I found “A Life in Theology,” by Avery Dulles, S.J. (4/21), to be somewhat disheartening, because he is dismissive of innovation and new insights, labeling some of them as deviant. “Very few new ideas, I suspect, are true,” he says. This suggests a claustrophobic view of theology or of any intellectual discipline. New doors are continually opening with new critical approaches, and each contributes to the growth of understanding. The profound, inexhaustible mysteries of the faith certainly cannot be circumscribed by one theological tradition. Even Thomas Aquinas did not think he had said the final word in his writings; in fact, he thought them “so much straw.”
Peter Farley Garden City, N.Y.
Garden City, N.Y.
Of all the articles in your issue on the “New Atheism” (5/5), I found Richard R. Gaillardetz’s “Catholicism and The New Atheism” to be the best. He clearly appreciates how hard it is today to talk sensibly about God. Who God is and how God acts is always a profound mystery. There is nothing obvious about the life of the Trinity or about creation, evil or Jesus’ role as redeemer. Yet our talk about such matters is often simpleminded, if not downright silly.
On the other hand, we are also much too prone to be satisfied with our “church talk” that verges on smugness. We are not accustomed to listening attentively to those who find such talk less than compelling, and we put up too readily with church leaders who behave as though they have all the answers already packaged for delivery.
To Gaillardetz’s credit, he will have none of this self-satisfaction.
Bernard P. Dauenhauer Bethlehem, Penn.
Bernard P. Dauenhauer
Regarding “The Madman and the Crowd,” by Michael J. Buckley, S.J. (5/5): In science there is an axiom that when all the facts are known, the simplest solution is usually the correct solution. There is a tremendous temptation on the part of the “new atheists” to make the assumption that all the facts are indeed known. But what has been the truth when all the facts were not known? Throughout human history, humanity’s intellect has always fallen short of the reality. The sun circles the earth? There are only four elements? The smallest unit of being is a molecule? An atom? A neutron? A quark?
Only a fool would say that all the facts are known; and only a greater fool would make a conclusion about God, considering how much we do not know. The truth has always proved more wondrous and more complex than originally believed. Let us remember and revel in the very fact that presents the most insurmountable problem for an atheist: the truth is not known.
Patrick Coburn Cleveland, Ohio
I wonder if your writers on the “New Atheism” (5/5) have ever run into young men and women who have fallen back on atheism because they do not like to get up on Sunday morning and go to Mass. I once knew a chap who did not go to Mass “because candle smoke made him sick.”
G. K. Chesterton had it right: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”
George Ratermann, M.M. Maryknoll, N.Y.
George Ratermann, M.M.
After reading “Pope Meets Privately with Victims of Abuse” (Signs of the Times, 5/5), I thought it a shame that the pope met only with lay victims of abuse. I wished someone had also arranged for a meeting of the pope with priests who were victims of false allegations of abuse made because of personal agendas and sinister reasons.
It was wrong that the laity suffered for so long because bishops did not know how to deal with the problem, but now priests must suffer because the bishops still do not know how to deal with it. The current solution is to sacrifice the priest to save a buck. If a mistake has been made, the thinking goes, the priest can be reinstated; no harm done. Wrong. Irrevocable harm has been done.
Equal time should have been given to priests who have suffered in the abuse crisis to meet the pope. This would have given him a chance to see how out of control the current situation is.
(Rev.) Gary Zalenski Neffs, Ohio
(Rev.) Gary Zalenski
Michael Sean Winters’s review of The Party Faithful (5/5) focuses on what the Democratic Party can do to attract faithful Catholics again. My response: the U.S. bishops need to teach more clearly about what it means to be a Catholic. If the hierarchy wanted to be very clear and teach the faith, they would add a few simple lines to our creed: “We believe in life from conception until natural death. We believe in all the moral teachings of the current pope and bishops of our diocese.” Many politicians could not be filmed stating this, and their negative response to the church’s teaching would be clear to everyone.
Joe Fiala Worthington, Ohio
In his Of Many Things on Benedict XVI and atheism (5/5), James T. Keane, S.J., criticizes Christopher Hitchens for his “convenient conversion to American jingoism after 9/11.” This is a view I share. Yet in his final paragraph, Keane himself verges on chauvinism when he commends the “congratulations of our commander in chief: ‘Awesome speech, Your Holiness’.”
Bush’s comment on the speech seemed to me to be more the response of an inarticulate adolescent than a thoughtful appreciation of the speech.
William Dockery Whiting, N.J.