Going to the Source

Re David Gibson’s article on Catholics and biblical literacy (“A Literate Church,” 12/8): As a Catholic who frequently takes part in text study with Jewish communities, I find it depressing how rare it is to find Catholics (either priests or laity) who make an effort to read Scripture in the original languages. Because understanding Hebrew is so central to Jewish observance, when Jewish communities examine the Torah, they are more likely to see the implications of actual word choices.

I have only a minimal knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, but I have found it immensely satisfying to look at a particular passage using one of the available tools that allow a reader to see what Hebrew and Greek words are being used. This was possible with lexicons in book form in the past, but is now vastly easier with the many Bible software programs available.


I am not quarreling with those who just want to meditate on Scripture without trying to know much more about it, but it would be wonderful if more Catholics could realize that their meditation would be much deeper and richer if they put in the effort to know more about the text.

Patricia Gross

Arlington, Mass.

Faith and Fiction

Plaudits to the Rev. Andrew Greeley for his essay on Jon Hassler (“The Last Catholic Novelist,” 11/3). For years Greeley has called our attention to the importance and uniqueness of the Catholic or analogical or sacramental imagination, expressed simply and beautifully in the opening line of the poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”

Greeley argues persuasively not only that Jon Hassler’s novels are a special gift to the Catholic community, but that Catholic novels should be present on the campuses and in the classrooms of Catholic colleges and universities.

In an adult course on the Catholic novel, my students and I have read 100 Catholic novels over the past 15 years, including five of Hassler’s. Greeley is right that Hassler’s novels are a treasure; he is also right to wonder if the question is not whether theology and literature can be taught at the same time, but whether it is even possible to teach them separately.

(Rev.) Robert E. Lauder

Queens, N.Y.

Infallible Argument

The commentary on the politics of abortion by John F. Kavanaugh, S.J. (“Abortion Absolutists,” 12/15) is the first cogent comment I have seen on this subject. All of the extremists on both sides of this issue are so utterly convinced of the infallibility of their own positions that they are unwilling to listen to counterarguments or comments. Abortion in this country did not start with Roe v. Wade, nor will it end if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Let us do what we can by way of education and discourse at least to reduce the number of abortions in this country.

Michael Collins

Myersville, Md.

Justice and Charity

Thank you for your commentary on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (Current Comment, 12/8). Five years ago I researched a number of C.C.H.D. projects for a book. Across the country, I listened to the hope given to poor people by such efforts. Moreover, I saw Catholic parishes animated and energized by their own commitment to the goal of C.C.H.D.—helping poor people to help themselves. Where C.C.H.D. projects were supported and implemented, parishes came alive in worship, learning and service. The linkage of the Eucharist to justice and charity was palpable. That linkage bore fruit in the application of Catholic social teaching to faith-based community organization. Far from being the church’s “best kept secret,” in such circumstances Catholic social teaching came alive (and got teeth).

In over a year researching C.C.H.D. projects, I never once heard mention of abortion, much less support for it. But I did hear clearly the thin voice of the poor—standing up and standing out—like grass through concrete.

It is sad that your magazine should have to defend C.C.H.D., seemingly even to some bishops. The bishops should be proud of this effort. It is ironic that in this economic recession, our bishops seem to be leaning toward pulling the rug out from under not only the poor, but themselves as well.

John P. Hogan

Washington, D.C.

Mothers and Children First

I was much impressed with Maryann Cusimano Love’s article about care for women during pregnancy and childbirth (“Woman and Child,” 12/8). I was appalled at the statistics that show how many women in many poor countries do not receive the care they need, care that is neither expensive nor extensive. Even our own country has a dismal record.

For about three decades, we have heard from our church of the need to be pro-life. This message is certainly an important, even vital one. But too often it has meant little more than being anti-abortion. I would suggest to every group fighting legalized abortion that they turn their attention to the larger issue of protecting women giving birth and to their children. Instead of just railing against abortion, let us invest an equal amount of energy and money into making sure that women can give birth safely and that healthy children will be born.

Our church has every reason to be a leader in this. We revere Mary, the Mother of God, and by association all mothers. We need to keep our eyes on those mothers who need our help simply for the survival of their babies and themselves.

Lucy Fuchs

Brandon, Fla.

What the Dickens

Thank you to Michael Timko for his review of the Christianity of Charles Dickens (“No Scrooge He,” 12/22). Charles Dickens’s great contemporary, Cardinal Henry Manning, once called the novelist’s works “a complete course in moral theology.” And so God bless us, every one!

Francis Manion

Bardstown, Ky.

Morgan’s Tears

Your editorial on the financial crisis (“Morgan Would Weep,” 12/8) was well intentioned, partially correct and a little confused.

J. P. Morgan did not weep in 1907. Instead, he locked a number of leading bankers inside his library in the middle of the night until they came up with a solution to save the failing banks. Today, there is no one banker like Morgan with the power, prestige, resources or incentive to do what Morgan accomplished in 1895 and 1907.

It is worth remembering that Morgan made a bundle on the 1907 rescue effort. Today’s bankers are well compensated, win or lose, and so do not have the same incentive Morgan did. Any rescue or bailout is now principally the responsibility of the chairman of the Federal Reserve and the Treasury secretary.

The editorial was dead right on the question of the inordinate compensation ratio between workers (whose pay is based on results) and senior executives (who are often paid irrespective of performance). But it is not market conditions so much as the incestuous relationship between management, compensation committees and lax and sympathetic boards that caused this problem of inflated compensation. The shareholders are left out of the loop, and therefore the problem is systemic.

Ronald Reagan’s catchy but thoughtless phrase, “The government isn’t the solution, the government is the problem,” is part of what has gone awry. Capitalism usually works well in the marketplace, but it has no venue in the moral realm. Enlightened regulation is the only answer.

Only when Adam’s fall is repealed will business leaders themselves take responsibility for the past—and the future, as your editorial suggests.

Ernest C. Raskauskas Sr.

Potomac, Md.

All or Nothing

In his article on the Catholic Church’s defense of human rights (“An Advocate for All,” 12/1), David Hollenbach, S.J., is correct when he says that the church has exercised leadership on issues like torture, genocide and religious freedom. But the Catholic hierarchy’s advocacy does not extend to “all,” as we have seen little progress in the Vatican’s attitude toward the human rights of women, gay men and lesbians. For example, the Vatican recently opposed a U.N. declaration condemning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

We can all appreciate the strides the Catholic hierarchy has made in terms of human rights. But we also need to recognize the long way the church has yet to come in fully embracing the rights afforded by the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its progeny.

Active respect and advocacy by Catholic leaders for all people’s human rights—women, gay men, lesbian women and even those people with whom the hierarchy disagrees—could only advance a commitment to the common good, and would position the church as a prophetic leader and defender of human rights.

Jon O’Brien

Washington, D.C.

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