Thank you for Bishop Emil A. Wcela’s insightful article on the similarities between the church in the Czech Republic and the church in the United States (A Dangerous Common Enemy, 2/21). The challenges common to both countries are considerable. Add to that the compromised position of the Catholic Church in the United States in the light of the sexual abuse scandal, and the task of renewing our faith communities becomes all the more difficult.
What I found most heartening was the bishop’s account of how he goes out to parishes regularly and listens to what active Catholics have to say. This type of episcopal outreach can be of great benefit to the pastoral mission of the church. It would be helpful for bishops occasionally to seek out and listen to disaffected and marginalized Catholics as well. They, too, are part of the community called to join in worship and to witness to God’s kingdom of peace and justice in the world.
Raymond Maher, O.Carm.
I am a dedicated advocate for peace. Also, it is true that some graduates of the School of the Americas did participate in human rights violations in Latin America (United in Protest, 2/7). However, I feel that the Jesuit- and Maryknoll-led protests at Fort Benning, Ga., should be suspended as long as American soldiers are dying in Iraq.
My son, Sgt. Joseph M. Nolan, age 27, was killed near Fallujah, Iraq, on Nov. 18, 2004, while on a patrol. He was a gifted linguist. A 1999 graduate of St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, he took four years of the Japanese language. He joined the army before 9/11 and after boot camp was sent to the Defense Language Institute, where he learned Arabic. Joe had been in Iraq since January 2004. He was an interrogator and translator. Occasionally he went on patrol because of his language ability. On one such patrol he was mortally wounded by an improvised explosive device. Joe had been planning to go back to the Middle East when he was discharged from the army in the spring to attend graduate school in Arabic studies.
While the S.O.A. issue and the Iraq war may be separate aspects of American foreign policy, and many may disagree with both, our fallen soldiers and Marines need to be honored. Their deaths must not be in vain. Temporarily suspending S.O.A. protests at Fort Benning would be a good way to honor fallen Americans.
Joseph P. Nolan
As a former student (1966-69) of Josef Fuchs, S.J., I was saddened to learn of his death, but I rejoice in his victory in this Easter season. The tribute to Father Fuchs by James F. Keenan, S.J., (3/28) captures well the essence of the theologian and the man.
Knowing Father Fuchs’s role in the formulation of the majority opinion on the contraception issue, I asked him in the immediate wake of the promulgation of Humanae Vitae why he, unlike Father Bernard Häring, did not react in the media. Fuchs’s reply was insightful to me as a prospective teacher of moral theology. He responded: If I write, they will seek to silence me. They know where I stand, because they asked my opinion behind closed doors. If I write, a handful of people will read what I say. If I teach, I reach hundreds of students who, in turn, will influence many of the faithful and for many more years.
One anecdote about the man. As we lingered one evening over dinner in a small restaurant, Father Fuchs saw a look of puzzlement come over my face. He asked: Bob, what is wrong? I nodded toward an adjoining table where an old man was being seated with a stunning young woman, clearly not his daughter. I said: I don’t understand that. Father Fuchs looked, then said to me: Bob, you do not understand because you are not an old man. Perspectiveone of this master’s great virtues, shared in writing, the classroom and in casual conversation. Peace and thank you, Josef.
Robert M. Friday
Owings Mills, Md.
On the subject of creation and evolution (editorial, Genesis and Darwinism, 4/4), it may lighten the discussion if we recall the experience of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. As a youngster at Sunday school he became upset when his teacher launched a tirade against a certain Darwin person. It dawned on young Williams that this person was his great-uncle, Charles. When he returned home he asked his mother why the teacher was so upset with Great-Uncle Charles. His mother explained: Well, dear, the Bible says that God created the world in six days. Great-Uncle Charles thinks it took a little longer. Either way, it’s a beautiful mystery.
Dominic Maruca, S.J.
What a pity that in their desire to protect what they see as biblical truth, fundamentalists read the Bible as if it were written in our own times and thereby fail to grasp its deeper meaning (4/4). Does the first chapter of Genesis, for example, teach how long it took God to make the world? No. It does teach that there is only one God, that everything that exists owes its existence to that one God (and that includes the sun and the moon; they are not gods as their neighbors thought, just big lights in the sky) and that everything God makes is good, especially human beings, who enjoy a special place in God’s creation. And, by the way, keep holy the day of rest.
Thomas L. Sheridan, S.J.
Jersey City, N.J.
Genesis and Darwinism (4/4) points out that those who oppose the teaching of evolution fear evolution because there is no way to reconcile evolution with the literal reading of the story of Adam and Eve as the first humans. Yet, strangely, they do not have any problem with Jesus’ teaching in parables, with their figurative language and possibility of a deeper revelation to be understood at some point in the future.
Marilyn M. Kramer
As a Filipino American I read with interest Denis Murphy’s article, A Tale of Two Ships (3/14). I was impressed with his great honesty, especially regarding the climate of graft and corruption among traditional politicians in the Philippines. There is a disconnect between the faith and behavior of corrupt Filipinos, who take pride in being a Catholic or Christian country in Asia.
Indeed, the churchstill a trusted institution according to Mr. Murphyhas failed, not only in what Cardinal Jaime Sin himself has admitted about being the church of the poor but also in teaching about morality! The Catholic schools, as well as the public schools and the government, have failed the people.
Yet there’s hope. While it is easy for anyone to say what the bishops should do, it is more significant that the bishops themselves realize where they have failed and what they need to do to overcome the problems, especially graft and corruption. The bishops have begun to recognize the need for a conversion of heart: the spirituality of stewardship as a way of life to emerge from the endless circles. The bishops, though skeptical at first, now understand that it would be a sin of omission if they did not promote it. According to Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, the challenge is to share stewardship spirituality with the people and to provide a structure in which they can embrace stewardship as a way of life.
Over the last two years I have personally observed powerful conversions among priests, bishops, religious and lay leaders as they effect change and transformation in their own lives and the lives of those around them. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is working in the life of the Philippine church. I am convinced that while it will take time, there is hope that the church may be able to curb the climate of graft and corruption in the Philippines.
Valerie Schultz, in The Case for Dancing (3/21), says that the Mass has its own sacred choreography. Isn’t it then obvious that the rift she describes is a simple matter of preferences? Some people prefer the well-known dance of the standing, bowing, kneeling and sitting that are part of every Mass, and some people prefer a more spiritedor even inspiredliturgical dance performed for the assembly by well-trained dancers. De gustibus....
I do object to her apparent complaint that liturgical dance could be banned. Is this true? If they danced at the papal visit to St. Louis, it hardly seems likely. Isn’t it possible to make the case for dancing (or art, for that matter) without inviting readers to join a polemic against traditionalists?
Robert A. Hurteau
Los Angeles, Calif.
I started reading the Of Many Things column on March 14 without checking first to see who had written it. About half the time, I look down at the bottom first to see which editor has penned the words. I admit, I have my favorites. But I began without knowing who wrote the words. By the time I had hit the end of the second paragraph, though, I knew who the writer was without having to glance toward the bottom. I could not have disagreed more with reader who was happy I was leaving America the magazine, he would be much happier if I left America the country. I read America from cover to cover (except for the book reviews, which I skim), but there are a few authors I am always particularly happy to see. And of that crowd, James Martin, S.J., crowns the list, so I am writing to offer thanks and encouragement. To this lay geologist, it would be a sad day indeed when Father Martin stopped contributing.
Iowa City, Iowa