Corrections and Clarifications

Thank you for publishing the article “Human Bondage” (4/14), of which I am a co-author. I have received many positive responses to it. Because of an editorial error, however, which reversed my meaning, I need to correct and clarify an important point. Once victims of human trafficking are identified as such by U.S. authorities, they do become eligible to seek legitimate employment. This right to work is the benefit they universally cherish and want to implement most quickly.


Mary Ellen Dougherty, S.S.N.D.

U.S.C.C.B. Migration and Refugee Services

Washington, D.C.

I must request some correction of the statement attributed to me in my essay “Jewish Views of Other Faiths” (5/19). I never wrote that the Talmud is not authoritative in Jewish law. The best corrective would be the following: “The Babylonian Talmud, while authoritative in law, liturgy and theology, is far from the final word since the Talmud is an inchoate mass of various opinions, a work and a religion in the process of development. The final crystallization of laws, liturgy and theology came much later, especially in the massive law codes and in the final editions of the prayer books.”

Thank you for this important correction.

Rabbi Gilbert S. Rosenthal

Executive Director

National Council of Synagogues

Needham, Mass.

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

As I looked at the advertisement for military chaplains on the back cover of America (5/5), I had to wonder if your magazine was unwittingly presaging the future of priestly ministry.

If you look closely, you’ll see a wedding band on the left hand of the chaplain pictured.

Joseph J. McOscar

Greenwich, N.J.

Won’t Get Fooled Again

I was truly amazed at how the media, America included (“Benedict in America,” 5/12), has waxed so eloquent about the recent visit of the pope, citing his humility, his humanity and his pastoral image of the universal church. The real test is not what happens now, but when he returns to Rome and things get back to normal.

Translation: nothing will happen, because of the unwillingness and inability of the church to deal with the real issues, not the least of which is the question of human sexuality and how vital a role it plays in the lives of people, including priests. This is just one moral issue of which the church has made a muddle. As well-informed Catholics, we are neither fooled nor convinced.

Joe Sevenliss

Corona, Calif.

Hindering Clarity

The wise and measured reflections of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini (“Teaching the Faith in a Postmodern World,” 5/12) are a healthy challenge to theology’s engagement with the contemporary world, but I was surprised that his sketch of the postmodern mentality seemed less descriptive and clarifying than polemical and caricaturing. “Postmodernity” is one of those loaded words elastic enough to bear a wide range of associations, which is why it ought to be invoked with restraint.

In my teaching, I urge students to get beyond using political tags as reasons either to embrace or to dismiss certain approaches to discourse. I try to use the word “postmodern” in a neutral fashion, as simply a way to name the context in which we are presently trying to speak of God. Like any other, this context is fraught with ambiguity, and so it seems unhelpful to try to pin down the phenomenon of “postmodernity” with phrases like “distances itself from metaphysics,” or “a revolt against an excessively rational mentality” or “an anti-Roman complex.” No doubt such sentiments are alive and well in some quarters these days, but they do not define the present theological landscape.

Attempts at blanket definitions of what is postmodern do more to hinder clarity than to facilitate it.

(Rev.) J. Michael Byron

St. Paul, Minn.

Filioque Redux

I was amazed by “Please Stand for the Creed” (Letters, 5/19), which called for “adding a few simple lines to the creed” to ensure doctrinal fidelity from politicians. This demonstrates a lack of understanding of both the hierarchy and the Nicene Creed. The last time anything was added, it was three little words about the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father “and the Son.” That resulted in a perennial bone of contention among the faithful. Certainly respect for the historical statement of faith calls for something more than tacking on bulky doctrinal commentary just to show those pesky politicians.

Charles Kinnaird

Birmingham, Ala.

Defining Democracy

I sympathize with much of “Israel at 60” (Current Comment, 5/26), which quite rightly reminds readers of the needs, plight and rights of Palestinians. But the statement that Israel is not a democracy in the Western sense is ill-conceived and misleading. It seems to presume that all Western democracies have never had any problems with minorities, unlike Israel. Say again?

The United States has never mistreated its Native American, African-American, or Latino citizens? The French, British and Germans are not currently having problems dealing with their Muslim and Arab populations? None have ever persecuted their minorities?

Israel may not be a better Western democracy than the United States, England, France or Germany, but to say it is not one of us is to miss entirely the point of what defines Western democracies.

Eugene J. Fisher

Great Falls, Va.


Thomas G. Casey’s “Ireland’s Jewish Patron Saint” (5/26) is a lovely tribute to Ireland’s “fifth province,” where artistic and religious imagination join. Would that we in this country were able to manage this blend better! Not that we have been altogether bereft: consider writers like J. F. Powers and Flannery O’Connor, and theologians like William Lynch, S.J., and the Rev. David Tracy. But then, they’re Irish-Americans, which perhaps explains a fair amount.

Richard Cross

Bethesda, Md.

Res Ipsa Loquitur

While I have great respect for Msgr. Paul Turner, his “A New Roman Missal” (5/26) understates the impact the new liturgical translation is likely to have on those of us who are quite happy with the present Mass texts, especially the prayers and responses of the whole assembly. In fact, I believe one of the reasons for the long Vatican delay in promulgating the English translation of the Roman Missal is that they are hoping the passage of time will cool the passions of the so-called “liturgy wars.”

How will church leaders effectively preclude the use of the 1975 sacramentary? They will, of course, require the use of the new missal as of a certain date; but short of some sort of book burning, individual priests will be tempted to continue using some of the older texts with which they have become so familiar. And what is to prevent the assembly from doing the same?

I remember well the consternation experienced in the late 1960s by so many older priests who had to make such a huge shift from Latin to English. But there were very good reasons for those changes. I’m afraid I am among the many who are unable to see the good reasons for the proposed new changes.

Jack Feehily

Moore, Ok.

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