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Our readersSeptember 27, 2004

Try to Imagine

While admiring the nuanced article American Catholics and the State (8/2), one hopes that someday our legislators, with their degrees and posturing, will view our society through the eyes of the world’s people. Try to imagine the most primitive, illiterate, unlettered tribespeople on earth suddenly seeing our society of same-sex marriages and legalized abortion. They would be horrified. They would think we were crazy.

They would know a man is a man and a woman is a woman and they would reverence the miracle of birth.

Our nation may yet self-destruct.

(Rev.) George P. Carlin
Harper, Tex.

Educated Military

In Terry Golway’s column Redrafting America (8/2), he states: The inequity of sacrifice in the war on terror has inspired some to call for a return to the draft. And they do not mean the draft of the Vietnam era, where exemptions from service were disgraceful indeed, but the draft of the World War II era, where the rich served along with the poor, the famous with the unknown.

The following was published in VFW Magazine for April 1997:

During World War II college deferments were common, and the A.S.T.P. was specially instituted for students, many of whom remained in school for the duration of the war and never heard a shot fired.

The Vietnam fighting force was by far the best educated and egalitarian military force in America’s history. In World War II only 45 percent of the troops had a high school diploma. During the Vietnam War almost 80 percent of those who enlisted had high school diplomas and the percentage was higher for draftees, even though at the time only 65 percent of military age males had a high school diploma.

Proportionately, three times as many college graduates served in Vietnam than in World War II.

Though the notion still persists that those who died in Vietnam were mostly members of a minority group, it’s not true. About 5 percent of K.I.A.’s were Hispanic and 12.5 percent were blackmaking both minorities slightly underrepresented in their proportion of draft-age males in the national population at that time.

I offer this passage as a corrective to Mr. Golway’s impressions concerning World War II and Vietnam draftees.

R. F. Donohue
So. Daytona, Fla.

Momentous Import

The damage to Catholic family life and its dimensions, as revealed in the statistics published in Signs of the Times on Aug. 2, may even surpass the sexual abuse scandal as a pastoral problem of momentous import. A close examination of the figures reveals that approximately half the marriages of Catholics are outside the church. Why is the beautiful Catholic wedding ceremony avoided?

There is a clash between the perspectives of the young faithful and those of the chanceries and tribunals, who are influenced by the burden of marriage cases. These officials make the rules that many young people perceive as arbitrary hoops to jump through and an infringement on their prerogative to judge and plan their lives. Well-meant care to block invalid marriages often has the opposite effect. They are multiplied.

More trust in the conscience of the parties about freedom to marry would do more good than harm. The six-month waiting period also comes across as heavy-handed. Much of the mandatory premarriage instructions would be more effective after marriage. A tourist’s appetite to know more about a country is whetted when he is on the spot. This might stem Catholic divorces, which now vary little in number from the general population. More trust in pastors and the faithful would be welcome.

Little help has been sought from available, skilled sociologists to study the formation of policies and measure their impact. To ignore the problem as it now exists would be unconscionable, exponentially so.

And besides, how can we increase vocations in this milieu?

(Rev.) Connell J. Maguire
Riviera Beach, Fla.

Bankruptcy’s Impact

I enjoyed very much An Uncertain Path, by Fred J. Naffziger (8/2). It pointed out very well what a significant step the declaration of bankruptcy by a diocese may be: nothing less than a whole new era of church-state relations for the Catholic Church in the United States.

But I have a question for Professor Naffziger, an issue he did not broach in the article. Would the condition of bankruptcy have any impact on labor relations within the diocese? For example, if the teachers of Catholic schools in the diocese decided to unionize, would a bankruptcy court have any say in that matter?

Matthias Neuman, O.S.B.
Beech Grove, Ind.

Beanie, Cape and Collar

Never have I felt so alienated from the church I love as I did after reading the Signs of the Times on Aug. 16. First, we are given more of the same-old, same-old words about femininity: we women have great dignity, but we should never desire the priesthood, and we should appreciate feminine values of listening, humility, understanding and caring. It would be wonderful if we could see those same values appreciated and practiced by our dominant and domineering male hierarchy.

Then I was exposed to the Knights of Columbus fawning all over George W. Bush because he claims to build a culture of life! What dreamers they are, when Bush’s policies include such death culture as war, the death penalty, lack of care for the poor and weak. And they say that the president has restored moral integrity to the office of the presidency, as if the only morality were sexual morality.

Then the bishops want to make sure that no lay person would dare serve in an office without an affirmation of church teachings, once again on abortion, contraception and homosexual relations.

There is a consistent pattern here, easy to identify, because all of those speaking are men dressed in outmoded fashionsfrom Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s red beanie to the knights’ capes and hats and Robert Vasa’s collar and pectoral cross. By their clothes you shall know them? Is this really the church of Jesus Christ?

Lucy Fuchs
Brandon, Fla.

Sad Letters

America continues to give me hope that the work of Vatican II will come to fruition. Therefore it is a source of sadness to read letters attacking America for being too liberal (7/19). Perhaps we should all look up the word liberal in the dictionary, as did Anna Quindlen in Newsweek 8/9): favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behaviors of others; broad-minded. From this 78-year-old Catholic, thank you for your liberal editorializing.

Carol French-Corbett
Phoenixville, Pa.

Hope for a Better World

The article Countless Small Victories, by Randy Young, (7/19) about the Maryknoll Lay Missionaries was inspiring. During their three-and-a-half year commitment they are changing the lives of many poor people, serving as doctors, teachers, builders, catechists and environmentalists, to name a few of their programs. It was also good to learn that whole families are volunteering and serving in various countries. They are truly making this a better world.

Regina Licaneli
East Hanover, N.J.

Now Is the Future

After reading intently and putting together the article Servant Leadership, by Carl Koch (7/5), and the Of Many Things column by Thomas J. Reese, S.J., (8/2); and while recognizing the glacial speed of the church hierarchy in comprehending the sexual-abuse problem, I suggest that America magazine (with the help of a donor) provide a free reprint of Servant-Leadership to all cardinals and bishops. This theme would be for serious study and implementation in the 21st century in their dioceses. A major characteristic of servant leaders is awareness. The hierarchy is not very good at addressing gradual change until a crisis occurs.

This is particularly pertinent when participants in the extraordinary collection of lay talent at the Church in America Leadership Roundtable 2004, held on July 9-10 in Philadelphia, were surprised that the power of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops was so limited and it was almost impossible to make binding decisions on a national level.

Now (which is the future) is definitely the time for the theme of servant leadership in the image of Jesus to re-emerge in the body of Christ, for church leaders.

Hal Albergo
Freehold, N.J.

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