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May 07, 2012

Cosmic Conversation

Adam D. Hincks is certainly correct to say that modern cosmology gives no new theological insight into questions of origins and bigness (“Wonders of the Universe,” 4/16). But it does raise two intriguing theological questions. The first is easy: With whom might we speak of Jesus?

Suppose a 20-year-old man wanted to electronically send the entire Bible to some habitable planet, and suppose the recipients wanted to thank him. Assuming he has no more than 70 years of life left and that the conversation is constrained by the speed of light, no one in his position could converse with anyone beyond 35 light years away—35 years for the Bible to reach them and another 35 for their return acknowledgement.

But our galaxy is 100,000 light years in diameter. Compared with a football field, our “sphere of conversation” would be 1.26 inches. The more difficult question is, “Might God’s eternal Word have more than one incarnation?”

Tad Dunne

Royal Oak, Mich.

Commandant’s Conversion

The Of Many Things column on April 9 about Walter Ciszek, S.J., by James Martin, S.J., reminded me of a story I heard:

He came up behind Father Walter and put a large knife to his throat. “You give me Communion!” he demanded. The threat of the blade was not an idle one, for the camp commander had personally sent many a man to the afterlife. Father had been walking back to his barracks that evening after a long day logging in the bitter cold and then ladling soup to other prisoners at the camp mess hall. He had been saying Mass and ministering to them in the far forest, and somehow the word had gotten around—there is a priest in the camp.

So there it was—a challenge to give Communion to a cold-blooded killer. With the blade at his throat, Father Ciszek turned his head and told the commander, “You go back to your room, get on your knees and pray to God to forgive you for all you have done. Then come back to me tomorrow and I will give you Communion.” The camp commander did come back the next day, and Father did give him Communion.

Father Walter told this story at our home one evening after lecturing to my cadet classes at West Point. It was a memorable time for the cadets and my wife, who is related to him.

Hank Kenny

McLean, Va.

Pre-emptive Violence

Amen to your editorial “Stand Your Ground” (4/16) about the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida and gun control. But the problem goes beyond gun control. “If I think you might do me harm, I have the right to kill you!” Who said that? George Zimmerman? Stand Your Ground laws? President George W. Bush with his pre-emptive war of 2003? Landowners and gunfighters in the old wild West? All of the above, of course.

Stand Your Ground is the spiritual descendant of pre-emptive war. Because he was the leader, George W. Bush stirred up that spirit in the country. Many gave him an “atta boy” and then went him one better with Stand Your Ground laws. Now we need to cast out that spirit. We need to rediscover in our national soul a special horror at pre-emptive war on the national level. Then perhaps we can walk back the great mistake of Stand Your Ground on the individual level. Obviously, the N.R.A. is an enabler of our violence. But the substance of it is in our hearts and spirits.

James Crafton

Kettering, Ohio

Active Eternity

The thoughts of Gerald O’Collins, S.J., in “Our Risen Selves” (4/9) about our resurrected bodies and eternity are fascinating. Still, we want to know more. Unfortunately the dismal portrait of eternity that science fiction is promoting has been the prevailing standard. Eternity is described as a state where there is no time, no movement, no change and perhaps no space and no matter. Catholic theologians and writers need to contest these prophets of gloom with visions of an active and joyful eternal life that God has prepared for those who love him.

George Koenig

St. Francis, Wis.

My Child in War

Children trapped in war are a tragic consequence of war. “In Harm’s Way,” by Mary Meehan (1/16), points this out all too graphically, by describing, for example, a baby killed by shrapnel from an American drone strike. My son, Joe, was an American soldier in Iraq in 2004. Joe told my other son that he was involved in a firefight where a 12-year-old boy was killed. Joe’s story was that it was kill or be killed.

Mary Meehan fails to point out that children in war also include American soldiers. My son, Joe, was one of them. He was killed near Fallujah, Iraq, on Nov. 18, 2004. Joe was my child.

Joseph P. Nolan

Waterbury, Conn.

No Exceptions

Re “Too Long a Sacrifice” (Current Comment, 4/2): I also think we need to bring back a draft, but one with no exceptions. Draft the sons and daughters of presidents, congressmen, corporate executives and labor union leaders, the wealthy as well as the poor. It doesn’t have to be for military service; it could be something similar to the Peace Corps or Americorps—anything that would involve more than 1 percent of American citizens. It might help us to avoid wars and rebuild our own country.

Eileen M. Ford

Rockport, Mass.

Overheated and Overblown

I agree with Thomas Massaro, S.J. (“Time to Cool Down,” 3/26). It is time to ratchet down the rhetoric, way down. The mandate of the Department of Health and Human Services on contraception was not the opening salvo of a war on religious freedom. The reaction by both sides, left and right, was overheated and overblown, but that is the style of the day. The 24-hour news cycle and the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly seem to have condemned us to a series of violent raves and rants that turn a matter of private morality into a cosmic battle between the forces of God and Satan. I only wish the reaction against street violence and about war in Afghanistan and revolution in Syria would reach the level that it reached in this instance.

John D. Fitzmorris

New Orleans, La.

Righteous Anger

Re “Time to Cool Down”: Political positions involving oppression of the innocent (like abortion or slavery) are calculated to incite righteous anger in a man or woman of justice. Jesus himself often spoke harshly to the Pharisees on account of their lack of justice. The contraception mandate involves the state threatening to punish members of the church for acting in accordance with church teaching. This is another position calculated to drive faithful Catholics to righteous anger. The mandate “compromise” is of course no more than a cynical attempt to dupe less intelligent members of the church. No insurer provides medicines for free out of the goodness of its heart. Those of us gifted with greater insight owe it to our fellow Catholics to expose this for what it is.

Steve Gethin

Perth, Western Australia

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