Saving a Poor Man
I have just experienced the truth of your editorial “Failure to Protect” (1/30). This week I found a youngish Latvian man living in a field near Dublin airport. He hadn’t eaten in three days. I have never met someone so close to a mental breakdown; he couldn’t stop crying. Neither the airport police, who had thrown him off the property, nor the ordinary police, nor his own embassy people whom he had walked 10 miles to find, nor anyone else told him of the numerous Christian charities in town where he could at least eat. Without a blanket in January, this man could have died. Each group and the media would have blamed everyone else and a lot of hand-wringing and soul-searching would have gone on.
The truth is that extreme poverty, like mental illness, is considered contagious. All we can do is push the social teachings of the Gospels. I wonder what would happen if the perfect storm of financial collapse and an oil war in the Middle East destroyed our society. All it takes for the Catholic Church to retain its moral presence in Ireland is for the bishops to take off their mitres and get their hands dirty, like good fishermen. Meanwhile I fear that if compassion is taught to be a moral weakness—as the Nazis taught—and not the greatest personal strength, civilization will be busted.
How Could You?
Kyle T. Kramer’s “On the Hunt” (1/30) raises some questions. Did he need that doe for food for his family? For a coat to keep him from freezing to death? Yes, I eat meat, but hunting is something else. We might look to the laws of kashrut (kosher) of our “elder brothers” in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
The law permitted eating meat, while mandating specific, humane guidelines on how the animal is killed (Leviticus and Deuteronomy). Kosher means of killing animals include trapping the animal followed by a rapid and painless dispatch by slitting the throat. Sport hunting was strictly forbidden in the world in which Jesus grew up because it is both cruel and wasteful. Knowing this, can you justify shooting a deer that is gentle, not a threat to your life, not needed to stave off starvation and not needed for its pelt to keep you from freezing?
Hunting and God
Kyle T. Kramer’s description of hunting (1/30) makes me think. Having hunted deer, elk and antelope for years, I can say that I have seen some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen while hunting. Hunting is the reason I was up long before dawn, well out into the country and paying close attention to everything around me. If God can be found only in the present, hunting will keep a person in the present all day long. Hunting for food is entirely reasonable. At least a wild animal has a chance to get away, unlike one in a pen. The stereotypical hunter in the pickup truck, drinking beer and shooting badly, does exist, and that is unfortunate. But ethical hunters also exist, and they provide habitat for animals and management for game animals so they have a place to exist. I don’t hunt anymore because I am reluctant to kill animals. But I don’t eat a lot of meat either, because meat comes from animals. Though I did not do the killing, the animal died to provide the meat. If you eat meat, you have no reason to object to hunting ethically. And Kramer’s description of hunting sounds ethical to me.
Re “A Change in Formation” (1/2), by Katarina Schuth, O.S.F.: Better screening and open discussion about sexuality in the seminary is a good beginning. But the real effort is needed in post-ordination training.
As a former seminarian (in the 1960s), I recall little discussion of sexuality. One spiritual director commented that he could make us all uncomfortable by mentioning masturbation. Our enthusiasm and spirituality kept our sexual feelings in check. When the balance became difficult for me, I left and married.
For many, deep prayer and commitment to the vows sustained them. But for others alcohol was a crutch to ease the tensions of priestly life. More recently some priests who are comfortable with their homosexuality share their orientation but remain celibate. Those who fail cause a scandal.
The priesthood is a lonely life, especially when priests no longer live in community with other priests who might sustain them. We must first acknowledge that sexuality is a gift from God that affects us all. But should celibacy be optional? At least the scandal has brought to the forefront that the priest is not a eunuch but a sexual being like the rest of us.
Hannawa Falls, N.Y.
Thou Shalt Not Touch
Thank you for “A Change in Formation.” While there is much more to be said about priestly formation today, from anecdotes I have heard it seems that more recently ordained priests may have been better briefed on some aspects of this problem but have developed, as a sad byproduct, a nearly “scared to touch” approach to relationships. With hugs of all sorts now suspect, this too often fits into a clerical mind-set that continues to see the priest as a “man apart” rather than the more approachable human that the best priests of the previous era exemplified.
On the Road
John Anderson’s dismissal of “The Way” as a “train-wreck of cinema” is unwarranted, given the popular response it has received (“Faith at the Movies,” 1/16). People typically do not recommend watching train wrecks as an edifying experience, yet this film has been widely praised as an intimate portrayal of a communal pilgrimage as a means of personal healing. “The Way” for many people has connected with their desire to restore their lives. As Phil Cousineau says in The Art of Pilgrimage, “When life has lost its meaning the pilgrim will risk everything to get back in touch with life.... Rediscovering the mystery of life is usually achieved in unexpected ways.” This is what Emilio Estevez explores in this understated film.