Pope John Paul II’s affirmation of humanitarian intervention, mentioned by Drew Christiansen, S.J., (8/12), contrasts with the U.S. policy of acting only if it is in its strategic interest. East Timor showed the tragic gulf between the two.

The East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence in a United Nations-mandated referendum, believing as they courageously went to the polls that they were under the protection of the world community of nations and, certainly, its superpower, the United States.


Instead, they were sheep to the slaughter, as militia gangs wrought carnage that Americans watched on television news for weeks.

The United States not only failed to act, fearing to offend Indonesia (though the United Nations had never recognized the bloody annexation of East Timor), but blocked Australia, East Timor’s near neighbor, from acting.

When the combat-ready Australian troops were finally allowed in as peacekeepers, the game was over. East Timor was a land of corpses, rape victims and rubble.

As we preen ourselves on the moral high ground in the world arena, we ought to look in the mirror. In East Timor and elsewhere we have been complicit in the loss of thousands of innocent lives.

(Rev.) George P. Carlin
New York, N.Y.

Prayer Rooms

For a Web weaver, Eric Stoltz seems to be stunningly unaware of the pace of technological change (8/12). Fact is, the churches have become chat rooms. People chat before Mass, during Mass and after Mass. Many, indeed, seem to come to church to chat. And if one wishes to pray in preparation for worship, if one wishes to commune with Christ after receiving his body and blood, if one wishes to give thanks after Mass, his best bet is to go out to the parking lot and sit in his car.

We have chat rooms. Some churches even have cry rooms. What’s needed now are prayer rooms for those whose purpose is to worship in spirit and in truth.

Richard White
East Lyme Conn.

Understanding Acceptance

I greatly appreciated the article Retro-Catholicism, by David Nantais, S.J. (5/2). Falling into the category of Generation X and being eight years a sister, I found that what he had to say greatly resonated with my experience. I’m writing to make the point that I believe retro-Catholicism is an important matter to be understood in religious communities today in connection with vocations and formation.

Because of the decreased number of vocations, it is not uncommon for religious communities to have very few members from Generation X or the Millennial Generation. Speaking for myself, I have found that being in a minority, it takes a lot of courage to be true to what is important to me. Early on, I thought I was quite alone, but as I got involved in youth and young adult ministry, I realized that I was not alone at all. Rather, as Nantais describes, there is a trend among young people.

I was also encouraged to see that among young people there seem to be vocations waiting to be nurtured or picked from the vine, but I also came to see that no one sister or one generation can do thisit takes a community. If religious communities desire vocations, they need to be willing to go where young people are. If they shy away because what is important to young people reminds them of the past, then a roadblock occurs. I also believe that older generations have something important to add to ministry to young people and without them a piece of the body of Christ is missing. Once young people come to a religious community, an understanding of retro-Catholicism is important for both generations. Just as what is important to me can look to them as if I want to return to the past, their not valuing it can look to me as if they want to discard what is important. So if there is going to be true community, there needs to be understanding and acceptance on both sides. This is especially true in the area of formation.

Mary Felice, D.C., M.D.
Troy, N.Y.

No Alternative

Many of the continuing letters on the subject of our church’s scandal (8/26) and some of your articles reflect a serious misunderstanding of two basic issues.

One: the removal of abusing priests under zero tolerance guidelines has to do with protecting our children, not with condemning priests to hell. We must forgive and pray that God will forgive those priests, but we must not in the course of extending that forgiveness open any child to the known potential of repeating the horror.

Two: in an ideal world such priests may (and only may) be dealt with properly in less draconian fashion by careful and judicious bishops. But in our world, too many bishops have demonstrated that they are neither. Given that the pope (who alone can act against a bishop) has not held any of those bishops accountable, the American bishops as a body have no alternative but to act as they have done to protect our children.

Robert F. Cummins
Raleigh, N.C.

Celebrate and Affirm

Thank you for The Strengths of Priests Today, by Archbishop John R. Quinn, and God in the Tangled Sheets, by Valerie Schultz (7/1). The topics were important, appropriate and pertinent.

At a time when the media is full of negative stories about priests, it was good to read about the truly good priests who strive to follow Christ and show him to the world, for he is our only hope.

Valerie Schultz’s article needed to be written and, I would add, needs to be heralded. The church should celebrate marriages and affirm couples living this path with Christ on the road to heaven. The church seems to take one step forward and two steps backward. It beatifies a married couplebut one that discontinued their sex lives. The world today needs family. We preach that all the time, but sometimes our words resonate as if they have been spoken in a vacuum.

Margaret C. Jones
Brooklyn, N.Y.



Jim, my husband, and I write to express our condolences to you and your America and Jesuit associates on the death of David S. Toolan, S.J. (8/12). Dave had been a colleague-at-a-distance since we were first associated with him during his days at Commonweal. We had not known that he was suffering with cancer, so the notice of his death in The New York Times was a shock and a sorrow for us. We join with you now in celebrating his life and honoring his passing.

Evelyn Eaton Whitehead
South Bend, Ind.

In Memoriam

Your In Memoriam tribute to Dave S. Toolan, S.J., (8/12) captured the special character and personality of the young man I met when we were both at Bellarmine College in 1959.

On first meeting Dave I had the instinctive reaction that he was always destined to be a Jesuit. He had all the qualities even then of a great Jesuitintelligence, discernment, spirituality and judgment. There was something special about him. He had a warm and engaging personality. He seemed wise beyond his years and was blessed with an understanding far beyond his experiences. He was a great individual, whom you could approach, and you could become his friend without any qualifications; you did not need to pass a test. I immediately recognized him from his obituary.

He was a true son of St. Ignatius Loyola, brilliant and caring and a wonderful Jesuit.

Alfred J. Boulos
Houston, Tex.

Pride Versus Hubris

It is unfortunate that you selected a reviewer for Quickening the Fire in Our Midst by George A. Aschenbrenner, S.J., (8/12) who does not share Father Aschenbrenner’s idea of the role of a priest. Under the guise of reviewing a book, Paul Wilkes uses the platform to show his disdain for the First Vatican Council and intimates that the message of Vatican II is still evolving, as do so many dissidents.

It is understandable that a reviewer who questions the uniqueness of the priesthood would favor a trend among the clergy to wear civilian clothes. A marine, for example, plays a unique role in our military and is proud of this role to the extent that he is proud to wear the uniform that identifies him as a marine.

In an analogous manner, the priest has a distinctive role to perform in his ministry and should be proud to wear clerical garb that identifies this role, even though it may make him the target of cynics who assume that the preponderance of priests belong to the category of those who have abused the faithful entrusted to their care. It would also be considered hubris by the Vatican II innovators who do not consider the ordained clergy unique among the priesthood of all believers.

George J. Beichl
Philadelphia, Pa.

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