In my search for meaning and the words to express it, Cardinal Avery Dulles provides a profound perspective. His reflections on the Shoah (9/17) apply equally to the incineration and crushing of over 6,000 people on Sept. 11. Following Cardinal Dulles’s sage advice, I have asked myself, inner-city teenagers and adults to “look below the surface of things and find a deeper dimension.” This deeper look usually reveals our own acquiescence to violence and intolerance. With regard to those “who suffered so unjustly...in the eyes of faith, their affliction is far less severe than the punishment incurred by their persecutors, unless through God’s mercy they repented and turned to God.” Even the most ardent patriot must allow God room to save.
(Msgr.) David M. Gallivan
Buffalo, N.Y.Spiritual Life
The health benefits of what nowadays is often referred to as a “spiritual life” have been discussed in many places and at many times; so also recently in articles and letters in America (7/30, 8/20). My experience over many decades of psychiatric practice confirms anecdotally what has been found by many studies conducted with rather impressive statistical rigor.
Still, even at the risk of weakening the argument, I feel obliged to point out that such a sequence of reasoning puts the cart before the horse. One’s spiritual life, or (at the risk of plagiarizing the Rev. Andrew Greeley or even Teresa of Avila) one’s “personal love affair with God” should not be in the service of one’s bodily health (even if, in fact, it happens to contribute to it), much less in the service of business or political success. Rather, all such secular pursuits, including maintenance of one’s physical health, should be in the service of, and contribute to, one’s spiritual life.
A truly spiritual person does not take time out from his/her other activities to spend it on communing with God. Rather, such a person takes time out, even if it be in percentage a larger part, from communing (consciously and explicitly, that is) with God, in order to take care of daily necessities. At least so believes Ignatius Loyola, according to the “First Principle and Foundation” of his Spiritual Exercises.
Edmund F. Kal, M.D.
Fresno, Calif.Necessary Moral Guidance
During World War II, all parties engaged in an activity known as carpet-bombing or saturation bombing. This practice involved flying squadrons of bombers over cities and dropping as many bombs as possible on as large an area of the city as possible. While one purpose of this was to inflict as much physical damage on a city as possible, another purpose was to terrorize civilians in the hope that this would lead to a weakening of their will to support the war. The bombing of England by the Germans, the bombing of Dresden and other German cities by the Allies, and the bombing of cities in Japan—as well as the sparing of the city of Nagasaki for its later use as a demonstration city for the atomic bomb—are examples of such practice.
Apparently only one article was published in the United States during the time of World War II challenging the morality of such practices. This was the article, “The Morality of Obliteration Bombing,” by John Ford, S.J., which was published in Theological Studies in September 1944. His conclusion, after a detailed analysis, was that such obliteration bombing “is an immoral attack on the rights of the innocent. It includes a direct intent to do them injury. Even if this were not true, it would still be immoral, because no proportionate cause could justify the evil done; and to make it legitimate would soon lead the world to the immoral barbarity of total war.”
The fact that this article is one of the few to provide a moral critique of war practices during the conduct of war shows how difficult it is to provide such necessary moral guidance while a nation is at war. There was much national unity during World War II, and that national unity apparently included less or diminished moral scrutiny of the conduct of the war.
I think we may now be in a similar situation, in which questioning or critique of foreign policy or strategic planning could be seen as un-American or unpatriotic. The urge to “unite around the president” is a powerful one but one that can also lead to uncritical acceptance of any strategy in the name of supporting national unity.
The virtue of patriotism also encompasses the duty to critique the country and its policies as well as to support them when justified. And that practice of patriotism may help ensure that we achieve justice and not vengeance.
Thomas A. Shannon
Worcester, Mass.Problems and Solutions
I read “‘Home Alone’ in the Priesthood” by Msgr. Eugene T. Gomulka (8/27) with mixed feelings. I believe with every fiber of my being that as a church we simply do not love well. It is difficult to be finite. Finite humans simply fall short when trying to turn Catholic Christian vision—Jesus’ vision—into a lived reality. I agree with Monsignor Gomulka that a church that envisions ordination as a sacrament needs to envision also a way to have clergy and laity engage in supportive, caring, ongoing, loving relationships. Where priests are left to hang alone—or where they encourage people to leave them alone—the vision of church is rendered less effective. Lives of humans are turned unnecessarily into struggle. We simply must do better—at the parish level, to care for those we ordain, and at the seminary level, to enable those ordained to prepare themselves to accept genuine caring when it is offered.
I was, however, saddened and disturbed to see this conversation set in the context of married versus unmarried clergy, in the additional context of homosexuality and adultery. First, I am not at all sure that as humans we deal equally with issues like adultery and homosexuality. We rarely witch-hunt married infidelity at the same level that we do homosexuality, and neither should be a crime. Second, I know—as a convert to Roman Catholicism who has survived at the parish leadership level unhappy clergy marriages, clergy divorces and clergy marriages struggling with infidelity—that it simply isn’t true that the married model provides a guarantee of the support necessary for people ordained to serve Jesus Christ and the people of God. In addition, as a recent graduate of a non-Catholic seminary actively involved even now in the formation of non-Catholic clergy, it is not true that marriage has enabled denominations to solve the “clergy crisis.” Marriage is only one of a host of reasons that influence a person’s choice to become ordained. It is unfair to the struggle of celibate clergy and married clergy alike to see one as the problem and the other as the solution.
Thank you for your magazine. For all of you in orders and religious life, thank you for your lives lived differently than the rest, and to your staff thanks for being present to make this endeavor happen and to enable this kind of life witness.
Linda Ann Ballard, O.S.C.
Kansas City, Mo.Other Forms
The article by Msgr. Eugene T. Gomulka, “‘Home Alone’ in the Priesthood” (8/27), provides an excellent picture of the problems priests face in today’s society. Monsignor Gomulka makes an excellent point when he discusses the stress and pressures on a priest who is running a large parish by himself. The one point that is questionable, though, has to do with the idea of other forms of priesthood beyond the “current celibate-male model.” The author makes it seem inevitable that the church will look into other options because of this current lack of clergy. This question is certainly not unfounded. But Monsignor Gomulka does not bring up other relevant issues. It could be that the church is not encouraging and promoting vocations as it should be. Also, it may be worthwhile to analyze this issue from a historical perspective and investigate reasons behind clerical shortages in the past. Furthermore, his view of the perfect life of the married Protestant minister seems very naïve. A more thorough discussion of these topics is much needed.
University Heights, OhioNever a Good Time
Thanks to George M. Anderson, S.J., for the stories and insights about the people at Fleming House (9/24). Persons with mental illness, especially the homeless, are the most vulnerable in our society. The lack of programs to care for them is morally unconscionable. As the author rightly points out, studies show that the dollar cost of non-care is at least equal to the cost of funding programs. The human cost of not caring is immeasurable. The problem is also nationwide.
In Illinois, the largest provider of mental health services is the Cook County jail. In the Chicago area, at least one-third of the homeless are suffering with mental illness, and in the suburbs the percentage is closer to 50 percent. We have for years been advocating increased funding, only to see programs such as “Illinois First” earmark $11 billion for roads and buildings, with little or no increase in mental health funding. Why? Persons with mental illness have no “clout,” no PAC money, no voting power. This is an area where churches should and could be involved, yet institutionally little is being done.
In my past 10 years of advocating for all faiths to become more involved with persons and their families suffering from the effects of mental illness, I have found much empathy but little institutional backing. Why? Frequently, the answer is budget. One bishop recently told me, “This isn’t a good time to ask for money.” I replied that over the years, I have lived in three different dioceses and it has never been a good time to ask for money!
If we call the state to task for how it spends money, maybe we should look at how we as a church and as parishes spend our money. If ever there was a need for justice and compassion this is it! Why can’t churches also provide some funding for more programs like the one at Fleming House? These programs are desperately needed and couldn’t be more aligned with the Gospel and the Catholic Church’s mandate to take care of the poor and most vulnerable.
(Deacon) Tom Lambert
McHenry, Ill.Not Too Late
I usually receive America four months late, and the May 21 issue just arrived. The editorial, “The Bomb in a Suitcase,” was very prophetic and uncannily anticipated the events of Sept. 11, showing a very accurate analysis of the “signs of the times” and how we can engage them. Four months late or not, I always look forward to receiving America and the encouragement it gives me to promote Jesus’ kingdom in this part of the world.
Richard Archambault, M.Afr.