Every time I thought I just couldn’t handle another word, article or program on our current scandal, America would appear on my desk with its plenitude of scholarly, sane, informative articles. Your coverage over the past weeks has been outstanding! Each issue seemed even better than one before.
As someone who has spent the past 25 years teaching and writing about the role of the laity, baptism and the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and facilitating prayerful discernment decision-making throughout this country and down under, I was especially delighted to read Mary Jo Bane’s article Exit, Voice and Loyalty in the Church (6/3). Keep up your wonderful work!
Mary Benet McKinney, O.S.B.
Let the Congregation Sing Out (5/6) reveals that America has a taste for satire. Particularly uproarious were the article’s implications that advertising jingles are proper models for hymnody, and that a suitable aim of divine worship is the entertainment of teenagers. The article’s climactic knee-slapper was the suggestion that Where Charity and Love Prevail might be sung as a cool waltz.
But in fairness, it must be acknowledged that any Alka-Seltzer ditty is likely a higher expression of musical art than the repertoire, some of it profane, virtually all of it tasteless, in the contemporary hymnals that pain American Catholics at almost every Sunday Mass.
The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy calls for music that enriches sacred rites with heightened solemnity and instruments that accord with the dignity of the temple, not the greeting-card-lyric hootenannies the America article advocatesand that too many pastors condone.
Pain and Peace
My brother has been a professional paramedic/firefighter for many years; my nephew is a police officer whose beat is not in the best area of a large southern city; my sister and brother-in-law both work in the landmark building of a very large city in the northeast; and I have been a priest for 32 years, serving in a wide variety of ministries in many cultural settings. In no way could I presume to know the pain Msgr. Harry Byrne expresses in his reflection on Sept. 11 in New York City (6/17), but I would like to think I have some sense of where he is coming from.
Monsignor Byrne concludes his reflection, This must not be allowed to happen again. My question is, What are we supposed to do to stop it? I, like many others, have learned more about Islam in the last several months than in all my previous 60 years. With Monsignor Byrne, I have reached the conclusion that while many Muslims seem to think that Sept.11 and other acts of indiscriminate terror done in the name of God are wrong, no one in the Islamic world can declare with authority their wrongfulness. So do we go to war with the whole Islamic world?
Some months ago I read that the world will know no peace until it takes account of the fact that the state of Israel was established without consulting the people who already lived there. A frank acknowledgment of that fact on the part of our government is much in order, together with a resolve to oblige Israel to make the same acknowledgment and to do its part in building a peace built on as much equity as can be established for all who live there now. Not that this would solve all our problems with the Islamic and Arab world, but it would certainly represent a solid start.
(Rev.) Michael Burton Roark
A Larger Book?
As the author of the book Married Saints (Alba House, 1999), I read the Of Many Things column by John W. Donohue, S.J., (7/1) with particular interest. He wrote about canonized married men. When I told my local pastor about my book, he said, That’s a very thin book, isn’t it? Yes, I guess it is, because, as Father Donohue pointed out in his column, married men (and women) have no lobbies to promote their causes. Nevertheless, most saints, even if not canonized, were married.
Father Donohue mentioned many of the married men included in the liturgical calendar. But he missed Sts. Stephen of Hungary, Edward the Confessor, and Zachary (Zechariah), the father of John the Baptist.
John F. Fink
I like Archbishop John Quinn’s observation (7/1) that this is the best time in history to be or stay a priest, because we can choose to follow the real Christ.
All of us are appalled by the abuse of children, especially by those trusted by the children. No easy remedies exist, except for all of us to move toward a culture more in accord with God’s word.
I just want to suggest that there is more than one form of child abuse. We abuse children when we expose them to bombing, war, violence, hunger, lack of necessities and basic education. The children of Afghanistan, Israel, Palestine, Colombia, Sudan, the Great Lakes region of Africa, indeed in most parts of our world are certainly being abused.
The Children’s Defense Fund and others do not exclude the wealthy United States from the list of those nations that fail to provide basic necessities to children. Indeed federal and state welfare laws can be considered abusive of children.
Can we be indifferent to child abuse in whatever form it takes?
Benjamin J. Urmston, S.J.
I am currently in Mexico with Jesuit novices of the California Province for five weeks as they study Spanish.
My time here has given me the opportunity to catch up on some of my back issues of America. Congratulations to you and your staff for the excellent articles on the current scandal. They are encouraging and thought-provoking.
Bob Fambrini, S.J.
Culver City, Calif.
Valerie Schultz, I pray the church will listen to your lived reflections on the holiness of an ordinary marriage.
Thanks for writing, and thanks to America for publishing what you wrote.
Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B.
San Francisco, Calif.
A Comfortable Prophet
Valerie Schultz (God in the Tangled Sheets, 7/1) writes about the canonization of the married couple Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi. The Vatican, she suggests, gives a mixed message because the couple practiced celibacy after the birth of their last child. She asks, But if marriage is a source of sacramental grace, why are we as a church so uncomfortable about sex? She quotes the Song of Songs (4:16; 7:8-9) as biblical support for the sacredness of married love expressed in sexuality.
Here is further evidence of the mixed message: The Liturgy of the Hours for Friday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time quotes Ezekiel 16, which provides vivid, even graphic, sexual imagery to demonstrate God’s love for Jerusalem. The text, however, omits the second half of verse seven (in italics): Then I passed by and saw you weltering in your blood. I said to you: Live in your blood and grow like a plant in the field. You grew and developed and came to the age of puberty; your breasts had formed, your hair had grown, but you were still stark naked. Again I passed by and saw that you were now old enough for love. So I spread the corner of by cloak over you to cover your nakedness; I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you: you became mine, says the Lord God (Ez. 16:5-9).
This omission provides a clue to clerical culture. The answer to Valerie Schultz’s question, Why are we as a church so uncomfortable about sex? lies in this culture. Those who prepared the Liturgy of the Hours, part of this culture, deliberately misquote Scripture, obscuring its message about the sacredness of sexuality in marriage. The current scandal of priestly pedophilia and its coverup by the hierarchy is a visible symptom of that culture, which needs to be prophetically challenged and healed. As a remedy, Mrs. Schultz calls for married theologians to write about marriage and its relationship to God. Her article is a good start.
Herbert P. Ely
Hurrah for Valerie Shultz’s right-on description of Christian marriage (God in the Tangled Sheets, 7/1)! I have experienced and seen among many friends the truth she tells. Her courage and openness and joy in her vocation kept me saying yes as I read. Her honesty and sanity were refreshing.
Delray Beach, Fla.
Thank God and America’s editors for printing God in the Tangled Sheets (7/1) by a lay person, first of all; second, by a woman; third, by a married woman; fourth, by a sexually active married woman; and fifth, about fun sex in married life; finally, about married sex as a good for God, the church, the world, the human race, the family, the grandparents and society.
Pope John Paul II had a political agenda. When he canonized the married Quattrocchis, he wanted the world to know that no longer having sex in marriage is saintly, and here is the proof: all four of their children chose chastity for their vocation. God so loved... those who did not have sex. That is not Jn.3:16; that is the pope’s agenda.
Therefore John W. Donohue, S.J., (Of Many Things, 7/1) should understand something and write about it. When he says that not many married men have been canonized, partly because there have been no lobbyists to promote their causes, he really means that nobody has put up the money to get them canonized. Of course, if the pope wanted to canonize a married, sexually active couple he would find the money. It is simply not his political agenda. He emphasizes transcendental values to the harm of incarnational ones. (And almost all his money comes from married people! I smell disrespect.)
There was another item in the same issue about vocations by James VanOosting. His thinking is schizophrenicnot the paranoid kind, but simply romantic. One example: Mary had a vocation as mother of God; but professional thinking is needed for economic success, while vocational thinking brings personal fulfillmentso VanOosting distinguishes. He is blind to the fact that mother Mary received economic success first of all by marrying; second, by marrying a carpenter. She was fulfilled by being a mother and a wife.
Our church is clerical and patriarchal. Clericalism is imbedded in America. Thank God the editors printed one article with a normal attitude toward sex.