The Democrats and Abortion
Debates will continue on the efficacy of criminalization as an antidote to the practice of abortion, but I agree heartily with John F. Kavanaugh, S.J. (“Dear Senator Obama,” 8/18) that it would be folly to put all our eggs in that one basket. I hope someone on Barack Obama’s staff will bring Father Kavanaugh’s article to his attention, and that he will respond favorably to the concerns expressed therein. I was heartened to learn that Senator Bob Casey, a pro-life Democrat from Penn-sylvania, will be addressing the convention, which is in line with Father Kavanaugh’s second suggestion. The ideal candidate and the ideal party do not exist in the real world, where we often have to settle for doing all we can to make actual parties and candidates responsive to our concerns. Bravo to Father Kavanaugh for his effort in that vein.
New Orleans, La.
A Social Illness
In my 30 years practicing obstetrics and gynecology, I never met a medical person who believed abortion was a primarily good thing, only a remedy for a perceived social ill. Perhaps it is time to recognize that attempting to eliminate abortion by legislative means is not reducing the number of abortions. Perhaps it is time for pro-choice and pro-life people to discern their common values and work together to remove the social evils that cause some women to believe that abortion is their only choice.
Making abortion the only criterion for selecting our president may continue the wars of choice, capital punishment, hunger, homelessness, (inadequate) health care and refugees without eliminating or even reducing the number of abortions.
Larry Donohue, M.D.
I have my doubts that Senator Obama will “move a bit to the middle” on abortion, as John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., hopes. After all, this is the same man who voted against the Born Alive Infants Protection Act and refuses to call a born-alive baby who by God’s grace manages to survive an abortion—a baby. This is infanticide and cannot be reconciled with the teaching of the Catholic Church, no matter what you may think of the war in Iraq.
Healing the Spirit
The cartoon drawing at the top of “Mercy Toward Our Fathers,” by Camille D’Arienzo, R.S.M., (8/18) angered me. It shows a priest being lowered from the roof to be healed by Christ when it should be the victim being lowered for healing. My way to God was obliterated by the priest. Many Catholics have no idea how horrible it is to lose your Catholic faith in God. It’s a hard road and no one in the church is helping victims where they need help, namely with their spirituality. First, parishes have to listen to the victims speak of what happened. We need a grass-roots effort to reach out with warmth and kindness and do what it takes to help each victim.
Works of Mercy
Thank you to Camille D’Arienzo, R.S.M., for putting into words what I feel so strongly about forgiveness. I have a dear friend who has extended a loving hand to two priests accused of abuse. She made them welcome at her table along with family and friends. From them we heard firsthand the pain and humiliation they suffered. Because of my friend’s total acceptance of these men and hearing their stories, I felt God’s abundant mercy and forgiveness. I have a new and deeper appreciation of Communion.
As someone who worked with both Marti Jewell and Dean Hoge on the Emerging Models of Pastoral Leader-ship project, I commend them on their recent survey of young adults (“Will They Serve?” 7/21). The results of their research confirm a worrying trend: young people in their 20s and 30s are largely absent from pastoral ministry. This poses a problem not only for the next generation of church leadership, but for this generation as well.
If the church were to have a “preferential option” for young adults in ministry recruitment, Hoge and Jewell’s study would have had much different results. Instead, we have simply accepted that lay ministry is relegated to a growing “second career” for people in their 40s and 50s. Perhaps the church (both clergy and lay) simply needs to try to understand this generation better, which may in turn lead to more effective recruitment. In a world of cutting-edge technology that is also filled with uncertainty and the madness of terrorism, our church often looks archaic and disinterested in the world young people live in. Yet from my work with Paulist Ministries and Bustedhalo.com I have learned that young people are looking for solid tradition to depend on in their uncertain world. We need the gifts of young adults right now—but they also need people already engaged in ministry to recruit and mentor them.
New York, N.Y.
In “Religious Life in the Age of Facebook” (7/7), Richard G. Malloy, S.J., gives as fine an analysis of the vocation quandary as I have read, but perhaps we need to move back, way back, to view the wider realities of both church and society. There is no doubt about it: the continental plates of Western culture are shifting, engendering fear and uncertainty. With the Second Vatican Council, the church dared to reformulate itself to deal with global Catholicism, releasing amazing hope and enthusiasm, but it shuddered and a retrenchment ensued. The fundamental problem is this: we in the West doubted and lost our story line. The Christian mythos around priesthood, formal vows and regimentation is not holding.
In early August I participated, as I have on and off for the past 30 years, in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps orientation program for 100 young, vibrant, wonderfully alive, largely Catholic university graduates, always more women than men. They are consciously out to be, as we say, “ruined for life,” just like those who join our novitiates. Each year their holy joy tells my bones a new Church is being born. They astonish me with their purity of intention, their courage and their enthusiasm for the values of God’s reign. Perhaps the Spirit is trying to lead us where we don’t understand?
Clericalism that draws a rigid line between the savers and the saved is no longer functional, as the fallout from sexual and financial scandals shows. The charism of baptism, that we are all a royal priesthood, is working its way under the power of the Holy Spirit into territory formerly claimed by the ordained and those under formal vows.
The official church may refuse to change, but the two-edged sword of God’s word will accomplish the purpose for which it is sent. There is a time for everything under the sun, a time to build and a time to tear down. We ignore these wider signs at our own peril.
Jack Morris, S.J.
Thank you for your beautiful tribute to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton by Regina Bechtle, S.C. (“An American Daughter,” 9/1). What a giant of history and the spiritual life she was! Mother Seton is a testament to the fact that God favors the lowly and fills them with good things. I have personally known many Sisters of Charity, and I know that Mother Seton’s good work continues in them.