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February 16, 2009

Wheat That Springeth Green

Bob Peace (“The Food on Our Tables,” 1/19) has the right to say what he wants about farm subsidies and working conditions for farm laborers in the United States, but there is injustice in every phase of business, in every phase of society and in every phase of human life. American farmers are a great benefit to the lives of agricultural workers and by and large treat their workers fairly.

I am a winter wheat farmer in Colorado. Without government subsidies, Middle America’s grain production would disappear; subsidies allow grain farmers to make a profit. Further, the United States is not the only country in the world that gives subsidies to farmers.

Mexico is the second-leading supplier of oil to the United States, but the many hundreds of millions paid for that oil does not reach Mexico’s citizens. The main problem of the Mexican people is not the American farmer, and it is certainly not farm subsidies; the main problem is the Mexican government.

Robert Koch

Bennett, Colo.

Level Playing Field

Abortion Absolutists,” by John F. Kavanaugh, S.J. (12/15), was magnificent. Why can our leaders in the church not grasp what Kavanaugh does? If one is unable to make the simple distinction at the heart of Kavanaugh’s column (that there is a difference between the political and the moral), logic demands one should conclude that Catholics must withdraw from public life.

All I would like is a politically level playing field to teach the morality that is our authentic tradition.

(Rev.) T. L. Herlong

Lake Charles, La.

Limits to Infallibility

In Paul Lakeland’s review of Jerome P. Baggett’s book, Sense of the Faithful (“Community Narratives,” 2/2), he explains the term sensus fidelium from the Second Vatican Council as meaning “that body of beliefs that all share and which partakes of Spirit-guaranteed infallibility.” But, in fact, the council attributed such infallibility only to the universal consensus of the faithful in matters of faith and morals, making it clear that here the term “the faithful” refers to the whole body of believers, including the bishops as well as the laity.

Francis A. Sullivan, S.J.

Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Revolution, not Renewal

In “Making a Mark” (1/5), Richard G. Malloy, S.J., asks what we can do to “foster in the imagination of young adults the possibility that they could be priests or religious,” and offers six suggestions that have mostly to do with some shortcomings in the pool of candidates. But what we should really reflect on are the shortcomings within religious orders and their inability to adapt to new realities.

After 57 years as a vowed religious, I am haunted by the fact that we religious are a dying breed, particularly in developed countries. We are unable to recruit new members even to replacement levels, let alone recruit for growth, and unable to make the radical changes that will attract good candidates.

For over 40 years we have been in a process of renewal concerned with externals like dress, daily schedule, living situations and more without making a critical analysis of religious life itself using new theories of human behavior that today are accepted as essential to living a fully human life. We have renewed but not revolutionized religious life.

In order to survive, religious communities must address new understandings of the notion of the self while being vowed religious in this world.

Philip Aaron, S.M.

Dayton, Ohio

The Glass Ceiling

Making a Mark” (Richard G. Malloy, S.J., 1/5) was very good in discussing head-on some of the difficult issues in religious life. But women’s issues were not fully discussed. If a young woman considers religious life, she has to take into account the fact that she will be limiting her opportunities to be a leader and power player in the church because she is a woman. In secular life, her chance of reaching her highest potential is much greater.

This was made clear to me at the election of Pope Benedict XVI. I remember looking at the College of Cardinals and wondering, “Where are all the women’s voices?” With so many great women doing wonderful work in the church, why are they not part of the leadership?

Ann Hoenigman

Mayfield, Ohio

Brother, Where Art Thou?

“The Harvest Is Great: Vocations in a Modern Church” (1/5) offered three good presentations on a vitally important topic by a Jesuit priest and two women religious. But there was one big omission. Where was the article about religious brothers? We are the “other sons” of Holy Mother Church. Our numbers are small, but our history is considerable. We count for something, too.

The term “priesthood and religious life” means little if anything to the people in the pews, because when they hear it, they think only of priests and nuns. Next time, think of the “bros.”

John Paul McMahon, T.O.R.

Steubenville, Ohio

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