Truly Distinguished

I write this as a board member of the Venerable John Henry Newman Association. It has been a concern of the association for some time to distinguish itself from the Cardinal Newman Society, which society appears so prominently in your editorial, Measuring Catholic Identity (3/27).

The Venerable John Henry Newman Association was founded in the 1980’s by the late Vincent Giese, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, whose present diocesan bishop, Cardinal Francis George, is the association’s spiritual advisor. The purpose of our organization is to encourage research into and to disseminate knowledge of the life, views and writings of John Henry Newman; to contribute in various ways to the cause of John Henry Newman’s beatification and canonization.


The association fosters the first purpose of research into and dissemination of knowledge of this great pastor and teacher through an annual conference, this year being held on Aug. 3-5 at the University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein, Ill. The theme of the conference is Newman in the 21st century. Further information on the Venerable John Henry Newman Association is available at its Web site, www.udallas.edu/newman.

What I have said about the association also applies to the National Institute of Newman Studies (N.I.N.S.), located in Pittsburgh, Pa., with whom the association is closely allied. N.I.N.S. is dedicated solely to promoting the study and spreading the knowledge of the life, influence and work of the Venerable John Henry Newman. The institute accomplishes this mission by maintaining the Newman Research Library, sponsoring the Newman Scholarship Program and publishing the Newman Studies Journal.

The Venerable John Henry Newman Association and the National Institute of Newman Studies thanks America for this opportunity to distinguish ourselves from the Cardinal Newman Society.

Edward J. Enright, O.S.A.
Villanova, Pa.

Moral Obligation

The March 6 issue of America (Iraq: Exit or Not?) presented differing opinions by George Lopez and Gerard Powers. I have long advocated the position of Lopez: I believe that current U.S. policy in Iraq is morally indefensible.

Powers argued his points well, and I considered his stance carefully. Of course we have a moral responsibility to the people of Iraq. That is a heavy weight on the consciences of Americans (if they follow what is taking place in that country). At the very least, America must foot the bill for rebuilding the country, since our military ruined it. But the children killed, the families broken, the lives destroyedhow can that ever be made right? That is why so many Americans have told Mr. Bush: Not in our name....

But Powers’s reasoning fails when he appears to argue that keeping the U.S. military in Iraq will settle the moral obligation we have. The presence of the U.S. military there is the biggest problem. The problem is not fixed by those who caused it.

But, thank God, there are Americans even now who selflessly are discharging part of our moral responsibility to Iraq. Others helping to repay our debt are the Christian Peacemaker Teams. Tom Fox, recently murdered in Iraq, was one of these. Independent journalists are also helping, because they get out the stories from the ground we would otherwise not know. All of these, and no doubt there are others, are helping the Iraqi people in truth, and thus assisting with our moral obligation.

But the military? Not so.

Carol LeClair
Falls Church, Va.

Sterile Counterfeit

I am writing in response to Higher Standards, by Dean Brackley, S.J. (3/6). I confess to having approached what I assumed to be yet another defense of social justice as the primary message of the Gospel with sad resignation. But Father Brackley’s use of a quotation from John Paul II’s Ex Corde Ecclesiae to lend papal support for such a position was cynical in the extreme.

It was cynical because, as Father Brackley surely knows, Ex Corde was written precisely to counter attempts at U.S. Catholic colleges to separate humanist social and political concerns from the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Catholic Church as a way of passing off such concerns as the fullness of the Gospel. In fact, several administrators and theologians at prominent Jesuit institutions have openly scoffed at Ex Corde Ecclesiae and dismissed it as an unwelcome, repressive intrusion into their academic freedom.

I had an experience recently that illustrated once again just how deeply Father Brackley’s version of the social gospel has taken root in Jesuit higher education. On a mission trip with some of my high school students, I had the opportunity to accompany one of the seniors on his college visit to a Jesuit university. The very personable and well-spoken student guide who led the tour enthusiastically passed on to the prospective students and their parents the recruiting message in which she had been formed. She was quick to point out as we walked along that there is a Zen prayer room on campus, but she uttered not a word about the Catholic chapel, even though at one point we were standing outside of it and the daily Mass was being celebrated as she spoke. There were at least a dozen invocations of the Jesuit commitment to social justice, but only one mention of the fact that it is a Catholic university; that, of course, was followed by the proviso that in spite of this there are several opportunities to experience different religions and spiritualities.

This is the real fruit of precisely the state of affairs following more than 30 years of the emphasis on social justice at the expense of the fullness of the faith: the Gospel of Jesus Christ without Jesus Christ. It is ample proof of the sad fact that attempts to separate social justice from the Creed, the sacramental life, prayer and the Christian moral life of which it is an organic part have created a secular, sterile counterfeit of true Catholicism. In this light, the error of Father Brackley’s subtitle to his article (Universities can help the church recover its voice) is glaringly obvious. Ex Corde was written to remind U.S. colleges forcefully that rejecting the church in the name of academic freedom is neither particularly free nor academic, and to call us all to recognize once again that no Catholic college (or religious order) can begin to speak with the voice of the church when it is so deeply estranged from its heart.

Marc Lenzini
Denver, Colo.

Huge Difference

Thank you for the editorial Hope for Haiti (4/3). You present the possibility of a hopeful future by urging the attention of the new Haitian leadership, the renewed assistance of the United States and the continued support of the United Nations and the international community.

But there is more that can be done. Individuals and their congregations in North America have quietly provided material and spiritual support to the Haitian people for many years. Now is the time for us to renew this effort and get more churches, schools and individuals involved. As people called to serve the poor, we have an opportunity to turn the face of our church toward the needs of this destitute country, just 90 minutes by plane from Miami. We can make a huge difference with small sacrifices.

One parish puts a simple wicker basket at the entrance to the church during Lent. The pastor asks his parishioners to give up one pizza topping or one order of French fries each day. In eight years over $1 million has passed through the basket to build houses, medical facilities and orphanages in Haiti. Other pastors have led similar efforts for Haiti. The international charity, Food for the Poor, Inc., has just announced a major effort, beginning in 2006, to build fishing villages around the coast of Haiti. The first village project is underway near Cap Haitien on the north coast.

With your editorial suggestions for Haitian and international action, and with the marshaling of resources by individuals, churches, schools and charities, we can all join to make a difference in the lives of our poor brothers and sisters in Haiti. Now is the time to join forceslet’s try!

Jim McDaniel
Springfield, Va.

Real Compassion

At first read, The Muslim Mystery by John F. Kavanaugh, S.J. (3/20), sounds very well thought out and logical. Who could argue with the facts presented? The author says we need to concentrate on our future path when dealing with the conflict in the Muslim world situation, rather than place blame. His recommendation is to get talking rather than get tough. There are parallels to our present situation and the fall of Communism, and how the cold war ended because of negotiations between President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. The author even confronts the question of why talk is seen as a weakness, and supports the idea of adversaries getting to know and understand each other’s viewpoint as a major factor in negotiation success.

The author acknowledges the difficulty of trying to negotiate with terrorists, knowing that they may or may not cooperate in discussions. It is altruistic to support the notion of respect for individual viewpoints, and to support sitting down and talking about those differences in an effort to end conflicts. However, is this idea just talk, or does it speak to the heart of the problem and represent a plausible solution? The author paints a utopian picture to strive for, with no specifics on how to get it accomplished.

I think the most interesting part of this article hides in the last paragraph. The author supports publicizing the outrage of Muslims who are against terrorism. Realizing that the media controls all of what we hear and know about what is going on in the world, I think the responsibility for beginning this new respect and dialogue rests in their hands. I think the next logical step in this attempt to have real compassion for different cultures is to persuade the media to represent the humanity of the two sides. This is the biggest challenge for our world today, as it would drastically change the focus of our news reporting away from sensationalism. Let us hope that the author’s message is heard, and that it is a catalyst for the development of concrete ways to put these ideas into practice.

Sharon Miller
Hatfield, Pa.

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11 years 11 months ago
I like to remember my son, Joe, as being on a peacemaker team in Iraq when he died on Nov. 18, 2004. His peacemaker team was not the one Carol LeClair refers to in her letter (4/24) commenting on “Iraq: Exit or Not?” (3/6). My son was an American soldier and also a gifted linguist. He could read, speak, write and translate Arabic with the best of them. He planned to go back to the Middle East to graduate school when he was discharged in spring 2005. He wanted to improve his language skills and learn more about the people and culture he loved. His dream was cut short when he was mortally wounded near Fallujah while returning from a patrol.

I am angry over the loss of my son. I am also angry over the tone of the LeClair letter. The American policy may or may not be flawed, but American soldiers are not the villains. I know because my son, Sgt. Joseph M. Nolan, U.S.A., with his unusual language ability, saved as many Iraqis as he did Americans before Iraqis killed him.


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