The National Catholic Review
Pray Before the Mystery

Re “Staying Civil” by Bishop Blase Cupich (3/5): However much the Catholic Church is convinced of the righteousness of its own position on the right to life of the unborn, such conviction—as I myself am convinced—cannot be imposed on the secular political weal. The quality of the leadership of the church alone will be convincing—certainly not a blustering, indignant and offensive righteousness.

All of us need to find a certain humility before the very real, profound complexity of contemporary church-state relationships. There is a mystery about the human person that overwhelms all our most seemingly obvious categories of time and space, faith and reason, love and compassion, man and male, woman and female, human life and dignity. That mystery inspires humility rather than rancorous confrontation. Before that mystery I need to pray, as before the image of God. We very much need to find a position of peace for the sake of thoughtfulness while in respectful disagreement with each other.

Jerome Knies, O.S.A.

Racine, Wis.

Political Position?

Bishop Cupich’s article is well written and strikes a moderate tone of reconciliation. How can one explain, however, the sudden mobilization of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, so atypical of their history? Where was the high moral ground when the second President Bush went to war over hidden weapons of mass destruction? It appears the U.S.C.C.B. is taking a political position trying to affect the 2012 election.

Mike Griffin

East Marion, N.Y.

Between Gaza and Israel

I am grateful for the insightful and accurate article by Elizabeth G. Burr, “Out of Palestine” (2/27). The photo of the Christian Palestinian woman walking down the long, cage-like above-ground tunnel between Gaza and Israel prompts me to point out that in the past four years Vatican-sponsored Bethle-hem University has accepted a number of young men and women from Gaza (including several Christians who have gained their primary and secondary educations in the Catholic schools in Gaza). Not one has been given the necessary “permission”—all controlled by the Israeli authorities—to study at Bethlehem University.

Facts on the ground like these speak for themselves.

Robert Smith, F.S.C.

Bethlehem University

Bethlehem, Palestine

Hostile and Invidious

“Out of Palestine” is basically a long tirade against Israel. The article is inflammatory, biased and filled with historic inaccuracies, semitruths and in some cases flat-out untruths. Ms. Burr may wish to consider the fact that following the 1948 war, the population of Israel was 20 percent Arab Palestinian, while not one single Jew was left in areas taken over by Jordan and Egypt. In light of the fact that approximately 20 percent of Israeli citizens remain Arab Palestinians the ongoing accusations of Israeli “ethnic cleansing” would be laughable were they not so openly hostile, invidious and dangerous.

James Loughran, S.A.

New York, N.Y.

Do Your Best

Having read “One Nation, Under God,” by John Coleman, S.J. (3/12), I asked myself, “What belongs to Caesar?” My conscience seems to be saying, “Nothing belongs to Caesar; at best Caesar is a steward.” If Genesis does not suffice, the Book of Job clearly reminds me that God made this world. It belongs to him. All that matters is his will. He gives us talents for living in this world; the only question is how we account for ourselves. Jesus gives us a pretty good example. We need to deal with Caesar and those who live by different values, as Jesus did. We are always offered the grace to do so. It may take more courage, but that is life.

Bob O’Connell

Lake Forest, Ill.

Bishops Protest Too Much

Re “One Nation Under God,” by John Coleman, S.J. (3/12): I was delighted to read a calm and reasoned call for continued discourse on this difficult issue. Should the bishops’ determination of their religious freedom trump the freedom of conscience of any individual employee? How can these freedoms be balanced? Sadly, I am inclined to think that the bishops protest too much.

When the struggle to unionize staff at Catholic hospitals erupted, did the bishops rise to defend the right of the workers to organize, as advocated by papal encyclicals? Not hardly. And when they found themselves supervising pedophiles, did they act to protect the children or their own staffing concerns? We know that answer. When our nation entered a war they viewed as unjust, they did issue a letter, but it was not read out from every Catholic pulpit.

Eileen Keim

Concord, N.H.

Table Manners

Re “First of Freedoms,” by Mary Ann Glendon (3/5): Even though Professor Glendon and I see the world and this issue differently, based on the ever-current controversy about what “religion” means in our republic, we might well share concern about American Catholics as “a people adrift,” to use Peter Steinfels’s apt description. Professor Glendon cites the statistics, and I know well the “drift” that is occurring in my parish and others—with younger people either opting for a super-Catholic expression or dropping out of the comfortable ranks of the “culturally Catholic.”

Professor Glendon and I would probably disagree about all that causes this, but certainly the Republican-ization of mainstream Catholicism due to the quasi-political endorsements by the hierarchy, the accumulation of wealth in the upper class and the increasing irrelevance of most liturgical and spiritual life in the community are contributing forces that have attracted some and driven away droves.

David E. Pasinski

Fayetteville, N.Y.

Religious Liberty War

I applaud your editorial “Policy, Not Liberty” (3/5). The current leadership of the U.S. Catholic bishops lost their bearings after they won their initial battle on Feb. 10 for an expanded religious exemption from the Department of Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate.

Heady from the public support they had garnered for several weeks under the banner of “religious liberty,” these bishops suddenly raised their aspirations and advocated specific legislation aimed at permitting any employer to exclude contraceptive and other services from health care insurance.

The bishops seem unwilling to admit that they stepped over the line into areas of prudential judgment and partisan politics, joining the right wing in an increasingly strident condemnation of one political party. They also seemed oblivious to the fact that this specific policy proposal, if adopted, would impose any employer’s conscience choices on all of his or her employees, creating exactly the kind of religious liberty war they had earlier protested.

Kirk O. Hanson

Santa Clara, Calif.

Future Assaults?

Your editorial “Policy, Not Liberty” (3/5) was way off point. While we may “pay to Caesar,” we at the same time must not allow Caesar to take from us that which is God’s. You seem to be suggesting that the U.S. church should simply roll over and shut up. Nothing could be worse. The godlessness and moral morass that we are experiencing around the world are the direct result of the church’s frequent silence.

Aside from the issue of conscience rights and religious freedoms that are assaulted by the contraception coverage mandate, we must ask ourselves what else can this administration do? What new mandate will it force upon us? The Affordable Care Act gives extremely broad power to the secretary of Health and Human Services. To lie down without seriously challenging the mandate would be to agree tacitly to any future assaults the administration wishes to level upon us.

Ron Kienzle

Cincinnati, Ohio

A Wearying Emphasis

I couldn’t agree more with Ronnie Rubit’s observations in “Peer Pressure” (2/27), regarding attitudes among U.S. pro-life Catholics and their leaders. Unlike Mr. Rubit, I am a cradle Catholic who from early childhood was encouraged to give my pennies, nickels and dimes to “the missions.” Social justice and care for the poor were imparted to my generation early in life and are in our very bones. The Catholic Church’s record regarding this area is stellar. But instead of emphasizing this Gospel mandate, our church leaders today seem to concentrate upon instructing the faithful about reproductive issues to a wearying degree. Indeed, at times, it can feel as though this might be an obsession.

Carol Johannes, O.P.

Ann Arbor, Mich.

One Wing to Rule Them

I disagree with John J. DiIulio Jr. (“A Broken System,” 2/27), when he concludes that the political reform processes have “pushed Republicans ever farther to the right and the Democratic Party ever farther to the left.” The shift I see since the 1960s in both parties has been only to the right. The current Democratic Party is now what liberal Republicans were in the 1970s.

I attribute the clear rightward shift of both these parties in large part to our failure to deal with campaign financing and how this failure biases our elections in favor of those backed by the affluent. This has had a far more undesirable influence than the reforms for opening up primaries and the nomination process.

William F. O’Connor

Lewes, Del.

Obscene Elections

Concerning “A Broken System,” by John J. Dilulio Jr. (2/27): It is easy to anticipate that the election of the president in 2012 will cost more than $1.5 billion. What kind of message about spending money does that send to other governments and peoples of the world? The word obscene is not adequate.

There is a better way to select a candidate for president. The first significant change to the selection of presidential candidates would be to set the primaries on the same day for all 50 states. As a result of this change, the party’s national convention would become the venue for the party’s selection of a presidential candidate, vice presidential candidate and the presentation of the party’s platform. The second change would be to set the national convention of each party about one month prior to the national election in November. This change sets a time period for campaign spending. The third significant change would be to set a campaign finance limit for the election of each party’s candidates that can be audited.

Linus L. Klitsch

Gaithersburg, Md.

Running on Gratitude

Re the Of Many Things column by Raymond A. Schroth, S.J. (2/27): What a delight to discover that the man whose articles and reviews (as well as the book From Dante to Dead Man Walking) I have enjoyed is also a man in love with running. Like Father Schroth, I still love running, even though I cannot do it anymore. I started running when I was 40 and stopped at age 72 because of heart problems. I too still ache when, on long walks, I see others running. I too found running to be an activity that fostered prayer. I loved racing most of all: from the mile to the marathon. As much as I miss running and racing, however, I am profoundly grateful that I was able to be a runner for so many years.

George Stapleton

Park Forest, Ill.

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