Regarding the online article “Barack Obama and Vatican II,” by John W. O’Malley, S.J. Flourishing rhetoric is expected during a political campaign (at least in the United States), but one quickly tires of it. I agreed with very little that President George W. Bush did, but at least he was conservatively consistent. I am not at all sure about President Obama. Cardinal Francis George commented, after his discussion with the president on ethical matters, that it was difficult to converse with him because he kept agreeing with everything the cardinal said—even though this contradicted what he had said during his campaign and had done since becoming president. I would humbly suggest to Father O’Malley that he wait for some time and judge the president not just on his fine rhetoric but on his actions.
Ronan Kilgannon, Erem.Dio.
Kangaroo Valley, Australia
An Allusive Spirit
In “Barack Obama and Vatican II,” John W. O’Malley, S.J., claims that the expression “the Spirit of Vatican II” was given “a certain official standing” at the Synod of Bishops in 1985. In fact, the synod addressed the concept once, and then in negative terms, warning, “It is not legitimate to separate the spirit and and the letter of the council.” Moreover, the synod also recommended a preliminary version of Pope Benedict’s now famous “hermeneutic of continuity,” informing Catholics that “the council must be understood in continuity with the great tradition of the church.” For an excellent discussion of the synod and other subjects related to the Second Vatican Council, your readers might consult the late Cardinal Avery Dulles’s essay “Vatican II: The Myth and the Reality,” which appeared in your magazine on Feb. 24, 2003.
Temptation and Tolerance
Thank you for your excellent editorial on the need for charity in our church debates (“Community of Disciples,” 6/22). What you call for is very challenging, because the temptation is to speak in terms of “us” (we, the tolerant) and “them” (those intolerant others).
To cultivate and practice charity amid debate and disagreement is a spiritual, moral, even ascetic practice that we find modeled too rarely in our culture. I agree that it is particularly difficult to be charitable in situations where one’s very desire to practice charity and respectful inclusion is deemed grounds for condemnation or exclusion. But might such cases be invitations and challenges to even greater charity in our church and our world?
Christine Firer Hinze
New York, N.Y.
More Than O.K.
“Preaching in a Vacuum,” by Chris Chatteris, S.J. (5/25), hit a nerve. Bad preaching is perhaps the main reason why many Catholics are loath to find their way to Sunday Mass. In the Diocese of San Jose, for example, there are about 600,000 registered Catholics, but on any given Sunday only about 100,000 can be found in a Catholic church. People are voting with their feet.
Our formation of priests and training in homiletics, as well as in spirituality and theology, needs to be brought up a few notches. Let’s not aim for “O.K.” preaching, but for the kind that can help to revitalize the community. We will know we have succeeded when the parishes are all full again.
Los Gatos, Calif.
Thank you for the beautiful picture of Maurice Denis’s “Three Marys” that accompanied Karen Sue Smith’s “The Dead Live” (6/11). I loved the painting (the artist is new to me), and Smith’s monograph is beyond excellent. Art is such a gift to enable us to relate to the Lord in new and imaginative ways.
Ann M. Desmond