The Dead Canary
In response to Signs of the Times, “Pope Promotes ‘Unworthy’ but Open Church” (10/10): Being a voice in the world but not of the world is a tough road to follow. The church will change; even the decision not to change produces change, because the worldly context in which the church serves is changing. So does the church pretend not to change or does it accept that it does and finally embrace change as a way to serve God?
Does the church really believe it had everything figured out in the 13th century? The failure to embrace progress—to embrace women and end the arrogant clericalism—has led to the decline of church attendance and the priesthood worldwide. The church is like the canary in the coal mine. If the canary dies, the miners are in danger. As the church’s influence declines so does the sense of God in the world. Yet its inability to be a voice is a self-inflicted wound. Jesus showed that service to the weak and vulnerable is the path of the righteous. The church must embrace that teaching or decline.
Call on the Classics
In response to “Catechesis or Theology” (Current Comment, 10/10), here is an idea that would enrich Catholic content without changing core requirements. Introduce Catholic and Christian classics into the required reading lists of appropriate literature, political science, economics and history courses. There are plenty of books available, including ancient classics in modern translations. In addition, add distinguished lecturers to lead discussions of these books and how they apply to modern issues.
C. R. Erlinger
San Antonio, Tex.
Re Valerie Schultz’s “Raised On Faith” (10/17): Although each generation is different, there are some eternal truths about God, human nature and the relationship between them. The critical question for us all is, “Who do you say I am?”
When my son was in his teens, he told me it would be hypocritical for him to receive Communion because he no longer believed in God, his years in Catholic school notwithstanding. My wife and I were convinced we had failed in some way, and comments from several priests that he was “seeking and testing” were not reassuring. In college he did not go to Mass, and when he transferred to a highly secular college in California we wondered if he was lost forever. But we did not abandon him.
One day he began to inch back, to answer the question, “Who do you say I am?” As he sat in his apartment, overwhelmed with his graduate studies, he had an interior locution: “If you don’t serve me, you will have wasted your life.”
He returned to Mass and the Eucharist and became a Jesuit priest. He could still rail against poor homilies, insensitive bishops and Vatican rigidity, and he still deepened his relationship with Jesus and served him in Central America, East St. Louis, Nigeria and Rwanda.
In Africa he became aware of an esophageal cancer. As he died he prayed that through his illness his love of God would be manifest, and he raised his withered hand to bless us.
St. Paul lists things that might separate us from the love of Christ but cannot: death, life, angels, powers, etc. One could add the issues of women priests, pedophile priests and bishops who fail in their duties. These are not inconsequential, but neither are they reasons to leave the church. God does not abandon the unworthy, nor do we abandon our children. The invitation will always be there.
What Happened to C.F.M.?
Reading Richard K. Cross’s “Just Parenting”(10/17), we can say without embarrassment that we have been “movement” groupies, starting in the 1900s—Legion of Mary, Vincentians, Marriage/Engaged Encounter, Voice of the Faithful and others; but the Catholic Family Movement was the best. The couples we bonded with all remained married.
Pundits suggest that the encyclical “Humanae Vitae” was the beginning of the church slide. Maybe. But because C.F.M. leaders, Pat and Patty Crowley, were on the birth control commission, it did cause the C.F.M. slide. Our pastor at the time “homilied” that C.F.M. stood for Communist Front Movement. This caused the 15 members in our parish to bail out to other parishes.
“Observe, judge, act” have been the core values of lay involvement, from Aquinas to Cardinal Joseph Cardijn. Without these prudential steps, movements can become just pious associations.
Ed and Peg Gleason
San Francisco, Calif.
No More Pope Saints, Please
In response to Mo Guernon’s “The Forgotten Pope” (10/24): I have read Pope John Paul I’s book, in which he writes letters to dead people. It was pastoral but plodding. He comes across as a humble man, and the church needs humble men.
That said, I have no wish to see another pope canonized. Pacelli, Montini, Roncalli and Wojtyla are all on the way; and within two seconds of his death people will call for the canonization of Pope Benedict. Since the emphasis today is on political correctness, Luciani is going nowhere fast. The others were fascinating, filled with goodness, sophisticated and almost mystical. But saints? The papacy requires both political sense and honesty. Of all the recent popes, Roncalli was the most capable of looking reality in the eye. As for Luciani, we may never know. But I hope his biographer will tell about his relationship with Jesus.
This Will Take Some Time
I was pained at reading “Time of the Preacher” (Current Comment, 9/12). Another expert gauging effective preaching with a stopwatch! I cannot imagine St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine, Billy Graham, Martin Luther King Jr. or Fulton Sheen—all effective preachers—submitting to this norm.
I taught homiletics in seminaries for more than 20 years. In addition to graduate studies in theology, I have a graduate degree in public speaking. Father Roy Shelly cannot claim to have invented the “one-sentence summary.”
Furthermore, no one-week or six-week workshop will teach people how to preach any more than workshops can teach the piano or guitar. Preaching demands time and practice. Seminaries should require a course in homiletics every semester.
Richard J. Kehoe, C.M.
St. Vincent’s Seminary
Re “Jesuits Urged to Protect Creation” (Signs of the Times, 10/10): Any discussion of protecting creation that does not address the growing human population, now over six billion and rising, is simply a feel-good discussion. The article suggests that our sensitivity to the mystery and vastness of life has been blunted. No amount of clean energy or greenhouse gas and pollution reduction will overcome the impact of several billion more people on this planet. Face it. Natural family planning is not the solution to this huge explosion of people. It is an alternative for a small group in a position to use it, but to address the growing worldwide population, it will not be effective.
Land O’Lakes, Wis.