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May 21, 2007

Understanding the Journey

To Embrace the Other, by Thomas P. Rausch, S.J. (4/16) speaks with clarity and hope. The title itself is hopeful: To Embrace the Other, not To Embrace the Self, which seems to be the problem at times.

Cardinal Walter Kasper is right on target when he says, Either the ecumenism of the future will be a spiritual ecumenism or it will cease to be. Recommending a new elementary vocabulary toward this spiritual ecumenism will help a greater number to understand that journey and why it is good for all concerned. We must remember that Christ is the center and that we best carry out Christ’s mission by calling, inviting, encouraging and challenging one another.

Sometimes the gap between differences seems impossible to close, but when the conversation turns to Jesus and what he was about, it does not seem great at all.

Leonard Marie Lichinchi, C.S.J.
Brentwood, N.Y.

Not Normative

I am very perturbed by The Law and Chastity, by Robert E. Rodes Jr., (4/9) and surprised to find it in America. I have always considered chastity a gift of the Holy Spirit, flowing forth from the graces and charisms of the sacraments of holy orders and marriage. As a psychiatrist, I know chastity is not normative for us sinners (all adult human beings), but always a virtue nourished in the sacraments and through God’s grace in our life. Law will not change this. And, as the author indicates, he discusses a catalogue of curiosities. But the mere fact that an action may be legal does not make it moral. Remember the 100 years of Jim Crow laws and righteous lynchings or the laws justifying torture, for which our current attorney general argues. What about the legal fiction of companies being persons, or the special laws written for company C.E.O.’s to get their pensions while thousands of long-term employees at United Airlines were robbed legally by bankruptcy courts of their hard-earned pensions. And of course the death penalty is still on the books. Aren’t these curiosities pervasive in our current laws? I’d expect America to address issues of social justice perverted by our system of laws. So I do not look to any country’s laws to live the commandment to love God and your neighbor as yourself.

Mary Margaret Flynn, M.D.
San Carlos, Calif.

Definition of Morals

I read with great interest The Law and Chastity by Robert F. Rodes Jr. (4/9). While I agree with his assertion that mores of chaste behavior seem to have completely eroded in the United States, and that there was a time when general rules of civility were in place, I take exception to his idea that the courts are solely responsible for the immodest way we dress, speak and tolerate our neighbor’s conduct. On the contrary, I would offer that the media (movies, television, music, the Internet) have contributed much more pressure than lawsuits on the way children (and adults) move through American society.

At any time one can listen to explicit song lyrics on the radio and view the accompanying bump and grind video on MTV, or pick up a magazine with 101 Sex Tips at the grocery store. Shock jocks prevail on morning airwaves. Mainstream television is full of adults behaving badly on so-called talk shows or reality programs. There are few models of decorum on any of the 500 satellite television channels available 24 hours a day. Don’t get me started on the movies!

Combined with this, there has been a profound shift in the way in which children are raised in the United States, and in fact, in how we define family. No longer are there stigmas attached to adolescent pregnancies, non-married couples or singles adopting children and the like. Many (not all) parents do not take the time to focus exclusively on the raising of their children, which includes the foundations of moral teaching, like the concept of chastity.

Finally, I cannot agree with Rodes that we can legislate morality. Whose definition of morals do we use? And from what era in our history? It was not too long ago that a divorced public school teacher would find herself out of a job, and even nowadays would have a hard time being hired in a Catholic school.

Michelle D. Myers
Beaverton, Ore.

Democratically Elected

Your editorial Washington and Schools (4/2) has challenged 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 longstanding view that only when Catholic elementary and secondary schools are governed by democratically elected boardsand not advisory boardswill the constitutional infirmities be lessened. Higher education has led the way here, but parochial schools appear unwilling to follow.

Leo J. Jordan
West Orange, N.J.

Rigid Schemata

The reprimand by Patrick J. Boyle, S.J., (Letters, 4/9) of James T. Bretzke, S.J., (3/26) rests on two assumptions, both of which, in my opinion, are questionable.

First: that Father Bretzke’s article is contradicted by several encyclicals as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Upon careful reading, I respectfully submit that the passages referred to can be interpreted more favorably. Therefore, more appropriate than a reprimand would be the Ignatian injunction: Every good Christian is to be more ready to save his neighbor’s proposition than to condemn it (Spiritual Exercises, No. 22).

Second, and more important: even if a contradiction could be proved unquestionably, Father Boyle’s reasoning implies the assumption that papal encyclicals and the catechism are both the full and the only authentic sources of Catholic moral teachingpaying no attention to the church fathers, moral theologians and the sensus fidelium, from which sources Father Bretzke’s explanations have plenty of support. Reinforcing the authoritativeness of the latter sources, let me quote just one authority: As the people of God we are the Church.... Faith in the Church, as the Second Vatican Council teaches, demands that we re-examine certain excessively rigid schematafor example, the distinction between the teaching Church and the learning Church must take into consideration that each of the baptized participates, albeit at his own level, in the prophetic, priestly, and kingly mission of Christ (John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, No. XXVII).

It seems that Father Bretzke had every right to propose his approach as one acceptable in the church.

Edmund F. Kal, M.D.
Fresno, Calif.

Moral Scrutiny

Msgr. Robert W. McElroy is correct in every aspect of his analysis in Why We Must Withdraw From Iraq (4/30). While George Weigel and Michael Novak might be credibly characterized as Catholic lite on the just-war criteria as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is difficult to understand why the American bishops, after an initial complaint, have been so uninvolved in the necessary moral scrutiny of this disastrous war. The U.S.C.C.B. seems more concerned with liturgical detail than it is with the morality of warfare in 2007. Fear of accusations of political partisanship is not a justification for continued silence.

Robert M. Rowden, M.D.
San Rafael, Calif.

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