I have read numerous articles in America on the war in Iraq. These articles have been well written and based on fact and Catholic teachings. None supported the war. In the Dec. 24 issue, an article by John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., continued the fine journalistic tradition of the magazine. Three pages later I found a full-page ad to recruit military chaplains.
Such magazine advertisements serve as more than notices to priests. They say something about the validity of war. The issue of military chaplains is a complicated one that would be a good topic for America to investigate and report.
I doubt if the ad in America changes the opinion of any editor of the magazine, but it gives a mixed message to its readers. Accepting money from special interest groups, in this case the military, carries a message beyond the ad. I hope America will reconsider its policy of accepting money through advertising from any branch of the U.S. military.
Patricia McCarthy, C.N.D.
The interview with Klaus Dietz, S.J., “Christ and Secular Sweden” (12/24), by Jim McDermott, S.J., made me check the map, thinking for sure we must be in Sweden! Youngsters leaving the church, immigrants arriving but later buying into another Gospel (here we call it the American dream)—we have it all here in the States. Individualism there, as here, must be countered one heart at a time.
(Rev.) Fred Close
In “Church Teaching and My Father’s Choice,” (1/21), John J. Hardt invites us to ask big questions. By using his father as an example, he puts a face on the questions, but he also makes it difficult to criticize his argument without seeming heartless.
But his article seems to steer us rhetorically toward answers that bring us another step closer to what John Paul II called a culture of death. Perhaps in future articles he can ask questions that invite us to build up the culture of life. They could be questions inviting us to courage in the face of possible future failing of mind and body, encouraging answers in which unconditional love of parents takes for granted ensuring their care even in the face of personal heartache or recognizing that part of parents’ responsibility to God in their twilight years is to teach their children to live such love by letting them practice it on their parents.
(Rev.) Thomas Schliessmann
Simple but Elegant
I found it somewhat unsettling that John J. Hardt’s “Church Teaching and My Father’s Choice” (1/21) needed to be written at all. It seems that these end-of-life issues are becoming more complex when they need not be. Do we all need to become moral theologians to make family decisions such as these?
My Catholic education took place in the 1940s and 50s, when the rather simple but elegant guide was that “extraordinary” means did not have to be used to prolong life. Ordinary people like me can understand and make these distinctions. The church need not worry, because people like me can also understand the clear difference between allowing someone to die naturally and euthanasia.
A few years ago, when my mother was in the terminal stage of Alzheimer’s after a long decline, she was unconscious and could no longer be fed. My mother had much the same religious outlook John Hardt’s father has. When I was asked about a feeding tube, I said no, because I thought that was an “extraordinary” means at that stage. Would that decision now be deemed inappropriate?
Silver Spring, Md.
Good News, Bad News
I found “The Conversion of Tony Blair,” by Austen Ivereigh, (1/7) disappointing. In general, the article did a good job describing Blair’s background, interests in Catholicism and the complexities of his becoming a Catholic as the British prime minister and, now, a former one.
But the problem was the use of the word “convert” as a noun and a verb about Tony Blair and others who are received into full communion. This word carries ominous overtones of triumphalism and communicates the notion that we are the “one, true church” and those other churches are “less” than we are. The author never intended such triumphalism, yet the word remains.
Moreover, the U.S. Bishops’ National Statutes for the Catechumenate (No. 2) reads: “The term ‘convert’ should be reserved strictly for those converted from unbelief to Christian belief and never used of those baptized Christians who are received into the full communion of the Catholic Church.”
Personally, I find the word to be an oxymoron, for I fail to grasp how Christians can “convert” to something they already constitute—the body of Christ.
While the word “convert” may seem like a minor point, it treats our brothers and sisters in Christ as at best inferior to us Catholics. At worst, it scorns their baptism. Yet I find great hope in the fact that we do not rebaptize and that we celebrate this commonality.
Jay Freel Landry
South Bend, Ind.
The Almighty Dollar
“American Catholics in the New Gilded Age,” by Daniel J. Morrissey, (1/7) is a great commentary on the state of the culture in the United States these days. It shows an epidemic of lying and dishonesty in the areas of economics, banking, Wall Street and the mortgage industry to boost housing values artificially so that investors can make greater profits. Greed and materialism are being exalted to new levels. It seems there are new meanings in economic affairs to the saying that “the end justifies the means!”
Justices for All
Daniel J. Morrissey writes in “American Catholics in the New Gilded Age” (1/7) that the Bush administration has only these tangible achievements: “its tax reductions and deregulatory schemes.” I disagree. Two tangible and significant achievements of this administration are the appointments of Justice Roberts and Justice Alito. The expectation that George W. Bush would get to appoint one or more justices to the Supreme Court was the main reason I voted for him.
A Prophetic Voice
Archbishop George Niederauer’s “Flannery O’Connor’s Religious Vision” (12/24) was a wonderful gift to subscribers. It was encouraging to read his reminder that even though O’Connor died during the Second Vatican Council, she already knew what the council would proclaim: that the church is the body of Christ, the people of God; that laypeople are its flesh and blood; and that the clergy and its religious orders are its servant-leaders. So many of us ordinary Catholics long to hear our spiritual leaders express the spirit and vision of the Second Vatican Council.
I also wish that Flannery O’Connor were alive today to write of Jesus’ saving action among us now, as people of faith try so desperately to counter corporate greed, high-level political corruption and increasing poverty and injustice. But Flannery O’Connor left us with more than enough evidence to believe that as we make Jesus present in the world, we shall overcome.
Fair Lawn, N.J.