The National Catholic Review
Allies, Not Enemies

Thank you for the reasonable, eloquent argument in “Taking Liberties” (Editorial, 2/13). Countless numbers of progressive Catholics worked long and hard for health care reform all across this country and believed that this delicate little issue would get resolved as promised—with deliberate consideration and imagination, using intelligence and thoughtful compromise rather than ideology. The regulatory avenues available to the administration for averting this disastrous, avoidable ideological showdown were wide enough to drive a double-wide trailer through.

While you use the term “misunderstanding,” this misstep reeks of betrayal. It is beyond anything imaginable. We have come too far not to figure this out. We are the president’s allies, not his enemies.

John Carney

Lenexa, Kan.

Bad Risk Assessment

If the White House can constitutionally issue a rule or executive order forcing Roman Catholic bishops to provide “free” contraception to employees (“Taking Liberties,” 2/13), then what is to prevent the White House from ordering the bishops to provide abortion services? Or euthanasia? Or perform same-sex marriages? If religious liberty, as enshrined by the founding fathers in the First Amendment, does not prohibit such governmental overreaching, then churches as organized institutions exist at the whim and mercy of a few politicians in this country.

There was no groundswell of popular opinion or political pressure demanding that Catholic institutions be compelled to provide “free” birth control pills. This idea originated within the administration itself, which clearly made a conscious decision to throw a tasty bone to its “reproductive rights” constituency and give the hierarchy of the Catholic Church a good poke in the eye at the same time, all at the expense of the First Amendment. It has calculated that it will get away with it, because many Catholics ignore their own church’s teaching with respect to the use of contraceptives.

Ultimately, however, the administration is going to lose its bet because its calculations were based on a faulty understanding of the Catholic Church. The church has never formulated its moral teachings based on popular opinion or compliance data; and most churchgoers, no matter how liberal in their personal views, still dislike seeing politicians disrespect their church and religion.

James McParland

Columbus, Ohio

Sexism Is a Sin

Isn’t it convenient that the political issues that most concern Catholic bishops always involve women’s rights? The all-male hierarchy seeks to mobilize its authority and resources to attack women’s rights rather than to challenge society about deeper, more troubling issues like war and poverty. The church said sexism is a sin, but its leaders do not examine their own consciences to see how their doctrines represent a fundamental affront to women’s humanity and dignity.

Rosemarie Zagarri

Arlington, Va.

Transforming, Not Controlling

Concerning “Taking Liberties” (2/13): Isn’t health care coverage considered a part of an employee’s total compensation? In other words, isn’t the money spent on health care just like the money given in a paycheck? And individuals can spend their pay according to their individual consciences. They can gamble, support a charity, support a political candidate, buy stock in a weapons manufacturer and so on. So why should the church inhibit the individual from taking responsibility for his or her choices?

I do not like it that my taxes go to subsidize oil companies, bail out banks and make pre-emptive war. But I pay my taxes because I am a member of a democracy. I think the church can look in the same way at paying for health coverage of procedures it deems sinful. The church’s mission, in my mind, is to transform the culture through our words and actions, not to control it.

Jim Gunshinan

Berkeley, Calif.

Stop Ignoring Singles

Concerning “The Marrying Kind” (Current Comments, 2/13): This is pretty typical of churches. Everyone is up in arms over whether so and so are cohabitating, or they wonder about those two women who just walked in. Meanwhile, there is a largely ignored population: singles. Put some work into drawing into the life of the church those of us without families. You may find that it pays off in the end. After all, I have the time to teach that C.C.D. class and lead a Bible study and host coffee time and drop in on the homebound. Even if I don’t have the time, just being ignored makes me feel like less of a valued member of the family than the married members of the church.

Mindy Evans

Portland, Ore.

A Child’s Perspective

Re “Conversation Starters,” by Richard Gaillardetz (2/13), from the vantage point of an 11-year-old, growing up in Atlanta, Ga.: For me, the Second Vatican Council was about a wonderful energy, the subject of countless discussions around the dinner table with Atlanta Jesuits, Dutch priests and local clergy. The church was moving and opening, changing. In retrospect it was thrilling and exciting. My parents were from France, and I am grateful to them that they talked about Teilhard de Chardin, Yves Congar and Karl Barth, among others. In Atlanta there were Bishops Paul Hallinan and Joseph Bernardin as leaders, an exciting and dynamic time which, I have to admit, I rather miss these days.

Egle Gatins Weiland

Columbus, Ohio

Accepting an Invitation

I welcome Professor Gaillardetz’s invitation (“Conversation Starters,” 2/13) to revisit the beauty, balance and humility manifest in Vatican II. The council was a timely and great gift to the church and the world. There have been forces within the church that wish to regress. This is a dangerous trend, for it is an attempt to challenge the Holy Spirit. The council truly opened the windows and let in some fresh air. This spirit has been sustained by theologians, educated lay persons and religious communities of men and women. My own religious community and members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious internalized that spirit.

Patricia Krommer, C.S.J.

Los Angeles, Calif.

Where Were the Women?

Fine as the article by Professor Gaillardetz is (“Conversation Starters,” 2/13), there is one dimension in which it is quite misleading. By including women in the fifth paragraph, the author risks creating the illusion that women were included in each of the three Vatican II dynamics he identifies. In point of fact, that is not true.

Women were excluded from the coffee bars, where the author rightly says so much of the real dialogue took place. Instead, the women observers (who were not invited until the third session of the council) were required to have their own coffee bar, which they mischievously named Bar-None. It would seem that bodily differences were more important to the bishops than differences of belief and practice, for male observers of other religious traditions were quite welcome.

I must sadly conclude, then, that the “openness to the world” praised by Professor Gaillardetz was a severely restricted openness. Half the world was overlooked. As we look back at the great achievements of the council, let us not gloss over its limitation with respect to the inclusion of women. It is to be hoped that no council ever again will be so limited.

Mary Aquin O’Neill, R.S.M.

Baltimore, Md.

Women’s Worth

As much as a sense of unworthiness is a problem for all young adults in the Catholic Church, as described in “You are Worthy” by Richard G. Malloy, S.J. (2/13), I believe it is even more difficult for young women. How can a woman believe she is worthy in a church that rarely acknowledges women in word (our prayers) or presence (our liturgies)? We really need leaders who stand in the shoes of young women and men and see the church that they are seeing.

Susan McCarthy, R.D.C.

White Plains, N.Y.

Recently in Letters