Heart of the Gospel

Thanks to John R. Donahue, S.J., for a precise surgical reflection on the Gospel, Jesus in the Dock (2/11). It cuts directly to the heart of the matter. The Word column is the first thing I read, and I am never disappointed. Now that I am teaching Scripture, the reflections offered there are priceless to me.

Jane Ward
Three Oaks, Mich.


Gratitude for Light

I have three reactions to Christ Among the Religions, by Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J. (2/4). The first is to express my feelings after reading it: wow! The second is to express my gratitude to the author. Words from another great priest seem most appropriate, Lead, kindly light. The third reaction is to thank you very much for America.

Ward Shanahan
Helena, Mont.

What Actually Happened

The attack against Pope Pius XII for his role during the Holocaust is unrelenting. The works published against him in the last two years make that clear. Unfortunately, some of that rhetoric has ensnared even those who propose to be his defenders, as evidenced in Eugene J. Fisher’s review (12/10/01) of Pius XII and the Holocaust, by José M. Sánchez, in which the reviewer states that the views of Pinchas E. Lapide, as presented in his book Three Popes and the Jews (1967), are undocumented and unsupportable in regard to his position that 700,000 to 860,000 Jews were saved by the Roman Catholic Church during the Holocaust.

While such an achievement in the rescue of Jews has been attributed to the leadership of Pius XII, Susan Zuccotti, in her work Under His Very Window (2000), sought to disprove Lapide but failed to do so. Unwittingly she lent at least partial support to his view when she showed how helpful were the nuns, monks, priests, bishops and archbishops in saving the Jews in Italy’s major cities, especially since these rescuers were, according to her, convinced that they were really doing what the Pope wanted.

Beyond that, there is the charge that Lapide’s position, as indicated by Fisher, is lacking objective evidence. Yet historians who have attacked Lapide’s view have not been able to document and support their claim as well as he was able to reason to it as a conservative estimate of what actually happened during the Holocaust. For Lapide’s conclusion about the large number rescued during the papacy of Pius was based on research into the archives at Yad Vashem, on the interviews conducted with survivors of the Holocaust, on a comparison of the number of Jews living before World War II with the number of those who survived the genocide, on the successful interventions of the papal diplomats throughout Europe and other areas under Nazi occupation and on the subtraction of the number saved by non-Roman Catholic rescuers. It’s a big number, to be sure, wrote Sidney Zion (The Houston Chronicle, 3/16/00) of Lapide’s estimate of the 700,000 to 860,000, but even if we halve it and then subtract by two, we have more Jews saved by the Vatican than by the Allies.

Vincent A. Lapomarda, S.J.
Coordinator, Holocaust Collection
College of the Holy Cross
Worcester, Mass.

Wake-Up Call

Thank you, America and Joseph A. Califano Jr., for the wake-up call to clergy and professionals regarding the importance of attention to the substance abuse problem and the need for collaboration in fighting the damage done by addiction (2/11).

Mr. Califano rightly points out the need for training clergy on substance abuse and for professionals on the vital role of religion and spirituality in successful treatment and recovery. It is significant that addiction counselors have the highest percentage of belief in God among counseling professional groups, probably for good reason.

Training for the clergy and future clergy is important. It might interest Mr. Califano to know that in the past year, Guest House, which has treated Catholic clergy for alcoholism and other drug addiction since 1956, presented training programs to 10 percent of all Catholic seminarians in the United States and will do so again this year. This is prevention activity, but also pastoral training for seminarians in dealing with the real situations that they will see in their ministries. Several dioceses and religious orders have also requested and received education on substance abuse for their active clergy and religious.

Some dioceses, like Lansing, Mich., and Palm Beach, Fla., have growing and active parish-based substance abuse services.

Many clergy graduates of Guest House do extend their own recoveries into their ministries, sometimes in homilies but also in the confessional and counseling and even in establishing treatment services themselves. I have personally been able to see this in my time working at Guest House. One of the clearest examples of this was Fred Harkins, a Jesuit of Worcester, Mass., who was eulogized in 1999 for having counseled over 100,000 people after his treatment at Guest House in 1959 until his death. There are many others.

Denial, of course, is inherent in the problem of substance abuse, and Catholics are not immune. I would suggest, though, that much service has been contributed by the church to foster prevention and treatment of substance abuse since the Jesuits John Ford, Edward Dowling and John Hardon helped to gain Catholic acceptance of Alcoholics Anonymous and the disease of alcoholism. Much more remains to be done. I hope that Mr. Califano’s article can help precipitate more needed activity.

Daniel A. Kidd
President, Guest House
Lake Orion, Mich.

Archetypal Grinch

All right, which orc straddled Richard Blake’s oatmeal? Is this the Richard Blake, S.J., of objective criticism? He goes after hobbits with a howitzer (2/11)! And not only hobbits. He lines up a motley arrangement of Anglo writers as though they were the Taliban. And what is this thing about eviscerating Christianity? J. R. R. Tolkien presents an archetype with great panoply. A good story. He’s not a catechist. He explains his intentions and his craft very well, by the way, in the collection of his letters published by Houghton Mifflin. His idea eucatastrophe and the explanation of its dynamic is included in that engrossing paperback.

Likewise it seems that Tolkien readers have to defend their tastes as well as their maturity! Most of us enjoyed the movie, I suppose, because we wanted to compare our imaginations to Peter Jackson’s. Some of Blake’s criticism has credence but the tone of it is amazing in its vitriol. No literature should be immune from evaluation or even from lampoon. Nevertheless, I do not see the value in Blake’s essay. One might be led to argue with his leprechaun ancestry and substitute grinch forebears.

Gary Young, C.R.
Nazareth, Ky.

No Less True

Your editorial Enron and Immorality (2/11) was on target with its conviction that there is an absolute requirement for boards of directors, executives and everyone else in the business world to accept the moral responsibility for honesty.

That must be no less true, too, of the institutional church and its leaders, whether they be called pastors or shepherds, overseers or bishops.

E. Leo McMannus
Venice, Fla.

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