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Our readersMarch 26, 2001

Beacons of Hope

Your editorial Saying No to Israel (3/5) provides a beacon of hope for the many who have raised protests in this Holy Land against the Israeli occupation, protests that rarely surface in Western media. These protests have come from Israelis and Palestinians, from Jews, Muslims and Christians, and they deserve a hearing.

Israel Shamir, a Russian Israeli journalist, has pointed out that these are the darkest days for the people of Israel, because the worldwide silence of Jews indicates that the country’s policies are now rapidly undermining the long-term achievement of Jews in the struggle for democracy, human rights and equality.

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, has continuously appealed during these six months for justice and understanding. From the opening weeks of the intifada he pointed out that the Palestinian revolt should not be considered simply a public disorder that has to be quelled and punished. The issue that must be faced is that a people who have been kept hostage are struggling for their freedom. It is a struggle that must be carried out with love, not with hatred and vengeance. In his Lenten message he appealed to both Palestinian and Israeli to see God in one another. He called upon Israelis to see in Palestinians not the image of terrorists, of those who want to hate and kill, but rather the image of the poor and oppressed who are struggling for their liberty, their dignity and a right to the land. He called upon Palestinians to see in Israelis, who withhold liberty in the name of security, carriers of the image of God whom we approach with love, not with anger, and whom we ask with the full force of the Spirit to put an end to oppression and occupation.

In his long and distinguished career, Elie Wiesel has often mentioned that the vocation of the Jew is to teach the world how to be human. I fear that the policies of the State of Israel vis-à-vis the Palestinian people are a betrayal of this noble and ancient heritage of our Jewish sisters and brothers.

Donald J. Moore, S.J.

Moral Responsibility

The editorial Saying No to Israel is very true, but only part of the story (3/5). The very common belief in Arab countries that the United States is morally responsible for the atrocities in Lebanon, the enforcement of a type of apartheid in Israel and the suffering of the Palestinians are not without foundation. We cannot totally escape moral responsibility for the continuing misuse of the funds and weapons we continue to provide.

Rudy Cypser
Katonah, N.Y.

The Suffering Poor

The article by Drew Christiansen, S.J., Christians, Christmas and the Intifada (2/12), reveals the truth about our Palestinian Christian sisters and brothers. We have led four Living Stones pilgrimages, after experiencing our first in 1995. On such a pilgrimage, participants travel with the intent of visiting the suffering and the poor along the way. Our Catholic groups have purposely sought out our Christian sisters and brothers along with Muslims and Jews in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

I remember a Palestinian Catholic peacemaker’s comments to us over lunch in the West Bank just after we had prayed the Way of the Cross in the Old City in Jerusalem. He said, Now let me tell you how Jesus continues to suffer his passion today in the Palestinian people. The injustices he listed were referred to by Father Christiansen. They are the same injustices shared with us by Catholics in five different parishes in the Holy Land.

Perhaps during this season of Lent our reflecting on Jesus’ passion today will lead us to action to help relieve the suffering of the body of Christ, the living stones, in the Holy Land today. In his wisdom and expertise, Father Christiansen certainly makes clear the suffering our sisters and brothers are experiencing during this Lent. Hopefully our action of speaking out to confront these injustices will give a new voice to U.S. Catholics’ response today in the Holy Land.

Sue and Jim Morris
Springfield, Ill.

Charity Web

Eric Stoltz’s An Internet Strategy for Local Churches (2/19) was excellent. While many parishes have established Web sites, only a minority have tapped the full potential of the Web for evangelization, catechesis and building community. The building and maintenance of a parish Web page presents a tremendous opportunity to invite young adults (Generation X-ers) to get involved in parish life. Gen X-ers have grown up using computers and are quite Internet-savvy. Many have their own personal home pages and have done enough Web-surfing to know what kinds of features will encourage Web users to revisit certain sites.

As for the Web and social justice, it also must be said that a parish can use the Web to mobilize resources to help those in need. Parish home pages should provide links to Web sites like the Hunger Site (www.thehungersite.com), which allows visitors to donate (at no charge) a cup of staple food to hungry people in developing countries. Web sites like the C.C.H.D.’s Poverty USA (www.povertyusa.org) raise awareness of existing justice issues. Parish staff members would do well to add a discussion of Stoltz’s article to their regular staff meeting agendas.

Renee M. LaReau
Dayton, Ohio

Dear and Eminent

After avidly awaiting the issue of March 5, I turned the pages between its splendid red covers, bursting with pride and affection. Each of the 18 testimonials was like a warm embracefrom the delightful informality of Loyola Morristown’s Dear and Eminent Avery to the stately Congratulations to our brother in the Lord of the United States Assistancy. And the interview by James Martin, S.J., nicely expressed our respect for the new cardinal and distinguished theologian.

Francis D. Champion
Pittsford, N.Y.

Moral Atrocity

Having just returned from another eye-opening trip to Iraq, I write belatedly to thank you for your very strong editorial (12/2/00) calling for Lifting the Siege.

I urge you to continue to give more and more coverage to what is happening in Iraq, especially in light of Secretary Colin Powell’s statement that he intends to reenergize the sanctions. The longer these sanctions go on, the closer our nation comes to a crime that will match the genocide of World War II.

And even though you properly note the strong statement of Bishop Joseph Fiorenza condemning the sanctions, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops has yet to issue such a condemnation. The result is that very few of our Catholic people are aware of what is happening in Iraq and of the moral atrocity it is.

(Most Rev.) Thomas J. Gumbleton
Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit
Detroit, Mich.


Thank you so much for Reason, Faith and Theology by James Martin, S.J. (3/5). Cardinal Dulles’s journey to faith and the church was enlightening, encouraging and reaffirmingas were his comments on polarization and dissent. Appropriately humbling.

L. B. Hoge
Brandon, Fla.


I have rarely seen an assessment of U.S.-Israeli relations as eloquent, concise and circumspect as your editorial Saying No to Israel (3/5). Copies should be faxed to all members of Congress. The fact that this document appears in a Jesuit publication asserts that its sentiments are humanitarian and not anti-Semitic. Supporters of Zionism would do well to consult the Fifth Commandment (Ex. 20:13) before addressing their Palestinian neighbors.

Kevin E. Vitting, M.D.
Ridgewood, N.J.

Common Ground

Joseph J. Valencino III (Letters 3/5) laments ...the nonexistence of Roman Catholic intra-dialog. And rightly so!

Shortly before his death, in 1996, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin initiated the Catholic Common Ground Project in the hope of promoting discussion and a sense of shared purpose among differing groups within the church. America ran several reports and articles favoring the project.

Unfortunately, Bernardin’s project survived him by only a few months; it seems to have died in committee. Sadly, the U.S. church has missed an opportunity to encourage a move toward internal reconciliation, still sorely needed and still hoped for by so many!

John Dean
Chattanooga, Tenn.

Authentic Equality

As the president of a Catholic organization that employs 25 people, I have grappled with the issues raised by Patricia Ann Lamoureux in Is a Living Wage a Just Wage? (2/19) and appreciate this ongoing discussion of the church’s social teaching.

I have found there is a constellation of issues to take into consideration as a Catholic employer, including compensation, reasonable work hours, vacation and sick time, health insurance coverage and retirement benefits. Beyond that, there is the need to create a work environment that is welcoming and affirming of all the staff.

We offer all our staff a living wage and, as Lamoureux cautions, we are especially vigilant to ensure that those at the lower end of the pay scale are treated fairly. Yet in addition to this equitable living wage, we pay salary supplements for stay-at-home spouses and dependent children. Both male and female staff members have benefited from this policy, though admittedly more often it helps the male staff members.

I would simply hope that the quest for authentic gender equality in the workplace (equal pay for equal work) does not stand in the way of promoting family values and treating each employee as a person.

Leon J. Suprenant Jr.
Steubenville, Ohio

Too Generous

As a longtime enthusiast for the superb reflections of John F. Kavanaugh, S. J., I am distressed by one aspect of his essay on commitment. (2/5).

Regarding his comment about his philosophical and scientific arguments defending conception as the beginning of a human being, I think that Father Kavanaugh is much too generous to the opposition and much too defensive about the worth of his own views. In fact, his apologetic stance ends up adopting a variant of the bizarre doctrine of Roe v. Wade, which divides pregnancy into trimesters of vulnerability, effectively eliminating all safeguards for the developing child, as the last quarter century has sadly shown. It seems to me that a pluralistic society is precisely the venue in which philosophical and scientific arguments, whose inherent cogency is a matter of public, reasoned availability, should be urged. Nor should religious commitment be grounds for avoiding debate. Carefully wrought philosophical and scientific arguments are intrinsically independent of faith and should be so presented. The data arguing to the beginning of human life at conception, for example, are purely biological in nature and known to anyone who has studied Embryology 101.

The present situation, this ghastly killing ground, has been created by defective arguments imposed by judicial tyranny. No one should apologize for seeking to impose a social order rooted in truths inherent in human nature.

William F. Reilly
Levittown, N.Y.

Catholic Freedom

Thanks to Charles Bouchard, O.P., for the article How Could a Catholic Vote That Way? (2/12). My bishop wrote a post-election article in our diocesan paper strongly implying that Catholics who voted for Gore were either less informed about Catholic teaching or less likely to be practicing their faith. I was deeply hurt by such a judgment on Catholic voters from a kind and gracious man. (I wasn’t alone. The latest edition of the paper has two angry rebuttals from Catholics who felt their faith and practice had been denigrated.)

What happened to the rest of the Catholic tradition? The Republican Party is anti-union and anti-living wage. Largely white, it has ties to the segregationist and neoconfederacy movements. Under Newt Gingrich, the Republicans pushed the welfare reform bill that has brought many more people to homeless shelters, soup kitchens and food banks. This party has made an idol of the market and virtues out of greed and acquisitiveness. In Texas, as governor, President Bush oversaw a record number of executions. He did nothing to make the justice system fairer to the poor or to open it to public scrutiny and review.

When he ran for president, John F. Kennedy had to convince a skeptical group of ministers that his religious leaders would not influence his political decisions. Now our bishops tell us, even after the election, for whom to vote. Is this the message we want to give our fellow Americans about Catholic freedom of thought?

Nancy Perich Daly
Houston, Tex.

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17 years 5 months ago
I couldn’t agree more with John Dean’s letter (3/26) asking for intra-church dialogue and praising Cardinal Joseph Bernardin’s Catholic Common Ground Initiative. But I want to assure him and your readers that the Initiative is alive and well and that the committee, now headed by Archbishop Oscar H. Lipscomb, has been working diligently to foster the vision and to create opportunities for dialogue within our church.

Translating the vision into programs and getting visibility have been enormous challenges, but we now have published resources (two books, a set of videos and a quarterly newsletter) and regular activities. We have just finished our fifth annual conference (this time with young adult Catholics); we gathered leaders in liturgy for two small dialogues on worship space in November and January at Mundelein and Holy Cross College; a four-part dialogue on women in the church was held at the College of New Rochelle; and Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J., will deliver our third annual lecture in Washington, D.C., in June. Anyone who would like to be on our mailing list and receive our free newsletter can contact Sr. Catherine M. Patten, R.S.H.M., coordinator of the initiative, at: The National Pastoral Life Center, 18 Bleecker St., New York, NY 10012; (212) 431-7825; e-mail: commonground@nplc.org.

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