The Sisters of St. Joseph taught me to say, I firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. It strikes me that avoiding sin and amending life are the same, although I used to think that the resolution to confess sins was strange in view of the fact that I had just done so (Of Many Things, 5/12).
On a related topic, when I teach the canon law of the sacraments to students each summer at The Catholic University of America, I am amazed at the students’ cluelessness on the difference between perfect and imperfect contrition, the former being sorrow for love of God, and the latter being sorrow for fear of punishment or hope of reward (and sufficient for forgiveness only in sacramental confession). They are also vague about the necessary matter for an integral confession: all serious sins by number and species committed after baptism not yet directly remitted through the power of the keys or acknowledged in individual confession that I remember after a diligent examination of conscience. I marvel that many of us knew these things at the age of seven and that there are priests in my class who do not know them at 40!
James J. Conn, S.J.
The writer is professor of canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
For the Unborn
When I read statements like Standing for the Unborn (5/26), I find myself in agreement with all that is said, but I also feel there is something unsaid. The unborn child, carried by a woman, is also the child of a man and the result of an action of both. So much that is written about abortion is addressed to women. Do we need also to speak to men about the respect due to women? Are these children who are aborted the result of a loving, respectful relationship between a man and a woman? Or are they the result of actions of men who seek only their own pleasure and satisfaction? Yes, we need to support women and give them better alternatives than abortion. But perhaps Jesuits who teach and counsel men might also consider what ought to be said to menthe other half of this relationshipso that there would not be so many women who are pregnant, frightened and alone.
The article by Drew Christiansen, S.J., (5/19) was admirable for its content and a wonderful example of truth, balance and wisdom. The active intervention of the government of Israel in the process of the appointment of bishops and in promoting a new church jurisdiction to oppose the Latin patriarch is certainly alarming. Astonishing as well is that the papal theologian should become embroiled in such a matter and take sides. Father Christiansen’s ability to deal in such a lucid and evenhanded way with such a very complex problem is a great service to America readers.
(Most Rev.) John R. Quinn
Menlo Park, Calif.
The writer is the archbishop emeritus of San Francisco.
More in Spirit
Thanks to Robert J. Daly, S.J., for such a carefully expressed piece on Christian sacrifice, Sacrifice: the Way to Enter the Paschal Mystery (5/12). His reminder that a Christian’s unexamined appropriation of the word sacrifice can be harmful is a welcome insight, and it goes to the very core of whom we say we believe in. As adults, we know too well the ground of Yeats’s lament, Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart. And if we are not careful, we may drift into feeling that we’ve been redeemed, thankfully, by a person who endured unspeakable pain and spent himself completely to fulfill his duty to his Father. But as Father Daly points out, that notion of sacrifice, familiar to Yeats and us, has no meaning in God. The truth is, felt or not, that the living God of all that is has poured himself out for us freely, entirely and eagerly simply because he loves us unconditionally and desires that he might live in us and we might live in him forever. Work like Father Daly’s helps us live, and dare I say feel, more in spirit with that truth.
Robert B. Murray
It has been some time since Dianne Bergant, C.S.A., began writing her little gems in the Word column. Please tell her that they are very much appreciated and they are more and more captivating.
What’s Gotten Into You? was typically thoughtful; and when it came to the Pentecost Sequence, my mind was made up. She had to be specially thanked.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew; On our dryness pour your dew; Wash the stains of guilt away: Bend the stubborn heart and will: Melt the frozen, warm the chill; Guide the steps that go astray. Amen.
There and Back
America has cautioned editorially about the warrior ethos of our national leadership (3/17) and viewing the world within the parameters of the Pentagon mind (5/12).
Perhaps President Bush might pause to ponder the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower, who, in his powerful cross of iron address on April 16, 1953, said: Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. Ike had been there and back.
(Rev.) George P. Carlin