Syndicated Columnist

Reading the tongue-in-cheek-but-with-a-punch column by Jim McDermott, S.J., (4/9) had me laughing out loud, as it resurrected a personal memory of my beginning writing days back in 1952.

I had written something, long forgotten from my memory, and sent it to Sign magazine, a respected Catholic publication. I do remember, though, that I included a note telling the editors something like I was a beginning writer and weren’t they lucky to get one of my first pieces. Practically by return mail, the article came back to me with a rejection slip. On the back of it an editor, no name, wrote bluntly to the point: Professional writing requires much practice.


I patched up my wounds, but somehow I knew that was the best advice I would ever be given. It is now 55 years and I’d guess about 10 million words later, published because of much practice thanks to that unknown editor. Could his name possibly have been Brother Mortimer F. X. Snerd? Thanks for the memory, Father McDermott!

Antoinette Bosco
Brookfield, Conn.

Expecting a Book

Yes, Father Kavanaugh, I did think your column (4/9) was a little nutty, but no more so than Father McDermott’s Of Many Things in the same issue. The latter, a series of rejection letters from a certain Jesuit brother, Mortimer F. X. Snerd (that’s right), identified by Father McDermott as the assistant to the editor of America, sounded straight-out tongue-in-cheek and quite funny reading, whereas you managed to confound me completely with your thoughts about body and soul, in the here and now as well as in the hereafter. More to the point, and to my shame, you reminded me of how much better acquainted I should be with the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Your statement that spiritual power...enables us to perform all the spiritual acts of love, freedom, rights claims, autonomy commitment, faith, hope or love begged your observation that followed in parenthesis: A full argument for this claim requires more than this column’s space. I’ll say!

So why are you sacrificing precious time and space writing incomplete and, for me, confusing arguments that you consider consoling thoughts? When can we expect a book authored by you, exploring these important issues? I’d welcome it.

Marion Ragsdale
New York, N.Y.

Real Concerns

I recently returned from a visit to El Salvador. While I was there, the Vatican’s notification about Jon Sobrino, S.J., became public. Your treatment of the Sobrino matter clearly does not convey the concerns I heard in El Salvador (Signs of the Times 3/26).

If you read the notification from a theological perspective, it seems much ado about nothing. But read from a political perspective it is quite something else. The notification also has to be understood in light of the words of the Archbishop of San Salvador. The archbishop announced before the Vatican acted that Father Sobrino was to be silenced.

That did not happen, but it was clear that this was the result hoped for by the archbishop. The notification also surfaced conveniently just before the meeting of the Latin American bishops in Brazil, sending a message to them that the theology of liberation was not a topic for discussion. Father Sobrino understands that this Vatican action is just one more part of a lengthy attack on the theology of liberation and the Jesuits associated with it.

During my time in El Salvador, I met people concerned about keeping open a health clinic, others desperate for food and shelter and women yearning for meaningful work. I did not run into anyone concerned about whether Jesus knew he was God while still in his mother’s womb. I must have been asking the wrong people.

Tom Howarth
Washington, D.C.

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10 years 9 months ago
Msgr McElroy begins his discussion as to why the war in Iraq is not justified by saying that the "just cause" argued by the administration is "tranformational democratization." Rather, I believe, it is the prevention of wholesale slaughter of Sunni's by Shiites, and Shiites by Sunni's. This is certainly a just cause. Fuirther, America's intention in this war is now exactly that, namely, the prevention of the slaughter of innocent human lives.

I agree with Msgr. McElroy that we need to do everything to initiate dialogue and negotiation, and that the question regarding the "likelihood of success" is uncertain.

John McCarthy


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