Taste, See, Touch
Tears came to my eyes on reading “Making Room for All at Mass,” by Judith Valente (8/17). I attempted teaching 12 young men with multiple handicaps at a state institution in Lincoln, Ill. I don’t know what they learned, but they responded best to touch, taste, smell and music. Thank you, Ms. Valente! Maybe we are also ready to welcome to full participation those whose only handicap is their gender.
Pain and Profits
Re “Economy for the People” (Editorial, 8/3): As I read Pope Francis’ messages, he is not looking for a debate about capitalism versus socialism but is urging a conversion of hearts, a new prioritization wherein profits are not the sole priority. We might advance more quickly if we put aside the clichés that inevitably creep into our conversations. Here, the editors say the hardline stances of European leaders toward Greece “encourage a world in which the expected returns of the banks are given more weight than the expectations of the individuals.” It is easy to infer that banks and their profits are involved in the recent Greek crisis. But that is not the case.
After the last Greek crisis in 2010, it was clear that banks could not again put their depositors’ money at risk on new loans, even at high interest rates. So European governments created a special rescue organization to refinance Greek debt. If Greece defaults now, or if the European rescue entity or European sovereign countries forgive all or some Greek debt, the pain shifts from Greek people to other European people, including many non-Germans. Importantly, no bank profit is involved except for some Greek banks that patriotically own Greek government bonds.
Praying for Pastors
Re Of Many Things, by Matt Malone, S.J. (8/3): Thanks for the reminder of the humanity of “the bishops” and likening their experience to what the lay faithful have to experience in terms of choices and material luxuries. But I think Father Malone’s commentary remains disturbingly on the surface, which is quite uncharacteristic of America. I find it odd that he says “the bishops” do not exist and then fail to explain what exactly the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is and does, as many equate “the bishops” with that hierarchical body.
Most disturbing, however, is that despite all the visits described, there was not one mention from the author of the word pastoral in his impressions. That is striking—and in my opinion so very revealing of the gap between church hierarchy and the faithful, despite the very valid points made about the lifetimes of service and humility of many individual men. I pray for the devotion of these leaders so that we can refer to them with gratitude and prayer as visible witnesses of compassionate service to others—especially the stranger and least among us—instead of praying with gratitude for performing these (arguably) “thankless and almost impossible jobs.”
One Synodal Church
Re “Family Gathering,” by John W. O’Malley, S.J. (7/20): It is worth noting that for centuries the Ukrainian Catholic Church (along with its Orthodox counterparts) has used the word sobornaya (which means “synodal”) when reciting the Nicene Creed. In Ukrainian the faithful pray, “I believe in one, holy, synodal, and apostolic church.” Strangely, the English version of this same creed translates sobornaya as “Catholic.” However, at least in their origins, certain Eastern Catholic churches evince this synodal tradition and corroborate Pope Francis’ renewed attention to it.
Synodality, moreover, has ramifications, both for governance within the Roman Catholic communion of churches and for ecumenism. The real issue dividing (Eastern) Catholic and Orthodox Churches is not theology so much as it is ecclesiology: a monarchical, hierarchical form of governance in the former versus a collegial, synodal one in the latter. A central issue for Christ’s church in our time is realization of this synodality—the church’s authentic tradition, the promise of Vatican II and a touchstone of church unity.
Music that Transforms
Re “Let Freedom Sing,” the book review by Kim R. Harris (7/20): Thanks to Kim Harris for keeping the music alive! Her Songs of the Underground Railroad has been part of my public school music teaching curriculum for almost 25 years, from New York to California. Now Welcome Table: A Mass of Spirituals is loved by our choir kids in Los Angeles Central Juvenile Hall. These are the kids who say, “When I sing, I don’t feel like I’m in jail.” This music transforms. Her amazing work and dedication are transforming more lives than she will ever know. God bless her!
Re “Never Justifiable,” by Daniel P. Horan, O.F.M. (6/22): The Catechism of the Catholic Church is quite clear that the death penalty is, practically speaking, never justifiable within our contemporary context. It stands for life. But it also wisely guards against future unknowns. What if there is a catastrophe that wipes out order as we know it, what if there is colonization of other planets, etc.? Perhaps those sound far-fetched to some, but the current wording is clear, pro-life and wise. To change the wording would be to pretend society will always be where we are today. Church teaching is never that near-sighted.
A Pocketbook Issue
Re “U.S. Bishops Issue Scathing Report On Federal Detention Center Policy,” by Maurice Timothy Reidy (6/8): The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, signed by President Ronald Reagan, contained an amnesty provision that allowed 2.7 million undocumented immigrants to stay here and become part of American society legally. Immigration control is not a conservative versus liberal issue. It is, instead, one of Christian justice.
Had we turned immigrants away in previous generations, what would the country be like today? Would we be as great a nation if we’d rejected those who came here seeking a better life, freedom from violence, poverty and despair? Sadly, the poor, Hispanic nature of today’s immigrants makes them an easy target for politicians advocating fear, individuals unwilling to contribute financially to the social justice we tout worldwide and, not least, those who fear being outvoted one day. To them, this is not, really, a justice issue at all; it’s one that resides closer to the pocketbook than to the heart.
In “Subjects, Not Objects” (The Word, 8/17), John W. Martens explores the historical context and meaning of the household codes described in the Letter to the Ephesians, including the injunction, “Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord” (Eph 5:22). A reader responds.
Does this symbolic meaning really have any relevance to the average churchgoer? Reaching it requires a level of textual analysis most people are not going to be doing at Mass and are not well enough aware of the cultural context or catechism to really understand. You cannot still include this reading in the Mass without offending most people with its outdated message or, worse, imparting a harmful misunderstanding about marriage. Some readings should be dropped. This is one of them. I have read the theological reasons why it “isn’t what it seems on the surface” before, and frankly I am not sure I buy it. And they certainly don’t usually explain it afterward at most Masses to make it more palatable. What’s even worse is when priests go on to emphasize the surface level message. It is not pastorally responsible to still be dragging this reading out regularly.