Peculiar Concepts

Valerie Schultz (Renew the Face of the Earth! 1/8) should not be amazed at the outrageous attack the journal Crisis made about the Renew program. It is par for the course. Any time a work in the church, no matter how fine it may be, does not fit into their peculiar definition of Catholic, it will be attacked.

Renew is one of the finest programs both for evangelization and the continuing education of people that has been developed in the church over the past 20 years.


I have been following the course of Renew and have found its programs well formulated and fitting into the finest of Catholic thought. Msgr. Tom Kleisler, the founder of Renew, is one of the most intelligent and zealous priests in the U.S. The editors of Crisis have peculiar concepts of what Catholic thought and action aretoday, or truly in any day in the history of the church.

(Rev. Msgr.) John J. Egan
Chicago, Ill.

A Gulf War

Valerie Schultz’s Renew the Face of the Earth! (1/8) again raises a question that begs for a response: With Catholic universities, graduate schools, presses, journalists and journals galore, why do we not have serious and ongoing efforts to understand the self-proclaimed (but never defined) orthodox Catholic phenomenon? What explains their selective orthodoxy and the highly selective past they would conserve? Why their preoccupation with abortion but seeming indifference to the deadly poverty in the third world and the social Gospel in general? Why the rush in some orthodox quarters to defend Augusto Pinochet’s murderous record? What explains their antipathy to the Second Vatican Council and 100 years of scriptural and theological scholarship that is largely ignored in the new catechism they espouseif selectively?

What explains the readiness of their publications to misrepresent the We Are Church renewal effort, Call to Action and other progressive activities and to adopt, so frequently, a nasty tone in referring to people I personally know to be devout, committed, faithful Catholics? Why is there no self-criticism in the orthodox camp?

Given the heavy orthodox influence at the widely circulated Catholic Register and Our Sunday Visitor; the ample subsidies of Crisis, First Things and Catholic World Report; and the myriad pronouncements of orthodox voices from the pope to the increasing number of Opus Dei and other loyalist bishops, why do identifiably conservative Catholics continue to top out at no more than 5 percent of American Catholics?

Conversely, why are Catholic publications that, like the overwhelming majority of American Catholics, embrace Vatican II reforms, not more popular? Why have so many Vatican II or progressive Catholics failed in handing on the faith or practice of the faith to their children? Why do so many appear not to bother rationalizing their embrace of the abortion liberty? Why have progressive Catholics been so nearly invisible and ineffectual on the political scene except in such major struggles as civil rights and opposition to the Vietnam and the contra wars? The orthodox would, of course, multiply these few questions. Why is there so little effort to talk over this widening gulf?

William H. Slavick
Portland, Maine

Leaps and Bounds

I’m not one who writes letters to editors, but I want you to know how much I appreciated Sister Joan Acker’s Creationism and the Catechism (12/16). I am a housewife and mother and could never play hardball with the intellectual giants who frequent your pages. But I will tell you this: for years I have wrestled with the way the Adam and Eve story has been taught. Deep down inside, I have not been able to accept fully the notion of Eden, preternatural gifts and the Fall. Is life not a process? Does not God fashion us through growth, development and change?

I am not so naïve as to be unaware of the tremendous challenges Sister Acker is issuing to the church’s hierarchy. The nature of such challenges leaves no room for complacency of any kind and calls us to grapple with our religious understanding. The task of theology is ever to push the limits of our understanding. The task of reformulating religious language and developing effective methods of catechesis is an ongoing task. What are we afraid of? Are we afraid of exhausting the mystery of God?

I ask myself, Could I have come to accept Christian truths if I was not brought up in the church? Sadly, I’m not sure and am grateful for having been brought up in the faith. But are we failing the people who hunger to know God? Yes! There is truth to the expression a leap of faith. But it is a leap that does not require a lobotomy.

Margie McCarthy
Colorado Springs, Colo.

Resolute Stand

Sister Joan Acker’s precise and scholarly article, Creationism and the Catechism (12/16) is an exceptionally clear presentation of the synthesis between science and theology addressing the questions of creation. It deserves to be the framework for the U.S. bishops’ national adult catechism project.

Let us hope that the bishops will read and heed her plea for collaboration with theologians and believing scientists as they pursue their project. And let us pray that the bishops will have the courage to resist efforts to return to a simplistic and literal theology of creation that ignores biblical scholarship. Such pressures may come from many segments of today’s church.

This is a rich opportunity for the teaching office of the bishops. May they resolutely take their stand.

James E. Harvey
Rockaway Beach, Ore.

Paschal Pattern

Thank you for Sister Joan Acker’s call for the proposed American catechism to be written in a context of consciousness of the story of the universe as we receive it through science today. Doing theology, reading Scripture and preparing to preach in such a context strengthens the power of the truths we cherish while expanding their meaning to include even more challenging insights for Christian living. But letting go of an ancient, comfortable worldview (even if we hold it only for our religious reflection) involves a process of conversion. Like all conversions, this too demands asceticism and intellectual discipline: suffering the death of some images and premises so that new life full of promise and energy may rise up! The paschal pattern so evident in all parts of creation beckons us to participate freely.

Honora Werner, O.P.
Baltimore, Md.

Bread, Stones and Sex

In Angry and Alienated (12/16), Michael Hout refers to the reaffirmation by the Vatican on July 6, 2000, of the prohibition of admitting to Communion Catholics who are divorced and remarried. That document clearly reiterates the prohibition, but, not as clearly, addresses the complications of such a publicly, irregularly married person being admitted to Communion while continuing to cohabit, but in full continence.

Canon law speaks of marriage as a partnership of the whole of life (Canon 1055, par. 10). Vatican II speaks of intimate community of life and love (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, No. 48). Marriage is much more than sex. It involves mutual emotional, intellectual and material support, the sharing of insights and perceptions, daily experiences together, travel, socializing with others as a couple, and on and on. Sex is part of it, but only a part. Modern culture too frequently separates sex from marriage. Some might question whether here our church is trying to make a similar but reverse separation by admitting to Communion the irregularly married who can enjoy all the blessings of living together except sex. But realistically, intellectually and even morally, can sex be taken out of the equation without the relationship itself being destroyed? Ban the whole package or accept the whole package? Perhaps an answer is suggested by the message I remember seeing on a T-shirt: Relax. It’s only sex.

Perhaps such considerations motivated several Geman bishops a few years ago and the 1998 Synod of Bishops for Asia and the 1998 Synod of Bishops for Oceania to seek a way to bring Communion to divorced, remarried, alienated and good-living Catholics. Bread was sought; a stone was delivered.

(Rev. Msgr.) Harry J. Byrne
New York, N.Y.

Wit and Wonder

Amid the articles in America, the wit and wonder of Without Guile comes as a pleasant moment in contrast to the tawdry and dehumanizing visuals of our society. Keep up the fine, A-rated cartooning.

(Rev.) Joseph W. Anderson
LaSalle, Ill.

On Target

Your cartoonist, Pat Byrne, really hit the mark with his Christmas season cartoons in America.

Derien R. Andes
Pleasantville, N.J.


One hopes the Bush team, which so far has failed to articulate a global vision, will read the future’s challenge by James D. Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank Group (1/8).

If the new administration’s vision is limited to just ensuring a safe and comfortable United States, while three billion other people, half the world’s population, live on less then $2 a day, this would seem not only morally unacceptable, but dangerously illusory.

(Rev.) George P. Carlin
New York, N.Y.

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