Values and Priorities

Regarding Curbing Medical Costs, by Daniel Callahan (3/10): We already have medical care rationing, and it is determined by who has the money.

Countries that have a universal health care system address the rationing issue in a basically ethical way. They do not let market forces that at present rule our health care systems decide who deserves to suffer and die and who does not.


If we can fund the fiasco of the Iraq occupation, we can fund decent health care. It is all about our values and priorities, our ability to question the lies and our courage to speak out.

Elaine Tannesen

Woodinville, Wash.

Tenable Theology

In his review of my book, Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church (3/10), the many kind things Richard Gaillardetz says about the book take up most of the space, and for all of these statements I am grateful. Unfortunately, with one devastating sentence, he takes away as much as he has given when he says, I have to confess a deep frustration with the shoddy argumentation that is marshalled in defense of many of his proposals. My problem is that he then gives only three examples of shoddy argumentation, and none of the three is convincing.

First, he says that I state that the Ascension is a nonessential truth. What I do say is that the fact that Jesus, at the end of his time on earth, returned to his Father is an essential truth, but that the particular means by which he did so (ascending vertically from the earth?) are not essential.

Second, he says that I appeal to a secular parliament as a model for church governance and that a more fruitful path would be to speak of conciliarity, collegiality and synodality. I do speak of conciliarity, collegiality and synodality, but in the chapter he refers to I make the important point that these terms will remain beautiful but empty unless we give them concrete form in specific, though imperfect, structures. Conse-quently I suggest some such structures, though I do not use the term secular parliament and I specifically reject the idea that the church could function as a liberal democracy.

Third, his main example concerns the fact that I question the necessity of the churchs teaching on infallibility, that I refer to infallible statements when Vatican I spoke instead of acts of judgment and that I falsely presume that dogmatic statements are unchanging. I freely acknowledge that Richard Gaillardetz is a far better theologian than I will ever be, but I have difficulties with these ideas. Surely infallible judgments are expressed through infallible statements. Is this not what Pastor Aeternus itself says? Surely, also, if doctrines can develop, the prohibition of any discussion on the ordination of women is out of place.

When I first heard the news that a theologian of standing had reviewed my book, I was delighted and hoped to learn much from the review. While again grateful for the many good things said, I have to add that I am left disappointed.

(Most Rev.) Geoffrey Robinson

Enfield, N.S.W., Australia

From the Pews

Regarding Lessons From an Extraordinary Era, by Roger Haight, S.J. (3/17): Father Haight is correct in assessing the next steps in determining how to make our faith understandable to the modern church, as well as enabling us to relate this to others in an ever-changing world. But this is made more difficult by our churchs movements to return to a more ritualized liturgical experience. This liturgical experience is how we, the laity, experience theology. When that theology does not speak to us even when we are both listening and desiring to experience God, one can see how many become frustrated and eventually disinterested.

Michael Anthony

York, Pa.

On the Mountaintop

Thank you for addressing the issue of mountaintop removal (editorial, King Coal, 3/3). This is a very serious issue that many people who live in the Appalachian region contend with every day, but it is generally not recognized on the national level. Education and awareness are essential to addressing the issue and beginning the process to save and reclaim our land and people.

Dianna Dickins

Morgantown, W.Va.

Failed Leadership

I was disappointed by the unfounded conclusion in your editorial Lost Sheep (3/17) that the decline in religious participation represented in the Pew Forum study is proof enough of catechetical failure in the past two generations. It is also a failure of leadership to assign blame instead of encouraging solutions.

Moreover, it does not follow from the research that catechetical methods are to blame for the decline in religious participation. Evangelical and nondenominational communities, which are increasing their membership, are using methods developed in Catholic catechetical programs like the adult catechumenate and youth ministry. What these communities do differently is outreach, evangelization and mystagogy.

The decline in participation in mainstream churches and ecclesial communities is a cultural phenomenon brought on by many factors. The approach that John Paul II suggested was a new evangelization, not a new catechesis.

Your admonition against internecine squabbles over Catholic identity should have been reflected in a reluctance to assign blame and accuracy in analyzing the study.

Andrew J. Russell

Director of Religious Education

St. Mary and St. Joseph Parishes

Appleton, Wis.

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10 years 6 months ago
I completely agree with Andrew Russell's comments about not blaming catechetical methods for the decline in religious participation. If people experienced meaningful liturgy that truly encouraged full, conscious participation; if people experienced outreach and mission in their church community; and if people experienced leaders who served, then religious participation may have been different. Learning abstract doctrines does not form a believer!
10 years 6 months ago
The editorial "Lost Sheep" in the March 17 issue suggested that since roughly half of former Catholics (your term) now describe themselves as unaffiliated, the reason for their exodus might have been simply apathy: "A number of Catholics, if seems, have left not because they do not believe, but because they do not care." I think that's not true. Many who took Vatican II seriously, and were empowered and inspired by it, now face a stampede back to Trent, the return of hyperclericalism and the arrogant diminishment of intelligent, committed laypeople at exactly the time when they are most needed. They can be likened to spouses in an abusive marriage; when they finally and sadly leave, it is not because they don't care but because they care too much. They have been made homeless. Some find a home in another denomination; others will always think of themselves as Catholic but choose not to subject themselves (or their checkbooks) to the control of those who do not have their best interests at heart. It is not the sheep who are lost.


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