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April 30, 2012

Quiet Too Long

Re “A Voice in the Wilderness,” by Raymond A. Schroth, S.J. (4/2): J Street is a miniscule Jewish organization philosophically opposed by the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee. To give this face-off some perspective, in 2006 two distinguished political scientists, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, wrote that A.I.P.A.C. was one of the most powerful lobbies in the entire United States. They detailed its overwhelming influence on U.S. foreign policy toward Israeli and argued that such support was not in the best interests of the United States or Israel itself. They concluded by calling for a more open debate about U.S. interests in this vital region. That was six years ago.

Since then there has been no sign of such an open debate. To the contrary, all serious candidates for the presidency have stated positions that could have been written for them by A.I.P.A.C., certainly not by J Street. Yet it is most refreshing that Father Schroth openly asserts the Catholic commitment to justice and peace—even in the Middle East. It has been a longstanding concern of the papacy, but Catholics in this country have been quiet on this subject for too long.

Frank J. Evangelist

Huntington, N.Y.

What’s the Obstacle?

“A Voice in the Wilderness” reports the vision of J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami for a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians: a two-state solution, based on 1967 borders with land swaps, abandoning many settlements, some form of sharing Jerusalem and an end to claims of “return” for refugees (presumably on both sides). What Mr. Ben-Ami proposes is in fact precisely what Israel has agreed to twice and what the Palestinian Authority walked away from twice. Mr. Ben-Ami’s claims that Israel’s “insatiable hunger for land” is the biggest obstacle to peace and a two-state solution therefore make no sense.

(Very Rev.) Dennis Mikulanis

San Diego, Calif.

Cleveland Rocks

On the Current Comment page of April 2, I think you really missed the point about the “Cleveland Reprise.” While the facts are correct about Rome reversing Bishop Richard Lennon’s decision to close parishes, you imply that the parishes in question are perhaps some whose time had come. I can testify that the opposite is true about St. Peter’s, located in the heart of the city.

Every time I traveled to Cleveland, I made it a point to worship there and found it one of the most vibrant and engaged Catholic parishes in the country, always filled with worshipers. The homilies were exceptional and powerful; the parishioners were diverse, from all parts of the community, and passionate about their liturgy. To close such churches defies logic and Christian values.

Bill Baker

Bronx, N.Y.

Personal Pietà

Margaret Silf’s “Blessed Mothers” (4/2) recalled a poignant pietà scene for me. Walking into the room minutes after my 31-year-old brother died of cancer, I saw my mother cradling his lifeless body in her arms as gently as the day he was born. Like our Blessed Mother, she had been there at his first breath and at his labored last.

In death my brother David’s body—head balded by the torture of chemotherapy, wounds in his hands and feet, scarred from the intravenous lines that had held hope of a cure and, finally, the familiar yet futile shunt in his chest—bore the wounds of Christ. Seeing my heartbroken mother with the broken body of her son, the only prayer I could utter was “Hail Mary, full of grace...pray for us at the hour of our death. Amen.”

Janet Kohler Claussen

Atlanta, Ga.

Chinese Adaptations

Re “A Bridge to Beijing,” by John Worthley (4/2): The adaptation by Ricci’s Jesuit successors to Chinese ways was much more than “controversial” and “problematic.” Three times such attempts were quashed by the Vatican, which had little understanding of the issues: by Clement XI in “Cum Deus Optimus” (1704), by Clement again in “Ex Illa Die” (1715) and finally and definitively by Benedict XIV in “Ex Quo Singulari” (1742). These prohibitions were meant to stand forever, and so they did, at least until Pius XI in effect reversed them in 1935 and 1939.

Today, at least in Taiwan, to quote the priest historian Jean-Pierre Charbonnier: “The traditional rites in honor of heaven and the ancestors...were celebrated officially within the setting of the liturgy for the lunar new year. In Taipei, the archbishop, surrounded by dignitaries in long black robes, presided over the offering of fruit and incense before the great red tablet of wood, on which the following inscription had been inscribed in gold characters. ‘Honor to heaven; honor to the ancestors.’”

One wonders whether Benedict XIV is spinning in his grave, and (far more important) how the history of the church in China would have been different without “Ex Quo Singulari.”

Nicholas Clifford

Middlebury, Vt.

Images of God

Concerning your editorial “They Came So Far” (4/2): In the images of the victims, whether photographic or verbal, we as Christians must always see the image of God. Correspondents and photographers who portray the suffering of war’s victims should not be voices crying in the wilderness, but prophets calling us to repent.

There is something wrong with us when we think we see the face of our Lord in a stained glass window or on a crucifix but cannot see it in a slaughtered Afghan child, a maimed Palestinian mother, a crippled Libyan grandparent. If we could truly see with the eyes of Christ and feel compassion with the heart of Christ, we would not support a foreign policy that sees war as the paramount instrument of international relations and the profits of weapons manufacturers and military contractors as more important than the humanitarian needs of people.

Cassandra Speaks

Manila, Philippines

Draft for All

The elimination of the draft has caused or contributed to some of the current problems in our country. Our “leaders” in Washington display a cavalier attitude about sending our servicemen and servicewomen off to fight, because the large majority of them and their family members never served. Besides the ongoing deployments, little if any thought appears to be given to the increasing isolation of the military from the mainstream of the U.S. population.

If we accept the role of world power, we cannot do it on the cheap. A draft must include everyone of military age. If your number is drawn, you go. No exemptions. Our representatives and senators would think twice before allowing the president to involve us in another war.

John Ryan

Virginia Beach, Va.


Several readers noted two errors in “They Came So Far” (Editorial, 4/2). The war correspondent Ernie Pyle was not at Normandy on March 17, 1944, but at Anzio in Italy. And Pyle died under enemy fire on April 17, 1945, not 1944, as the editorial suggested.

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