Real Heroes

The Without Guile cartoon by Harley Schwadron, How come there aren’t any peace heroes? (4/25) ought to be made available on T-shirts and sweatshirts. I’d buy one.

Phyllis Karr
Barnes, Wis.


Jesus Forgives

I had never read an issue of America before the one that I just received in the mail. I subscribe to so many magazines I wasn’t sure if I could take on another, but the review of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, by James T. Keane, S.J., (5/2) helped to change my mind.

I was fortunate enough to see a preview at the Public Theater in February and, though I think the show has its weaknesses, I enjoyed it a lot. I was very disappointed with the reviews I read in a lot of the New York media. I thought many of them missed the point. Finally, in With God on His Side, I found a point of view with which I could basically agree.

Overall, I think the play is wonderful. It runs a little long (I could have done without Freud and even Mother Teresa), but I liked the structure and was fascinated by Judashow we can choose to reject Jesus’ forgiveness. For the most part, I thought the performances were fantastic. The washing of the feet was one of the best moments I’ve seen on stage recently.

In any case, I felt compelled to write and let you know that I’m glad to have joined you as a subscriber. I am a product of a Jesuit education and have found that this issue reminded me of all I loved about that experience. I look forward to future issues.

Timothy R. Haugh
Eastchester, N.Y.

Wearing Down

A letter writer (5/2) mentioned that there is a crisis for men in the Catholic Church so large it’s like the elephant in the sacristy. I would speculate what he was referring to could be found a few pages back, in Joseph Claude Harris’s The Disturbing Trends Behind Parish Closings (5/2). Mr. Harris discusses parish closings contingent upon the declining number of priests and the hesitancy of bishops to appoint lay pastoral administrators in priestless parishes while naming priests as sacramental moderators.

Where I live, young priests are indeed doing double duty as a result of the numbers crunch. One priest now rides circuit for five parishes, pastor to them all. Tension and burnout have resulted, and some promising priests have left their collars behind in favor of sanity. Women religious who have served for decades are wearing down, too. The frustration and anger I have seen might be shared by those willing and able to serve as lay ecclesial ministers and parish leaders, only to linger on the sidelines and watch their pastors and others grind to a halt under the load.

Paul C. Stokell
Pewee Valley, Ky.


I write in regard to the article of Russell Shaw, Is This Transparency? (5/16), in which he impugns the transparency of the bishops of the United States vis-à-vis the decision concerning the advisability of having a plenary council for the church in the United States.

Mr. Shaw’s view of the decision ascribes a sinister motive to the bishops and to the process they used to arrive at the determination not to convene a plenary council at this time. The issue for Mr. Shaw seems to be his mistaken perception of a trend by the bishops to operate in some kind of clandestine secrecy.

Had Mr. Shaw desired more information about the process used in the June 2004 Special Assembly of Bishops, it would have been readily available to him through the offices of the bishops’ conference or from me as chairman of the committee looking into the advisability of calling a plenary council. I’m surprised that Mr. Shaw, as a long-time journalist, didn’t bother to contact those he criticizes in his story.

I can assure you that there was nothing secret about the process by which the bishops deliberated on issues of serious pastoral concern or how it became clear that neither a plenary council nor even a regional synod seemed timely.

Apparently Mr. Shaw believes the bishops have no right to take time to pray, reflect and dialogue among themselves in order to determine how best they should provide pastoral leadership for the church in the United States. Employing the template of suspicion, he has consistently criticized the approach taken by the bishops in recent years, while he has not sought to dialogue about his concerns. There was nothing sinister about last spring’s special assembly. Mr. Shaw, who has covered Catholic news for years and who worked for a time in the N.C.C.B./U.S.C.C., must know that it has been the custom of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to conduct a special assembly every three years as a time of special prayer and reflection. Because of the nature of these special assemblies, they are not conducted before the public media in the manner of business as usual.

It is neither fair nor professional for Russell Shaw to engender suspicion by attributing sinister motives where none exist.

(Most Rev.) Daniel M. Buechlein, O.S.B.
Archbishop of Indianapolis
Indianapolis, Ind.

Look Gently

Thank you for helping me to transcend the gloom and look gently at the mystery (We Had Hoped, 5/23). Once again the wisdom of Ignatian spirituality touches the heart of our experience. Peace to you. With gratitude and prayer.

Mary Luke Baldwin, S.S.N.D.
Elm Grove, Wis.

Great Job

Thomas J. Reese, S.J., did a great job at America, but more than that, he is a great priest.

William Donohue
President, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights
New York, N.Y.

Knotty Issues

A classic shot in the foot! In an effort to exert complete control over the minds and thoughts of the faithful, a pullback has been forced on the one magazine sure to give a calm, reasoned presentation of a knotty issue (We Had Hoped, 5/23). Now only those who don’t find themselves in the delicate position of the Society of Jesus are free to have at it. Expect strident declarations filled with animus and disdain. The nice guys no longer patrol the block.

Betty Coonan
Twin Oaks, Mo.

Safe Space

While I was in the Peace Corps in Ecuador, my Aunt Bernadette Hardesty subscribed me to America, which you all managed to deliver more regularly than the federal government sent us Newsweek. I fell in love with America then, and just wanted to thank you for your excellent work there. You gave a safe space to all Catholics, letting us know that it is our sacred responsibility to think critically and examine our moral choices with logic and rigor as well as faith. You should be proud.

Jessica Hardesty
Durham, N.C.


I am both distressed and saddened to learn of the resignation from America magazine of Thomas J. Reese, S.J., and what I understand to be the circumstances surrounding this. The news has been received with great dismay here in Australia by Catholics and by many in the secular press too. Please be assured that I have always found your columns and news interviews to be considered and generous in both content and delivery.

Mareelle Mogg
Editor, Eureka Street
Richmond, Victoria, Australia

Catholic Quest

First of all, let me say that I am quite distressed by the departure of Thomas J. Reese, S.J., from America and must say that he has done a tremendous job in making the magazine a prime forum for how we pursue our Catholic quest for truth, goodness and beauty. I am very saddened that he is leaving the magazine.

Robert Mickens
The Tablet
London, England

Greater Christian Church

I was stunned to read the article in The New York Times about the departure of Thomas J. Reese, S.J. In addition to many Roman Catholics, there are legions of non-Catholic Christians who support his ideas and leadership in the greater Christian church.

David B. Case, M.D.
New York, N.Y.

Needs Heading

If the Tom Reeses in the church are at risk, I wonder who might be safe. I have always found him to be the epitome of balance and moderation. Frankly, at times I felt America was too balanced! Your coverage of the hot-button issues was always stellar. America is a breath of fresh air and intelligence, as diocesan papers become more irrelevant propaganda sheets. In the secular media morass of sensationalism, crass bias and loudmouth pundits, your voice has always been so refreshing.

Hugh Burns, O.P.
Jersey City, N.J.

Literate and Progressive

I worked at America in the late 1970’s in the subscription department (with Sister Marian). My name was Marian Tepper at the time. My husband and I were the only Jewish employees at the magazine, and we were never made to feel uncomfortable. We were given great insight into the life of Catholic clergy, since most of the staff lived in the West 56th Street building. We took such pride in working for the Jesuits because it was such a literate and progressive magazine. I had a great admiration for the Catholic Church after my experience with America.

What has made America magazine great was its willingness to explore what was happening in the world, not avoid it.

Marian Stern
New York, N.Y.

Rankled Appreciation

Facing East by Ronald G. Roberson, C.S.P. (5/16), and the accompanying photos from Ukraine were much appreciated. It would have been more appreciated, however, (1) if the author and your publication had adopted the Ukrainian spelling for the capital of Ukraine (Kyiv) rather than the Russian spelling (Kiev); (2) if the author had shown some awareness of the significant complexity created by the presence on the territory of Ukraine of multiple Orthodox jurisdictions (principally the Moscow Patriarchate, which controls much of the Lavra featured in the photos, the Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church); and (3) if the article had shown some greater sensitivity to the serious canonical question whether the patriarchate and other indicators of the ranking of an ecclesia sui juris are or ought to be within the gift of the Roman Pontiff. Surely the Orthodox patriarchs do not owe their titles or status to a predecessor’s having been raised in rank by a successor of Peter. Patriarchs simply are; they are not created by another church. To speak of Rome’s raising the status of the Greco-Catholic Church smacks of the very uniatism that so rankles the Orthodox.

T. F. Stock
Arlington, Va.

My Very Favorites

The fine article by Jim McDermott, S.J., on the St. Louis Jesuits (Sing a New Song, 5/23) brings back fond memories of liturgies (and music practices) at the Jesuit theologate, Regis College in Toronto, where I played guitar and sang from 1970 to 1974. We were in on the latest S.L.J. compositions through the Jesuit grapevine as an international community with men from St. Louis and all over. It was a pleasure to meet John Foley, S.J. His deeply spiritual and scriptural hymns are still among my very favorites. Thanks to all five S.L.J.’s. And where can I hear Mogen David and the Grapes of Wrath?

David B. Conner
Macon, Ga.

Carry On

The May 23 issue of America is loaded with good news/bad news: the Saint Louis Jesuits, Thomas J. Reese, S.J.a varied garden that.

I am writing, however, about Holy Ground by Lizette Larson-Miller (5/23). I first noticed the roadside memorial when I went to Latin America many years ago. It was stunning to see the white crosses along the road that marked fatalities, and the fidelity of people who placed fresh flowers at the site. It was also a good indication of especially dangerous places.

But my particular interest is to draw attention to the best song on the subject of memorials. Naturally it is sung by George Jones and it is called The Wall, which talks about the ultimate memorial, the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. George has sung about almost every topic in the world. This one is worth a listen.

Carry on, folks. All of us need the astringent provided by America.

Phil Kelly, O.F.M.Conv.
Syracuse, N.Y.

Set a Standard

I understand that the report in The New York Times of the resignation of Thomas J. Reese, S.J., as editor of America was the single most requested and forwarded story on the internet in the next 24 hours after it was posted. Father Reese has a fine record to look back on. He set a standard that the rest of us had to emulate.

John Wilkins
London, England

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