Spread the Faith

Dr. Richard J. Rodeheffer’s article (2/3) is superb. The obvious influence of the Jesuit Ratio Studiorum is most refreshing. As significant is Dr. Rodeheffer’s faith rekindled in essence: don’t keep the faith, but spread it.

Hugh J. Mullin
Garden City, N.Y.



I must disagree with the gist of the Rev. Andrew M. Greeley’s article about the New York Times coverage of the scandal of sexual abuse by priests (2/10). It seems to me that the sadness most Catholics feel today is not so much about the abuse and its coverage by the press but about the coverup of the abuse.

Ann Zoll
Portland, Ore.

Present Calamities

Thank you for presenting two views of the meaning and thrust of the Second Vatican Council (2/24). They confirm how interpretation leads to diverse, occasionally opposite, conclusions and applications. Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J., reminded us of this and mentions the compromises that sought to harmonize differing views without excluding anyone.

The articles sum up where differing views lead. The cardinal presents the reality of what has happened. If there is room for disagreement, it is with his attempt to prove that what the pope, Roman offices and Curia have done is a faithful carrying out of Vatican II’s intentions. The style is unmistakable. It is a return to doctrinal orthodoxy enforced by centralized authority. The march backwards has derailed much of what Vatican II aspired to. If Rome maintains its present juridical and canonical imposition on every movement toward bettering relationships with other churches, religions and, sadly, the laity, the true church, then Vatican II will be a nostalgic memory containing the consolation of some changes even Rome dare not reprove! Of course, there is no guarantee this won’t happen!

The article by John W. O’Malley, S.J., captured all the enthusiasm and energy Vatican II created. He clearly spells out what hopes and dreams accompanied dialogue, collegiality, cooperation, etc. He graciously leaves off without commenting on what has taken place in the interim under Pope John Paul II. As much as his legacy will be bright in the eyes of the world, for the church, it will include reversing the optimism, faith, trust in the Spirit and generous openness to all peoples, religions and the challenges that ever remind us of the present calamities in political, economic, social and religious affairs.

Mark Franceschini, O.S.M.
Hillside, Ill.

Legal Tradition

It is amazing that a scholar and theologian of the stature of Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J., could keep thinking and writing with such a status-quo, even regressive, tone (2/24). Such an eminent teacher needs to be leading the people toward greater awareness, vision, lifegiving understanding of truth relevant to needs in the new millennium, rather than taking the life out of Vatican II with his extremely conservative interpretations. He is very sure of his appropriation of the council’s teaching, as if all other understanding of it is false. He is precise in his picking and choosing sources in the documents for his bias while being unclear about who are those giving a common impression or it is widely believed or it is often said. This is not the method of serious scholarship.

His opinion that many theologians demoted tradition to the status of a secondary norm is a stretch. He acknowledges that the council spoke of the church’s duty to interpret the signs of the times, but then implies that these signs have not been interpreted in light of the Gospel. Come on! His theological colleagues are not dummies. His understanding of subsist in regard to the church of Christ is problematic.

Cardinal Dulles sidesteps the issue about collegiality, locating it in the summoning of the bishops for consultation. The relevant issue today is about centralization of power in Rome, depriving the bishops of their rightful share of authority. His view on celibacy being more blessed than marriage is simply wrong-headed. His understanding of religious freedom and other churches is so confused and muddled that debate would be difficult. And I am not aware of the spirit and the meaning of Vatican II being pitted against its letter. He even has some questions about the use of the vernacular in the liturgy.

All in all, I see his view of church and theology to be in the old legal tradition that Vatican II tried to move beyond in Pope John’s aggiornamento. It does not serve the people well to keep in the past when the Spirit is trying to move us with freedom and hope and vision into the future. Cardinal Dulles is not speaking to the church in the modern world.

Frankly, his rigid, legalistic, defensive view is no help and inspiration for the church today. It is just rehashing old theology, which Vatican II sought to update in order to open, in Pope John’s words, the windows and let in the fresh air of the Spirit to a church that was stagnating or worse.

Vincent Weltzer
Rochester, N.Y.

Flat Zero

I am not surprised that Representative Henry Hyde finds it awry when American bishops advocate specific policies that are matters of contingent judgment (such as questions of welfare reform or foreign policy) (2/17). He argues that the bishops are supposed only to teach the principles of Catholic social doctrine, with lay Catholics applying such principles according to their free and responsible judgment. The congressman undoubtedly feels the need to denigrate the bishops’ stated positions because his own free and responsible judgment is more often than not (except on pro-life issues) totally at odds with their thinking and that of other Catholic action groups. Network, the Catholic social justice lobby, reports, for example, that Representative Hyde did not support its legislative positions one single time in the last session of Congress (see www.networklobby.org); his percentage of support was a flat zero.

And I suspect that if Representative Hyde flipped back a page or two in the issue of America in which his article appeared, to your editorial entitled Ever-Rising Hunger and Homelessness, he would have found your positions awry, too.

James H. Duffy
New York, N.Y.

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