When Peace Comes

Drew Christiansen, S.J., describes the Palestinian Christians’ plight when, apparently, no one else will (Christians, Christmas and the Intifada, 2/12). Perhaps we’ve heard so many stories about shellings, arrests and deaths that we’ve been desensitized. We forget that those enduring the oppression have names and faces. They are members of families. They’re members of our family.

The Israeli government clearly cares little, if anything, for their fate. The Israeli army recklessly shells homes and a seminary. Our seminarians have visited Beit Jala. They’ve attended Mass in Arabic in the seminary chapel and enjoyed gracious hospitality in their dining room. They’ve played basketball under lights afterward on their outdoor court and taught one another folk songs.


Please make this the first, not the last story about the fate of our Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters. If American Christians do nothing, there will be no native Christians to welcome pilgrims when peace comes.

(Rev.) Patrick F. Halfpenny
Sacred Heart Seminary
Detroit, Mich.

Law and Morality

Three remarks apropos of the article How Could a Catholic Vote That Way? by Charles E. Bouchard, O.P. (2/12):

1. You can’t legislate morality, but laws can and do curb immorality.

2. Just laws are such because they accord with political or social morality; therefore a distinction is necessary between that branch of morality and individual morality, not between morality and legality, as though morality applied only to the private realm.

3. This distinction can enable citizens and politicians to work for legislation aimed at curbing (not necessarily interdicting) what they may see as immoral in all cases; so they don’t have to depend solely on a social strategy of conversion of heart.

Joseph F. Power, O.S.F.S.
Stella Niagara, N.Y.

Ministry to the Remarried

One conclusion that follows unmistakably from Michael Hunt’s fine article, Angry and Alienated: Divorced and Remarried Catholics in the United States (12/16/00), has been evident for some time. Even working at peak efficiency, there is no way that tribunals can keep up with demands for their services. There are just too many divorced people wanting the benefits of remarriages recognized by the church, mainly access to other sacraments.

Even so, an annulment is not the solution for every marriage that goes awry. The nullity of many marriages that end by divorceespecially those of long durationsimply cannot be established. This is not for lack of effort on the part of people working in tribunals, parochial ministers, petitioners, witnesses and sometimes respondents, but simply because marriages end for causes that do not manifest psychological incapacity on the part of the parties or intentions contrary to the marital state present from the moment of consent. Many marriages, unfortunately, end on account of sin or other misbehavior. Many are destroyed just by the circumstances of modern life, e.g., by lack of time together on account of the need for two incomes, by poverty, war or the absence of support from extended families.

Perhaps the time has come to try imagining concretely how the church might minister in more flexible ways to remarried persons. Without an annulment, another wedding in the church is out of the question. But what are the criteria remarried couples would have to meet in order to have access to the other sacraments? Provided that moral theologians can work out other issues, one would think they should include at least the following: 1) proof that former relationships are irretrievably broken and terminated at civil law; 2) proof of compliance with terms of the decrees of civil divorce, especially those related to child support; 3) a spirit of repentance for all misbehavior in any previous relationships and 4) some favor of the Catholic faith, such as enabling a remarried person to return to the sacraments or to be baptized or received into the church.

(Rev. Msgr.) John R. Amos
Judicial Vicar, Archdiocese of Mobile
Mobile, Ala.

Even Getting Saved

Well, Thomas J. McCarthy (From This Clay, 2/12) was obviously quite irritated by an arrogant door-to-door evangelist, and I don’t want to deny him the fun he had in getting even in print. I am disturbed, however, by the way he quickly moved from this one case to what seemed like a dismissal of energetic evangelistic efforts as such. Even more worrisome, though, was his put-down of people who take some comfort in knowing that they are saved.

I read his piece shortly after hearing a report about an evangelical woman who, in the days before she passed into eternity, talked to each of her family members about her profound trust in her Savior. She had no doubt, she testified, that as she was walking through the valley of death he was holding her hand. Did this person misunderstand the Christian imperative, according to McCarthy? Does he really wish that she would have told her family that she was in her highest state not when standing contentedly before God, but when leaping perilously across the void? Should she have refused to derive a certain identity and security from her faith, acknowledging rather that her relationship to God is neither static nor safe?

O.K., Mr. McCarthy (whose writings I regularly appreciate) was reacting to a very specific case. But so am I. All I ask is that we keep both sorts of cases in mind when talking about Christian imperatives.

Richard J. Mouw
President, Fuller Theological Seminary
Pasadena, Calif.

The Catholic Vote

The article How Could a Catholic Vote That Way? by Charles E. Bouchard, O.P., was welcome and refreshing in its nuanced treatment of Catholic voting (2/12).

It would be wonderful if some of the American Catholic hierarchy would also acknowledge that there is more than one issue with serious moral implications for Catholics and that not all moral questions lend themselves to political and legal victory in this pluralistic and somewhat ethically challenged nation.

In attempting to impose its abortion litmus test on American politicians, the Catholic Church seems to dismiss other human rights and social justice issues where Catholics could have a real impact for good. To look at the whole picture and work for a better America is not to condone the evil of abortion.

Martin J. Gleason
Washington, D.C.

Contemplative Stance

Congratulations on the Lenten spirituality issue (2/26). I especially enjoyed the article Walking With Susie and Virginia: An Interfaith Journey. What a lovely tribute to the power of the contemplative stance toward life and God in bridging the gulf that often keeps religious people isolated from one another! It makes me proud of the Ignatian tradition of spiritual direction espoused by Virginia Sullivan Finn. This issue is a great gift to the people of God.

William A. Barry, S.J.
Weston, Mass.

Support Systems

I applaud Bishop Wilton D. Gregory’s article (10/21/00) on the need to continue to strengthen the Christian initiation of adults, but I believe one more part needs to be added to the story. After new members are received into the church, where are the systems that will continue to support them? Along with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the church must work to develop small Christian communities. These are the hope of the church and must go hand in hand with our evangelization efforts.

Nancy Fischer, S.S.J.
Erie, Pa.

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