Compassionate Critic

Thanks to Richard R. Gaillardetz for the kind things he said about me and others in Do We Need a New(er) Apologetics? (2/2). I am pleased that he can appreciate the love and passion of someone’s work, even as he disagrees with that person’s methods. I would find few things so valuable as the insights of such a compassionate criticif only he would support his criticism with evidence that corresponds to something I have actually done.

I understand the problem of space limitations. But Professor Gaillardetz should not make assertions, like placing me at the far right of the contemporary Catholic theological continuum, without providing some example of the work that would situate me so far to starboard. (I honestly cannot figure out what that might be.)


Mr. Gaillardetz does mention two titles of my works, both of which were published well over a decade ago. Since then I have published four books with Doubleday, three more in the Catholic press and six volumes of the Ignatius Study Bible. He shows no awareness of these. My most recent book bears a warm endorsement by the former vice-rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Romehardly an immoderate man, a Jesuit who has taught there for some 40 years.

Finally, I would like to respond to Mr. Gaillardetz’s only specific criticism. On the basis of listening to one tape series, he accuses me of having avoided studying the textual history of Dei Verbum and of focusing exclusively on the final text. One might respond that only the final text is binding. But I need not do that. In the very series Mr. Gaillardetz mentioned, I was arguing, in fact, not from the final text but from the textual history, which I discussed in great detail, based on the accounts of Cardinal Augustin Bea, S.J., and others. The textual history made my case far better than any ahistorical reading could have done.

Scott Hahn
Pontifical College Josephinum
Columbus, Ohio

Restore and Protect

I would add two things to Richard R. Gaillardetz’s characterization of apologetics (2/2): an ecclesial context and its impact on ecumenism.

First, when spring melts piles of snow and ice here in South Bend, visits anew will commence by scores of Mormon missionaries, Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses through my neighborhood. Once termed Little Warsaw, one patch of homes is now known as Little Mexico. As the doorbell rings, an eye peers through the peephole, and a parent, recognizing the visitor, tells the youngest child: Diles que no estamos aqui. The youngest child dutifully tells the visitor: My Mom (or Dad) said to tell you that we are not here right now. The fear at the heart of this reply only provokes more and repeated neighborhood visits.

A new apologetics directs itself inside the church, to reassure people that we, as Catholics, have reasonable and biblical answers to the attacks made upon us.

Second, ecumenism and apologetics are two sides of the same coin. They are both at the service of unity. Ecumenism seeks to restore unity where it has been broken; apologetics seeks to protect unity where it is threatened. In this context, apologetics serves alongside evangelization, catechesis, stewardship and all those things that constitute healthy parish ministries.

Christopher W. Cox, C.S.C.
South Bend, Ind.

Cheap Imports

The lament of Free Trade Losers, by Terry Golway (2/2), goes both ways. For decades U.S. jobs have been sustained by cheap raw material imports: oil (of course), tin, wolfram, bauxite and a host of other exotic metals, plus agricultural products grown on the land of the poor by U.S. interests with little compensation. Trade, not aid, is a painful but necessary step in addressing world poverty and justice. If the principles of free enterprise can work in our country, they can work in the worldwide community as well.

(Rev.) John Swing
Nekoosa, Wisc.

Cohesion and Growth

In reaction to Mr. Golway’s short article bashing free trade (2/2): I think that he is completely wrong on historical grounds with respect to the Irish famine. For years, I used to require my students in international economics at Georgetown to read Cecil Woodham Smith’s The Great Hunger (unfortunately now out of print). The problem was not free trade but precisely the opposite. Prime Minister Robert Peel had to fight for the repeal of the Corn Laws, which were high tariffs on the importation of corn (meaning wheat, barley and other foodstuffs) from the thriving agricultural sectors in the Americas (Canada, United States and Argentina). The key to famine relief was getting cheap grain, and this could happen only by free trade. The tragedy of the Irish famine was not free trade but that the United Kingdom moved to free trade too late.

Mr. Golway implicitly equates free international trade with laissez-faire economics. As the Nobel laureate A. K. Sen has reminded us, this link was a 19th-century concept. We are now in the 21st century. We have seen that opportunities for free trade have been used successfully and strategically by many countries for getting on the fast track for development (many Asian countries and more recently Ireland, Spain and Italy). This means that there is an important place for government planning, investment in education and trade adjustment assistance for the labor force to retrain themselves.

My main argument against Mr. Golway’s position is to ask, what is the alternative? For many poor people of the world, there is no Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy to get them out of poverty and put their countries on a sustainable-growth path. I say three cheers for sweatshops in Indonesia or Thailand. Does Mr. Golway prefer to see the women in these countries work instead in rice paddies or the sex industry and ultimately die of AIDS? This is the reality of poverty in much of the developing world.

Mr. Golway’s positions will take us back to the protectionist days of Harding, Coolidge and Hoover. If he really is a Harding-Coolidge-Hoover Republican, he should admit it, and come out of his protectionist Hoover-era closet. The trade liberalization put forward by Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull, continued by succeeding administrations, paved the way for an unparalleled period of economic growth in world economic history. The free trade in Europe, leading to the common market and the European Union, has created cohesion and growth among countries at war with each other two times in the last century.

Yes, there are problems with free trade. Many less developed countries are lagging behind (particularly those that have not opened themselves to international trade). Yes, there is corruption in the world. Yes, there is a definite case for going slow on financial liberalization (as opposed to trade liberalization) in developing countries. But one of the few things we know from economics, both theoretically and empirically, is that free trade is a necessary condition for longer-term economic growth and poverty reduction. I say necessary as opposed to sufficient condition, because free trade alone is no panacea for growth.

I am sorry to see America’s columnists putting out such articles, which will only give the magazine the image of being very naïve and uninformed about the realities of international trade and commerce. If you wish to attract intelligent Catholic men and women in business to read your magazine, you should get beyond whining (and getting the facts completely wrong) about 19th-century trade controversies, and above all, stop advocating a return to Hoover-era policies.

Paul D. McNelis, S.J.
Washington, D.C.

Unique Public Value

Michael McManus, in the Marriage Debate: More than a Gay Issue, pointedly urges the Catholic bishops to move from simply opposing gay marriage (2/9).

It’s unfortunate that while they endorsed a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage, the bishops at their meeting did not emulate Worcester’s Bishop Daniel Reilly’s genial way out of the domestic-partner and gay-marriage impasse: If the goal, he said to the legislative committee hearing on behalf of the Catholic bishops of Massachussetts, is to look at individual benefits and determine who should be eligible beyond spouses, then we will join the discussion...but not to change the public institution of marriage and deny the unique public value of the spousal bond between a man and a woman.

Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B.
San Francisco, Calif.


Your article on marriage being More Than a Gay Issue (2/9), was outstanding. When the high court in Massachusetts insisted men can marry each other, it condemned God, in effect, for destroying Sodom and Gomorrah for homosexuality.

Webster’s dictionary defines Sodom as an ancient city destroyed by God for its wickedness, which it defines as copulation with a member of the same sex, or with an animal. Sodomy is immoral for everyone. So is bestiality.

William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, warned us more than three centuries ago: Unless God rules our lives, tyrants will rule them. An example of that was when Blackmun wrote the decision for the Supreme Court approving abortion. There are no absolutes, he told Joe Scheidler, the great pro-lifer. In other words, there are no inalienable rights, because there is no Creator. That isn’t freedom. It’s the law of the jungle.

Dan Lyons
Bloomsbury, N.J.

Stable Society

The invaluable counsel of Michael J. McManus (The Marriage Debate, 2/16) should be heeded and promptly acted upon by the bishops and the laity. I believe he is right, that this true legal help to heterosexual marriages to stop the no-fault divorce laws will be an action hailed and respected by mainstream Christians of every denomination. It will truly help millions of persons who have been traumatized by divorce and have lost the belief that marriage can be a haven of love and trust, and a stable fount of family life. Rather than attempt to destabilize gay couples who are trying to make committed relationships in the face of great odds, which will be perceived as un-Christian by many of us within and outside of the Catholic Church, let us take on the greater burden of making heterosexual marriages meaningful and safe again. Many of us have gay family members and close friends. We do not want to see the resources of the body of Christ spent in denying them access to the sickroom as next of kin to dying lovers, or insurance or death benefits. In the brokenness of the world, who has acted as family to the least of these? If the nuclear family dissolves over one partner’s unhappiness, who will care for the child dying of AIDS? What will happen if women are unable to leave the workplace to go home to nurture sick relatives, as all their security lies with a paid employment?

Women are now afraid to commit themselves to a marriage and raising children, which surely will lower them into poverty if this husband should decide to leave them in a no-fault divorce. New mothers are reluctant to leave their jobs to stay home with their babies, when the husband can choose to walk out at any timeand statistically the odds are that he will. Men are afraid that they will be burdened with someone who does not love them, who is just trying to get 50 percent of their property. Many young people are unable to find a life-partner because of these subtle forces. When people can see that marriage is more than legal rights and benefits, we will have accomplished a great deal in building community and stabilizing society.

Martina Nicholson, M.D.
Soquel, Calif.

Changed or Developed

The current political debate about gay marriage (2/9) perhaps should be put in an historical context. How old is the Christian tradition of church weddings? In the New Catholic Encyclopedia a reader learns that marriages, in the first 1,000 years of Christianity, were generally civil ceremonies performed by the state, not the church. It was not until the year 1184 that the church first officially declared marriage a sacrament and shortly thereafter approved church weddings.

In other words, it took the church well over a millennium fully to accept heterosexual marriages in the way that it does today. In this case and in others, like slavery and freedom of religion, the teachings of the church have changed or developed as revelation continues and human knowledge expands.

Richard O’Malley
Philadelphia, Pa.

Tragic Events

The review by Drew Christiansen, S.J., of books on Israel and Palestine (12/8) brings out the central role of 1920’s Revisionist Zionism in creating the current situation in the Holy Land. Father Christiansen speaks of Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s maximalist agenda for the Zionist cause. At the same time Jabotinsky was promoting that agenda, the British High Commissioner for Palestine, Sir Herbert Samuel, was writing to Chaim Weizmann that a very large number of Arabs, including a large number of the educated classes, have come to believe that Zionism means the overwhelming of themselves and their people by immigrant Jews, with the consequence that in the course of time they will lose not only their political predominance but also their lands and their Holy Places.... Now these people will not accept the fate which they think is in store for them without a fight.

Samuel’s 1921 letter and Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s 1923 call to erect an iron wall of Jewish military force foreshadow the tragic events of the last 80 years. What no one could have foreseen is the current Israeli government’s seemingly systematic destruction of the infrastructure of Palestinian nationhood (school records and equipment, public documents, possibilities of economic survival and so on) and, with it, hope for a future. It is hard to escape the conclusion that in the occupied territories now we are witnessing a kind of slow-motion ethnic cleansing.

James P. M. Walsh, S.J.
Washington, D.C.

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11 years 11 months ago
I would like to thank America for running the engaging exchange on free trade and tariffs among Terry Golway (2/2), John Swing and Paul McNelis (3/1). Their forthright conversation exposed the complexity of making ethical and public policy judgments about this topical issue. I especially appreciate America’s courage in not backing away from the controversy generated by healthy disagreements. This shows America’s commitment, not only to intellectual integrity, but to one of the grounding principles of Catholic morality. Ethics is a practical science based on the virtue of prudence. Reasonable people of good will can and should reach different conclusions about matters that are neither divinely revealed nor patently evident to the natural law. And they can and should be passionate about their convictions.

Most important, America has offered its readers the opportunity to exercise their own prudential judgment by following the debate. And this is a moral service to us indeed!


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