First Amendment No Detail

Even if the editors of America have no problem (“Policy, Not Liberty, 3/5) with paying for abortion-inducing drugs with funds donated or paid by the faithful, they should jealously guard the rights endowed by our creator and guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment is not a detail. If the federal government can ignore the Constitution in this manner, how far away are we really from a state-run church?

John J. Smith


Olathe, Kans.

Civility Crisis

It is with great dismay and sadness that I read the editorial of March 5, which to me epitomizes the pejorative definition of the word Jesuitical—that is, “practicing casuistry or equivocation; using subtle or oversubtle reasoning; crafty, sly.” I can only hope and pray that the rationale expressed by the editorial, in cautioning the bishops’ conference to condone the subterfuge presented by the so-called accommodation of the Obama administration’s most recent health mandate, does not reflect the official position of the Society of Jesus.

For the Catholic bishops of this nation are taking great risks, speaking boldly with clarity and no equivocation. I never thought of St. Ignatius Loyola as an apologist for Jesus Christ but rather as a most devoted disciple. Nor do I believe that he would be wooed by the state into conceding the truth for the sake of what? “Civility”?

Maureen Kavanaugh

St. Louis, Mo.

Secular or Sacred?

We always get into nebulous areas when churches and religions want to extend their reach and influence. Some churches today, as in the past, provide medical care as a service, free of charge. Perhaps that can be interpreted as charity, a religious function and a component of faith.

On the other hand, is a fee-for-service hospital really a religious function, or is it a secular business operated by a religious organization to extend their beliefs and values to others? Technically, I would argue that running a fee-for-service hospital is a business operated or managed by a church. As such, every employee’s freedom of religion and civil rights are equal in importance to that of the institution.

Your editorial makes sense. I believe the church would lose a legal battle, were it to continue the fight.

Joe D’Anna

Los Alamos, N.M.

Sticking With the Shepherds

I cannot believe the editors think the so-called accommodation solves the religious liberty problem. An accounting sleight of hand changes nothing regarding the moral issue. Any other interpretation is irrational. Thank God, the bishops quickly recognized Obama’s magic trick.

We are living through a serious crisis involving the Catholic Church. On the clerical side, there is the homosexual/pedophile scandal. On the laymen/women side, there is the rejection of traditional teaching on birth control, divorce, Sunday obligation, pre-marital sex, the Real Presence, abortion and homosexuality. The separation among Catholics is now wider than that between Luther and Calvin, etc., and Rome during the Reformation. But Christ will always be with the church, so I am sticking with our shepherds.

Charles Smith

Pauma Valley, Calif.

Iraq in a Hard Place

When we dropped atomic bombs on Japan, one even targeting the Catholic cathedral of Nagasaki, the Catholic Church in the United States held its tongue. Peaceniks wondered, “If a million condoms had been dropped over Japanese cities, wouldn’t the church have shouted?”

Conservative Catholics are repeating a narrowly focused moral outrage when they object to the Obama administration’s openness to contraceptives for all women. Where was Catholic justified anger regarding the war with Iraq that has now ended at a cost of 450,000 to 600,000 Iraqis killed, with 2.5 million civilian refugees outside the country and 1.5 million within?

Unemployment there is 50 percent, malnutrition 28 percent, and there are untold numbers of orphans. Are our conservative clerics also “cafeteria Catholics”?

Frank McGinty

Jenkintown, Pa.

Truth Before Dialogue

Re “Staying Civil,” by the Most Rev. Blase Cupich (3/5): Why not admit that the Obama administration is trying to force the church to act against conscience in the areas of abortion, sterilization and contraception?

We need a second civil rights movement, in which people are willing to lay down their lives for the defense of real religious liberty instead of searching aimlessly for a common ground that clearly does not exist.

Marilyn Wallace, R.s.M.

Omaha, Neb.

Return Address Required

Editor’s note: Jim Belna of Claremont, Calif., responds in kind to the fictional letter to a bishop from his old pals Mary and Joe in Of Many Things, 1/16, by Raymond A. Schroth, S.J.

Dear Mary and Joe,

There are few things in this life more pleasurable than hearing from old friends, and I truly enjoyed your recent letter. As you have noticed, I am not the same man I was 30 years ago—physically, spiritually or politically. I gather that I have been something of an embarrassment to you. I won’t say that you are wrong, but neither will I apologize for the road I have traveled. I suppose I do owe you an answer to what has happened to me over the past three decades.

Let’s start with my “Renaissance prince” robes. I wear them proudly and humbly when it is appropriate to the occasion. I think our Lord will excuse me for dressing up to celebrate his birthday. In any event, I try not to be manipulative, unlike certain media-savvy priests who wouldn’t be caught dead in their collars—except when they get to play “spokesman for the Catholic Church” on television.

I’ll also grant you that my diocesan newspaper is not exactly Pulitzer Prize material, but I have come to believe that the beginning of wisdom for a bishop is to understand just how insignificant his personal opinions are, no matter how passionately he may hold them. That is why I rarely use my column to address political controversies anymore.

As to our mutual friend Bill Worthy, are theologians immune from criticism? In case you didn’t get the memo, we are not in the business of banning books anymore. Excuse me for being cynical, but as a tenured professor, Mr. Worthy has more job security than I do, and our “reprimand” will probably earn him a promotion.

To answer your question, I don’t know if I am blind to what has happened to the church. Do you really think that if we just tweaked our teachings or flexed our political muscle, we could usher in some new era of peace and justice? I don’t. And with all respect to your sainted mother, people do change, but it isn’t easy.

We get trapped in our cocoons—on college faculties or religious houses or in social circles where we never encounter anyone with a lifestyle or opinion that is different from our own. That is an occupational hazard for bishops, but I suspect it is a fairly universal challenge. Thank you for your prayers, and always be assured of mine.


Bishop Josh

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