Time to Draw the Curtain

I admit to a certain wistfulness on the part of those of us old enough to remember photos like the one on the cover of the Oct. 8 issue showing Good Pope John. I felt I was in a time warp, again viewing this scene, replete with the copes and a retinue of clerics that characterized the triumphant panoply of pre-Vatican II ceremonies.

It is therefore ironic that so many of us have moved on from being edified by that kind of display of liturgical life to being completely alienated from it except for nostalgia. We have moved into what the spirit of Vatican II has emphasized as the “people of God” and the more ancient “priesthood of all believers.” This marked a pivotal moment in our experience of liturgy, church and identity.

This photo thus symbolizes the transitional death-knell of medieval liturgy to the birth pangs of the church in aggiornamento. It also symbolized the eventual demise of a liturgical experience that was so powerfully evocative of the transcendent for many of us a few generations ago.

David E. Pasinski

Fayetteville, N.Y.

Let It Fall

America’s cover “Celebrating Vatican II” (10/8) left me nonplussed. Celebrate? My parish, St. Alice in Springfield, Ore., now situates the tabernacle centered behind the altar table. It’s the central focus. We use a translation of the Sacramentary that suggests the word “consubstantial” is somehow holier than “one in being with the Father,” and our pastor (administrator) tells us how fortunate we are to be allowed to use this and such Latinized words in the new translation. We extol the Manichaeism of Augustine with “And with your spirit.” Laypeople still assist in the distribution of the Eucharist but are forbidden to enter the sanctuary before the priest first consumes the sacred species.

The Rev. Andrew Greeley, speaking from an expertise totally alien to the American hierarchy, showed that a parish can be judged mainly by the excellence of its music and its homilies. Since Vatican II, I would add the quality of its liturgy. Music, preaching, liturgy. I have no idea where to find this parish today.

What have we to celebrate, except perhaps the spirit, who is waiting for the whole corrupt house to fall before we can build it up again?

(Rev.) Mr. Richard Warren

Springfield, Ore.

Who Has the Spirit?

Thank you for the issue marking the anniversary of the Second Vatican Council (10/8). It is one of your best ever. But most of the articles skirt around the issue of the present pope, many bishops and the Curia being obsessed with authority, power and control.

Why can’t you just say it? In spite of their protests, they would like to dump the progressive changes in the church and go back to the church as pope and hierarchy—forget the people of God. I think they sincerely believe that the Spirit speaks to and through them only.

J. Peter Smith

Vero Beach, Fla.

They Knew It Was Wrong

Re “Obama’s Scandal” (Editorial, 10/22): In Guantánamo, almost all of the detainees transferred to other countries have been released upon transfer or shortly after transfer. Only a small minority of transferred detainees are alleged to have engaged in terrorism or violence directed against the United States (and it is possible in some cases that their terrorist activity or hostility was caused by their captivity in Guantánamo rather than predating it).

U.S. officials knew that many or most of the Gitmo detainees were there by mistake. Seymour Hersh reports in Chain of Command that an early internal analysis by the Central Intelligence Agency determined that more than half of the detainees did not belong there. Jane Mayer reported in The Dark Side that early on, Maj. Gen. Michael E. Dunlavey thought that one third of the then 600 detainees were there by mistake, and he later raised the estimate to one half. Also, another counterterrorism expert from the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimated that “there are no more than 50 detainees worth holding in Guantánamo.”

Publicly, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld described the detainees as “the worst of the worst,” but in private he wrote that “we need to stop populating Guantanamo Bay with low-level enemy combatants.” Larry Wilkerson, chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell under the Bush administration, testified under oath in 2010 that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld knew in 2002 that most of the Guantanamo detainees were innocent.

Jamie Mayerfeld

Seattle, Wash.

We’re Stuck

Concerning “Obama’s Scandal”: Sure, innocents all over those battlefields captured by bored soldiers offering Afghan fighters free trips to Cuba makes perfect sense. Whatever word one can use about Guantánamo and the detainees, “innocent” is not one of them. So why hasn’t President Obama closed the place? Why are trials starting now? What would Gitmo’s opponents use to replace it? Bash Bush, get elected, then do the same. The president and his people never talk about this issue—for a reason. There is no better solution identified so far.

Vincent Gaitley

Exton, Pa.

Red Tie, Blue Tie

“Who Shall Lead Us?” (Current Comment, 10/22) contrasts the appearance and dress of today’s presidential debaters with Lincoln and Douglas, concluding that today’s debaters “differed only in the color of their ties and their skin.” I may be a minority of one, but I thought I saw significant differences. One regards the office of president of the United States with profound seriousness, the other simply profoundly wants that office—at the cost of integrity, consistency and truth.

Dennis MacDonald

Bedford, Nova Scotia, Canada

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