The National Catholic Review
Inexpert Witness

Re “Stand Your Ground,” by the editors (4/16): Nobody really knows what happened that night in Sanford, Fla., yet you assert that Trayvon Martin’s offense was “to be a black youth delivering a bag of Skittles.” The editors do not concede that there is conflicting “testimony” floating around out there.

Their journalistic transgression might not rise to the level of bearing false witness, but they should be careful. Any time we think we know what took place, and haughtily hold to it, we are being at best shortsighted and at worst actually sinful. Usually penance comes in the form of being proved wrong to one extent or another and feeling properly foolish. This case might be a rare exception, but let’s see. The morality still holds in any case.

Peter M. Blasucci

North Baldwin, N.Y.

Quick-Drawn Conclusions

Concerning “Stand Your Ground”: Debate over gun control misses the heart of the issue. If both sides can cite examples of how arming and disarming citizens have led to safer, less violent societies, then perhaps we’re examining the wrong issue here.

Maybe the common factor that unites regions with lower violent crime rates is not gun control or the lack thereof but the mentality that leads to these tragedies, a mentality connected with economics, race and an altogether too American belief that the quickest solution is the best solution. Both sides seem to be guilty of a similar error. They both think the answer to the problem of violent crime lies in the question of what to do with the guns. At best, their convictions are inadequate solutions to a much deeper question.

Emily Taber

Spalding, Neb.

Grenade Launcher, Anyone?

Re “Stand Your Ground”: The Supreme Court has made clear that the Second Amendment does not speak to public safety or to “rationality.” It has concluded that it is a pure, individual right and that the state cannot restrict gun ownership merely because the preponderance of statistical and empirical evidence indicates that the proliferation of guns, particularly handguns, increases violence in crime.

Of course, to interpret the Second Amendment in that way is to say that the qualifying phrase about a “well-regulated militia” has no meaning whatsoever. It also raises questions about other regulations. If handguns cannot be restricted, why should fully automatic weapons be outlawed? What about a nice rocket-propelled grenade launcher?

John Brunson

Manassas, Va.

Belonging Matters

Concerning “Where You Belong,” by Peter Feldmeier (Word, 4/16): The longer I am in this church, the more I realize how important community is to our (and my) faith. Rarely have I met a person who left the church because of dogma or doctrine. They usually left because of what Father, Sister or “those people” did or didn’t do. Belonging is the crux of the church and our faith.

(Rev.) Chris Welch

Hancock, N.Y.

Revolving Roman Doors

In his review of the book The Pope Who Quit (“Celestine’s Prophecy,” 4/16), Paul Moses says that Celestine V was “the first and only pope to do so.” He was neither.

The first pope to resign was Pontian, in 235 after the Roman emperor Maximus Thrax deported him to the “island of death” in Sardinia. He resigned to allow a successor to assume the church’s leadership as soon as possible.

Then there was Benedict IX. A book about him might be even more fascinating than the one about Celestine. As J. N. D. Kelly says in The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, “He was the only pope to hold office, at any rate de facto, for three separate spells.” At the end of his second “spell” in 1045, he resigned in favor of his godfather, John Gratian, after receiving a huge sum of money from him. His godfather was then elected pope and took the name Gregory VI.

John Fink

Indianapolis, Ind.

Redemptive Grace

Re “Of Many Things,” by James Martin, S.J. (4/9): The faith experience of Walter Ciszek, S.J., was not simply one of endurance; he did not simply survive his torture in Lubyanka and his 20 years in Siberian labor camps. Instead, Father Ciszek had a profound conversion experience while in Lubyanka that led to a life of extraordinary grace under the worst of circumstances. That evidence of the Holy Spirit, in my opinion, is what informs the cause for his beatification.

At the Jesuit Center in Wernersville, Pa., I prayed at Father Ciszek’s grave for insight into the kind of redemptive grace he experienced. I wanted to know, to feel God in the way that Walter Ciszek and Ignatius and Thomas More and all the rest had felt him, to become more saintly in my own life. And I believe absolutely and completely that Father Ciszek was with me in the spiritual exercises and has been with me ever since. I can’t speak to the process that the church will follow in evaluating Father Ciszek, but in my heart and soul, I know that Walter Ciszek is a saint.

Jeffrey D. Sedlack, M.D.

Belfast, Me.

Incarnational Fulfillment

My thanks to Gerald O’Collins, S.J., and to America for his superb article, “Our Risen Selves” (4/9). I think it represents speculative theology in the richest sense: both insightful and conducive to meditation. The one further suggestion I would make is to tie Christ’s Incarnation and Resurrection even closer. Resurrection is the fulfillment of Incarnation: the consummation of the flesh-taking, the embodiment of the eternal Son of God.

(Rev. ) Robert Imbelli

Boston, Mass.

Present Passion

I watched the video tour of Jerusalem and the Via Dolorosa by James Martin, S.J., on America’s Web site (americamagazine.org/video). I now look forward to a video of his time in the West Bank, where the present day suffering of Christ continues in the modern Palestinian Christians (and Muslims, too.) Our time in the Holy Land, but especially in the West Bank, opened our eyes to the violence and injustice our country supports. We trust that America will continue its excellent coverage of the present day Passion.

Mary Ryan-Hotchkiss

Portland, Ore.

Spirit Lifting

Getting older, becoming sick and now living with symptoms that will last until I pass away, I wasn’t sure I wanted to take “this body” with me anywhere. After reading “Our Risen Selves,” however, my heart was gladdened with the thought of having a full history of communication with me and “seeing” others in full communication with God and others. The joy I have knowing my everyday actions are in dialogue with the world and with God and that I am living an imprint of historical sense, truly lifts my spirit and my soul. Living in the now and becoming who I am is a wonderful spiritual gift.

Eileen Coughlan Kriechbaum

Faribault, Minn.

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