Christian Listening

I was delighted to read your editorial “The Work Ahead” (11/26), on the results of the election. It was the most nonpartisan, nonjudgmental Christian approach to a political scene that I have ever read. I have a hard time dealing with the “opposition,” but the following sentence in your editorial really helped: “Only when one holds to the principle that the ‘other side’ might have something meaningful to say does genuine listening become possible.” Thank you for helping me to be more tolerant. America serves us well.

Mary Riordan, R.S.M.


Gulfport, Miss.


Is your Jesuitical slip showing? “Of Many Things,” by Matt Malone, S.J. (11/26), defends the stance of Joseph McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University, regarding the College Republicans’ invitation to Ann Coulter.

Yet America’s editorial in the issue of Oct. 15, 2007, “‘Jaw, Jaw,’ Not ‘War, War,’” applauded Columbia University for inviting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, to address its School of International and Public Affairs, as “in the best tradition of university life....”

Surely, Ms. Coulter, no matter how “mean” she might be in communicating her ideas (some of which I find offensive), deserves the same protection extended to Ahmadinejad. It would have been in the best tradition of what a liberal arts university should stand for.

Jim Tolan

New York, N.Y.

Editor’s Note: Mr. Ahmadinejad is the head of government of a sovereign state with which the United States is in ideological and potentially literal conflict. Ms. Coulter is a popular commentator. Different standards and expectations apply. Suffice it to say, America does not categorically oppose providing a public platform for those with whom we disagree. For an example, see the letter above.

Needing Verification?

Re “Great Expectations,” by James Martin, S.J. (11/26): Father Martin’s exploration and analysis of the annunciation story and subsequent visitation carefully avoids consideration of an alternative reason for Mary’s “setting out in haste for a Judean town in the hill country”—namely, that she needed to know whether her cousin was really pregnant; only then would she accede to the angel’s request.

Some years ago, having read an article by the late and greatly missed Sally Cunneen (“The Mary We Never Knew,” Commonweal, 12/21/07), I decided to take a second look at an aspect of the story as reported by the Evangelist Luke that had troubled me since I was a late teenager: Mary’s ready acquiescence to a situation that could have put her in mortal danger. I am aware that this version of events is not quite in keeping with current teaching, but to my mind, it makes a much more believable and human story.

Seán O’Connor

Wallingford, Conn.

Musical Appreciation

I read John Anderson’s appraisal of Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” with enthusiasm (“Abe, Honestly,” 11/26). His praise for the performances of Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field echoes my sentiments exactly. But I feel he has unfairly accused Spielberg of relying too heavily on John Williams’s music.

To call this score “intrusive” is, in my opinion, a slam at the very idea of music in film. Certainly, the music in earlier Spielberg films like “Jaws” is frequently quite dramatic, but the subtle use of strings and piano in “Lincoln” does not qualify for the word “intrusive.” Nor does the trumpet theme have the blasting “Gabriel” sound to which Mr. Anderson alludes. Perhaps the theater volume was set higher for Mr. Anderson’s screening than for my two viewings (thus far).

It is unfortunate that many film critics complain about music in films—when it is noticed at all. As I tell the students in my college film-music class, the actors supply the motion in the motion picture, but the composers provide the emotion. Music may sometimes be manipulative, but it often helps to convey the story behind the screen images.

Laurence E. MacDonald

Flint, Mich.

Stupid Human Tricks

The editorial “Changing the Climate” (11/19) sadly overlooks a main cause of a lot of the “trail of destruction and misery” caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

Stupid humans have defied nature by building cities below river level (New Orleans) and atop moving oceanside sand bars (New Jersey). This ludicrous practice is encouraged by money-mad land developers and is made possible by dice-throwing insurers and coddling government agencies that waste “bailout” tax dollars to rebuild such insanity.

If I should crazily erect my home in the caldera of a rumbling volcano or the truck lane of a heavily-traveled superhighway, I should eventually expect my house to be destroyed, while possibly suffering death myself in the course of the destruction.

Let’s not blame the climate for thoughtless human actions in city-building.

William F. Klosterman

Middletown, Ohio

The writer is a retired city engineer and city manager.

‘Reverend’ Restored

The diaconate for women continues to be a fascinating topic. Having been ordained a deacon on my path to priesthood and having served in that capacity, I believe that as an Ecumenical Catholic priest and a woman, my experience holds some insight. Therefore I responded to “Why Not Women?”, by Bishop Emil A. Wcela (10/1), identifying my full name, as required: Rev. Sheila Durkin Dierks.

When my letter was published in the “State of the Question” (10/22), it is interesting that the “Rev.” somehow disappeared from my name, though it does appear before the name of a male deacon and male priest who also had letters published. I wonder what happened at the editing desk at America? Is there a “Reverend” on the cutting room floor?

(Rev.) Sheila Durkin Dierks

Boulder, Colo.

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