As a Sister of St Joseph who labored over teaching the words, but more important, the meaning, of the Act of Contrition to many a distracted second, third and fourth grader during the 1950’s and 60’s in schools in Philadelphia, I was delighted on reading, first, the remembrances of James Martin, S.J., in Of Many Things (5/12) and then the letters debating the words of the ending. What a joy! They did listen; they do remember!
Rose Christine Wagner, S.S.J.
Worth the Price
While on every other issue I find the Ethics Notebook column of John Kavanaugh, S.J., illuminating, I can never manage to parse the logic of his argument when he turns to the topic of just war. His column Unjust War, Good Outcomes (5/19) is a case in point. He begins by asserting that the end does not justify the means. Since all wars bring great evil in their wake, does that make all wars unjust? In previous columns Father Kavanaugh hints (but never says outright) that such is his view. But in his most recent column he seems to argue on terms defined by the just-war tradition, in which case his invocation of the shibboleth about ends not justifying means is either rendered moot or needs nuancing.
This nuance he seems to supply by asserting that the bombing of Dresden and Nagasaki violated the norms of conduct in a just war (jus in bello). Of course, no cities were obliterated in the recent war in Iraq, although Father Kavanaugh brings into his moral calculus the plight of even one Iraqi child dismembered or dissolved by a bomb meant for someone else. But if the unintended killing of even one child retroactively renders a war immoral, why bother mentioning Dresden and Nagasaki? Why not invoke the same principle with World War II and condemn the Allies for the death of just one dead German or Japanese child?
Finally, Father Kavanaugh seems certain that the future bodes only ill as a consequence of the war: Disneyland will be bombed, Iraqis will grow restive, etc. Perhaps, but even a worst-case scenario would be hard pressed to weigh down the scales to make the overthrow of Saddam Hussein not seem worth the price. (Estimates of the number of corpses in Hussein’s mass graves now reach 300,000.) Who knows what the future will bring? But one cannot fail to note that India and Pakistan have now exchanged ambassadors, for the first time in over three years; and the heads of government of Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Egypt are now meeting face to face.
But the ultimate problem with Father Kavanaugh’s analysis, as with all those who continue to maintain a retrospective opposition to the war is their collective failure to face this conundrum: one cannot greet the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and simultaneously say the war in Iraq lacked justification.
Edward T. Oakes, S.J.
The writer is the Chester and Margaret Paluch Professor of Theology at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary.
Courage to Continue
I commend you for the courage and the foresight to publish the statement of the Society of Jesus in the United States on Abortion (5/26). That statement brilliantly sets forth the moral stance, combined with a genuine compassion that truly sheds light on this tragic illness in our country. I can only pray that this statement will give American Catholics the courage to continue the struggle that will guarantee the right to life to the unborn and honor to the women who bear our children.
Terry McCloskey, C.Ss.R.
Kansas City, Mo.
Make a Difference
The article The Vanishing Eucharist, by the Rev. Willard F. Jabusch, (5/12) is completely on target. The example of Latin America’s centuries-old lack of clergy suggests that we might not expect an answer to come readily. Father Jabusch’s observation about the method of Evangelicals, as well as his observation about outside priests with higher education, suggest some practical answers to this enormous problem. I know I have read dozens of articles in America and in Commonweal that have articulated sharp observations and wise solutions (Father Jabusch’s ranks at the top) particularly related to the effect of the declining numbers of priests and of the sex scandal. I have to ask, Are we just talking to ourselves? In this church of ours, is anyone communicating good ideasthis ideato those who can make a difference in policy? Can we make a difference in policy?
Michael McCue, O.S.F.S.