of parish work, I applaud them all for their hard work and dedication to the mission of the church.

Billy Gargaro

Norfolk, Va.

Hold That Applause

We are kidding ourselves if we think that stories such as that told by Mary M. Foley about her experiences as a pastoral minister (“Exceptional Pastoring,” 3/9) are good news. How is it good news when Foley’s position was terminated on a whim? How does this help women or the church?

We need to recognize that the emperor has no clothes. There are untold numbers of women called to serve the church who are not welcome. That is the real vocation crisis. Rather than propping up the old system with absurd organizational maneuvering, we need to embrace the women who are eager to be pastors to God’s people right now.

Peg Conway

Cincinnati, Ohio

Playing Politics

In your editorial on the need for a “truth commission” to investigate the Bush administration (“Truth and Prosecution,” 3/23), you follow the path of others on the extreme and hysterical left, taking it as a given that crimes have been committed by the Bush administration and its legal advisors. You will be amazed to learn that there are many who disagree with you and think you are advocating the highly destructive and vindictive course of trying to criminalize the decisions of your political enemies.

Dennis O’Brien

San Francisco, Calif.

Policing the Police

In her reflections on our country’s legacy of torture (“Accounting for Torture,” 3/30), Maryann Cusimano Love has hit the mark. We are disciples of a tortured God, and this means that we have a strong moral obligation never to torture, to investigate and prosecute human rights violations and to stand in solidarity with torture victims.

But Love assumes too easily that President Obama has returned us to full compliance with the Geneva Conventions. At Guantánamo, instead of allowing independent human rights organizations to review conditions and the treatment of prisoners, Obama curiously assigned this task to the Department of Defense, the department that is also responsible for operating the facility. Should we trust the architects and perpetrators of torture to investigate themselves?

Luke Hansen, S.J.

Chicago, Ill.

More Light, Less Heat

The column by John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., on the recent controversy over President Barack Obama’s scheduled appearance at the commencement ceremony at the University of Notre Dame (“Outrages,” 4/13 online edition) is a fine contribution to the dismal story of Catholic attacks on Obama, the first president in quite a while who seems genuinely committed to seeking the common good. Beyond the particular issue, what is most disquieting is the latent venom in so many Catholics, just waiting to be called into action by some poisonous standard-bearer.

Of course the issue of abortion is a serious one; but it is a complex issue, not one best dealt with in haste or by over-simplification. It is a great pity that the American bishops do not choose to lead by recognizing the complexity of the issue on which they are called to teach, and then teaching in a way that produces more light and less heat.

In the resultant moral vacuum, it is no surprise that demagogues can whip up the masses on matters whose complexity they have not explored. And I wonder how many of them have reflected on the fact that this man they apparently hate is breaking his back trying to save their jobs, their pensions and perhaps their way of life.

Paul Lakeland

Fairfield, Conn.

Straw Man

In his recent column (“Outrages,” 4/13 online edition), John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., criticizes a commenter named “James” on an Internet blog for contradictions in his denunciation of President Barack Obama’s scheduled appearance at the University of Notre Dame. But picking on the weakest person on the other side of an issue is a little too easy, almost like pulling the wings off a fly. At this point, 15 American bishops have expressed reservations about the actions of the University of Notre Dame. How about addressing their concerns? Or should one be satisfied to demonstrate merely that one is smarter and more civil than some random person with an ax to grind?

Andrew Strada

Cleveland, Ohio

Sublime

When I read the excellent article about Karl Rahner, S.J., by Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J. (“Reading Karl Rahner,” 3/30), I was struck by his statement that we “are the truth of lives that only love can guarantee. Thus, knowledge is only momentarily an end in itself; it must always be guided by love....”

Only an hour earlier, I had heard a radio interview with a clinical psychologist who works with Alzheimer’s support groups. He spoke of a woman who regularly greeted her husband when she visited him in an Alzheimer’s care facility with the question: “Do you remember who I am?” One day, before she asked the question, he said “I don’t know who you are, but I love you.”

Aren’t these two expressions from different sources amazingly reinforcing and sublime?

Jack Zuercher, S.J.

Omaha, Neb.

Conspiracy of Silence

Kudos to Kate Blake for her superb article on the ethical treatment of animals (“Our Responsibility to All Creation,” 3/23). It was both articulate and informed. The church justly and properly advocates for the rights of the poor and voiceless all over the world, standing on the side of the defenseless in both word and action. At the same time, the church (and by extension, all of us who worship a gentle God) appears oblivious to the needs and welfare of another voiceless group: animals. There seems to be a conspiracy of silence with regard to the suffering of animals, whose sad fate is a life lived under intensive farming conditions, followed by death in a slaughterhouse.

It strikes me as quite incongruous that many people who bring their animals to church every October to have them blessed might later that same day enjoy a Sunday meal of roast beef.

In this critical time, when our stewardship of God’s creation should be of deep concern to all of us, Blake’s article is very timely.

Deborah Dyer

Newton, Mass.

Comments

Joanne Hughes | 8/23/2009 - 4:40pm
Your father "submitted it without comment" in the typical modest and humble   family fashion. However, as a Welsh Hughes who believes that conversation and the use of words is a great gift to humanity I wish actually  to SAY something. The exhcange of ideas in living language is the champagne that gives a bubbling energy to human interaction.
  In this article, which, as I read it, felt so reassuring and kind and all around wonderful, I read this statement.  The"use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives."   The word " Resources" itself poses a problem. It implies substances to be USED. But not to knit pick , I want to  go on to ask," Isn't one of the ten commandments  Thou shalt not kill?" Isn't that a moral imperative one of the great commands of all history?.   The writer decries the attitude of humanity at the present time. She says "the feeling is that the only question we need to consider is what the chickken or calf or rabbit can do for me". This is lovely, very true,all well and good.  She continues in this vein on page 14.
     The writer says, quoting the catechism, "man's dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the creator is not absolute...it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation"
  This is just wonderful! And it comes from the best possible source, the chatechism.
   But I have to ask,, " is it respectful to kill and eat and use the body parts of a living being?"
   At this point I began to wonder "where the writer was going".  Then the answer came. The writer says "it is NOT the consumption or use of animal that constitutes the problem but the methods used to treat them."
 
      There it is! Once, very long ago, I questioned  my young husband about the morality of killing and eating meat.  The cows looked so beautiful grazing with their big soft eyes the grass on the hillside. His answer was that they would not have any life at all unless we were raising them for meat. We, in fact, godlike, are giving them the opportunity to live so that we can eat them and that is doing them a favor because we are letting them be alive in the first place.  As a young,twenty something girl being told that by the husband that I thought was right in all things, I set it aside without further questioning but couldn't help but remember it, because it didnt' sound quite right to me somehow.
    The conclusion I drew from thhis conciiatory and very comfortable article is that it is perfectly okay to kill and eat animals as long as we are nice to them while they are alive and kill them mercifully.
    Well, I must say that would be an improvement over what humanity is doing now, but I still don't see where the "moral imperative" is being obeyed here.
  It sounds to me as  a kind of "I was right all along and I never did anything wrong in eating meat. Also, I will continue to do so because I  eat meat  only from organic farms where the animals are treated well.
        It is so nice not to think we have ever been wrong and need to change ourselves or change our ways. "I was always right And I am still right! and that allows me to enjoy my tastes and feel good about myself".
  Antonio and I often speculate on the way the human race is going to feel when they find out ,as they surely will not too long from now, that animals understand, feel, think, and love in ways far beyond anything we human beings know anything about. When people find out what  cannibals and torturers  they have been in doing  these things to these amazing beings, people will have topay "reparations" ,as the writer of this article says near the beginning.  Those reparations will be the terrible sorrow and horrible guilt humanity will have to experience at  having been so egregiously wrong for so many millenia.
          People have a great talent to find all kinds of very clever ways of avoiding the truth in order to do what they want, which in this case is to "enjoy the taste" and to feel righteous and to blame others for their own complicity.  "I don't kill them myself, somebody else does that for me so I don't have to watch it." They do all kinds of things, "turn a blind eye",engage in crass ignorancechis is intentionally not wanting to know the truth, refusing to admit their own mistakes,  lying to themselves sayiing that animal don't feel pain,etc.etc. 
         It is the worstl kind of moral weakness not to be able to admit one's errors and to continue to pat one's ego blatantly looking in the mirror at the face of the truth!  
   The article, which starts out sounding and feeling so good, finishes by telling the reader that the animals are OURS to OWN and to USE, to KILL and to EAT, As long as we are nice tto them in the process.
  Thank you for listening to your Mom's thoughts put into spoken words!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
   The truth is often very uncomfortable,worse than iodine, but it is the world's greatest medicine. It the balm of reality. It heals all illnesses of the body and the soul. After all Reality is GOD.
  Love from Mom
ROBERT LEVINE | 4/16/2009 - 9:47pm
Recognizing that I suffer not only from pride when a letter of mine is published, but also from verbosity, editorial shortening is expected and generally welcome. This time, however, the knife cut deeply, to extent that key thoughts I was trying to convey were discarded. Those "key points" were intentionally controversial, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, and not likely politically (nor perhaps religiously) correct. If I went too far over the edge, it would have been, I think, better to discard the whole, than to cut out the heart. Therefore, I offer for the electronic record, additional text which had followed the published wording: While the public might need to be protected from a felon indefinitely, does locking a person in a cell for over, say, ten years, add any meaningful likelihood of rehabilitation, without becoming punitive to the extent of being cruel and inhumane? Or would a cumulative adult sentence of over ten years for multiple felonies not also be vindictive and/or pointless? I would suggest that after the ten year limit, the offender be banished. With some creative thinking, a suitable location could surely be found. If the "ten year" number seems inappropriate, any other suitable number could be substituted. If the concept of "banishment" seems inappropriate ....

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