Might Is Not Right

“How much death is too much death?”—a question you ask in your editorial “The Lessons of Libya” (3/28)—is not just a “vexing” question. It is the wrong question. The right question is, when will people realize that killing is killing, whoever does it?

Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi’s shooting of peaceful demonstrators is wrong, and so is the opposition’s violent response. In each case people are maimed and people die. Qaddafi’s violence is despicable, but the opposition validates it by responding in kind. Qaddafi and the opposition share responsibility for multiplying the killing and suffering, and for tens of thousands of refugees fleeing to Egypt.

The international community should have no part in it. Might does not make right. When will people ever learn?

Bob Krasnansky

Ellicott City, Md.

In Defense of Waterboarding

It is the assumption of “Divided on Torture,” by Kenneth R. Himes, O.F.M. (4/18), that waterboarding is torture. It is not. It also assumes that an adequate Catholic philosophy of torture has been clearly adumbrated. It has not. The author’s reflections inevitably lead to confusion on other issues, including abortion and capital punishment. In fact, abortion has always been treated by the church as inherently evil. Capital punishment is not inherently evil; it is sometimes morally required. Waterboarding is an open question.

I am astonished that so many feel so confident in their moral judgment on matters relating to extreme conditions of violence and survival. It is simple to pontificate during periods of peace brought on by the 101st Airborne Division and friends.

Chris Mulcahy

Fort Myers Beach, Fla.

‘To the Least...’

So many “Christians” claim that the United States is a Christian nation founded on Christian principles, and yet they defend torture. For a time there were popular bracelets marked WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?). In the final analysis that is all that matters. Somehow those who watched “The Passion of the Christ” and were appalled at the treatment of our Lord would turn around and apply the same treatment to other human beings.

LaRue Withers

Matherville, Ill.

Love and Live Together

Daniel F. Polish’s heartfelt sentiments regarding the State of Israel (“A Spiritual Home,” 4/11) merit sympathetic reading. I wish, however, he had not taken offense at the Kairos Palestine document, a Palestinian Christian manifesto calling for justice, peace and love among all the inhabitants of the Holy Land, embracing all ethnicities and religions.

Rabbi Polish complains that Kairos Palestine “sets out an offensive disconnection between Jews and the Land of Israel as the cradle of our civilization.” I don’t see this in the document. It does not challenge Israel’s right to exist within its pre-1967 borders. The injustice it identifies is the occupation in 1967 and subsequently of Palestinian lands, the illegal expansion of settlements and usurpation of land and water resources. Kairos’s explicit message to Jews is that “we are able to love and live together.”

Carole Burnett

Silver Spring, Md.

Restorative Justice Is Tough

The Signs of the Times item “Is Restorative Justice Possible in Aftermath of Scandal?” (4/18) provides a glimmer of light in a bleak church. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s statement that all parties must be willing to tell the truth and “take ownership of the truth, even when the truth is unpleasant” filled me with a sense of relief. When he mentions the “stumbling stone” confronting the community, he means a blockage that has revealed the pathology so many have been describing for decades. I have observed the process of restorative justice for years. It has a powerful effect on offenders and victims alike. I have seen school bullies weep as they listened to how they offended others. It is the guts of the sacrament of penance. This is tough stuff, but it is a revelation of where the church stands today.

Vic O’Callaghan

Springwood, New South Wales, Australia

Hooray for the Callahans!

Re the Matteo Ricci, S.J., award (online, 4/7): I say, kudos to both Dan and Sidney Callahan and the editors of America. The Callahans have long championed important ideas and sound reasoning in various fields, even at times disagreeing agreeably. I would call them an ideal couple with their enlightening research—and good grandparents too.

I urge them to write more frequently for both America and Commonweal. The people in Washington should take notice of Dan’s ideas on containing medical costs.

Andy Galligan

Tracy, Calif.

Less Sex, Please

I watched a good part of the “Mildred Pierce” series on HBO (Maurice Timothy Reidy, “A Mother’s Love,” 4/11). It has strengths in creating the period, good acting and an authentic feel. But it has the same weakness as most modern films. Its treatment of sexual transgressions appeals to base instincts, with gratuitous sex scenes and extended nudity, making the viewer a voyeur. To explore an issue today means sex scenes, foul language, slow-motion scenes of violence, exploding heads and bodies. I am showing my class the classic film “Johnny Belinda,” which deals with the brutal rape of a deaf and mute girl, jealousy and hypocrisy. But there is no nudity or cheap thrills in the powerful rape scene. The Motion Picture Code had its weaknesses, but it was better than the free-for-all we have today.

Frank C. Tantillo

Freehold, N.J.

Who Served the Meal?

Thank you for Sister Lou Ella Hickman’s poem, “A Woman at the Last Supper” (4/11).

I have been trying to acquire a copy of a painting by a Polish artist depicting women and children at the Last Supper. After all, this was Passover time and traditionally the children would be there to ask the questions. And, of course, who served the meal? I have no problem seeing women there, in spite of the convention that depicts only Jesus and the Twelve.

Julett Broadnax

Bedford, Tex.

Editors' Note

In response to “Career Interrupted,” on Robert F. Drinan, S.J. (3/7), and the review of Bob Drinan: The Controversial Life of the First Catholic Priest Elected to Congress (4/4), we have received several letters stating that Gabriel Richard, S.S., was the first. Drinan is considered the first because Richard was elected in 1823 as a nonvoting representative from Michigan, which at the time was a territory. It did not become a state until 1837.

Comments

Jim Lein | 5/6/2011 - 5:01pm
Re waterboarding. 
Chris Mulcahy says it is simple to pontificate - after he has pontificated, by stating that waterboarding is not torture, that the church has not sketched out an adequate philosophy of torture, that capital punishment is not inherently evil but is sometimes morally required. 
As to waterboarding, I prefer to take the word of someone who has been waterboarded:  Christopher Hitchens, an early defender of our Iraq war policies.
He said it is torture. If Mulcahy volunteers as Hitchens did, I'll value his word more.
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