Your editorial on the prison industry (“Prison Nation,” 3/9) paints a shocking picture. It would be helpful to remind ourselves that while the terminology varies, there are only three goals of imprisonment: the punitive (punishment for offenses), the rehabilitative (reintegration of the offender into civil society) and the protective (restraining the offender from doing further harm). It might be helpful if judges were required to declare the weight of each of these factors in any prison sentence.
The concept of prison term limits might also profitably be explored. While the public might need to be protected from some felons indefinitely, does locking a person in a cell for over 10 years add any likelihood to the possibility that the prisoner will be rehabilitated?
Robert V. Levine
Collegeville, Pa.History’s Mysteries
While reading Emilie Griffin’s review of Help My Unbelief, by William J. O’Malley, S.J. (“The Quest for Certitude,” 2/23), I was taken aback by the statement that “the Roman Catholic Church seems to be the original from which the others branched.”
I suspect that the Orthodox churches would disagree quite vehemently with that statement. Until 1054, when the formal schism occurred between the Eastern churches and the Latin rite church, there was no Roman Catholic church.
The Roman Catholic church is better described as the largest survivor of the original churches instead of “the original.”
Many thanks to Mary M. Foley for sharing her experiences as a pastoral minister (“Exceptional Pastoring,” 3/9), and many thanks to America for publishing her article. Having worked with and for parish coordinators in my many years of parish work, I applaud them all for their hard work and dedication to the mission of the church.
Norfolk, Va.Hold That Applause
We are kidding ourselves if we think that stories such as that told by Mary M. Foley about her experiences as a pastoral minister (“Exceptional Pastoring,” 3/9) are good news. How is it good news when Foley’s position was terminated on a whim? How does this help women or the church?
We need to recognize that the emperor has no clothes. There are untold numbers of women called to serve the church who are not welcome. That is the real vocation crisis. Rather than propping up the old system with absurd organizational maneuvering, we need to embrace the women who are eager to be pastors to God’s people right now.
Cincinnati, OhioPlaying Politics
In your editorial on the need for a “truth commission” to investigate the Bush administration (“Truth and Prosecution,” 3/23), you follow the path of others on the extreme and hysterical left, taking it as a given that crimes have been committed by the Bush administration and its legal advisors. You will be amazed to learn that there are many who disagree with you and think you are advocating the highly destructive and vindictive course of trying to criminalize the decisions of your political enemies.
San Francisco, Calif.Policing the Police
In her reflections on our country’s legacy of torture (“Accounting for Torture,” 3/30), Maryann Cusimano Love has hit the mark. We are disciples of a tortured God, and this means that we have a strong moral obligation never to torture, to investigate and prosecute human rights violations and to stand in solidarity with torture victims.
But Love assumes too easily that President Obama has returned us to full compliance with the Geneva Conventions. At Guantánamo, instead of allowing independent human rights organizations to review conditions and the treatment of prisoners, Obama curiously assigned this task to the Department of Defense, the department that is also responsible for operating the facility. Should we trust the architects and perpetrators of torture to investigate themselves?
Luke Hansen, S.J.
Chicago, Ill.More Light, Less Heat
The column by John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., on the recent controversy over President Barack Obama’s scheduled appearance at the commencement ceremony at the University of Notre Dame (“Outrages,” 4/13 online edition) is a fine contribution to the dismal story of Catholic attacks on Obama, the first president in quite a while who seems genuinely committed to seeking the common good. Beyond the particular issue, what is most disquieting is the latent venom in so many Catholics, just waiting to be called into action by some poisonous standard-bearer.
Of course the issue of abortion is a serious one; but it is a complex issue, not one best dealt with in haste or by over-simplification. It is a great pity that the American bishops do not choose to lead by recognizing the complexity of the issue on which they are called to teach, and then teaching in a way that produces more light and less heat.
In the resultant moral vacuum, it is no surprise that demagogues can whip up the masses on matters whose complexity they have not explored. And I wonder how many of them have reflected on the fact that this man they apparently hate is breaking his back trying to save their jobs, their pensions and perhaps their way of life.
Fairfield, Conn.Straw Man
In his recent column (“Outrages,” 4/13 online edition), John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., criticizes a commenter named “James” on an Internet blog for contradictions in his denunciation of President Barack Obama’s scheduled appearance at the University of Notre Dame. But picking on the weakest person on the other side of an issue is a little too easy, almost like pulling the wings off a fly. At this point, 15 American bishops have expressed reservations about the actions of the University of Notre Dame. How about addressing their concerns? Or should one be satisfied to demonstrate merely that one is smarter and more civil than some random person with an ax to grind?
When I read the excellent article about Karl Rahner, S.J., by Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J. (“Reading Karl Rahner,” 3/30), I was struck by his statement that we “are the truth of lives that only love can guarantee. Thus, knowledge is only momentarily an end in itself; it must always be guided by love....”
Only an hour earlier, I had heard a radio interview with a clinical psychologist who works with Alzheimer’s support groups. He spoke of a woman who regularly greeted her husband when she visited him in an Alzheimer’s care facility with the question: “Do you remember who I am?” One day, before she asked the question, he said “I don’t know who you are, but I love you.”
Aren’t these two expressions from different sources amazingly reinforcing and sublime?
Jack Zuercher, S.J.
Omaha, Neb.Conspiracy of Silence
Kudos to Kate Blake for her superb article on the ethical treatment of animals (“Our Responsibility to All Creation,” 3/23). It was both articulate and informed. The church justly and properly advocates for the rights of the poor and voiceless all over the world, standing on the side of the defenseless in both word and action. At the same time, the church (and by extension, all of us who worship a gentle God) appears oblivious to the needs and welfare of another voiceless group: animals. There seems to be a conspiracy of silence with regard to the suffering of animals, whose sad fate is a life lived under intensive farming conditions, followed by death in a slaughterhouse.
It strikes me as quite incongruous that many people who bring their animals to church every October to have them blessed might later that same day enjoy a Sunday meal of roast beef.
In this critical time, when our stewardship of God’s creation should be of deep concern to all of us, Blake’s article is very timely.