Called to Compassion

Regarding At the End of Life, by Thomas A. Shannon (2/18): Although not a theologian, doctor or hospice caregiver, I have been a primary decision maker for my mother, father and mother-in-law for end-of-life medical issues. In all three cases we came to a unanimous family decision to provide comfort and loving support but not to extend their lives through artificial means. This is what we feel they would have chosen. To have inserted a feeding tube at the end of their lives would have been a violation of their dignity. We are called first to compassion.

Elaine Tannesen


Woodinville, Wash.

Informed Reason

As a retired hospital chaplain, I welcome the sound reasoning and informed compassion of John J. Hardts Church Teaching and My Fathers Choice (1/21). It expresses what I have always considered to be the Catholic teaching on care of the sick, and which I have used myself as the basis of assistance to patients and families when they were faced with difficult end-of-life decisions. I will certainly recommend Professor Hardts article and pass it along to as many interested parties as I can.

(Rev.) Basil De Pinto

Piedmont, Calif.

Preaching Without Words

Thank you for Maurice Timothy Reidys An Ordinary Mystic (2/11) on the painter Alfonse Borysewicz. It is important for artists to preach with their talents and not simply repeat, copy and imitate over and over. Nor should we restrain religious art within the confines of what is pretty or beautiful. Just as there are parts of the Gospels that are beautiful and peaceful, there are also parts that are difficult and confusing. Mystery is hard to contain and express. I admire Borysewiczs work and his desire to preach the mystery through his art.

(Rev.) Arthur D. Mallinson

Lancaster, Tex.

Hope and Absence

In Saved by Hope (1/21), Gerald OCollins, S.J., is quite right to point out the surprising respect shown by Benedict XVI in his recent encyclical Spe Salvi for the Marxist thinkers Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, of the Frankfurt School.

Yet I find a name curiously missing from the encyclical and unremarked on by OCollinsnamely, Ernst Bloch, who was an academic star of the left at Tübingen during the popes purportedly disgruntled stint there as a professor. Even apart from his legendary teaching, Bloch was famous as the author of The Principle of Hope (1959), one of the greatest texts of Marxist humanism. Nevertheless, the name of this man who inspired so many to hope does not appear in the encyclical devoted precisely to that topic.

Perhaps the present slighting of Bloch can be rectified eventually. One of the interesting things about Spe Salvi is how this encyclical, with its honorable invocation of the two younger Marxist cultural philosophers, might turn out to be part of what one senses is the larger project of Benedicts own critique of the excesses of globalizing, free-market capitalism.

Joseph Masheck

New York, N.Y.

Help Wanted

Regarding Our Moral Duty in Iraq, by Gerard F. Powers (2/18), I have one thought about the moral issue of leaving the scene of our devastating invasion and occupation. Why not look for assistance in the place where the drama had its prelude? Since there is general agreement that some peacekeeping presence will be required for the foreseeable future, what about an independent force from the United Nations? The United States could share some of its military resources with those of other nations who might now be ready to assist the Iraqi people.

Frank Woolever

Syracuse, N.Y.

Pandoras Box

Gerard F. Powers asks what policies and strategies best serve the interests of the Iraqi people. His response assumes that this question has an answer. I submit that it does not.

I commend Mr. Powers for his desire to put the difficult problems we face into an ethical frame, but he has allowed his commitment to ethics to outweigh his understanding of the issues he discusses. The United States did not create the mess in Iraq, but our misguided politicians opened the Pandoras box of colonial map-making. Short of repealing the 20th century, I believe that there is no solution save a very long-term arrangement under U.N. supervision, and a divided territory with limited local rule in each area. Our responsibility is to produce a rapid transition and provide financial subsidies to restore services in education, medicine and law, as well as infrastructure. The laws to be enforced should respect human rights. The notion that we can repair the damage we caused is, in my view, unrealistic and fraught with dire consequences.

James M. Powell

Syracuse, N.Y.

Breaking News

The fundamental point made in Our Moral Duty in Iraq, by Gerard F. Powers (2/18), reminds me of the saying attributed to Colin Powell as we began the Iraq adventure, referring to the so-called Pottery Barn rule: You break it; you own it. Getting out or not getting outmaybe we need to begin by admitting that in fact, after all, the mess is ours.

John OSullivan

Chapel Hill, N.C

Best-Laid Plans

I appreciated Gerard F. Powerss Our Moral Duty in Iraq (2/18), but I think we need more focus on regional cooperation from other nations in the Middle East. A new isolationism will be bad for both our country and the Iraqi people, who deserve more from us. At the same time, a stubborn refusal to admit failure on our part will not give our regional partners confidence in us. It is troubling how little the plans of presidential candidates concerning the future of Iraq have factored into our electoral debates. Is this not our most pressing issue to resolve?

Katharine McLaughlin

Philadelphia, Pa.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.


The latest from america

Native American protestors hold hands with parishioner Nathanial Hall, right, during a group prayer outside the Catholic Diocese of Covington on Jan. 22, 2019, in Covington, Ky. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
The furor over a chance meeting between Catholic high school students and Native American protesters underscores the need to listen and learn from indigenous voices.
Marlene LangJanuary 23, 2019
The staggering parliamentary defeat for Prime Minister Theresa May, seen here leaving 10 Downing Street on Jan. 23, pushed the country even further from safe dry land. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
After the stunning defeat of Theresa May's exit deal, Scotland is looking anew at independence, and the U.K. government fears economic disaster.
David StewartJanuary 23, 2019
Michael Osborne, a film director, documents the damage from a mud slide next to his home in Los Angeles on Jan. 18, after three days of heavy rain. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
The conceit of California-as-disaster-movie is ridiculous. But maybe watching our fires and mudslides helps other states consider both their own fragility and their underlying strength.
Jim McDermottJanuary 23, 2019
A commitment to religious liberty demands that effort be devoted to resolving, rather than exacerbating, any real or apparent tension between religious obligation and civil duty.
The EditorsJanuary 23, 2019