Credit Where Due
In reading through the items in Signs of the Times of your March 11 issue, my eyes went to the picture of the unidentified woman waving the youth day flag at the World Trade Center in New York. And yes, even from the side view I recognized her. She is Francine Guilmette, F.M.A., a Salesian sister, who is the associate director of the World Youth Day Organizing Committee in Toronto, and one of the best youth ministers Montreal has ever had on the diocesan level. She worked many years with me when I was in the diocesan pastoral office and really changed the face of what we call youth ministry. I think she deserves full identification. Much thanks for a superb magazine, to which I look forward every week.
(Msgr.) Francis Coyle
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
I want to thank you and Catherine O’Conor of Waquit, Mass., who wrote a letter to America on Healing Work (4/8). Her sentiments clearly expressed a common-sense and equitable canonical approach to the present problem. Further, her opinion not only clearly reflected my own thoughts but the thoughts of several other priest friends. We are most grateful for her positive contribution in such a media atmosphere of muckraking and veiled anti-Catholicism.
(Rev.) Paul DiGirolamo
Allow me to add an observation to the article on Cuba by Thomas E. Quigley (4/18). Fidel Castro’s takeover of Cuba happened 45 years ago. The passage of years has obscured the fact that when he was the brave young man in the hills of Oriente Province daring to take on the powerful and corrupt dictator Fulgencio Batista, he was a Catholic like most of his countrymen. Or so many of his supporters thought. Not until he took power did he reveal his true intentions.
Many who had supported him felt betrayed and left Cuba, leaving behind their fine homes and their fortunes, carrying with them only the pittance that he permitted (I believe it was $5 American). It could have been very different. Castro did not need Communism to be a hero to the Cuban people. All he had to do was do away with Batista and replace him with an honest government.
There was no need to suppress the church in Cuba, at least not for the needs of the Cuban people.
Your editorial Not the U.S. Alone (3/25) hit the nail right on the head. Six years ago, I lived for three months at the border of Jerusalem and the West Bank. Many of the things we only now hear about in our media, such as Israeli destruction of West Bank homes, have been going on for years with barely a whimper of a reprimand from the U.S. government.
When Ariel Sharon came into office, he did so with the intention of provoking war with the Palestinian people. Unfortunately, Yasir Arafat has been an all too willing accomplice in the march toward all-out war in the region. When I was there, most of the people on both sides wanted peace. Now I’m not so sure, since the situation is so polarized.
The United States is hardly an honest broker in this process. Unless someone like a James Baker can hold the Israelis’ feet to the fire on the settlement issue, efforts toward peace will go nowhere.
After 50 years reading about and supporting our government’s generous policies toward Israel, I wonder now how or where it went so wrong. In the beginning, all liberals wanted to help secure Israel against super-powerful Arab enemies, and we succeeded. Somehow, this victory produced increasingly stubborn and irrational elements on both sides, and our own rigidly one-sided and unimaginative policies made our apparent efforts at peacemaking irrelevant.
In your editorial of March 25, your diagnosis of the problems now created by our unilateral style of policymaking and your policy suggestions were refreshingly realistic, creative and relevant. Thank you. I also thank John Kavanaugh, S.J., for his column Military Madness, for putting words to my growing anxieties over the increasingly irrational direction of our policies toward the entire world. He quietly and accurately criticizes our government’s new and frightening nuclear policies; its imperial, hegemonic style; the passivity of our media; the admirably loyal but overly unquestioning support of our people; and the threat by our government to use warmaking methods that threaten our moral values.
Thank you also for the informative and jolting article about Guatemala’s miseries. Your contributions are priceless, generous and brave.
John J. MacDougall
Killing Us All
Thank you for the superb editorial Not the U.S. Alone (3/25).
Enough killing: 400 Israelis and 1,247 Palestinians as of this writing. There is no parity between Israel’s mighty military machine and Palestinian resistance. Israel is the occupier, Palestinians the occupied. As Noam Chomsky says, It is no more symmetric than Germany was in occupied France. Yet the media continue to blame the victim in what is basically resistance to a colonialist power exercising brutality that reduces people to despairingly horrific acts of self-immolation to bring down as many of the powerful as possible.
Hundreds of Israeli armored vehicles and tanks push their way through crowded Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza and into the heart of Bethlehem and Ramallah. F-16’s and Apache gunships overhead rain bombs and rockets on largely unarmed Palestinian civilians. While some Israeli soldiers round up Palestinian males 14 years or older, other soldiers rampage through what is left of homes after the tanks have rolled through, overturning food staples, messing up every inch of their home space while women, children and the elderly crouch in fear and terror. Nothing is immune from Israeli bombs: schools, hospitals, churches, residential areas, ambulances, medical relief workers.
Let there be no mistake. The brutal, inhumane Israeli military occupation is terror. And in the words of Jewish Israelis protesting the actions of their government, The occupation is killing us all. Check the Web site of the more than 350 Israeli reserve combat officers who refuse to serve in the occupied territories (www.seruv.org). Their words sum it up: We shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people.
And it is our American military and economic support of the occupation that should make us cry out, Not in my name!
Miriam Ward, R.S.M.
People of Good Will
Thank you for your balanced and constructive editorial, Not the U.S. Alone (3/25). I thought your analysis of the current crisis and how it has developed was accurate. New ideas are desperately needed to secure the legitimate rights and long-term security of both parties to this conflict, Israelis and Palestinians. I wholeheartedly subscribe to the five-point Tenet-Mitchell Plus formula you propose in the final paragraph and am recommending your editorial to my elected representatives in Congress. Your proposals concisely express the convictions of many people of good will. As an ordinary citizen, I (and I’m sure many government officials) feel powerless in the face of the current sickening carnage. I hope your call for new ideas and new partners will reach U.S. policymakers who are in a position to promote a just and lasting peace.
I am somewhat surprised by the content of the article on Limbo by Gerald M. Fagin, S.J., in your March 18 issue.
Rather than ask the question, Has the church changed its teaching on the fate of infants who die without baptism? Father Fagin should have begun by pointing out that there are various theological notes for various church teachings and that the teaching on Limbo was really a theological fiction, in the best sense of the word. It was an attempt to show that God was truly loving and caring and just and would not commit to hell the souls of unbaptized children.
And certainly the answer to the question, Does this change in a pastorally sensitive teaching imply that other such teachings are also open to reevaluation and change? is a definite yes. There is such a thing as the development of doctrine. I believe Cardinal Newman even wrote about this.
One of the difficulties of church teaching in the past was an overemphasis on absolutes. We, as teachers, did a disservice to our people when we taught in this manner.
The first paragraph in the article gives a quotation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church that sums up well our teaching regarding infants who die without baptism: As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God....
Who can contest the magnanimous mercy of God?
(Most Rev.) Joseph A. Ferrario
I was surprised to see the number of letters critical of The Rev. Robert Kress’s article The Priest-Pastor as C.E.O (3/11). As pastor of a 4,300-household parish with 16 professional staff members and a $1.5 million annual budget, I don’t know of any other effective way to imagine or to do my job. I write this on Good Friday, having done almost no work of preparation for the triduum other than on my homilies. The director of worship, the pastoral vicars, the adult catechumenate directors, the stewardship director and the business manager need only the lightest of occasional touches from me to coordinate their work so that we will once again have powerful, prayerful and (I hope) transforming ritual prayer.
This, as I see it, is the pastor/C.E.O.’s job: to be a cheerleader for the vision and mission of the parish, to coordinate the work of other talented people, to ensure that good systems are in place so that all the people of the parish can work together, and to do the (few) tasks for which he alone is uniquely qualified. Parishioners are often surprised to get a response from me to a phone message or an e-mail within a few hours, expecting that my desk is piled with work. But it’s not; an excellent staff does that, and I can be in personal touch whenever there’s a need.
A few years ago Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk said that pastors of large parishes would have to start to act toward their parishes the way bishops do toward a diocese in order not to exhaust themselves. I believe he got it exactly right. At least in corporate-sized parishes, the pastor’s spiritual care is most often exercised through hiring and coaching good people, caring for the systems of the parish and having the time to think about and preach about the big picture of the parish’s work for the Gospel. Is it our individualist bias that keeps us from imagining that contemporary pastoral care by pastors will often be exercised through attention to systems rather than through one-to-one contact?
(Msgr.) Vincent Rush
Huntington Station, N.Y.