Vietnam and Afghanistan

I could not agree more with your editorial, “Out of Afghanistan” (8/15). A Vietnam veteran, I graduated from eight years of Jesuit high school and college and spent three years on active duty. While in Vietnam I had a clear conscience about our involvement in that war. But now with hindsight I wish we had never done it. The good that may have happened is that the United States inherited a wonderful population of Vietnamese refugees. We need to bring our men and women home, the sooner the better.

Jerome Riggs

Dana Point, Calif.

How to End Wars

Kudos for “The New Americanism” (8/1), especially its mention of the expenses of the Pentagon and “war making.” I have heard that the United States has over 750 bases worldwide. I wonder if the American people know anything of the cost of running those bases. Imagine what we could do with the savings if three quarters of them were closed. One partial solution to the military expenses would be a constitutional amendment requiring that in the event of war every son, daughter, niece and nephew of the president, congressmen and senators would be drafted and serve in the combat front lines until the war is over. “Necessary” wars would suddenly become unnecessary, even unthinkable. It will never happen, but we can hope a courageous reporter will raise that question during the coming campaign.

George Swilley

Pearland, Tex.

Where Were the Rest of Us?

“Ahead of the Story” (8/15) is a courageous editorial, for which we have waited too long. The editors write, “This will require resignations in cases of mendacity and negligence.” And we must add: Where resignations are not forthcoming, there must be outright dismissals. There can be no true healing, no hope of true reform, until there is true accountability. The conspiracy of silence that has devastated victims of abuse and corroded our church from within can be stopped only when files are opened, abusers are revealed and leaders can be called to account. The German bishops have provided an exemplary model for a clean break with the past. But this accountability goes beyond bishops and abusers to touch everyone in the faith community. What did each of us do or fail to do to enable this culture to flourish? How must we act differently in the church we want to become? None are exempt from the examination of conscience.

Francis Piderit

New York, N.Y.

Austria Beats Germany

In response to “Ahead of the Story” (8/15), true reform must realign power in the church. Sexual abuse is always about abuse of power. The editorial looks in the wrong place for meaningful change. Do not look to Germany, where the “independent” investigation shared the weaknesses of the John Jay Report: the investigators were limited to examining only those documents the bishops had purged. Look rather to Austria, where over 300 of its 4,200 priests have pledged to take part in a “Call to Disobedience” in which they will: pray for reform at every liturgy; welcome to the Eucharist all believers of goodwill, including those remarried outside the church; allow lay preachers; speak openly about allowing married and women priests; oppose parish mergers. Rather than bring in visiting priests to offer multiple Masses on weekends and holy days, they will offer a Liturgy of the Word followed by distribution of Communion with a woman presiding. All these structures would make abuse harder to commit and cover up.

Mary Wells

Toronto, Ont., Canada

Saving the Poor

In response to “The New Americanism” (8/1), I am a moderate conservative who has never read Ayn Rand and never will; but I believe that the size and scope of the federal government with its crushing debt is a threat to our communitarian ties. The federal government has encroached on housing, schools, health care and other areas and left them weakened. It has a role to play, but it cannot play that role if it tries to do everything. It is hard to believe the poor and vulnerable will be better off if we ignore the spending sprees of politicians in both parties. My critique of government spending is rooted, I believe, in my Catholic and Jesuit education and spirituality. What is your plan on how to save the poor from runaway spending?

Josh DeCuir

Baton Rouge, La.

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