What Catholics Do Best

Re “Faith by Heart,” by David Impastato (9/10): While I am in full support of more catechesis and evangelization, there is no evidence that rote memorization will lead to greater retention of young Catholics. In fact, the Catholic Church actually has a greater retention rate than almost any other faith tradition, according to the Pew Research Center.

If we want to do better, and we should, we should expand participation in those activities that already work: retreats, youth ministries, sacramental education aimed at the entire family and so forth. We need robust and energizing faith formation; strong modeling from adults and church leaders; and active participation in liturgy, works of charity and social justice involvement that leads to Catholics truly living their faith, not just reciting it.


Douglas Cremer

Pasadena, Calif.

Knowing the Faith

Congratulations to America for having the courage to publish a lead article about the U.S. church’s “dirty little secret”—youngsters who know nothing about their faith. The proposed solution makes simple, practical sense.

The article argues against a “rote” catechesis. Learning a Beatitude, like “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God,” instills actionable, inspirational knowledge that builds and articulates Christian identity. It provides “a habitation and a name” for Christian praxis. The experiential component of faith formation is essential, but it must occur in a both/and context. Knowing the faith and living the faith are inseparable and mutually affirming.

May this common-sense approach, suggested by our bishops and church documents, find its way into our classrooms, desperate for a solution to this historic crisis.

Jane Justin

Scranton, Pa.

Wisdom for Young Catholics

Re “Help Their Unbelief,” by Matt Emerson (9/10): I have long wrestled with some of the students’ same questions, doubts or downright opposition. But I would never think of myself as a faithless, unbelieving or disloyal Catholic. At my ripe old stage in life, I have decided that my faith does not depend all that much on certain doctrinal allegiances, and it no longer troubles me to say so. Having set some old “saws” aside, I can more easily get to what counts.

In adult education classes in my parish, I always insist that inquirers read a solid book or two on the history of Christianity before engaging with theology. There’s nothing like a dose of reality therapy before soaring to the heights (depths?) of theology and philosophy. History teaches a lot that theology sometimes asks us to ignore.

No, I am not a postmodern nihilist, skeptic or relativist. Nor do I jump or necessarily pay attention whenever a new Vatican document or bishop’s letter comes forth. I hope that our effort to encourage young Catholics to “stay the course” helps them to see the middle point between these two extremes.

Philip Garmey

Lynchburg, Va.

Self-Made Fiction

Re “Catholic Identity at Issue as Ryan Joins Romney” (Signs of the Times, 9/10): Paul Ryan’s budget plan makes a very dangerous assumption—that all welfare recipients are able to work. It is also simply not true that anyone who works hard can be successful.

Some people forget, or choose to ignore, that we have brothers and sisters who are born with varying mental and physical capacities. What do “self-made” people do to ensure they are born with their physical abilities and above-average intelligence? What did they do to avoid being an infant with fetal alcohol syndrome? Nothing.

Instead of arrogance in success, we need humility and grace to recognize those who really do need our care. It would be impossible to read the New Testament and not understand this message Jesus taught over and over again.

Denise Anderson

Rochester Hills, Mich.

Changing Context

At one time, I believed something could be done to stem the legal fallout of Roe v. Wade, and I would have supported a candidate like Paul Ryan. But now? To paraphrase a new song by Taylor Swift, “We will never get back together” as a country on the issue of abortion. Americans are completely divided on abortion, and I know of no one on the pro-life side who has offered any kind of satisfactory alternative to criminalizing abortions—something our culture will never put up with.

Neither party offers an agenda that is totally acceptable to Catholic teaching. For Catholics who are not rooted in one or another (faulty) ideology, thiselection is a choice about which candidate offers a platform that is the lesser of two evils.

Art Killoren

Winter Haven, Fla.

Gospel Dialogue

Re “Of Many Things,” by Drew Christiansen, S.J. (9/10): Call it dialogue, conversation, questioning or even opining, this method of being church is at the heart of it all. Think of the consistent impression one receives by simply reading the Gospels. Jesus spoke, questioned and listened. His disciples, the crowds and even his “enemies” did the same. In the midst of this particular divine encounter, the church was founded, formed and managed to grow. It is apparent that the beat must go on.

John Hunt

Pompano Beach, Fla.

Protecting My Vote

I was very disturbed by “Suppressing the Vote?” by Maryann Cusimano Love (8/27). A valid state-issued identification is not a poll tax. I am frequently asked for my driver’s license in everyday life. How does a person navigate through life without a valid state-issued identification?

As a law-abiding citizen, I have the right to expect that my validly cast vote will not be disenfranchised by others who are not eligible to vote.

I am appalled that America would print an article filled with such blatant distortions. This type of sleazy, biased “journalism” makes me question why I waste my money to subscribe.

Terri Shawhan

Broadview Heights, Ohio

Today’s Moral Issues

Bishop Richard E. Pates (“In This Together,” 8/13) writes with the naïveté of one who has not experienced firsthand the gritty reality of day-to-day life. His simplistic essay overlooks the tragic moral implications of a nation increasingly within the control of multinational corporations focused exclusively on earnings per share rather than quality product or humanitarian goals. The result is that Catholics who are in lockstep with the hierarchy view same-sex marriage and reproductive rights as the major moral issues facing humankind. They are not.

When I was younger, the church warned against consumerism and greed. These are among the most critical moral issues facing Christians today. Corporate greed, exploitation of workers, vilification of the poor, privatization of governments in the pursuit of profit, income inequality and the corruption of our democracy by money are just a few issues that should arouse concern for people who love Jesus and want to serve him.

Jim Palermo

Southampton, Mass.

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