Walk the Walk
Re “Engaging the Spirituals” (3/26) by Drew Christiansen, S.J.: Many of my students are among the “spirituals”—“recovering Catholics” who are exploring world religions as a source for understanding their own spirituality
It is not that the church is saying the wrong things or not speaking from the heart. If anything, my students find church teachings reasonable, even if they feel some doctrine is behind the times. The real problem is that Christians do not always practice what we preach. We teach a compelling vision of social justice and view of the human person, but then some of us hoard our possessions and earnings and mistreat “the least of these.” I can’t speak for all the spirituals, but I think my students want to see the Catholic Church put its money where its mouth is—not just when it comes to advocating for unborn people, but for the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick and the imprisoned. Lives of fidelity, justice and service will renew the church. I think this is the real challenge before us today.
Nichole M. Flores
The Elastic Church
Concerning the article by Drew Christiansen, S.J., “Engaging the Spirituals” (3/26): Thanks for recognizing that one size does not fit all. Certainly structure is necessary, but so is flexibility. The church needs to be elastic enough to stretch out and envelope all the different ways human beings can find that help them to relate to God in real, tangible, concrete and not artificial ways. Otherwise it’s not a universal church.
Concerning Elizabeth Groppe’s “Climate for Change” (3/26): More than 10 years ago, when I was living in Indiana, I worked with a consortium of religious organizations tasked with “getting the word about climate change” out to folks in the pews. It was the most challenging job I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some doozies! I was the featured speaker at a number of adult education gatherings in both Catholic and Protestant churches, and at every meeting the overwhelming response to my presentation was “God told us in Genesis to ‘subdue’ the earth, and that means using it.”
Most of the folks I met at these events would not consider the possibility that humankind was even remotely responsible for the climate changes that were occurring, if indeed they were really occurring and were not just normal cyclical changes. The idea of our being stewards and protectors of the earth was new, radical and, frankly, mostly rejected by good people who believe in a good and generous God. What can we do?
Re Elizabeth Groppe’s “Climate for Change” (3/26): While the scientific community has become more certain of the seriousness of the problem, the American public has gone in the opposite direction, with only 40 percent thinking climate change is a problem. The problems of energy conservation, alternative energy infrastructure and population control have to be addressed. Otherwise global civilization will fall into a pit from which it may never recover.
We had a gift of cheap energy. Instead of using it to advance our civilization to a sustainable level, it has already been mostly wasted. Add to this the “Don’t worry, be happy” trance induced in the Reagan era, and it looks like we may not make it. It will take a dramatic turn in public opinion to prevent the coming catastrophic change in climate. Sit in a car on a sunny day and close the windows. That’s a basic approximation to what’s happening, and it’s no hoax.
Stanley P. Kopacz
East Stroudsburg, Pa.
Blood on Their Hands
Re your editorial “Democracy and Stability” (3/26): President Bashar al-Assad and his henchmen have so much blood on their hands that they are no longer concerned with saving Syria but only with saving their own hides.
As a world community governed by universal principals of fairness and empathy for our fellow man, we cannot avert our eyes from the crimes against humanity these monsters are committing. Assad has gone beyond the point of any return to civilized governance. He knows it and we know it. It is time, therefore, that we deal with him as the criminal he has become. We acted with resolve against a similar criminal in Libya, and we should now act with resolve against this one in Syria. Enough is enough. Once more, the world has to do what needs to be done.
Keep It Civil
Re “Time to Cool Down” (3/26), by Thomas Massaro, S.J.: I think part of the problem many of us are having with one another is a difficulty accepting that there are times when people of faith, after a process of discernment, reach different conclusions about very important issues. This is where civility becomes important. In my view, the regular practice of civility allows us to engage in respectful dialogue with people of opposing views. In this process, we are able to get to know them and are less likely to demonize them. When we recognize the decency in others, even those with whom we do not agree, we are able at least to try to seek compromise in the areas where it is possible.
Although I am a yellow-dog Democrat, in college I interned for Senator Orrin Hatch. Until then, I had a very different view of Republicans and of Mormons. While I was on the Hill, I witnessed the deep friendship between Senator Hatch and Senator Ted Kennedy, people of different faiths and backgrounds but both men of goodwill. They were able to hold often diametrically opposing views, while regularly working together on mutual projects for the good of our country. The bedrock of this process was simple civility, and I was glad I was able to witness it and learn from it so early in life.
Oak Harbor, Wash.
The problem with the suggestions of Thomas Massaro, S.J., in “Time to Cool Down” (3/26) is that abortion and contraception are essentials. There is no nuance there. The popes are very clear that we have liberty in applying the church’s economic justice teachings and should be respectful of one another there. A person who is sincerely anti-abortion and anti-contraception, but liberal on economic issues, like the late, great governor of Pennsylvania, Robert Casey Sr., has my full respect, even if I disagree on nuances.
Father Massaro writes, however, as if it’s O.K. that Sandra Fluke supports government funding of birth control. It’s not. New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the U.S. bishops have been in dialogue with the Obama administration for months over this matter. If anything, the Obama administration has been duplicitous in giving the bishops the idea that their concerns were being taken seriously when they obviously had no intention of addressing their concerns. If I recall correctly, Jesus had a few choice words for the Pharisees (e.g., “brood of vipers”), and then there is his cleansing of the temple. Perhaps our good Lord should have read Father Massaro’s article first to get a few tips on civility!
Concerning “Government’s Task” (Current Comment, 3/26): Health insurance is an earned benefit, part of the wage package received by employees in exchange for their labors. Thus, it makes as much sense for the bishops to withhold birth control coverage for employees as it would for the bishops to withhold that portion of their employees’ cash wages that might be spent on contraception.
The government is not interfering with the right of the church to be opposed to artificial birth control, but it does have the obligation to prevent the church from imposing its teachings on those who reject them.
Re Maurice Timothy Reidy’s discussion of Rick Santorum’s comments about John Kennedy’s famous Houston speech (Of Many Things, 3/26): The circumstances were vastly different for the man who was to be the first Catholic president. A consortium of respected Protestant ministers (led by Norman Vincent Peale) voiced objection to the possibility of a Catholic president on the grounds that his primary loyalty would be to Rome. Today, we have legal abortion, a Catholic vice president and the very Protestants who once believed Catholics harbored guns in their churches hoping for a violent take-over of the United States now support pro-life Catholics.
Most surprising of all is that Santorum is only one of the Catholics running today (and that the other one is the thrice-married Newt Gingrich), not to mention that the leading Republican contender is a Mormon. All of these candidates face a sitting African-American president. No one in the 1960s could have imagined such a future. It seems Rick Santorum has little grasp of this history or of the anti-Catholicism Kennedy faced in his era.
Ocean Ridge, Fla.
Concerning “Afghanistan Burning” (Current Comment, 3/19): It is a shame on our country that the only nations that we will “save for democracy” are those that either supply us with cheap raw materials or are of strategic military value. If we were honestly interested in promoting justice and peace, we would be involved in addressing the slaughter of innocent people in a place like Syria.
Wealth and power are the priorities of our country. The only parts of the Christian Gospels that address those priorities relate to the Sanhedrin and the Roman governor. Like those power brokers, we seem to support the vocation of the money changers in the Temple. Jesus physically expelled them, for which, like so many young soldiers of ours today, he died a few days later, because the powers that be wanted to protect their self-serving status quo.
San Antonio, Tex.
The Letter of the Law
Your editorial “N.Y.P.D. Blues” (3/19), focusing on intelligence gathering by the N.Y. Police Department in this post-9/11 world, is right on target. As someone who spent a career protecting U.S. embassies abroad and then directing the public safety efforts in one of New York City’s major business improvement districts, I fully understand the need for timely and clear intelligence. Following the letter, and more importantly, the spirit of the law, however, is essential in a free and open society.
Having worked with N.Y.P.D.’s best, I know their hearts are in the right place strategizing defenses in the protection of New York and its wonderful people. N.Y. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and N.Y.P.D. Intelligence Chief David Cohen need to find ways to include a diverse number of community and policy leaders in their strategic discussions as they strive to prevent another 9/11.