The call for an end to the Cuban embargo by John W. Donohue S.J. (Of Many Things, 7/15) is well intended, but should not be considered uncritically. Indeed, there are two considerations, both legal and moral, that should give us pause: collaboration and ideological apartheid. Is it moral for American tourists to stay at hotels where Cubans are not allowed, even if invited by foreign friends or relatives? Is it right for a baseball team to play in Cuba when tickets are doled out to government supporters, and Cuban players are barred from baseball because of suspicions that they are politically disloyal or potential defectors? Is it right for an intellectual to speak at a university, when dissidents have been expelled from the faculty and are not allowed to attend? Should American investors be allowed to build a factory where the politically incorrect are denied jobs or higher paying positions? Ideological apartheid is as objectionable as racial apartheid. Though we do not make the owners of a sweatshop in Asia responsible for poverty in the countries where they invest, we should make them responsible for conditions and wages in their factories. So too we should simply require that American companies and travelers not collaborate with political apartheid through their commercial or investment activities. And this rule should not single out Cuba, but should be applied to all foreign investments, while keeping an eye on those countries where violations are most likely to occur. That way the United States would not be imposing its values on other countries, but on its own citizens and companies.
Pedro J. Saavedra
Thanks to George M. Anderson, S.J., for helping us to remember there was a Jesuit named John LaFarge (Of Many Things, 8/12). Even though semi-retired, and a member of the group that will celebrate 70 years as Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kan., during the coming year, I remember his work and writings for the cause of God’s African Americans. Many of those who shared with me what he offered are gone to God. His was a prophetic calling in the truest sense of the term. As I wrote that last sentence, the thought came that the work of other Jesuits who have also toiled, even to the present time, at America desks should be included among those to whom the term prophetic aptly applies.
Emanuela O’Malley, C.S.J.
The article by Camille D’Arienzo, R.S.M., An Echo of Bagpipes, (7/29) is a condensed, excellent description of what I and, I am sure, others, have felt about the whole sad affair of sexual abuse by clergy and other church personnel.
Thank you for publishing it.
Rosemary Esterkamp, G.H.M.S.
I deeply appreciated Terry Golway’s column, Dangerous Sentiments? (8/26). The hierarchy’s at times negative, dismissive and repressive knee-jerk response to challenge from the laity is deeply troubling on many levels. The most harmful, I believe, is pointed out in Anthony Gittins’s excellent book, A Presence That Disturbs (Liguori, 2002). Gittins quotes a bishop from the Philippines at the 1998 Asian Synod who boldly touched the heart of the matter when he raised the question: Did they ever stop to think that distrust of the laity might also be distrust of the Holy Spirit? This is not merely an issue of the hierarchy trying to stem democratization of the church, but of a more culpable action, muzzling the Holy Spirit. As Gittins hints, could this be the unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit?
(Rev.) Gene Barrette
More’s the Pity
The church is not a democracy! I’ve heard that from both priests and laity more times than I care to count (8/26). It is mostly trueand more’s the pity!
The free press, so essential to American democracy, is now working for the churchdoing the Spirit’s work. What was the chance of our knowing about priest-abusers and the bishops who protected them by putting more children in danger, without The Boston Globe and other secular newspapers? What is the chance of any change without the glare of publicity?
Perhaps it is time the church moved on from the monarchial model we have lived with for years, leaving absolutism and secrecy to the intellectually, socially and politically blighted.
The first step is to recognize the necessity of full cooperation by the laity, not merely consultation. And isn’t that all that the Boston-based Voice of the Faithful is asking for?
What to Fear
One has to wonder what it is that the Archdiocese of Boston fears from Voice of the Faithful (8/26). They cannot fear a scandal; they are already mired in one. They cannot fear a challenge to the credibility of their authority; they have already lost most of their credibility as shepherds of their flock. They cannot fear loss of revenues; Voice of the Faithful was attempting to give financial support to the archdiocese. What is left but the fear of a loss of power? If the voice of an organized, educated, committed laity is given any official support, people might start thinking that the laity can make a credible contribution to church decision-making and policy development. Horrors! It continues to sadden me that lay Catholics seem more committed to living out the spirit of Vatican II than the ecclesial authorities who penned its documents.
Force for Good
Congratulations to Drew Christiansen, S.J., on his excellent article, Hawks, Doves and Pope John Paul II (8/12). The decision on whether to commit combat forces seems to be addressed only in terms of foreign policy and national interests. The greater issue, the morality of the decision, is seldom mentioned, and often only in terms of derision directed at the one who offers it as a consideration. Interestingly, when altruism is the driving force, foreign policy and national interests are often beneficiaries. That has proven to be the case in the former Yugoslavia.
My most rewarding assignment in a 20-year Army career was as the operations officer of the Balkans Task Force. In that capacity, we provided intelligence support to decision-makers and forces on the ground in Bosnia. Prior to the insertion of peacekeepers in the area, life there was nothing short of horrible. The atrocities directed against the defenseless were sickening and unspeakable. Upon arrival of the international force of peacekeepers, including U.S. forces, the quality of life immediately improved. It continues to improve to date, and the area is no longer a flashpoint for war.
As Father Christiansen points out, peacekeeping is often not a popular mission. Our involvement there was not well supported initially. Complaints ranged from issues of cost to concerns that it was not the mandate of the government to serve as the world’s policeman. The success of that, and other peacekeeping operations, however, led to changes in the military, to include the addition of Operations Other Than War in their doctrine. It was the right thing to do.
Hopefully, with eloquent writing by people like Father Christiansen, the position of the U.S. Catholic bishops and the guidance of the Holy Father will be heard and considered when decisions are being made about the use of force. The U.S. military is a tremendous force. With good decisions made for the right reasons, we will be a great force for good.
Spanish Fort, Ala.