December 05, 2005

Not Rhetorical

Thank you for writing about the important matter of torture and for the good editorial, The Shame of Torture (11/7).

I was a bombardier in Europe during World War II, which I regret in my old age, and I am even more ashamed of our country today because of its blatant practice of torture on human beings.

To those who have paid attention to this subject, my comments might seem trite, but I believe there are two key issues we have not dealt with adequatelynot the government or the media.

First, while there has been a baker’s dozen of investigations on the use of torture by the U.S. government, these have been fox-in-the-henhouse inquiries, and not one of them has been an independent investigation. Why is this?

Second, a large body of evidence shows that the U.S. practice of using torture is not an aberration or the work of a few bad apples (the entire barrel smells like something washed up by Hurricane Katrina). Yet the blame is placed on a few low-ranking noncoms at a single prison, Abu Ghraib. The policy of state-sponsored cruelty has not led to anything but the trial and conviction of a private in the Army, as well as eight other hapless G.I.’s.

Am I missing something? If this were in a novel, no publisher would touch it; the plot is too far-fetched. When do we get to the heart of this problem? After America has lost its soul? The question is not rhetorical.

Tom Brubeck
Silver Spring, Md.

Monstrous Policy

Sadly, history is repeating itself. A little over a century ago religious leaders failed to condemn, some even condoned, the slavery and sale of human beings. Today religious leaders are mum about a similar evil, the torture of prisoners (11/7). It has fallen to the secular press to oppose this monstrous policy.

Where are the proponents of moral values of yesteryear?

(Rev.) Sebastian L. Muccilli
Lake Park, Fla.

Special Pride

Your magazine is always appreciated and enjoyed, but I took special pride in the lovely article on my Mercy founder, Catherine McAuley, by John W. Donohue, S.J., Correspondence of a Foundress (11/7).

A relatively recent issue of Chicago magazine did excellent work presenting a profile on Catholics in Chicago. My concern was that the only woman religious featured consisted of a full-page photograph and story about a girl who left her community. It’s the truth, so no real problem, but it is refreshing to read about someone who remained and significantly contributed so much to our church.

Christian Molidor, R.S.M.
Chicago, Ill.

Be Faithful

Having just experienced the Month of Nazareth as part of the Jesus Caritas (USA) movement, my heart jumped when I read Evangelism of Presence, by Robert Ellsberg, (11/14) about Charles de Foucauld. But Ellsberg merely touched the tip of the proverbial iceberg. De Foucauld’s life has provided our present generation with a solid path of spirituality for priests in the trenches each day: adoration, Gospel living, fraternity. More needs to be written about de Foucauld’s failure lifestyle for emulation and imitation.

In this success-driven age, it is refreshing to remind ourselves that God has called us to be faithful, not successful.

(Rev.) Dan Cipar
East Palestine, Ohio


I was pleased to see the Word of Appreciation by Drew Christiansen, S.J. (11/21). I, too, would like to thank Dianne Bergant, C.S.A., for her work over the past three years as writer of The Word column. I have also heard her speak. Our pastor and I have used her columns to prepare our weekly homilies. May God bless her in her future work.

Leon J. Flaherty, C.PP.S.
Superior, Wis.

Sensitive Issues

Bravo for the forthright expression of opinion set forth in Unfinished Work by Drew Christiansen, S.J. (10/10). The message of Nostra Aetate has yet to reach the Israeli political class. Will we ever see the day when sensitive fundamental issues that involve criticism of Israel can be discussed freely and without risk of the indictment of anti-Semitism?

John McDonald
Marshfield, Mass.

Hat and Ring

I noted in Signs of the Times of Nov. 14 the item about Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J., and the caption under the accompanying picture.

If the picture was taken before Avery Dulles was elevated to the rank of cardinal, the year must have been 2001, not 2003. My only reason for responding is I was at that consistory, for both the hat ceremony and the ring ceremony in front of St. Peter’s Basilica.

I had only arrived in Rome on Monday, Feb. 12, as a participant in the sabbatical program for U.S. priests at the North American College. Notice was posted on the bulletin board that tickets were available for any of the priests who might be interested in attending. If my memory serves me right, Cardinal Dulles’s reception was held in the courtyard below my room.

In any case, if the picture needs dating, while it may have been taken on Feb. 20, 2003, it would have been years after the consistory naming him cardinal.

(Rev.) Bernie Reilly
Jackson, Mich.

Immense Pressure

I agree with Joseph Bukovchik (Letters, 10/31) that America is becoming a more conservative publication. Not so long ago, we could count on America presenting an intelligent, balanced discussion of controversial issues affecting our church and society. But now that the magazine appears to be so fearful of the backlash from conservative U.S. bishops (for example, removal of the previous editor), it ceases to be relevant (at least in my mind) in a country under immense pressure from the radical religious right.

Gene Gagnon
Venice, Fla.

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14 years 2 months ago
After reading Gene Gagnon’s letter (11/28) claiming America is conservative and has ceased to be relevant, I found “The Council at 40,” by Gerald O’Collins, S.J., (12/5) tending to confirm Gagnon’s view. Father O’Collins could have written his article 10 years ago, for all the timeliness that it contains. America frequently has articles that tend to be well crafted but “above the fray” when commitment is called for. Perhaps it is a philosophia perennis attitude, when a more existential, here-and-now one, is called for.

Next came “Joy and Hope, Grief and Anguish,” by David Hollenbach, S.J. (12/5). No timelessness here. Hollenbach calls it as he sees it. There is grief in our hearts over what has happened to the promise of the council. Hope is languishing; there is sorrow over unfulfilled promise. His recounting of what happened in November 2002, when the U.S. government was preparing for war and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had as its spokesman on the issue none other than Cardinal Bernard Law, highlights the loss of credibility of the present U.S. hierarchy.

Perhaps to be more relevant America could change its stripes somewhat without giving up its soul. How about a less Aristotelian/Thomistic approach, which tends to float above the scene—the “on the one hand, but on the other” approach?

Theologically speaking, if you were to emphasize a biblical approach with the usual Jesuit depth, it would bring to the forefront Jesus and his here-and-now way of dealing with problems.

There could be nothing more relevant for a Jesuit magazine to be doing than trumpeting Jesus’ positions on social justice, poverty, peace and the reign of God, in his own words.

14 years 2 months ago
So Joseph Bukovchik (Letters, 10/31) and Gene Gagnon (Letters, 12/5) are unhappy that America seems to be drifting toward conservatism. How dreadful.

As a reader/subscriber since 1942 (that’s right!), I have seldom agreed with your editorial policies, but I assume your writers arrive at them after much study and prayer. It would be nice, as a disagreeing conservative, to be granted the same courtesy without being called a radical.

The issue is not being for or against peace, life, poverty, conservation, violence, etc. The dichotomy is in how to deal with these issues, and it is possible to have the balanced discussions these gentlemen long for when we concede that each side is acting in good conscience.

Despite our divergent opinions, I have always looked to America for the accuracy and completeness of its reporting on church documents and decisions, and it has never failed me.

14 years 2 months ago
Interesting that Gene Gagnon (Letters, 12/05) is disturbed that America appears to be moving in a “more conservative direction,” asserting that the change is due to fear of backlash from conservative bishops. And here I am a well-aged, decades-long America subscriber, rather relieved to see that the magazine is finally developing and publishing a more obvious balance in its weekly offerings, which it has needed for some time. Surely the dictates of the Gospel allow for a broad range of opinions, wrought from the vigor of calm reasoning and the balm of mutual charity. And how is it that the climate of the day among the “informed” dictates that one’s every position—religious, cultural, economic, political—must toe the liberal line? What a shame that intelligent, well-educated and faithfully practicing Catholics must feel assigned to back seats from the drone of the liberal left, when there is every reason to strive for balance in assessing the problems confronting the church and society, since solutions to most of these distress-ors are more likely to be found on the middle ground. Thankfully, it appears this fact has finally dawned on the good folks at America.

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