I was delighted to read the column by George M. Anderson, S.J., about Paterson, N.J., and, in particular, Eva’s Village and Sheltering Program (11/12). The author was correct in pointing out the surging needs of the poor and afflicted in Paterson. Fortunately, Eva’s does not have to go it alone. While visiting Eva’s, Father Anderson was standing in the middle of a multifaceted response to the needs of that community. Directly across the street is the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, the mother church of the Diocese of Paterson. Each day dozens of people arrive at the door seeking food, clothing, help with finding work and immigration difficulties. None is turned away empty handed. There is not a day when the volume of those in need slacks off.
(Most Rev.) Frank J. Rodimer
Bishop of Paterson, N.J.
Thank you for inviting Cardinal Walter Kasper to respond (11/26) to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s reflections (11/19) on Cardinal Kasper’s thoughts about the universal and local church (4/23). This sort of dialogue, carried on in the pages of America, puts your magazine in a class by itself. Can you imagine any other publication that could provide a forum for this high-level dialogue? Three cheers. I’ve been a reader for a number of years and don’t know what I would do without America.
Robert J. Hammond
Ft. Wayne, Ind.
Every week since Sept. 11, when America’s staff surmounted insurmountable obstacles to publish on schedule, America has been healing faithfully. In sharing grief and anguish, and in bringing understanding and wisdom to bear on both, your writers and editors have soothed spirit and soul.
Throughout 11 weeks, the healing has persevered. In the Nov. 26 issue Patrick J. Ryan, S.J., traces The Roots of Muslim Anger with deeply assimilated understanding; articulate, coherent, his fine scholarship and gentle wisdom pacify (as does his admonition that imagery from Wild West movies should be banned from rational political discourse). In the same issue, the Rev. Donald Heet probes Preaching From the Sacred Text with fervent compassion.
Father Heet asks why some homilists did not address their people’s pain on the Sunday after Sept. 11. His anguished query makes me realize more fully than ever the deep gratitude I feel for the extraordinary ministry my own parish priests began to give on that date. Beginning with a memorial liturgy on the night of Sept. 11, they addressed our pain through their own, with Scriptures and liturgy.
In one of his later homilies, our young associate pastor quoted the heart-stopping narrative of James Martin, S.J., about offering the Eucharist at ground zero (10/8). Every day he selected entrance and recessional hymns and anthems appropriate to the suffering of parishioners; parishioners sang in tears that began to cleanse.
Just as each succeeding issue of America has brought healing, each succeeding liturgy and homily of my parish priests has brought healing.
Mary Anne Zak
In The A.C.L.U. Strays (11/5), Bishop Thomas J. Curry asserts that the A.C.L.U. has abandoned its longstanding commitment to protecting religious freedom by supporting the California Women’s Contraception Equity Act. This is simply not the case.
In fact, in the Catholic Charities lawsuit challenging the act, the A.C.L.U. has urged the courts to afford great deference to religious liberties. Thus, we support that portion of the act that allows religious institutions whose purpose is to inculcate religious valuessuch as churches and some parochial schoolsto refrain from providing coverage for contraceptives in their employee prescription drug plans.
But when religiously affiliated organizations like Catholic Charities move into the public arenaby providing medical care or social services, for examplethey must play by public rules. In other words, when those organizations employ the general public and serve the general public, they must abide by laws like the act that are designed to protect employees and consumers who come from the general public. Catholic Charities, for example, readily acknowledges that it provides social services to the public at large and that 74 percent of its employees are not Catholic. Having thus entered the public realm, Catholic Charities may not impose its religious beliefs on the vast percentage of its employees who do not share those beliefs.
The act therefore strikes the right balance. It exempts from a public rule those religious institutions that refrain from entering the public fray. At the same time, the act ensures that those organizations that elect to enter the public arena do not impose their religious principles on those who do not share them. As such, the act merits the A.C.L.U.’s strong supportsupport that is entirely in keeping with the A.C.L.U.’s long and cherished tradition of defending religious liberties and reproductive rights.
Julie Sternberg, Esq. & Margaret C. Crosby, Esq.
American Civil Liberties Union
New York, N.Y.
I was glad to see Charles Zech’s sad article about the problem of second collections (11/5)sad because it reflects the fact that large numbers among both clergy and laity feel little responsibility for the church beyond the confines of their own parish. Anytime a 70-million member organization, two-thirds of whom are moderately affluent, give about 25 or 30 cents per person to underwrite a yearlong ministry of national or international significance, the situation is pretty sad.
That disappointing situation will not be changed until the majority of parish leaders in the church, both clergy and lay, have a sense of responsibility for their diocese, for the church across the United States and for the universal church.
While an inadequate ecclesiology is the underlying problem, there is another issue that is much simpler to correct. Take a look at the average Sunday Mass at which a second special collection is about to be taken up. Usually there is no announcement the week before other than a one-liner in the bulletin. The ushers show up unexpectedly in the front of the church and start passing the basket. There are no words encouraging people to respond generously. After the collection is taken up, it is sent off to some mysterious location in the chancery or in Washington, and nothing is said about it the next week. The following is a simple but effective method that has been tried in some places and proven very effective:
Announce the collection the preceding week both by a bulletin announcement and a succinct statement from the pulpit about the importance of the effort.
Immediately before the collection is taken up, remind people again of its purpose and importance.
The following week make a report on the results of the collection, together with strong words of thanks for what the people have given, and remind them of what they are accomplishing together.
Underpinning the above logistical changes is the need to remind both clergy and laity that the special collection in this country is the ordinary vehicle by which they involve themselves in the work of the church at levels above that of the parish. That we have not done this effectively is a sad reflection of our limited understanding of our responsibility to various levels of the church’s life.
(Most Rev.) John McCarthy
Bishop emeritus of Austin, Tex.