National Service Needed
Re “Up or Out” (Editorial, 12/7): I have favored a universal two-year period of national service for all citizens since before 9/11. It was my privilege to be a commissioned officer in the regular Army for nine years. I was stationed only in the United States, but as a psychiatrist I know well the “wounds of war” that our citizens carry home with them and that last until death.
National service could be in the military, the Peace Corps or with a nonprofit institution. Without a two-year period of military service, without government servants who have experienced mandatory National Service, we will continue to misuse and expand the military industrial complex against which President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us. There will be mercenary armies and more misadventures and death upon deaths.
Our “war of necessity” was being funded in the 1980s by C.I.A. covert activities. It did not start only on 9/11. We armed the different Muslim peoples to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan, and now those arms are aimed at us. Now is the time to initiate universal national service for all citizens. It is the least we can do as Americans to preserve our liberty, expand our horizons and contribute to the common good.
Mary Margaret Flynn
San Carlos, Calif.
Re “Papal Correspondence” (11/30): We cannot write without a pencil or pen. We cannot follow the lead of Catholic social teaching (see ‘“Charity in Truth,” No. 67 and footnotes) without a new world constitution. Drafts of a new world constitution have already been carefully worked out. A few groups like Citizens for Global Solutions are active.
The war system is eating us alive. There is an alternative to war, to competing ruthlessly and violently with other nations, pouring a disproportionate amount of resources into the destruction of other human persons and our planet. The alternative is “a workable global governance system,” such as a democratic world federation. Pope John XXIII said a world authority is “a moral imperative.” Doesn’t that mean that striving now for this is not optional? All hands on deck!
Benjamin J. Urmston, S.J.
Prayer, Not Lobbying
The bishops (Signs of the Times, “Bishops Disappointed With Health Bill,” 12/14) have every right to form their opinions of the new health care bill before Congress. But with the rather heavy-handed lobbying of the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and the promised raft of letters to congregations urging us to oppose this bill, they have crossed a line of separation of church and state that is one of the foundations of our democracy. If they want to lobby Congress, then they should also agree to pay taxes and register as a lobbying group.
Furthermore, the use of the sacraments as political weapons in this debate is truly disappointing. As a practicing Catholic, I must say that the bishops are rapidly becoming irrelevant to the practice of my faith. They should be leading their flocks in discerning how to live our faith in a complicated world that seems increasingly strange. This requires that they treat us as intelligent Catholics, not illiterate medieval peasants. It requires prayer, not lobbying and cajoling.
More Harm Than Good
I fear that if the bishops end up withholding support for an imperfect bill on the basis of the funding issue alone, and if Catholic legislators are so dissuaded, then they will have done more harm than good. Overwhelmingly, women’s reliable access to health care is at stake, not to have their pregnancies aborted, but to insure quality prenatal and postnatal, obstetric and other medical care. Without such access assured, the wellness of newborns becomes a family issue.
Are the bishops more concerned that the principle of withholding tax monies that might be substituted for abortion be made more ironclad than they are with actually reducing the need to resort to the practice and to provide for the birth and well-being of the children they bear?
Into the Everlasting Arms
Re the Of Many Things column by Drew Christiansen, S.J. (12/14): At 96 Mary Christiansen is “pulling away,” as her son says, something my Mom did at 87 in 1995. It fell to me to be with her as she died. As she was dying, I held her hand and the following thought came to mind: “Here’s the woman who held my hand as a toddler and taught me how to walk, and now I’m holding her hand as she walks into eternity,” or as Father Christiansen might have said, “into the Everlasting Arms.”
It was a very calming experience for me, tinged with happy thoughts about where Mom was then walking for the first time. I even was able to whisper in her ear, “Thanks Mom, for being a good mother!” And a good mother she was indeed, raising a brood of six single-handedly after our dad left us early on and later burying three of us. To Father Christiansen I say, respectfully, “Thanks for the memories!” I also pray that when the time comes, you will be able to release your mom with confidence into the everlasting arms of the Father. It’s amazing what faith in the promises of Jesus can do!
Learning From South Africa
The article “What If We Said, ‘Wait’?” by Michael G. Ryan (12/14), is excellent, and I hope that a few bishops listen and take heed. I live in South Africa and we have been the “guinea pigs” for the new translation this year. It has caused an enormous amount of pain and chaos in parishes. The letters column of our national Catholic paper, The Southern Cross, has been full of responses, 95 percent negative.
The bishops have insisted that this literal translation is an excellent one and that we must obey Rome. We also have been told that since English is a “minority language” here, the responses of English-speaking Catholics do not need to be heard. Priest friends have told me that it will take them a very long time to memorize the eucharistic prayers because they are so poorly constructed; that they cannot be “prayed”, but only read.
I hope that the U.S. Catholic laity will make a major uproar when this translation begins to be used. South African Catholics can be ignored, but the U.S. Catholic Church cannot, especially since it is U.S. money that funds the Vatican.
Susan Rakoczy, I.H.M.
Hilton, South Africa
Hoping Against Hope
Thank you for a wonderfully lucid and compelling case for giving these translations a “trial run” that will allow the people of God some input into the language in which our communal prayer will now be prayed. Sadly, I don’t think this proposal will gain much traction as evidenced by how little the bishops seemed to listen to the well-argued, well-reasoned objections raised by Bishop Trautman.
Mark Hallinan, S.J.
New York, N.Y.
Back to Vatican II
Whenever I read prattle like Father Ryan’s, I wonder if the author has actually read the council document he is referring to, in this case “Sacrosanctum Concilium.” Had he done so, I wonder what he would make of the document’s prohibition of personal innovation and its insistence on tradition, on Latin as the principal language of the Mass and the pride of place of Gregorian chant in the liturgy.
The fact that the rubrics of the missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI built upon this, with the presumption that the Mass is said facing East, also seems to have escaped Father Ryan’s notice. The failure to consider the document’s eloquent appraisal of the Mass as a work of redemption, the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, made for the remission of our sins, says it all.