Happiness Is a Warm Puppy
I agree with Patricia Kossmanns Of Many Things column (10/1). When my mom and I both found ourselves widows, we moved in together and adopted a shelter dog. It was one of the best decisions we ever made. It had been half a century since wed had a dog, but Abby, an Australian Shepherd-Golden Retriever mix, won her way into our hearts at once. Id urge anyone thinking of either a dog or a cat to try the local animal shelters first!
No More Unilateralism
Your editorial A Diplomatic Surge (10/8) recognizes the primary importance of national reconciliation in Iraq and calls upon our government to take up the diplomatic inititatives recommended by the Iraq Study Group. As you note, this includes an opening toward all of Iraqs neighbors as well as providing for the active good offices of the Arab League and the Islamic Conference. The difficulty with this position is that like the Study Group, it assumes that the resolution of this tragic conflict rightfully remains under the power and direction of the foreign policy of the United Stateseven as it calls for greater participation by other states in the overall peace process.
The real difficulty now is that the peace process is coming more under the authority of the United Nations, while we insist on remaining in charge of military operations.
As you correctly observe, we cannot remain indefinitely in Iraq, nor can we arbitrarily withdraw. Any new peacekeeping force that might help us exit with some honor would have to be approved by the Security Council, since up to now it has legitimized our occupation. We all would be better served by focusing attention upon what may or may not happen within the United Nations system rather than hoping for changes in Washington.
Cornelius F. Murphy Jr.
Rethinking Religious Ed
The focus of Educating for Living Faith, by James J. DiGiacomo, S.J., (9/10), if I read him correctly, was on Catholic schools. It did not address the education of thousands of Catholic students who are taught religion in once-a-week parish religious education programs. These courses are offered mostly by lay people, who in many cases have had little professional education in theology or religious studies. At the present time, these devoted and hard-working people may be the only link these children will ever have to any formal training in their Catholic religion, so their efforts are absolutely crucial to the formation of the Catholic youth they serve.
The disparity between the amount of money and effort devoted to a typical parish grade school and that devoted to these religious ed students is, in our opinion, unjust. As an example, a parish school may have as many as 300 students enrolled in its eight elementary grades, while there may be 700 or more children taking the weekly religious ed courses. The amount of parish funds devoted to this latter group is miniscule compared with the amount spent to provide a full curriculum not only of religious courses but the whole range of elementary school subjects.
Perhaps it is time to rethink and restructure our whole approach to Catholic elementary and secondary school religious education. Maybe we need to devote diocesan and parish funds and school buildings to a new, comprehensive religious education program staffed by trained professionals, offering sound instruction for the young as well as a sophisticated curriculum for the adults in the parish. Regional centers that could serve multiple parishes and give them a first-rate program for all their parishioners might even be a more economically sound way to implement such a program. At any rate, justice demands that all of the students and adult members of a parish receive the best religious education we can give them.
Gerald and Ann Williams
Defying Common Sense
Regarding Vatican Clarifies Position on Artificial Nutrition (10/1), I continue to be dismayed and disappointed by the position of the teaching church on the care of patients in a chronic vegetative state. The rather dogmatic approach would seem to defy faith, justice and common sense. I simply cannot believe that there are no Catholic ethicists whose viewpoint would be different.
Whatever happened to the words of St. Guthlac: My spirit has run the course of the race of life and is impatient to be born to those joys whose course has no ending? It would seem that we go to extreme and counterproductive lengths to avoid that joy.
Every factor except the emotional would seem to mitigate against long-term feeding in the vegetative state. That it somehow makes such patients more comfortable has yet to be demonstrated. To suggest that long-term care of such patients is not expensive and very burdensome to caretakers belies the reality. I can only ask you to walk with me down the corridors of nursing homes.
The church continues to place guilt upon those conscientious believers who believe that natural death should be just that, natural, when there is no hope of restoring true personhood.
G. A. Weigel
Patience in Division
Mary Ann Glendon asks in her article Searching for Bernard Lonergan (10/1) why his insights are not better known and better accepted.
As a student of his for many years, may I suggest that Lonergan answers this question himself with a rather terse insight: There is bound to be a solid right that is determined to live in a world that no longer exists. There is bound to be formed a scattered left, captured by now this, now that new development.... But what will count is perhaps a less populated center big enough to be at home in both the old and new...strong enough to refuse half measures and insist on complete solutions even though it has to wait.
This view does not sit well with the ideologies of either what he calls the solid right or the scattered left.
(Rev.) Val J. Peter
Boys Town, Neb.
Consulting Pastoral Leaders
I am grateful to America for publishing the very illuminating article by Msgr. John Strynkowski, Mutually Enriching: The Work of Bishops and Theologians (9/17).
Increasingly each time a theologian from a unique cultural experience, such as Asia or Latin America, articulates the applications of Catholic Christian teachings on Christ, salvation and church, there is that noisy process to which Cardinal Newman referred. Unlike theologians who, as Monsignor Strynkowski noted, are involved in the work of the magisterium at every level of preparation and authority, pastoral leaders have yet to find their voices included in any consistent and structured manner. I do not want to presume that theologians do not consult and reflect pastoral reality, but there are too few opportunities at this time for consultation on the experience of ministry, particularly regarding gay and lesbian Catholics and their parents. Because of this, church documents at times do not reflect real lives, values and challenges.
An example of this in the U.S.C.C.B. is the contrast between the 1997 pastoral letter Always Our Children, addressed to parents of homosexual childrena document for which there was consultation with pastoral leaders and familiesand, on the other hand, the 2006 document Ministry to Persons With a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care, which did not involve consulting those with a long history in this ministry or those they served, and caused great distress and loss of credibility not only for gay and lesbian Catholics and their parents, but also for many priests and lay ministers around the country. The next step for that mutually enriching process needs to include a variety of pastoral leaders and those they serve.
(Rev.) Jim Schexnayder
National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries
Walnut Creek, Calif.
Sounds of Silence
Bishop Emil Wcelas essay on the Latin Mass, A Dinosaur Ponders the Latin Mass (10/8), was solid and insightful. It is useful to cut through the nostalgia and allow the memory of the ordinary Latin liturgy in the ordinary parish church of the 1950s to be accurately described, as I believe he has done.
I place Bishop Wcelas essay alongside that of Cardinal Godfried Danneels, Liturgy 40 Years After the Council (8/27), in which he reminds us that the sacramentary calls for periods of silence during the liturgy so that the participants have a chance to interiorize the mystery. He laments the tyranny of words, because of which there is no time to, well, pray.
Could it be that the sense of mystery some feel they will find in the Latin Mass would be quite available in our parish (vernacular) liturgies if only we would talk less and observe the periods of silence that are called for by the rubrics?
(Msgr.) John Rowan
Turning Back the Clock
My thanks to Bishop Emil Wcela for the nostalgic trip down liturgy lane in A Dinosaur Ponders the Latin Mass (10/8). I can identify with many of his experiences as a pre-Vatican II seminarian. I was grateful to be ordained in 1966, so my first experience of celebrating the liturgy was a combination of Latin and English.
This emerging longing for a Latin Mass seems to be a repudiation of what Vatican II called for: The liturgy is made up of unchangeable elements divinely instituted, and elements subject to change. The latter not only may but ought to be changed with the passing of time if features have by chance crept in which are less harmonious with the intimate nature of the liturgy, or if existing elements have grown less functional.
Also, The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions; they should be within the peoples powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation.
These norms were approved by an overwhelming majority of the council fathers, and much in the Latin Mass defies these norms.
Terry McCloskey, C.S.S.R.
Kansas City, Mo.