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November 14, 2005

Careful Scrutiny

In his excellent column Of Many Things on Sept. 12, Drew Christiansen, S.J., mentions the contention of Michael Buckley, S.J., that the roots of atheism were in 17th-century natural theology and suggests that the proponents of intelligent design...are repeating the mistake of using science as evidence for belief in God. He seems to hint that if scientific evidence is the foundation of belief in God, science will sooner or later (or again) turn us into atheists.

It seems that both intelligent design theorists, and certain evolutionists who oppose them, share a faulty and dangerous assumption: if God is involved in the creation and development of life, we will catch him in the act. Intelligent-design advocates believe that examination of life at the molecular and cellular level provides evidence of divine intervention. Atheistic evolutionists like Richard Dawkins believe that there is no such evidence, and that therefore God does not exist or at least can have had no part in creation.

These professional scientists prove amateur theologians. Who says that if God is involved in creationeither as an intelligent designer or the directing force of evolutionwe will find evidence of it? Is it not equally possible that God’s creative activity may be so perfect, so pure and so seamless that we will, in fact, find no physical or molecular evidence of it at all? The biblical tradition itself finds evidence of God not at the molecular level, but in the glory, beauty and overarching order of creationdecidedly unscientific evidences, grounded in human aesthetic perception. If the scientists are going to moonlight as theologians, we had better subject their theology to as careful a scrutiny as their biology.

Patrick J. Nugent
Tiriki, Kenya

Not Far Enough

In his article, A Blueprint for Change (9/26), Thomas J. Healy advocated a greater role for the laity in church management. I approve of his suggestion but regret that he did not go far enough. We need priests more than we need accountants. We need inspiration more than management.

Christianity in its infancy had no management at all. Peter and Paul were at each other’s throat over letting gentiles join their community. But that community had the enthusiasm of children and grew at a pace never since equaled. Jesus told his disciples to feed his sheep, not train them to jump.

As an octogenarian who has subscribed to your magazine for almost 60 years, I would like to share my impossible dream, a way to restore greater access to the Eucharist and vitality to the Catholic community:

1. Seminary training is restricted to the few months needed for instructing devout, capable candidates, married or single, men or women, in presiding at Mass and administering the sacraments. Competent parishioners handle administration, counseling and so on. Since the priest’s duties require only a few hours a week, he or she has a secular job just like Paul, the tentmaker.

2. The priest’s term of service is renewable every three years, just like military service.

3. A person trained in theology and church history delivers the weekly 10-minute homily. He or she has graduated from a seminary with a certificate of excellence in composition and inspirational oratory.

4. The pre-Vatican II Mass, the one that always filled the pews, is allowed.

5. Only a well-trained choir may sing.

Respectfully, from Never-Never Land, and daring you to print this,

John J. McGarr
Beverly, Mass.

Rights in the Church

David Hollenbach, S.J., in Human Rights in Catholic Thought (10/31), points out that many human rights have not always been affirmed by the church. I would add that the church still does not recognize many human rights within the churchlike the right to financial accountability, the right of the faithful to have a say in who their leaders are, and, pre-eminently, the right to the Eucharist. In the synod of 1971 the bishops proclaimed that a church that preaches justice to the world must practice justice within the church. Ditto for human rights.

Patrick Connor, S.V.D.
Bordentown, N.J.

Holy People

The Oct. 31 issue of America reported that the synod fathers rejected in Proposition 11 the suggestion of ordaining viri probati (tested men) to the Roman Catholic presbyterate. Does not this decision substitute the means for the end? The synod fathers have decided to have a holy priesthood instead of a holy people. The mission of the church is the sanctification of God’s people and the world. To deny God’s people, especially the poor, the celebration of the Eucharist in observance of the Lord’s Day is a betrayal of the mission of the church itself. It is also a betrayal of the office of oversight (episcopacy) in failing to build up the body of Christ by making available the body and blood of Christ to those who are thirsting for God.

Garth Jackson Gillan
State College, Pa.

Talk Directly

The Rev. Damian J. Ference’s essay about the need for our priests to remain present to our young people and not neglect them out of fear, Let the Children Come (10/17), prompts this extension of his thoughts. I would urge our priests not to neglect our young people during their Sunday homilies. I would, each Sunday, encourage them to speak directly to the young about how to apply the Scriptures in relevant, concrete, active ways to their everyday lives.

Catholic communities everywhere are concerned that young people cease to attend Mass after receiving confirmation. I would contend that this attrition would decline if our priests talked directly to this group of Catholics every Sunday. This would consume only a minute or two of the homily (the young are accustomed to sound bites). This would not add greatly to preparation, nor would it intrude into the message to the adults. In fact, I believe it would enhance that message.

Two minutes of direction from the priest each Sunday would leave the young people feeling engaged by the priest. It would give families present something to discuss on the way home from church and perhaps for the rest of the week. Of course, it would contribute to the ongoing formation of our young people. Finally, it would contribute to the spiritual growth of the entire congregation. (I have never attended a children’s or youth Mass where the homily did not leave me with some spiritual work.)

I completely agree with Father Ference that the impact of our priests on our young is great. What better way to connect with and inspire our young Catholics than by addressing them directly each week at Sunday Mass?

Andre F. Lijoi
York, Pa.

Above All Else

The current synod of bishops devoted to the Eucharist must be interpreted through the lens of Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. In that foundational document, the council fathers said that promoting the full and active participation of all the faithful in the liturgy was the aim to be considered above all else in the forthcoming liturgical reform.

The council fathers understood that such participation in the sacred mysteries of our faith results in a profound encounter with our eucharistic Lord. Whenever this occurs, the entire church benefits. And, I might add, from such faith encounters come vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.

Sadly, where there have been and continue to be, as the synod fathers note, misinterpretations and distorted ideas about the liturgy that hinder fruitful participation at Mass, the church suffers greatly. Those faith communities understandably experience difficulties in raising up the next generation of priests.

I appreciate Bishop Donald W. Trautman’s passionate concern about the need to provide an adequate number of priests (Our Daily Bread, 10/3). But I also believe that the synod has addressed this concern at the deepest level. After all, in the church, soteriology precedes sociology, and faith precedes pastoral planning.

Leon Suprenant
President, Catholics United for the Faith
Steubenville, Ohio

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