Greater Vigilance

I write as the director of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. In the April 2 issue of America I came upon the letter to the editor (The Divide) about a particular Theology on Tap presentation in Covington, Ky., on the topic of homosexualitya presentation that the letter writer found to be appalling. In the letter he attributed sponsorship of the program to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. I am writing to clarify: Theology on Tap is not sponsored by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, but is orchestrated by young adults who generously give of their time developing programs they hope will attract and edify other young adults. The letter writer also expressed the hope that his experience was not typical. This particular program was, thankfully, an exception, not the norm, for Theology on Tap, which provides a unique and valuable outreach to young adults in the archdiocese. Although I was not present at the session, one of the young adult organizers assured me that the leadership was also dismayed by the talk and that the incident has prompted greater vigilance in screening potential speakers. It would be a shame if Theology on Tap were to get an undeserved black eye from this one incident.

Sean Reynolds
Cincinnati, Ohio

No Way Connected

Perhaps the Current Comment Novartis Versus India (4/2) might better have been titled India Versus India. One wonders why India, given the prodigious talent of Indian scientists and engineers, does not have a proprietary (ethical) pharmaceutical industry, yet can create generic medicines that meet or exceed the efficacy of products manufactured in the United States, Israel or Europe. The reason is simple and applies to countries around the globe. In those areas in which India provides intellectual property protection (like software), India excels. In those areas where a vestige of the British colonial system survives (banking), India fails to deliver for its populace.

It is a difficult imperative for the liberation-minded Jesuits to swallow, but respect for the dignity of the individual sometimes entails respect for the intellectual property that an individual has created. That intellectual property can be a snippet of software code, a pop song or jingle, or a novel method of attacking the molecular biology of myeloid leukemia.

Novartis’s profit margins and return on equity are comparable with other high-quality U.S. and European companies; its chairman is paid appropriately; and an enormous portion of its after-tax profit is rolled back into research and development. Citing the pricing of Glivec as an obvious and unclever red herring, what is troubling is that you fail to mention that Novartis has slashed the price of Coartem, an effective medicine for the treatment of malaria, to a level that will benefit millions in sub-Saharan Africa.

In no way am I connected with Novartisnot a shareholder, employee, consultant, stakeholder, etc., etc.

Jack Walton
Short Hills, N.J.

Spatial and Hidden

Terry Golway’s call for a long overdue apology for slavery, Cleansing the Soul( 4/2), still gives me pause. Although an apology could cleanse our national soul, it might end up sweeping too much off our national, collective conscience.

African-American Catholics are not especially poor, but from place to place they can be small in number, having been historically limited in where they might live. They are often forced to keep up churches and schools originally built by large, immigrant communities who abandoned everything in a mad dash to whiter ground. The American church received immigrants already formed as Catholics. Coming out of slavery, many African-Americans sought to join the church, but did not find a great welcome. (Native people may have their own issues with us as well.)

Now a subtle, new racism is emerging with the importation of seminarians from other parts of the world. Who gets assigned to the inner city? African priests. Because they are experts in inner-city ways? Or because of their skin color? African-Americans are first of all American. That often gets lost.

Before we apologize for our guilt over slavery, it might be better for us to address the spatial and hidden racism that still keeps white and black Catholics living apart from each other.

Michael Mulhall, O.Carm.
Chicago, Ill.

Memorable Expressions

Three cheers for the article The Most Infallible Sign, by James Martin, S.J., (4/2) about joy and humor in the Christian life. I do have one quibble, or rather, an opportunity to promote one of my favorite Catholic authors. Father Martin attributes to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., the phrase joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God. While I commend Teilhard for repeating it, the line was first coined by Léon Bloy, a now-obscure 19th-century French writer. Bloy had a particular charism for pithy, memorable expressions of profound insight and, strangely enough, a charism for having his words attributed to others. I can think of no other modern Catholic writer with whom this happens more frequently. Part of the reason for this is that Bloy often manifested a supernatural vitriol that made St. Jerome look restrained, and people tend to keep their distance from him. He once explained guilelessly, but also charmingly, that my anger is the effervescence of my pity.

The most ubiquitous example of this misappropriation is the line, There is only one sadness, and that is for us not to be saints. It has been quoted so frequently that it has become cliché, but when a source is given, it is usually Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory. In fact they are the final words of Bloy’s masterpiece, La Femme Pauvre, a novel that was instrumental in the conversion of the painter George Rouault as well as of the philosophers Jacques and Raïssa Maritain (who asked Bloy to be their godfather).

I would be filled with joy if somebody with more resources than myself would reprint this 19th-century classic, whose English translation is in the public domain, so that it might gain a new audience.

Nicholas Lombardo, O.P.
Cincinnati, Ohio

10 years 3 months ago
I continue to maintain an open mind concerning the "new" editorial policy following the dismissal of Thomas Reese as Editor-in-Chief. However,your April 2, 2007, Editorial, "Washington and Schools" has challanged my hope that you will continue to print more than one side of an issue.

This editorial contains a not-so-veiled reference to the lack of benefits granted to private (Catholic) schools under the No Child Left Behind Act.I would have expected some reference to the serious constitutional issues associated with granting aid to religious schools. It has been my long-standing view that only when Catholic elementary and secondary schools are governed by democratically elected boards-and not advisory boards- will the constitutional infirmities be lessened. Higher education has led the way here but parochial schools appear unwilling to follow.

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