Letters

Good of the Church

My head shook in disbelief upon reading in The Rights of God’s People by Rev. Kevin E. McKenna (2/19). Canon 212.3 states that the faithful have the right and even at times the duty to manifest their opinion on matters that pertain to the good of the church and to make their opinion on such matters known to the rest of the faithful.

This is empty assurance in the face of the long and particularly recent trail of brilliant theologians and religious leaders who have either been silenced, demoted or excommunicated for expressing opinions on matters pertaining to the good of the church.

Tom French-Corbett
Moorestown, N.J.

Within the Church

The article by the Rev. Kevin E. McKenna on the rights Catholics have in the church (2/19) was good as far as it went. There are other rights that Catholics should havee.g., the right to financial accountability. The Code of Canon Law requires each parish to have a finance council, but, as recent news items about clerical malfeasance have reminded us, this requirement is honored in the breach rather than in the observance. I could tell you stories....

Another right Catholics should have is the right to have a say in who their pastors are. Had that right been accorded the laity, we might not have had the spectacle of pedophile pastors being shifted around from parish to parish to prey on new victims.

Another right Catholics should have is the right to follow their informed consciences, especially in the matter of the reception of the Eucharist.

To paraphrase the teaching of the 1971 World Synod of Bishops, a church cannot speak to the world of human rights unless it practices a respect for rights within the church.

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

Both Sides

I was disappointed by the praise for Jimmy Carter’s book PalestinePeace Not Apartheid (Of Many Things, 3/5). The main issue is that, since 1948, Israel has been fighting for its life. As a nation founded largely by concentration camp survivors, there was no mistaking the immediate assault on the newly formed state by armies of a number of Arab countries as another attempt to rid the world of its Jewish Problem. (And, as we all know, the church has not been innocent of anti-Jewish bias over the past 2,000 years.) Having been to Israel several times and having wondered if the restaurant where I was dining was going toat any momentbe blown up by a suicide bomber, it is difficult for me to be as one-sided as Jimmy Carter is in his assessment of the horrible violence that has beleagured this area for so many years. (Of course if you look with a long lens, Palestine has been the scene of widespread religious and nationalistic violence for many millennia.)

We walk a fine line here. There is such a thing as evil, as we who have parents who fought in World War II are certainly aware. There is also a needincumbent on us as Christiansto be sensitive to human suffering and compassionate. A comprehensive view of the Middle Eastern situation is not served by dumping on either Israel or the Palestinians. I believe Jimmy Carter’s book introduces an anti-Semitic frame of reference in his analysis of the situation that is patently unacceptable. And I am immensely disappointed in America for promoting a book that is blatantly anti-Israel in a situation where there are perpetrators and victims on both sides.

Jan Hollerbach
Fairfield, Conn.

Disguised as Religion

At Home With Religion, by Michael Sean Winters (3/12), offers a reflection on Barack Obama. Do not be deceived by Barack Obama’s chapter on religion. His faith, based solely on the content of this chapter from his book, could be summed up as secularity disguised as religion. When describing organized religion, he has nothing but scorn for the hypocrisy he finds there. He affirms religious views learned from his mother to describe his own. Here are three telling examples: organized religion too often dressed up closed-mindedness in the garb of piety, cruelty and oppression in the cloak of righteousness. Religion was an expression of human culture, she would explain, not its wellspring, just one of the many waysand not necessarily the best waythat man attempted to control the unknowable and understand the deeper truths about our lives. Religion was a phenomenon to be treated with a suitable respect, but with a suitable detachment as well.

Senator Obama has nothing good to say about organized religion and seems to be unaware of remarkable accomplishments of religious leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa, John Paul II, Albert Schweitzer, Oscar Romero or many, many others. He does not disclose an inkling of the mystical dimension of faith, and his own self-declared creed is somewhat limited. In his own words, There are some things that I’m absolutely sure aboutthe Golden Rule, the need to battle cruelty in all its forms, the value of love and charity, humility and grace. You could believe as much about a high school civics lesson. He joined the church to be one with a community so not to be alone in his search for meaning. I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death; rather, it was an active, palpable agent in the world. His witness included no sentiments to express his belief regarding a savior who died for the sins of humankind and then rose from the dead with the promise of bodily resurrection for all. Mr. Winters suggests that the senator’s theological content is not up to seminary standards but passable. My take is it is a masquerade for political ends, and although I hesitate to criticize anyone’s faith, the written content of this chapter is more a political position paper to garner votes than any expression of a deeply developed faith.

Ted Bergh
Cincinnati, Ohio

Conflict Resolution

Thank you very much for giving some much-needed coverage to the plight and challenge of our beloved state of Oaxaca (Criminals All? by Robert Joe Stout, 3/12). My wife and I lived and worked there, along with our two children, from 1993 to 2001. And, until the violent federal invasion on Oct. 29, 2006, we operated, through an international N.G.O. we founded, an educational and ecological community center.

Oaxaca is an effervescent, profoundly rich and beautifully diverse state and region. The plethora of different indigenous cultures bears testimony to wisdom cultivated over the ages. The current conflict started, and continues, not in isolation from historical events but rather because of them: the generational racism against the indigenous peoples, the abandonment of campesinos and their lands and correspondent massive migration, the heavy-handed tactics of local caciques, the violent and divisive presence of drug traffickers dressed in all kinds of uniforms and garb, the pervasive political corruption, the lack of investment in any kind of infrastructure or societal services by either government or business interests, and the presence of multilateral, international development interests in the guise of the Plan Puebla-Panama all serve to create a cauldron that has simmered, and bubbled over, for years.

This recipe can be found in many places across the globe. Unfortunately, in this respect Oaxaca is not unique. Only when we work across borders of all kinds to develop and implement policies and practices that take into account local self-determination and power-sharing, as well as respect for cultural diversity, environmental healing, fair trade practices and just relationships, will we witness a solution to the Oaxaca crisis that addresses the root causes and is a catalyst for reconciliation and healing, and serves as a template for conflict resolution in so many similarly afflicted communities around the globe.

Jim Petkiewicz
San Jose, Calif.

What Is Modern?

When the North America Free Trade Act was passed, many argued in its favor. A principal justification was that Nafta would somehow turn Mexico into a normal nation, in which organized political thuggery could no longer survive. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, we said, expecting that open markets make open societies. I wonder, after the near debacle of the recent presidential election and the murderous violence in Oaxaca, how many of us would say the same today? (SeeCriminals All? by Robert Joe Stout, 3/12.)

Good fences don’t make good neighbors and, apparently, neither does free trade. But Oaxaca isn’t modern Mexico, you say? What is? Nuevo Laredo?

Richard J. Salvucci
San Antonio, Tex.

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