The National Catholic Review
Shortsighted

Your comment “The Real Islam” (8/30) is shortsighted. The real Islam is either powerless—or unwilling—to take down the death squads and training centers of terrorists in their midst. These terrorists are knocking down our gates in the name of God on every front, hitting the heart of countries like Britain and Spain, as they repeatedly hit us, bankrupting our country. Plane travel used to be a pleasure; now, because of Muslim hatred, it is a costly pain. Nobody mentions the flood of Christian refugees we are taking in from Muslim countries that for centuries had been Christian before the Muslims took over. These families are literally fleeing for their lives.

The United States should close all mosques on our soil until the worshippers prevail on their Muslim countries of origin to stop fiendish bomb-training camps and then show the same courtesy and open arms that the United States has extended to Muslim faithful here.

M. E. Carson

Seattle, Wash.

Don’t Blame the Church

The column “How Will They Know?” by John F. Kavanaugh, S.J. (9/20), misses the point. In the world of American Catholics in the upper fringe, especially if they are associated with the academic world, people trying to explain the woes facing the church look almost entirely to the inside.

People are leaving the church because in a world of extraordinary wealth, people don’t need people the way they did in the past. They leave for the same reasons that families do not form in the numbers they had before. Family commitment interferes with self-fulfillment. The pope knows this. Remarkably, many U.S. Catholic leaders seem not to.

This also makes Father Kavanaugh a bad historian. The church faced the real blow of our era during the 1970s, and it had nothing to do with ordaining women. The dialogue between the church and the outside world and the dialogue within the church has kept the church alive for 2,000 years. It’s crazy not to see that portraying the structure of the church as the problem rather than the solution will only weaken it in face of the secular wind that faces Christianity in the United States.

Eric Bergerud

Albany, N.Y.

An Inconsistent Position

Our secretary of state and president disagree with your editorial “Hold to the Deadline” (9/13) and your suggestion that leaving Afghanistan will have no impact. It is “delusional” to think that our presence does not discourage Al Qaeda and the Taliban from recreating what they once had as an operational base. Coherent arguments can be made for both leaving and staying. But it makes no sense to argue that we should continue taking casualties and tell the enemy the date when we will throw in the towel, which is the “compromise” our president agreed to.

I also detect an elitist antimilitary disdain alluding to our military’s “can do” attitude. Would America prefer a “can’t do” attitude? What is America’s position if the president and General Petraeus see significant progress toward a successful resolution? Would America then support extending the mission? If not, America should not be calling for a future withdrawal but should demand that our troops withdraw immediately and save needless waste of lives and resources.

Walter Mattingly

Jacksonville, Fla.

We Can’t Do It

Concerning your editorial on Afghanistan (9/13), I could not agree more with your estimate of the situation (an old military term). We seem to be constantly tumbling into these peripheral wars or conflicts, where we invariably wind up trying to “fix” the benighted inhabitants by trying to make them into Americans and their leaders into Thomas Jeffersons. Cultures cannot be changed overnight or by fiat, even by the United States and its can-do spirit. Once we exorcise that “demonic” spirit from our mind-set, the United States and the world will be much better off.

John D. Fitzmorris Jr.

New Orleans, La.

Slipping Behind

Bravo, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, for “The Catholic Schools We Need” (9/13). My diocese, Rochester, is a perfect example of what can happen when Catholic schools have little or no priority with the administration. In 1988 we had 39 Catholic elementary schools serving just over 16,000 children in Monroe County, our population center. The county is now down to 11 schools with an enrollment of 3,446. So it is no surprise that weekend Mass attendance in the diocese has fallen by over 25 percent in the last 10 years and our ordination rate is essentially zero. As the archbishop says, the entire church suffers when Catholic schools disappear.

Mike Shea

Rochester, N.Y.

“Kumbayah” Is Not Enough

Robert Brancatelli’s “Liberating Catechesis” (9/13) reminds me of Supertramp’s 1979 song, “The Logical Song.” Does he really know who, where or when he is? We should not lament that the church is raising the bar for catechesis where our Protestant brethren are setting uniform standards. A solid parish-based program will provide age-appropriate treatment of Catholic dogma and still leave room for Brancatelli’s kerygma.

One cannot hope to empower future lay ministers and/or future vocations to the priesthood or religious life with anemic “homespun” formation. One cannot hope to open the minds of young Catholics to Augustine or Merton when all there is to work with is “Kumbayah.” The parent who couldn’t distinguish between “confirmation” and “ordination” would not exist if we restored the order of the initiation sacraments on a nationwide level. “Oh, you’ll never get youth in the door,” some argue. But our Protestant friends, who have no similar sacraments, have youth groups bursting at the seams.

Paul Stokell

Oklahoma City, Okla.

Don’t Go

Thank you for the column by John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., “How Will They Know?” (9/13). As a woman who has considered leaving the church, I will continue to pray and hope that change will come, but after 70 years it would indeed break my heart to leave.

Joan O’Briant

Aiken, S.C.

Rap/Rock Pope?

In the context of your ongoing discussion of church music (“Sing a New Song,” 9/13), I am baffled by the decision of church authorities in England and Wales to have a rap song serve as the youth anthem during the papal visit to the United Kingdom this month.

Pope Benedict XVI has previously described pop music as the “cult of the banal.” He has also stated that rock music is “a form of worship…in opposition to Christian worship.”

Rap music has a beat with a downward deflection that is condescending in nature. It contains essential rhythmic elements of bragging (braggadocio), ritualized insult and toasting oneself. Rap was largely influenced by rock and roll (slang for sex) and has developed into trends of violence and gratuitous sex. Putting Christian lyrics to such profane music does not make the music “Christian.” Plain and simply, this is inculturation gone haywire.

Paul Kokoski

Hamilton, Ontario

Newman Speaks For Today

Readers of the Rev. James J. Bacik’s “Habits of Mind and Spirit” (9/13) and students at Newman Centers will appreciate the frankness of their blessed patron voicing an opinion with recent overtones. Newman’s opinion was reported recently by the Rev. John J. Hughes in Inside the Vatican (August–September 2010). Com-menting on the pastoral letter Cardinal Henry Edward Manning issued after the First Vatican Council, implying that the pope’s infallibility was unlimited, Newman wrote: “We have come to a climax of a tyranny. It is not good for a Pope to live 20 years. It is an anomaly and bears no good fruit: he becomes a god, has no one to contradict him, does not know facts, and does cruel things without meaning it.” Pius IX’s pontificate (1846-78) had almost eight years to run when Newman penned those lines.

Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B.

San Francisco, Calif.

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