Season of Remembrance
The sensitive reflection by George M. Anderson, S.J., about renewing on each November day, with deep gratitude to God, the memory of some recently deceased friend (Of Many Things, 11/3) constituted, I am sure, his daily act of faith in life eternal. As a valued fringe benefit, his column nudged me and, no doubt, many other readers back to basic sanity. Yes, Frank Sheed’s striking observation in The Church and I came to mind: By sanity I mean seeing what’s there. Who doesn’t? you ask. Who does? I answer. If a man starts seeing things that are evidently not there, we call him insane and do what we can for him. But a man may fail to see the greater part of reality and cause no comment at all. He may live his life in unawareness of God, of the spiritual order, of the unnumbered millions of the dead, and nobody thinks of him as needing help....
Thank you, Father Anderson, for nudging me back to spiritual sanity. My Novembers will be a bit different from now on.
Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B.
San Francisco, Calif.
A Better Message
I read Of Many Things, by James Martin, S.J., (11/10) with particular interest this afternoon, since I had just returned from church, where I was angered and disturbed by a priest who seemed to be presenting a point of view quite different from that of Father Martin. Speaking of the possibility of a schism in the Catholic Church, my Sunday morning homilist said, Do I think it’s possible for someone who believes in the sanctity of marriage, the sanctity of life, the sanctity of family, over a period of time to choose to survive with people who think it’s O.K. for same-sex couples to exist and be recognized? No, I don’t think that’s possible.
This Sunday morning message seemed like errant nonsense to me. We are all sinners, and we all choose to occupy the same pews with other sinners. Since when do we seek the privilege of shutting our church doors to those whose sins, we feel, are worse than our own? And what will we do when the door is shut in our sinning face? Father Martin’s point that we are all members of this one body of Christ is well taken, and Christ invites us all to seek him.
I was pleased to see a corrective to Cardinal Francis Arinze’s speech on Oct. 8 in San Antonio (Signs of the Times, 10/27) in the Rev. Richard S. Vosko’s article, Building and Renovating Places of Worship (11/3). Perhaps the timing of this article is only a coincidence, but I did appreciate it. In my 40-plus years as a priest, I have never gotten the impression that worship spaces encouraged us to emphasize (ogle) one another. Over the years I have celebrated with hundreds of diverse communities. I never got the impression these persons came to look at one another during the liturgy. Did Cardinal Arinze suggest in his San Antonio address that the only suitable worship space is one that makes awareness of another difficult?
The more I read about the theological reasons for the priest’s back to the people and hear arguments for re-installing barriers of separation between the priest who presides at the liturgy and the faithful who are the body of Christ, the less respect I have for such reasons. They seem to me to obfuscate rather than explain. They are similar to Jesus was never married, ergo.
Over the years I have recognized a lack of education concerning the real presence. In proportion to our Catholic people as a whole, however, this lack is not a major crisis. It simply calls for better education. This responsibility rests squarely on the pastor’s shoulders. Such education, however, should not suggest that Jesus must be protected, or that he needs our sympathy. He hardly needs protection or our reassurance. Our Lord wants intimacy with the one lost sheep as well as the other 99.
Gerald Paul, M.S.C.
Let’s Hear More
I was profoundly inspired by the reflections of James Martin, S.J., in Of Many Things (11/10) on the current church situation that so many find so confusing. Without coming down on any one side of a thorny subject and avoiding negativism, Father Martin manifests enormous comprehension and balance regarding the many positions taken by the faithful at a time of ambiguity and pain. His column is free of anger or blame and generates hope for every constituency of the universal church. He should write this column more often.
Yolanda T. De Mola, S.C.
New York, N.Y.
Vouchers and Reform
Concerning your editorial Vouchers Ambushed (11/3), I write as someone who has consistently opposed any form of public vouchers for primary public education. I do support charter schools (if not abused in purpose, as I believe is happening in Florida) and any other viable reforms for the public schools. Inherently, vouchers are not a public school reform.
Yet how are children to be helped today who may be getting a crappy education, to use the words of the mayor of Washington, D.C., Anthony A. Williams? I will not address this question, although I do recognize that the quality of education in some public schools (more than we would like) deserves deep attention. I do not think, however, that the legislation you describe as a small, five-year pilot program justifies your support.
I am glad that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick does believe in public education and is working with civic leaders to improve it in Washington, D.C. I applaud his efforts, but he may be an exception. I see no similar efforts here in South Florida. In fact, in Florida there is a Catholic Education Foundation whose specific objective is to push for public vouchers. It does so on the premise that Catholic parents should have the right to choose individually where to use their tax dollars for their children’s education. Note that these vouchers are not intended for low-income families only. Rather, the foundation rides a Republican bandwagon that tries to introduce public vouchers to fix every real and assumed ill in the public schools.
Your earlier editorial Valiant Women (9/22) quite rightly focused on the formidable role religious sisters played in the historical development of Catholic education in the United States. That history was made possible by the low compensation paid to the sisters. Is it too simple and naive to suggest that as the cost of Catholic education increases and the number of its schools decreases, the official Catholic support for public vouchers for use in private (including religious) schools increases?
You describe charter schools as being publicly funded but not publicly controlled. I do not think this is an accurate description. The charter school idea was intended to relieve the charter school from many of the burdens that constrain the public school, and thus allow the charter school to develop new ways of teaching. In Florida, however, the concept has become debased, since the charter school movement has been captured by for-profit corporations that act as subcontractors for those granted the charter. Those holding the charter are frequently former public officials and people with political and financial ties to current, as well as former, public officials. Perhaps you should examine what charter schools are really doing, since the program for Washington, D.C., that your editorial supports includes money set aside for charter schools.
So much of Catholic school history has been due to its teachers and administrators, first the religious sisters (and brothers) and now members of the laity. Yet you criticize Senate Democrats because they treasure the good will of the powerful teachers unions, which detest vouchers. Why did you not say the good will of powerful teachers? Do we no longer see a working group and their unions as one and the same? Could we not equally say that Senate Republicans, like the Republican party generally at all levels, treasure the good will of all those fundamentally opposed to public education, and see public vouchers as one means to undermine it?
John C. Maine
An Inclusive Church
The strength and beauty of the Of Many Things column by James Martin, S.J., (11/10) took my breath away for a moment. Its message of inclusion should be read from every pulpit. As a middle-aged, married white guy, I tend to be included in most things cultural and ecclesial. Yet it aches me to see family and friends leave the church because they feel uninvited by a church that sometimes lets its drive for unity become an obstinate push for uniformity.
I chair an archdiocesan pastoral council in Chicago. We come from all over the archdiocese to meet with Cardinal Francis George four times a year. At some of our meetings I wonder if any roof is big enough for the diversity of people that gather there. Yet there are moments, sometimes during a contentious argument, sometimes during prayer, sometimes at a coffee break, when it is clear that we, as Father Martin says, need one another and are needed by the church.
We are lucky to have an archbishop in Chicago concerned about division and committed to inviting the council together. The wider church needs such leadership, and could stand to hear Father Martin’s reminder that in baptism we are all called to be active members of the body of Christ.