I was delighted to read Bryan Linden-berger’s account of the restoration of Our Lady of Purification church in Doña Ana, N.M., in “A Church Reborn” (8/25). I grew up in nearby Las Cruces, N.M. Our historic churches are truly a national treasure, and many have already been lost forever.
David Paz, O.F.M.
Many thanks to Camille D’Arienzo, R.S.M., for “Mercy Toward Our Fathers” (8/25), regarding priests guilty of the sexual abuse of minors. D’Arienzo asked two key questions: Is it reasonable to treat a one-time offender the same as a sexual predator? And ought we to judge any human being by the worst thing he has done, as if it were the only thing he has done? My response to both questions is no.
The U.S. bishops, in their 2002 national meeting in Dallas, rightly addressing the devastating harm done to victims of sexual abuse by clergy, adopted policies to assist victims and protect children and youth in the future. A motion from the floor at that meeting to provide the possibility of different punishments for offending priests, in line with differing circumstances of their offense, was defeated.
The Dallas meeting focused on victims of clergy sexual abuse; my hope is that in a future national meeting we bishops will address the two questions cited above, guided by the fundamental principles of justice.
Most Rev. John J. Leibrecht
Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau
Truth and Reconciliation
Kudos to Camille D’Arienzo, R.S.M. (“Mercy Toward Our Fathers,” 8/25), for raising a taboo topic in such a nuanced and genuinely hopeful way in “Mercy Toward Our Fathers.” The sexual abuse crisis is “the still open wound on the soul of the church,” a wound in need of healing. Perhaps we as a church will now be willing to look at some creative ways toward such healing. Has anyone thought of using the model of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a way toward such healing for us? Has anyone asked the abusers if they would be willing to speak of how they came to act on their impulses and to ask for forgiveness? Let the healing begin.
William A. Barry, S.J.
Remembering the Outcast
Re “Mercy Toward Our Fathers,” by Camille D’Arienzo, R.S.M. (8/25): In the current context, it is perhaps too much to hope for forgiveness and reconciliation between sexual abuse victims and the priests who abused them. And certainly those who were abused deserve our primary care. But there has been an incredible abandonment of such priests by some dioceses and religious communities, as if to say: “You’ve caused all this harm. We don’t want anything to do with you.”
I would not ask those abused to forgive their abusers. But I would ask the Christian community in general to be about the task of forgiveness and reconciliation. Such priests are still members of the church, with a right to the sacraments, as well as citizens with limited rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Ken Smits, O.F.M.Cap.
Thank you for “Dear Senator Obama,” by John F. Kavanaugh, S.J. (8/25). I am a passionate supporter of Senator Barack Obama’s candidacy. I have a son who is autistic, and Obama’s plan to help autistic children and their families is outstanding. I do, however, have a problem with his stance on abortion. I chose to keep my child even though I knew right from the start, from ultrasounds and blood tests during my pregnancy, that my son would probably have problems. When I was in my last trimester, our state voted on the “partial-birth abortion” issue. I felt as if the state was voting on whether or not I was carrying a human person.
My son is now 8 years old, and a happy child. God has blessed me. As a supporter of Senator Obama, I will send him a copy of Father Kavanaugh’s open letter. At the same time, we have to pray for him to change his heart.
A Distasteful Choice
In “Dear Senator Obama” (8/25), John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., displays once again his unique ability to cut to the heart of the matter and tweak the consciences of the powerful. It is ironic that we are presented with these kinds of morally distasteful choices between those who would get rid of the inconvenient who are yet to be born and those who would dispose of the inconvenient living. Perhaps if more of us had the wisdom to confront both sides with the wisdom of Christ, we would tweak more consciences. Now let’s see an open letter to John McCain and his ilk.
John D. Fitzmorris Jr.
New Orleans, La.
Re Austen Ivereigh’s “Bethlehem’s Wall” (9/1): Having just returned from three days in Bethlehem, I can attest to the truth of the article regarding the existence of “the Wall,” the oppression of Palestinians in the West Bank and the plight of Christians in particular. Crossing the Bethlehem checkpoint twice on foot, I saw the humiliating treatment of Palestinians by Israeli security personnel. At the same time, I saw buses of tourists being whisked through the Bethlehem checkpoint and then spending a couple of hours at the Church of the Nativity and Manger Square before passing through the checkpoint again, without having any idea of the suffering of the Palestinian Christians around them.
Many times during my visit, Palestinian Christians said they feel abandoned by the Christians of the West. They are incredulous and angry that we are so concerned about religious sites in the Holy Land but are blind and deaf (or at least indifferent) to the oppression and plight of the “living stones” of the Holy Land.
You have spoken bravely and truly in your Current Comment on “A-Bombs and Repentance” (8/25). Many Americans have excused themselves from the war crime of indiscriminate mass bombing of civilians—even of the use of atomic weapons. Five months before Hiroshima and Nagasaki, American bombers had rained incendiary bombs on many of the larger cities of Japan. One such raid killed an estimated 80,000 civilians in a vast residential area of Tokyo.
The Truman government’s excuse for the use of atomic weapons was to call it the choice of a lesser evil, to force Japan to surrender instead of invading with much greater loss of lives. There were other (untried) ways to bring Japan to surrender, but deciding to kill civilians to force the rulers of Japan to cave in was essentially what is done by terrorists who say “if you don’t do what we demand, we will kill these innocent hostages whom you love.”
The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were tactically unnecessary and ethically abominable.
Robert Deiters, S.J.
I have never been so incensed with an editorial comment as when I read “A-Bombs and Repentance” (Current Comment, 8/25). Yes, on Aug. 6 and 9 we mourned the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan. However, what many mourned is the fact that the relentless, merciless, negligent and persistent efforts by the leaders of Japan to start and wage war had put their entire populace in peril. They were solely responsible for the devastation brought upon their country.
You talk of the “utilitarian” estimates of U.S. losses from an invasion as if they are imaginary. Put them aside if you like, but what about the millions of Japanese civilians who would have been forced into war and killed during such an invasion? It is a fact that the atomic bombs not only saved American lives, they saved many more Japanese lives.
To suggest that the United States should apologize for using maximum force to prevent a maniacal regime from causing the deaths of millions more innocent people borders on the pathological. How would our government have explained to the families of those killed in an invasion that we had a bomb that could have ended the war earlier? Talk about a need for apologizing!
Robert F. Drinan, S.J., Biography
For a biography of Robert F. Drinan, S.J., Raymond A. Schroth, S.J., would appreciate reminiscences from those who knew him. This could include letters, stories of friendship, professional projects, research, teaching and persons to contact.
Among Schroth’s previous books are The American Journey of Eric Sevareid (Steerforth Press) and, most recently, The American Jesuits: A History (New York Univ. Press).
Raymond A. Schroth, S.J.
Boston College Jesuit Community
St. Mary’s Hall
140 Commonwealth Ave.
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
Ph: (617) 552 8042