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December 14, 2009

Expert at Work

Re “A Visitor’s Guide,” by Doris Gottemoeller, R.S.M. (11/23): It is no surprise that such a balanced, thoughtful and challenging article would be the work of Sister Doris Gottemoeller. Her insights reflect the manner in which she has exercised leadership roles in many venues, influencing institutions and individuals (including me) over the years. In her work and writing she personifies what it is to be a contemporary religious sister. Thanks to her for being a real sister for so many of us.

(Msgr.) Charles Fahey

Bronx, N.Y.

Questions First

I appreciated the hope that Sister Doris Gottemoeller offered and the challenge to the Vatican to be transparent, but I was sorry that she had not read the questionnaire before writing the article in order to get a sense of what is being asked of us.

Kathleen Bryant, R.S.C.

Culver City, Calif.

More Visitations

As a lay person, I hold in high esteem the voices of Mary Clare Millea, A.S.C.J., and Doris Gottemoeller, R.S.M. Their personal involvement, the faithfulness to their calling and the professionalism of these two highly qualified women are to be commended. One point needs extra attention. One can no longer expect secrecy in such an undertaking. We live in an era in which transparency is expected from all institutions large and small. We as a church cannot deviate from an ethical behavior expected from worldly institutions.

This visitation is history in the making. It is a positive way for the world to see and appreciate the sacrifices, the faith, hope and love of the consecrated sisters, who for centuries have generously shared their lives with all of us. Because of the importance given to the project, I and others can expect that the next step will be the visitation of male religious orders, parishes and lay volunteers. The visitations give us an opportunity to pause and consider how we as children of God in a Trinitarian church are working in communion, mission and ministry. The visitations allow us to consider if we have truly grown in grace and wisdom.

Ilse Wefers

Portland, Ore.

An Imperative

Re “A Lasting Victory” (Editorial, 11/30): In the grand tradition of Catholic social teaching, access to health care for all citizens is not just a goal. It must be an imperative. But we are nowhere near consensus on just how that is to be achieved. Developing the legislation that will make access to affordable quality health care a reality in our country is one person’s expression of love for one’s neighbor but another’s recipe for rampant socialism and fiscal irresponsibility in the midst of a major recession. So what are we to do?

While we are pondering an answer to that question, let’s not destroy one another by throwing grenades made up of insults and put-downs over the wall at anyone who does not see things the way we do. This situation is very complicated. Catholic social teaching has never had to look further than the Gospels and Christ’s message that we love our neighbor as ourselves for its inspiration and its justification. So let those values also guide our dialogue now, because reforming health care will not come easily.

Denis E. Quinlan

Asheville, N.C.

Many Issues at Stake

The opposition of the U.S. bishops and other anti-choice groups to universal health care (on the grounds that the language about abortion is not strong enough) could, ironically, lead to the death of thousands of underinsured children. Could we please understand that millions of Americans experience severe, even catastrophic economic consequences as a result of illness?

Can we please put aside the fear-mongering news commentators and start to behave like citizens who care about one another? As a Catholic (Jesuit-educated) I was taught that my faith should be put into action and that I should be a person for others. Does this philosophy extend to advocating for those who are sick or now bankrupt because of illness? I believe the pro-life stance extends beyond the abortion question.

Brigid Dunn

Fayetteville, N.Y.

Capital Punishment

Re “The Geography of Justice” (Current Comment, 12/7): As has been noted, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed could be legitimately held as an unlawful combatant until the end of hostilities without any trial; he could be tried in a military court as a captured combatant; or he could be tried in the U.S. court system, as Attorney General Eric Holder has decided. It is worth noting that Holder publicly stated he was quite confident that the evidence would result in a conviction. He also went on to imply that the death penalty is far more common in U.S. civilian courts than in the military court system, which has not executed a person found guilty of a capital offense or any reason for two generations.

Since Holder has determined to try other Gitmo terrorists in the military system, it is reasonable to conclude that he does not have as strong a case against them as he has for Mohammed and hence he has a better chance for a conviction in the military courts for these prisoners. It could simply be that Holder wants Mohammed not only found guilty, but executed. That likely would not happen in the military system.

Walter Mattingly

Jacksonville, Fla.

Glaring Omission

The word greed does not appear once in the encyclical “Charity in Truth” (“Papal Correspondence,” 11/30). This seems to me to be a glaring problem with regard to the world economy. If the avoidance of the word was intentional, so as to not paint capitalism in a negative light, then the encyclical was a huge success.

Christine Villecco

Boston, Mass.

Some, Not All

Re “Hidden Prayer in Yemen,” by David Pinault (12/7): Religious persecution is a phenomenon of fundamentalist views and practices. The author has seen this at first hand in Yemen and mentions a few examples of religious intolerance in other countries. May I remind you that there are Muslim populations in over 50 countries. Citing just a few examples from a limited number of countries may reinforce popular Christian stereotypes about all Muslims. My information is that non-tolerant fundamentalist practices represent a small percentage of Muslims. Unfor-tunately, some Christians, Jews and Muslims have been guilty at times of not following the teachings in their foundational documents.

J. Patrick Mahon

Young Harris, Ga.

Sad, But Grateful

The announcement of the closing of the National Pastoral Life Center (“A Good Death,” Current Comment, 12/7), following so closely upon the suspension of the widely appreciated periodical Church, is a cause of great sadness for many of us in pastoral ministry. For over 25 years, we have been blessed through the leadership of N.P.L.C. We are indebted to the vision and zeal of the late Msgr. Philip J. Murnion, who organized institutes for new pastors and promoted the development of ecclesial lay ministry in our country.

Another significant project conceived by Monsignor Murnion and the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was the Common Ground Initiative, which has attempted to heal some of the polarization and distrust in our Catholic Church. The invitation for honest and constructive dialogue continues to be a challenge in pastoral ministry, but we can all be thankful for the pioneering and creative contributions of N.P.L.C. since 1983.

(Msgr.) Thomas P. Ivory

Upper Saddle River, N.J.

Reinstate the Draft?

Is it heroically daring or recklessly foolish to call for a reinstatement of the draft (“Up or Out,” Editorial, 12/7)? I hope your editorial suggesting such a possible approach, if we are to continue our morally questionable warring, may provoke further debate. I was forever aware that my draft number of five meant certain sending to Vietnam when I was in the seminary. Like so many of that generation, I had brothers from my childhood die there; and I cared for many suffering veterans throughout my years as a hospice chaplain.

I look at my 13-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter, who have grown up in the very protected, anti-war atmosphere of our home, and cannot imagine a draft touching their lives. Yet I know that the burden of service is unfairly sustained by so many, often of lesser means or of a different cultural milieu. The question puzzles me profoundly, but I will talk about it more since reading your editorial.

David E. Pasinski

Fayetteville, N.Y.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Jim McCrea
14 years 4 months ago

I echo David Pasinski’s thoughts on reinstating the draft.  I am of the age when the draft was a fact of life once one finished school, particularly if you were a single male.  (Women, of course, were excluded in those days.)   I chose to enlist in the Air Force in 1962 rather than take my chances with the draft. 

Today’s young people have greater access to the diversity that constitutes American then we did when I was in my early 20s.  However, to know about difference is not the same as experiencing difference.  To be faced with  being placed on an even plane with others in which your background, education, wealth, parental privilege, etc. have no advantage for you is an eye-opening experience.  In this day and age, the raw experience of life that many young people of privilege only have vaguely heard about would do them a great deal of good.

It is easy to be a chicken hawk of any age when you are not faced with walking the talk.  Maybe having another couple of generations of males and females who have not been able to avoid experience of preparing for and possibly experiencing war would inject a health respect for the consequences of actions be those who have not experienced.

Joseph Upton
14 years 2 months ago

Christine Villecco’s letter bemoans the seeming lack of attention given to the phenomenon of greed in Caritas in Veritate.  Somehow Villecco infers that Pope Benedict is tacitly condoning the excesses which she identifies necessarily with capitalism.  However, even a cursory reading of the encyclical reveals an urgent concern for the excesses which have characterized the financial habits of economically privileged societies.  Benedict cautions that excess in economic choices can cause disparities in wealth which seriously challenge the dignity of the individual (§37).  More strongly, the encyclical affirms that claims to a “right to excess” are intrinsically linked to “transgression and vice” (§43).  In his discussion of market economics, Benedict maintains that consumers must be aware of their moral responsibility in purchasing, cautioning against excess (§66).  Furthermore, the encyclical’s intended connection to Populorum Progressio should call to mind Pope Paul’s sage advice that the unchecked acquisition of goods, partnered with the inability to identify an objective scale of values, leads directly to greed, avarice and “soul-stifling materialism” (§18).  Pope Benedict has wisely chosen not to condemn capitalism in principle.  Rather than demonize a system, he calls to mind the moral responsibilities which must shape and influence the financial decisions of persons, thereby cautioning against the greed which so often leads to economic and moral ruin.

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