In response to V. Bradley Lewis’s “American Exceptionalism” (10/3), there are still more sinister connotations to that word. Not only does it distract us from facing our problems, but it implies that the nation is entitled and favored by God to be number one in everything. Humility and respect for other nations and people are apparently unnecessary. Consequently our invasions of other nations and the resulting deaths, directly or from “collateral damage,” are justifiable in order to maintain our wealth and status. I suggest that claims of “exceptionalism” are delusional.
Los Alamos, N.M.
Back to Fundamentals
Thank you for your editorial “A State of Their Own” (9/26). Israel’s position that Palestinian statehood should be accomplished through negotiations, considering what has been taking place on the ground these past years, can readily be interpreted as a strategy for further territorial expansion. The one-sided support of Israel and its policies by some Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals is troubling. They seem to ignore the teachings of Jesus as these apply to their Palestinian brothers and sisters. As the United Nations examines the process of statehood for Palestine, peace for Israel and Palestinians could better proceed if these Christians would take a fresh look at how the Gospel relates to the long-suffering occupied Palestinians.
John J. Leibrecht Bishop Emeritus
John J. Leibrecht
Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Reading “To See With God’s Eyes,” by Timothy O’Brien, S.J. (10/3), reminded me that when Scripture asks us to suffer in order to know God’s son in a truer sense, this suffering manifests itself in incalculable ways in each individual soul. Whether we are rich, poor, beautiful, ugly, proud or humble, there is a cross to bear.
I read Ms. Karr’s memoir Lit and was fascinated with her struggle for meaning and, indeed, sanity. I like her refusal to sugar-coat in order to please. Telling the truth to yourself as well as to others is accompanied by suffering. The truth may set you free, but it will be hard won.
I have just devoured the story by Luke Hansen, S.J., “The Prosecution Rests” (9/26), about Lt. Col. Darrel J. Vandeveld, whose faith required him to leave his position at Guantánamo. What a wonderful witness to the power of the Gospel when it is taken seriously. In my own timid efforts to witness for peace and justice, Col. Vandeveld has given me hope that in the worst of circumstances people can still see the difference between good and evil.
Marie D. Hoff
As the rector of the Phoenix cathedral mentioned in your editorial “Save the Altar Girls” (10/10), I feel compelled to respond to the distortion and emotionalism contained therein. I told the assistant editor who contacted me, “As the rector, I am the chief liturgist of the parish. I do not, as a general rule, consult our parish council on liturgical matters since the typical parish council (and ours, specifically) is not comprised of members formally trained in theology and liturgy. As many in the media have demonstrated clearly, the absence of formal theological and liturgical training leaves far too many individuals evaluating this decision from a purely emotional, subjective standpoint.
Naturally, I consulted with the bishop, as he is the canonical pastor of the cathedral; but he leaves the final decision and implementation to me.”
To go point-by-point through the editorial to unmask the distortions would require more time and effort than I have available to invest. If one knows the actual history of altar service one knows that prior to the establishment of the seminary system, altar boys were apprentices for the priesthood, and the service pointed to that specific vocation. It was actually the boys who were replaced at the altar by dissident clergy in the late 1980s and early 1990s prior to the permission being given by the Holy See. So this all started with disobedience, which is the epitome of clericalism. The obsession with priestly image is the problem. The first step in ending the distortion of this publication would be to share Vatican II’s actual teaching on the identity (sacramental character) of the priest. That is, unless one dissents from the church’s theology of priesthood.
(Very Rev.) John T. Lankeit
Rector, Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral
The Human Word, Not Male
Your editorial “Save the Altar Girls” (10/10) is right on target. Excluding girls from serving at the altar is theologically baseless and vocationally misguided. The vocation of a boy or young man who is attracted to the priesthood because he likes to see only males around the altar should be examined for authenticity. We are saved because the eternal Word became human, not because she became male. May the Holy Spirit enable the church to overcome the patriarchal mentality whereby only males can serve at the altar.
Montgomery Village, Md.
The editorial “Save the Altar Girls” (10/10) did not adequately identify in context the reported parish in Ann Arbor, Mich., and the diocese in Nebraska where eliminating altar girls led to increased vocations. The Ann Arbor parish is Christ the King Catholic Church, on Ave Maria Street, led by the same group that founded Ave Maria Law School, which left Ann Arbor because it found the city too hostile to its conservative ways. The church identifies itself as “charismatic,” and Constantine and the Inquisition would feel at home there.
The diocese in Nebraska has been known for years as the most conservative in the country. We do need to be aware of these radical churches, but they are far from trend setters. They represent a desperate effort to continue to avoid the truth: the church is declining in numbers and priests because it is serving itself and the elitist boys’ club that runs it rather than God.
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Those Were the Days
Re “Save The Altar Girls” (10/10): Returning to the pre-Vatican II days is a good thing—back when Mass was a holy experience rather than a Godforsaken rock concert; when churches looked like churches instead of movie theaters; when nuns wore nuns’ clothing and people knelt to receive Communion in awe and fear, instead of taking Him into their filthy dirty hands as if they were grabbing for a potato chip.
The editorial mentioned the priest not consulting his parish council. Of course he shouldn’t. There shouldn’t be a thing like that in any parish. The priest is father of the family. That’s why we call him “Father.” What would your editorial call him? “Dude” or “Bro”? As for altar girls, consider the Blessed Mother as an example. She is Queen of Heaven, but she was happy to be behind the scenes, “arranging the flowers” while the male apostles were busy being bishops.