A word of thanks to you for the wonderful Of Many Things column by James Martin, S.J., about women as disciples (1/8). It both humbles and energizes me to read your words. I live and pray with the belief that the church will experience a conversion and recognize how much is missed without the direct leadership of women, both lay and religious.
Ellen Smith, R.S.M.
A blessing on James Martin, S.J., for his Of Many Things (1/8). I always read that column and the editorial first. I have tears in my eyes. If enough men in the church like Father Martin would speak out for women, then the church could receive the wonderful gifts that women have to offer. It is especially fitting, on this day after Epiphany, to read this and be reminded once again that the church needs all our gifts in order to thrive and be enriched.
War on Poverty
Eugene Steuerle’s article, Social Security and the Poor (12/23), is important as far as it goes, but it fails to mention President Lyndon Johnson’s use of the Social Security system as one of the Great Society anti-poverty programs.
In 1966 President Johnson proposed, and Congress enacted, whopping increases in the minimum benefits that lifted 2.5 million Americans aged 65 and over above the poverty line. By the end of the century, thanks to that precedent-setting increase in the minimum benefit, Social Security was keeping almost 15 million senior citizens above the poverty line. There is ample precedent to view the system as one of the major weapons in the continuing war on poverty.
Joseph A. Califano Jr.
New York, N.Y.
I was totally appalled at the comments of Bonifacio Honings, quoted in Signs of the Times (12/16), in which he said that the wife of an H.I.V.-infected husband could choose to consent to sexual relations to avoid worse things - her husband becoming intractable, or the husband being unfaithful to her, etc.’
Look at what is implied here. The woman risking her life by contracting the virus is considered less important than an intractable or unfaithful husband. What does this say about the human dignity of both men and women?
And will someone please tell me what is so evil about condoms? Granted they are often used to prevent pregnancy; but so is the rhythm method, the Billings’ method and others that the church approves and only a person with a detached view of human sexuality would call natural.
Peaceful and Professional
I was impressed with the observations on the 2000 election by Thomas J. Reese, S.J., in Of Many Things (12/23/00) until I arrived at the point where he suggested the post-election disputes should have been resolved through a process of negotiation and compromise. He added, in a world ruled by lawyers, this was out of the question. This was an unfortunate criticism of lawyers. There is a process in the United States called the rule of law, and the candidates appropriately followed it. I was especially proud of nearly all the lawyers who participated in this historic period of our nation. The lawyers were well prepared, argued forcefully and were civil to each other. The judges listened, asked penetrating questions and made concise determinations. Ultimately the Supreme Court made the final decision as to who would govern, and the public accepted it without question. While many may not agree with the decisionsurely I did notwe will have a peaceful change of government on Jan. 20. One only has to compare the professionalism shown by lawyers in the 2000 election to its almost total absence in the O. J. Simpson trial to recognize the important contributions of lawyers made recently in Florida.
Leo J. Jordan
John Healey’s Symbols Are Not Just Symbols’ (12/23) is for me a strong affirmation of my practice in taking the Eucharist to federal prisoners over many years. Many have faith or are regaining it, but, since my work has been in a prison hospital, many are too ill to go down to Sunday Mass in the prison chapel, and some die without ever being able to do so.
The need to share the Eucharist by offering the sick persons the host, without cup or the full celebration, is one instance of the cultural problem for which Mr. Healey’s article offers theological as well as historical explanation.
Sick inmates willingly return to the sacraments, sometimes after many years. My custom is, of course, to take the host actually consecrated in the prison Mass, taking my supply of hosts from that specific Mass.
Pauline Grady, A.S.C.
I enjoyed reading the perspective of Philip Perlmutter on Catholic-Jewish reconciliation (12/9). I would find it helpful if America would consider an article or more on the essential tenets of Judaism as well as of Islam. As a Catholic with a poor knowledge of these two other major religions, I would like to learn more about them in both a religious and cultural perspective. Perhaps, as recent editions have permitted a response from an educated reader, these articles could permit someone quite theologically grounded to provide the Catholic response perspective.
St. Charles, Ill.
Part of It
Sister Joan Acker’s splendid article, Creationism and the Catechism (12/16), evoked recollections of the same feeling of disappointment and betrayal I experienced when I first perused the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I would add that creationists have a much bigger problem with the mystery of suffering and evil than Christians who accept evolution. One wonders, for example, how God could create a world in which there are earthquakes, tornadoes and birth defects. But once one realizes that God wills to create this kind of a world, then random events and genetic mutations are not only a distinct possibility but even a necessity. Could God have created a different kind of world? Why not? But then it would be of a different kind of matter than we are made of, and we would not be a part of it.
Thomas L. Sheridan, S.J.
Jersey City, N.J.
I congratulate Sister Joan Acker, H.M., for her courageous article, Creationism and the Catechism: Observations of a Sister Scientist (12/16). If only the American bishops would accept her suggestion for writing the proposed national catechism in collaboration with theologians and scientists. In my 23 years as a parish D.R.E. and an instructor of adults in the diocesan basic theology course, I have encountered many adult Catholics with a fundamentalist understanding of Scripture supported by the static pre-critical view of Scripture in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. When teaching Scripture, I try to help adult students understand that the creation account in Genesis does not relate actual historical facts by showing them a video on evolution from Carl Sagan’s series Cosmos. As Catholics, we do not have to dismiss science; we do not have to choose between the idea of evolution and the existence of God. What a great teaching aid this American catechism would be!
Sister Joan Acker’s plea (12/16) for an adult catechism that is in harmony with science reflects a broader need to focus on the beautiful underlying messages of parables, metaphors, myths and symbols in our Bible, rather than a literal focus on the stories themselves. Full networking with scientists would be inspiring not only to adults but, more important, to our youth.