November 26, 2007

Episcopal Advice

The report “Bishops on Citizenship,” by Matt Malone, S.J., (11/5) reminded me of what John F. Kennedy once said: “In my experience, all nuns are Democrats and all bishops are Republicans.” That axiom may be tested next year, since the Republicans seem likelier than the Demo-crats to nominate a Catholic for president. If Rudolph W. Giuliani becomes the Republican standard-bearer, it will be interesting to see whether conservative bishops attack him for his views on abortion and gay rights, not to mention his two divorces and disinclination to show up for Sunday Mass. My guess is that he will get a perfunctory slap on the wrist, followed by a deafening silence from the episcopacy. Conservative Catholics who attacked Kerry in 2004 seemed more inspired by the values of their pocketbooks than their prayer books.

(Rev.) Isaac McDaniel

Fairdale, Ky.

Political Gambles

“Bishops on Citizenship” (11/5) brought back bad memories from the last election, when many Catholics were made to feel they would be guilty of sin if they did not vote for someone who claimed to be pro-life. Already we are seeing something of that again. Some politicians must be snickering to think that it is so easy to win the Catholic vote; all they have to do is say they are pro-life.

I have concluded that pro-life and pro-choice are not meaningful expressions. Many who claim to be pro-life are only anti-abortion, and others who are pro-choice are not advocates for abortion. We have had a pro-life president for the past seven years, and certainly we have not developed a culture of life. On the contrary, we have had an unnecessary war with the killing of thousands of innocent people, torture, continued use of the death penalty and a lack of health care for children and the poor. And I challenge anyone to show me that abortions have become fewer or that women now live in a culture where they could choose not to have abortions.

Let no one say that abortion trumps all the other issues. We are not playing cards here. Human life, all life, needs to be attended to.

Lucy Fuchs

Brandon, Fla.

Fearless and Unapologetic

Regarding “Bishops on Citizenship,” by Matt Malone, S.J., (11/5): Because so many Catholics tend to vote on the single issue of abortion, I am uplifted by the recommendation that abortion not be used as a justification to ignore issues of peace and justice. This is a much-needed teaching. At the same time, I cannot help but question how it is that abortion represents “intrinsic evil,” while the killing of human beings during wars or through poverty leading to starvation of children and adults represents only the “church’s teaching on other matters.” How is the taking of innocent human life by the act of abortion different from the taking of innocent human life by means of war or poverty? At a time of criminal wars consciously and purposefully inflicted on hundreds of thousands of innocent people by our politicians, at a time of escalating corporate greed inflicting levels of poverty that threaten the survival of millions of our brothers and sisters, why is it that the voice of the church’s bishops is so timid in calling for political responsibility toward peace and justice?

When the recently beatified Franz Jägerstätter was a young man in Austria during World War II, he refused military service in the German army. Because of his faith, he refused to kill. For that he was jailed and executed. His fearless and unapologetic faith should be an example for all of us: for the bishops when they debate the final document, and for us regular citizens when we make our voting decisions. We must vote for the candidates who will work toward peace and justice, and not for those who will look to continue existing wars or start another war. Perhaps a third, or even a fourth candidate should become a serious option if neither of the primary candidates will satisfy this requirement.

Maria Krzeska, M.D.

Cincinnati, Ohio

Anglican Icon

In “Holy Men and Women” (11/29), Drew Christiansen, S.J., opens up our understanding of how diverse the cloud of witnesses truly can be. I was particularly pleased that he focused attention on the Anglican calendar and its saints from many different walks of life. I was puzzled, therefore, by the omission of Evelyn Underhill, an Anglican married laywoman and outstanding 20th-century student and writer about Western mysticism. While her natural bent was toward the cultivation of the interior life, her experience of Christ moved her toward peace advocacy in the years prior to the Second World War. She prayed, wrote, led retreats and served the poor while living a busy life in London. An icon for the laity, I would say.

Dolores R. Leckey

Washington, D.C.


Extra Credit

I found “High Taxes, Empty Desks,” by Terry Golway, (11/12) surprising. As a Catholic school board member and parent of three Catholic school children who has spent the last 10 years trying to “boost enrollment in all kinds of creative ways,” I find it unimaginable that anyone who recognizes the value of a Catholic education would not encourage some type of tax credit. We who use Catholic schools are saving taxpayers a huge amount of money. Even if we got credit only for what we spend per child, that would go a long way to further the efforts of those of us in struggling schools. With the decrease of vocations and increase in apathy when it comes to practicing our Catholic religion, all hands should be on deck to ensure the success of these institutions. I am afraid Mr. Golway sounds like so many of the parents I have met lately. They are interested in the education of their child at the middle and high school level, and maybe just for college preparation reasons. It makes me wonder if there is a true commitment to Catholic education in terms of the development of the child from the very start of his or her formation.

Meg Rogers

Garden City, N.Y.

Life Witness

Thank you for the deeply moving reflection by Virginia Lucey (“Comfort the Sorrowful,” 10/29) on coming to terms with the phenomenon of loved ones affected by clerical sexual abuse. I couldn’t help but be struck by the closing paragraphs, which brought it all back to the life witness of Jesus. Ms. Lucey writes that “Jesus never avoided discomforting situations. He was in the midst of them, listening with compassion and comforting the sorrowful.” Why is that so hard for us to understand? What idols are we so fearful of exposing to the light that we’d prefer to forsake the life witness of Jesus rather than to confront them honestly? And who benefits from such disingenuousness?

(Rev.) J. Michael Byron

St. Paul, Minn.

(57) Facing the Truth

“Of Many Things,” by Drew Christiansen, S.J., (10/29) is a perfect example why I subscribe to America. It was beautiful writing about a very painful subject that we all must face someday, the end of a parent’s life. What is really important in life: the individual human spirit and the fact that God is present in every one of us! Once we all can understand and accept this fundamental truth, the answers to all of the world’s problems become clear.

David Morris

Sea Girt, N.J.

(58) Medical Culture

I applaud the views presented by Myles Sheehan, S.J., in “A Struggle for the Soul of Medicine” (11/5). A parallel and growing concern is the medical environment in which young physicians will find themselves. In an increasing number of health care systems, countless words are spent upholding notions of “personalized care,” “patient safety,” “continuity of care” and “physician wellness,” but the real money is spent on all things efficient and all varieties of technology. In addition to training these young physicians how to care, perhaps some attention should be given to the cultures of medicine in which they will find themselves, and how they might survive and continue to thrive within them. Better yet, perhaps some of these young physicians, mentored well, will be inspired not only to practice patient-centered medicine but to become the new and needed leaders in health care reform.

Mary V. Clemency

Berkeley, Calif.

(59) Unsubstantiated Claims

In “Church Records and the Courts” (10/29), William W. Bassett says there is a “sea change taking place in jurisprudence in the United States concerning the rights of religious institutions.” While it is true that laws that many never expected to be applied to religious entities are now being applied, this is because of the religious organizations’ wrongdoing, not any change in the law.

Bassett argues that previously confidential documents are now being forced into the public. Yet if religious entities believed that their internal documents were privileged, they either received bad legal advice or have been deluding themselves.

Religious entities have been subject to neutral, generally applicable laws since the Supreme Court’s first free exercise case in the 19th century.

Bassett also recommends a system of purging files of “rumors, hearsay, anonymous notes, and unsubstantiated claims.”

Given the hierarchy’s record of rejecting legitimate clergy abuse survivors’ claims as “not credible,” one can only imagine what will be left in the employment files if “unsubstantiated claims” are the basis for purging. One need only review the recent case of the Jesuit priest Donald J. McGuire, who was just arrested by the federal authorities, to see the shortcomings of this advice. Parents sent letters of complaint about McGuire to the order in 1993, 1994, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003. Under Bassett’s system, if the Jesuits had engaged in an annual purging, they might well have deleted one of those claims after another as otherwise “unsubstantiated.”

Marci A. Hamilton

Princeton, N.J.

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