Church and War

The article by Robert F. Drinan, S.J., Holy See Backs Nuclear Disarmament (9/12), is excellent. We need more articles on this issue and on the church’s positions on war in general. A substantial number of Catholics in the United States think that the church supports the war in Iraq.

Walter C. Hooke
Cambridge, N.Y.



As Martin Pable mentions in Why Don’t Catholics Share Their Faith? (9/19), there are many reasons. Some of them have to do with the ecclesial climate of the Catholic Church. If we have an infallible pope, if the hierarchy are charged with safeguarding the deposit of faith, if bishops are closely scrutinizing any speakers who come to their diocese, if only priests can speak from the pulpit, and if there is hardly any place in parish life to exercise public witness to the faith, then is it any wonder that Catholics feel hesitant about sharing their faith, lest they lapse into heresy? By and large, Catholics are trained to keep the faith by listening, not by sharing. And compare the size of the Baltimore Catechism with the current; at least the old catechism had a sense of priorities for its time. There can be such a thing as too much doctrine.

It is often the same with Scripture. As a hospital chaplain, I have been impressed by the warm love of and familiarity with Scripture on the part of some Protestants, who have their favorite quotations. Most of the time, Catholics prefer prayer and ritual; Scripture does not speak to them as well. When I celebrate the Eucharist with elderly groups, I try to tease out the personal meaning of Scripture with them. It is hard work. I appreciate the whole effort of evangelization; I have seen its training and results best in the implementation of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

But if the work of evangelization is to become more a part of the church, there needs to be more letting go higher up, and the creation of a different climate in religious education and parish life. Some Christian churches do a much better job of turning the believer into the evangelizer; we can learn from them.

Ken Smits, O.F.M.Cap.
Madison, Wis.

Better Church

Krispy Kremes and The Da Vinci Code by Jim McDermott, S.J., (9/19) is a catchy title that attracts attention. And the subject matter, also, tends to capture an audience with the pragmatic and fun-loving approach in lifea relief from our daily normal problem-solving and decision-making modes. This treatment does strike me as a grown-up version of the warm fuzzies that our children now get in grade school religion.

Yes, sharing and personal exploration is good and neededbut is such pleasant conversation really useful in addressing our many social, especially family-life, challenges without action? And what I’m hearing (and reading) is that people like to talk (or ask rhetorical questions) but not listen. Then, after leaving these comfortable sensing sessions, is it back out into the dogmatic world? The ecclesial authority can support this!

I must be old-fashioned, but I would appreciate hearing the results of your researchand the lessons learned. I’d like to see progress toward a better churchboth in structure and spirit. But perhaps this is heretical in an already perfect church?

I’m reminded of one of my favorite whimsical notions: we must continue having these meetings (sharings) until we figure out why no work is getting done (or nothing is changing).

Don Jones
San Jose, Calif.

Important Questions

I want to thank Jim McDermott, S.J., for his insightful article, Krispy Kremes and The Da Vinci Code (9/19). His story offers a great lesson not only to the church but to private and public education: significant learning occurs only when important questions are posed and people have the opportunity to have substantial conversations around these questions.

Unfortunately, we presently have a dominant culture within the United States and the church where having the right answer is more important than asking the right questions. The tragedy of standardized testing within public education and current public and religious education curricula is such that students and adults are not inspired to learn but are pressured to comply.

As Father McDermott pointed out, rather than investing our energy into clearing up the misconceptions that The Da Vinci Code raised, we need to ask questions about why the book created such a stir. We can take advantage of questions raised about the book, just as an excellent teacher takes advantage of his/her students’ questions to spark discussion and learning.

Powerful learning always starts with the posing of important questions. Jesus modeled this approach in his ministry. Great thinkers like Leonardo Da Vinci honored lifelong inquiry. The question is whether we will be bold enough to follow their lead.

Francis J. DeVito
Chelsea, Mass.


As a Catholic business leader, I read Thomas Healey’s A Blueprint for Change (9/26) with both personal and professional interest. Notwithstanding the common sense approach Mr. Healey outlines as prescriptive steps for improving church management, I am a skeptic. No redemption, no change and no resurrection of the church’s economic and management systems will succeed unless it dismantles its tyrannical, authoritarian and bureaucratic governance structure. The church is not the Vatican, nor its dioceses. The church is the people. Unless the people lead, it will fail.

Michael McGreevy
San Francisco, Calif.

Provide Support

When I read Easing Abortion’s Pain, by Antony Barone Kolenc (9/26), I was expecting a nicely balanced discussion of the proposed law requiring abortion providers to give women information about fetal pain before performing a late-term abortion, and what did I get? I got a pro-birth (no, not pro-life) lawyer, no less, using all the biased rhetoric of the so-called pro-life movement.

I abhor the killing of the unborn. I abhor even more the thought that any of God’s littlest ones would be in pain, even for a moment. But could we please hear from biologists, neo-natalists and researchers in the field who can provide research-based and documented, non-emotional testimony on these issues? All I found here was another male voice advising women to go ahead and suck it up and give until it hurts.

When are our men going to give until it hurts and provide support, counseling, shelter and medical attention for women who need (obviouslysince they want an abortion) all of the help that we can provide? When are they going to stop making women pregnant and then acting as if they got that way by themselves? It seems very easy to advise others to give until it hurts. Mother Teresa had every right to give that advice. She was willing to walk with others until it hurt herself. Her pro-life stance included everyone. She would have included the mothers as well as the unborn.

Mary Ann M. Schoettly
Newton, N.J.

Rise From the Flood

As a fellow evacuee and acquaintance of Thomas H. Stahel, S.J., I am delighted that he managed to escape the flood and find refuge in Grand Coteau (Flight From New Orleans, 9/26). Although our homes have been devastated and ravaged, I believe and hope that the Jesuit High School, Baronne Street and Loyola communities will see one another again in the new New Orleans that will rise from the flood.

John D. Fitzmorris Jr.
Lafayette, La.

Emphases Askew

Many thanks to Bishop Donald W. Trautman for his courageous article about the World Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. It is a relief to know that at least one of our bishops, himself a synod alternate, also believes that the early synod emphases are askew. Finding solutions to the worldwide priest shortage should be the top priority for the synod.

In 2003, two U.S. church renewal groups, FutureChurch and Call to Action, surveyed 15,000 priests in 55 U.S. dioceses. Sixty-seven percent of the respondents supported opening the discussion of mandatory celibacy. Many spontaneously added that the church must look at women’s roles as well.

Christine Schenk, C.S.J.
Cleveland, Ohio


Thanks to Drew Christiansen, S.J., for Of Many Things (10/3) on letting go. When I heard Jesus’ words to Peter over 20 years ago, they struck fear into my heart. Independent all my life, what would those words mean for me at 70-plus? How would I deal with what life bringswith loss of all I held dear? Something has happened over the years as these words remained in the back of my mindand perhaps in a hidden place of my heart. They no longer strike terror in me. Fear is tamed and reduced, not to just accepting the realities of old age, but to embracing whatever comes from the hand of God.

Maria Leonard
Chicago, Ill.

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