No Simple Answers

The editorial Amnesty and Abortion (10/29) raises difficult questions. I agree that we should continue to reach out to those with whom we disagree. But I think it is incorrect to say that Amnesty Inter-national adopts a utilitarian calculus.

It is a murky world in which we work, and there is no simple answer here. But more respect and response to women who have been raped is called for.


The right to privacy, unwanted pregnancy or reproductive rights are not issues here. It is the treatment of women in a most horrible situation where no choice is perfect. I do not see Amnestys position as troubling, but one of utmost concern for individual women in the most difficult imaginable circumstances.

Most of us will never be in a position to experience such violence against women or confront its results. Amnesty International should be supported in this instance. I certainly will continue to send my support to Amnesty International as they fight for the rights and dignity of women in the third world.

Joseph J. Koechler

Ormond Beach, Fla.

Called and Gifted

In A Struggle for the Soul of Medicine (11/05), Myles N. Sheehan, S.J., reviews the many challenges that confront medical education as it tries to confer the highest qualities of the profession upon its students. The soul of the practice of medicine lies in how we care for our patients. Our Catholic concepts of virtue and vocation are powerful guides to those of us called to care for patients and should direct us to the soul of our practice of medicine.

Embracing what we do as vocation and cultivating virtues are important for the physician of faith. St. Benedicts admonition is a bold testament to this: Before all, and above all, attention should be paid to the care of the sick so that they shall be served as if they were Christ himself. When physicians use their talents to the utmost to care for others, guided by virtues, the Christian concept of person informs the physician-patient relationship, and that relationship becomes one of love. At the same time we realize the great blessing inherent in the call to serve.

Andre F. Lijoi, M.D.

York, Pa.

Beyond the Hospital Door

I enjoyed reading A Struggle for the Soul of Medicine, by Myles N. Sheehan, S.J. (11/05). Appearing as it did in the same issue as Jim McDermotts perceptive review of Sicko, it made me wonder if the soul of modern medicine stops at the consulting room or hospital door. Medical education in the context of social justice involves more than clinical skills. I suggest that it should include a preferential focus on the poor and underserved, given that the greatest burden of illness in any society falls on the lowest levels. It should also provide students with a broader appreciation of medicine in the community, including preventive and public health, and early low-tech but affordable interventions. Yet this aspect of medicine is too often undertaught or given short shrift.

Michael W. Ross, M.D.

Houston, Tex.

Political Calculus

Regarding Bishops on Citizenship, by Matt Malone, S.J. (11/5): I hope that this bishops document explicitly distinguishes between support for or opposition to some moral doctrine and my vote for some candidates policy. A vote can be cast in a political contest for any number of defensible reasons.

For example, in casting a ballot for a candidate, I may be supporting him or her as the best available candidate, voting against opponents, casting a protest vote against all major candidates, or supporting or opposing some major political party or coalition.

Similarly, I may vote for or against specific policy proposals for several defensible reasons. A proposed policy may aim to support a good moral principle but still be a bad policy.

For example, a specific policy proposal aimed at outlawing or restricting abortion may still be a bad proposal and deserve to be defeated. Everything depends on what the proposed policy says and the particular context in which it is proposed.

The bishops should explicitly acknowledge that neither they nor anyone else can rightly deduce solely from how I vote whether I adhere to Catholic moral doctrine.

Bernard P. Dauenhauer

Watkinsville, Ga.

Into Great Silence

I am always interested to read about contemplative prayer in your magazine, so I was especially delighted to read In Mystic Silence, by William Johnston, S.J. (11/19), on the practice of Zen and other forms of quiet prayer. His description of praying with a mantra was very familiar to me since I have been practicing this way of prayer for more than 30 years. There are Christian meditation centers in more than 25 countries, and more than 1,000 weekly meditation groups meet in churches, homes, prisons, schools and places of business. Twice each day, thousands of individual meditators around the world follow this selfless way of prayer marked by silence, stillness and simplicity.

Gregory Ryan

Wall, N.J.

Virtue Civics

Regarding A Catholic Call to the Common Good, by Alexia Kelley and John Gehring (10/15): There is more to the concept of the common good than a sum of social benefits. It is also a concept of balance between the order of things and the order of persons, a balance based on the dignity of the human person.

Todays American culture speaks a language of individualism, a distortion of the civic republican language upon which our country was founded. James Madison felt that civic virtue in American citizens would allow them to elect men of equal civic virtue as their leaders and actively to participate in political life, but somewhere along the road to territorial and economic expansion this vision of public virtue, this aristocracy of merit, was dimmed.

Utilitarian individualism is not the language we need to solve the problems of our relativized society today. As we prepare to elect new leaders, shouldnt we remember our Catholic worldview, which is based on our understanding of the Gospels and of the human person? Dont we have the duty to participate in civic life and to discern our choices carefully?

Alexis de Tocqueville worried that a democracy could easily atrophy because of citizen apathy. Madison emphasized the need for the citizens of the newborn republic with a democratic constitution to participate in the political process and thus to seek the common good. To preserve our rights as Americans now, isnt it our duty as people of God to speak publicly Catholicism, the language by which we live?

Mary Jo Harrington

Houston, Tex.

War No More

Regarding the editorial Thanking Our Soldiers (11/12): Lost in the fog of war are the civilian casualties, which number much higher than soldiers, by a ratio of 8 to 1. Civilians who suffer the horrors of war receive no honor. There are no parades or memorials for them. Their suffering and death are seldom included in our church prayers as we pray weekly for our troops in harms way. We should not forget that this collateral damage of war is done by marching armies.

If dioceses and parishes took the teachings of Jesus more seriously, we would actively encourage our young men and women to consider conscientious objection as an alternative to this immoral and illegal war. We can make war and those who fight in wars out to be honorable and heroic by our prayers. Our unconditional support for the troops could be another unintended anthem for sending our youth to a disastrous fate.

(Rev.) Rich Broderick

Cambridge, N.Y.

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