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Our readersNovember 10, 2003

Educational Values

Thank you, Thomas McCarthy, for your direct and honest comments on our schools in Swimming Upstream (10/6). The amount of time, energy and implied worth that is given to supporting the prevailing cultural values has increased at a disturbing rate, and in direct opposition to what we say Catholic education is all about. Using fund-raising rather than stewardship as a model, we are doing little to model the Eucharist, countercultural values or the creative awe and wonder that are so significant to a child’s faith formation. You are not alone in your reactions, simply more courageous than far too many parents and administrators.

Mary Therese Lemanek
Allen Park, Mich.

Mel Gibson

I found Terry Golway’s comments on Mel Gibson’s film intriguing (A Curious Silence, 10/20). I have heard Mr. Gibson interviewed about the movie, but I cannot comment on its possible anti-Semitism.

I can say that I have my doubts. The film, in Gibson’s own words, is the truth. Yet he admits that he is filming the suffering and death of our universal Lord and Savior through the lens of a private revelation given to a mystic.

While revelations may be a gift from God, they are not part of the Creed. No Catholic, or any other human being, is obliged to accept as truth that which is given in a private revelation.

Since I cannot translate the original languages he is using, I will not spend my time, talent or treasure to see his interpretation of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. I have no reason to trust its accuracy.

As a Catholic, however, I will rely on the Scriptures and the liturgy to help me unpack the meaning of salvation. We pray in Eucharistic Prayer 3: Lord, may this sacrifice... advance the peace and salvation of the whole world.

Another caution I throw up about Mr. Gibson’s possible anti-Semitism is his apparent rejection of the Second Vatican Council’s reforms. It is possible that a person who rejects the reforms of the liturgy might also reject a Vatican Council document like Nostra Aetate, the beautiful document about our relationship to the Jews and other religions.

(Rev.) William C. McGuirk
United, Pa.

Challenging the Paradigm

John Renard, in Clash-Talk (10/13), is right to challenge the description of the conflict between Islam and the West as a clash of civilizations. Nevertheless, the conflict is a fact that cannot be ignored. Christians in Sudan, Ethiopia and other areas of Africa certainly know and fear the consequences of this conflict. Salman Rushdie still remains off the speakers’ circuit. The Taliban is still alive and well. Osama bin Ladin is not a Lone Ranger. The caliphate (union of mosque and state) remains Islam’s preferred form of government. Jihad as real war remains a pillar of Islamic faith. And 9/11 is not the end of the story.

Given its history, Islam cannot be defined as a religion of peace any more than Catholicism, given its history, can be defined as a religion of liberal thinking. Yes, there are peaceful Muslims, and there are liberal-thinking Catholics, but they do not define their respective religious communities. When Al Smith ran for president in 1926, non-Catholics were right to ask how a Catholic president could uphold both religious freedom and the Constitution of the United States. It took the Second Vatican Council to remove finally and officially the justification of Catholic intolerance toward other religious persuasions.

Isn’t it time that Islam be challenged to repudiate intolerance, as the Second Vatican Council did for Catholicism? Jihad is no joke, and until Islam officially renounces it except as a metaphor for one’s own internal, spiritual battle, then the rest of the world can legitimately question whether Islam can contribute to the peace and harmony of the world, while the non-Muslim world continues to be described as a world of infidels and blasphemers.

Certainly, pre-emptive war is not a good idea. But bad ideas flourish when fear and frustration overcome a people. I would like to see America magazine address the real sources of conflict between Islam and the rest of humanity and suggest a path toward lasting resolutions of these conflicts.

Kenneth C. Hein, O.S.B.
Cañon City, Colo.

Boston’s Archbishop

Thank you for the riveting interview with Archbishop Sean O’Malley of Boston (10/27).

When asked how his roots in the Franciscan order contributed to his ministry as a bishop, Archbishop O’Malley’s reply was a universal call to the entire church: I am not sure. I suppose part of it is the ideal of striving, like Francis, to be a universal brother.

Clone this cleric. We need him all over the world!

Thomas J. Van Etten
Palm Springs, Calif.

Interesting as was the interview with Archbishop O’Malley, I found it ultimately disappointing. Though the interviewer, James Martin, S.J., raised the question of the arrogance of some bishops...[and] the lack of lay involvement as possible causes for the church’s present troubles, Archbishop O’Malley turned the question aside and focused instead on cultural changes in American society. Isn’t it at least arguable that the current structures of ecclesiastical governance, with their lack of lay involvement and lack of accountability to any but Rome, have to bear a heavy share of responsibility for what has happenednot only regarding the sex scandals in North America, Europe and elsewhere, but for some of the church’s other troubles in today’s world?

It is almost as if those who lead the church are unwilling, or are not permitted, to discuss such matters with their fellow members. I have no doubt that Archbishop O’Malley is a kind man and a good listener. But mere listening is not enough; one has to hear as well, and above all to respond in a way that assumes the seriousness of the questions and the good faith of the questioner. The failure to do so is what leads to the sense of arrogance, to which the interviewer alluded.

Nicholas Clifford
New Haven, Vt.

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