I am frustrated by the recent action of the bishops in considering certain changes to the liturgy of the Mass (Signs of the Times, 7/3). Why are they wasting their time and ours on trivialities when there are so many important issues that need attention?
Are they using their command function to remind us that they are in control? I would prefer that they learn to exercise leadership and lead us into the 21st century. This would involve many issues, including the priest shortage, which I attribute to their woeful lack of leadership. Leading into the 21st century would involve updating their teachings from the static universe of St. Augustine and other early leaders to the dynamic universe we know today. Some of the changes include now knowing that the universe is billions of years old and that humans have been here for perhaps millions of years.
I know the teachings of the catechism, but it is hard to relate them to the conditions of the 21st century. Since I know the bishops are not likely to address these issues, I must make my own interpretations. Yes, I am a Catholic and will remain one, but in some issues on my own terms.
John L. Coakley Jr.
Kansas City, Mo.
Colombian Dreams, by James R. Stormes, S.J., (7/17) is well intentioned but distorts the nature of the conflict and U.S. policy. The root of a very complex problem is a weak state’s inability to provide security and governance in one of the most difficult geographies (three times the size of Iraq) and patterns of human habitation in the world, along with unequal distribution of land and wealth. Some 40 percent of the territory, even urban areas, is outside the control of the state, precisely where guerrillas and paramilitaries contest authority. Moreover, narcotics totally transformed the conflict, intensifying corruption and violence, now one of the main causes of death and the main cause of poverty. Eliminating the narcotics economy is thus key to security.
The article states: Colombia finds itself with three armed groups: the guerrillas, the Army and the paramilitary groups. They are at one another’s throats with all the resources of that other tragedy, drug smuggling, at their disposal. This is moral equivalence of the worst kind. Would the author agree that the Army is the legitimate arm of the state, while the other two groups are illegitimate? The guerrillas and the paramilitaries massacre, rape and kidnap children to fight. They sexually exploit young girls, force them to have abortions and summarily execute those who lose revolutionary morale. The United Nations and Human Rights Watch estimate that some 11,000 children have been forcibly recruited to fight for them. To put the Army in the same moral category and claim that it is using resources from drug smuggling defies comprehension. The Army has made significant progress in reforms and improving its human rights record to the point where reputable public opinion polls indicate it is the country’s most respected institution.
The article recommends that instead of fumigation, the U.S. government provide more resources to support the development of the Colombian people. No other nation approaches the generosity of the United States. But generosity will not be enough unless Colombia establishes legitimate security and the rule of law across the nation. Vietnam, Somalia, Haiti, the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq have taught us that without security and justice there can be no economic development.
In Back to the Future (7/31) you write, The council fathers declared that the use of the vernacular may frequently be of great advantage to the people’ to help them reach full, conscious and active’ participation. Pope Benedict agrees. He wrote in Theological Highlights of Vatican II (1966), while he was still Joseph Ratzinger, The wall of Latinity had to be breached if the liturgy were again to function either as proclamation or as invitation to prayer.
There is other good stuff in there as well: ...none of the saints of the Catholic Reformation drew their spirituality from the liturgy. Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of ávila and John of the Cross developed their religious life solely from personal encounter with God and from individual experience of the Church, quite apart from the liturgy and any deep involvement with it.
I have only seen those words quoted once. They should be seen more.
(Rev.) Jack Garvey
Thank you for publishing the article The Corporate University, by Wilson D. Miscamble, C.S.C. (7/31). I retired in December 2005 after more than 35 years as a journalism professor. In my family’s Christmas letter this past year I wrote that one of the reasons for my retirement was a belief that marketing had taken over higher education and that I wanted to retain as much of my academic integrity as possible under the circumstances.
Prior to my retirement I sat on the university senate at the institution where I taught. A primary topic on the mind of the university provost when he addressed the faculty seemed to focus on the success the institution was having in putting together packages to attract students as part of a marketing plan directed at selected constituencies.
I only wish Father Miscamble had written more about the position athletics, particularly football, occupies within efforts to market higher education. The institution where I taught aggressively started a football program because, at least in my view, the administration saw it as a central marketing tool in building its version of the corporate university. (The football program has just moved up to Division I.) Murray Sperber, a professor at Indiana University, has written a highly recommended book with a title that sums up my feelings on this subject rather well: Beer and Circus: How Big-Time College Sports Is Crippling Undergraduate Education.
David L. Martinson