What Muslims Think
The Cardinal Bea Center at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome continues the work described by John Borelli (“In the Beginning,” 10/1). I received a masters of theology in interreligious dialogue, specializing in Islam, from the Gregorian. During my studies, I was amazed at the common ground between Islam and Catholicism, especially the admirable Muslim commitment to prayer, which Pope Benedict XVI has also pointed out.
It is regrettable that primitive tribal actions in Muslim communities are confused with Islam. Since returning home, I have attended more than 50 adult education lectures at my local mosque. I know what American Muslims think. They are pro-life, pro-family, pro-business and pro-American.
Port Washington, N.Y.
Find Common Ground
The excellent talk “How to Keep Our Heads Amid the Craziness,” by Drew Christiansen, S.J. (Web only, 10/1), echoes the dilemma most Catholics face when going to the polls: no single candidate or political party fully embraces what I believe is right and just.
Because of its checks and balances, government in the United States is inherently inefficient. It is hard to blame any one individual or party. Therefore, a spirit of trying to find some common ground might be what is necessary for progress and making the world a better place, as Jesus would have it. President John F. Kennedy said, “Compromise need not mean cowardice.” Finding underlying universal principles on all sides ought to be the goal of our executives, legislators and judges.
Practice, Then Preach
Re “Diplomacy and Disarmament” (Editorial, 9/24): Weapons of mass destruction are morally evil because they are built, as their name implies, to kill indiscriminate masses of people by the tens of thousands. They should not be in any nation’s arsenal of weapons because no nation is morally permitted to use them.
Nuclear nonproliferation talks are unreasonable and a waste of time as long as even one of the participants is permitted to have and is able to use nuclear weapons. Who gave the United States, the only country on earth to have immorally used an atomic bomb, the moral right to prevent Iran and North Korea from having the same weapons of mass destruction?
Nonproliferation talks make sense only if the United States and the other nuclear-capable countries voluntarily destroy their own arsenals of weapons of mass destruction and unite firmly with every nation on earth against any nation that would dare to build them. No nation could survive the threat of a total boycott and embargo by a united world that preaches what it practices.
Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B.
San Francisco, Calif.
A Suicidal Species?
I appreciate Kyle T. Kramer’s hope (“After the Fall,” 9/24) for a new wisdom to emerge from our current fault. I fear we will have to hit the wall before we will change the way we abuse our resources. E. O. Wilson once wrote a white paper posing the hypothesis that Homo sapiens might be a suicidal species. I hope he is wrong. Our hope may be in catastrophe—if that catastrophe does not render our garden uninhabitable. Maybe then we can turn toward wisdom.
Path to Transfiguration
Re “Faith by Heart,” by David Impastato (9/10): I’ve been sitting in on parish religious education classes for years. Things are only getting worse. I recently asked my confirmation students what Transfiguration, the name of our home parish, meant. None of them knew. How can there be any doubt about the connection between the teenagers’ ignorance of Catholicism—even “local Catholicism”—and their eventual departure from the church?
Impastato’s suggestions are the first signs of hope—realistic hope—that something can be done to improve religious education. To insist that religious knowledge does not matter is a dangerous accommodation to failure. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting things to change is the path of insanity. Trying something new stands a fighting chance of putting us on the path to, well, transfiguration.
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Why He Left
After reading Matt Emerson’s article, “Help Their Unbelief” (9/10), I thought I would share my son-in-law’s reason for joining a fundamentalist, evangelical church. He attended Catholic elementary and high school in the 1970s and 80s. When the subject came up as to why he left the Catholic Church, his answer surprised me. He said, “When I was in grade school, I learned all the Bible stories. When I got to high school, I was told they were all myths.” He is a great husband and father of four children. I wonder how many others left for this reason. He joined the fundamentalist church about two years ago.
I appreciate Matt Emerson’s conclusion that the mission of Catholic schools has not failed if, under cultural conditions that foster skepticism among youth, the schools at least “point them in the right direction” in their faith development. He makes a slight misstep, however, when he reduces catechesis to “a matter of reading or memorizing, or knowing a ‘bunch of stuff.’”
Catechesis is about evangelizing people with incipient faith to be in communion with Jesus Christ. Rather than merely targeting the mind with theological and ecclesiastical concepts, catechesis hopes to set the heart aflame with an apostolic zeal for serving Christ. The hypothetical Sarah, with her budding spiritual life and love of service, is just the sort of person that catechesis serves.
Mark L. Asselin
Preach With Your Life
Re “As It Is In Heaven,” by Edward McCormack (9/10): For a Jesuit publication, I was struck by how Dominican this message sounds! Preachers, indeed. Yes, good preaching is the obvious response to the call of Pope Benedict XVI for a new evangelization.
But good preaching is not synonymous with good homiletics, and it is not just the responsibility of clergy. All the baptized should consider becoming preachers. We preach with our lives when we clarify the Gospel message to those around us in ways that engage them and when—by our orientation to Jesus as a model for right living—we can provide them with examples for how he transforms us and brings fulfillment to us here and now.
JP2 and Dialogue
Re “Of Many Things,” by Drew Christiansen, S.J. (9/10): Pope John Paul II is a flawed model to offer a church longing for meaningful dialogue. The pope failed to adhere to the structural changes of the Second Vatican Council. Collegiality mandates that bishops as a collective have a role in the governance of the universal church with and under the pope. John Paul regarded the bishops as his helpers in his governance of the church, and he regarded the Synod of Bishops as an instrument of the papacy with whose teachings it had to conform.
Pope John Paul also unilaterally declared that the question of women’s ordination is definitively resolved, and he disallowed further discussion. This was an imposition of the papal will (voluntarism) on the entire church. Gender and celibacy are obsolete criteria for ordination. Honest dialogue would make this obvious. But rigid authoritarianism under Pope John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI holds sway.
(Rev.) Paul Surlis