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January 04, 2010

Impressive Restraint

I am impressed by the breathtaking restraint exercised by Doris Gottemoeller, R.S.M. (“A Visitor’s Guide,” 11/23). As an 81-year-old with 60 years of living this ministerial religious life, I wonder where is the outrage over the secrecy, the disrespect (of L.C.W.R. and each of us) and the presumption of the study. Her word dismay is so mild. It would not describe the response of most people I have listened to. The emotions I have met run from profound sadness to profound anger.

At this time in our history, given the demographics and the many struggles of the American sisters, we might expect from our brothers in Rome a campaign of support (moral, spiritual, financial) rather than a very time-consuming project of this sort. Sadness and anger are indeed appropriate responses.

The total absence of any emotive language in Sister Doris’s article and her apparently incredible equanimity might serve to assuage fears about us on the part of those very brothers. That could be to our advantage, I suppose.

Beth McCormick, O.P.

Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.

Vox Populi

Re “What if We Said, ‘Wait’?” by the Rev. Michael G. Ryan (12/14): What will it take before the Catholic laity find their voice? Must we always speak, sing and pray in words that the Vatican has approved?

Dan Mandell

South Bend, Ind.

Try Out With Young

Thank goodness for Father Ryan! This exercise in arrested development that passes for liturgical reform is as sad as it is anything else. Retreating to literal translations of the old Missal only ensures that we will have a careful translation. Our good Lord did not write the Missal, however, and there is nothing magical about it. Indeed, hewing to this new approach will only encourage people to think that we Catholics do have a belief in the “magic” of the sacraments. How sad.

Still, my great fear is for young people in their 20s and 30s who have been raised as thoughtful Catholics, who are very well educated and ready to lead, but who will see the translation as silly and anachronistic. They already wonder at steps that keep women at arm’s length and at the burgeoning Communion wars. These young people might well, and perhaps accurately, think that their church wants to push them away. As a parent I want my children in my church. I sincerely hope that they, and others in their generation, will have the benefit of our faith as they face the joys and tribulations of life.

To that end, I add one more suggestion to Father Ryan’s. Why not “field test” the new Missal with college students at Holy Cross, Yale, Santa Clara or Boston College? Why not try it with a Mass at Notre Dame or Harvard? Why not ask the rising generation of intelligent Catholics what they think? I suspect we will not because of fear of what they might say. Still, they are the future.

Mark Twain wisely observed that it takes two to tell the truth, one to speak it and one to hear it. Father Ryan has articulated a smart and a thoughtful response that should be heard (and acted upon). I surely hope that will be the outcome; I truly fear that it will not.

W. F. Bagley

Madison, Conn.

An Advent Alert

I checked the etymology of the word “wait.” Old High German in origin, the word means “to watch, be awake.” Sounds like an Advent alert to me. And it sounds like good medicine for translations that came about, not in the customary manner, but by a committee without representation from the people in the pews or sufficient scriptural scholarship. Bishop Trautman tried to “awaken” his brother bishops but got mostly groans from the good shepherds. Do they convene twice yearly just to groan? Does that sound like openness to the Spirit? I applaud Father Ryan’s carefully discerned and most certainly courageous suggestion that we all sit with the Spirit and watch for the right translation. Let their first effort be field tested. But do not start the presses just yet. The bishops should know that the people for whom the word is intended will tell them when they get it right.

Bob Kloos

Cleveland Heights, Ohio

Avenues for Action

In the 11/30 issue (Letters), John McCarthy wrote of his recent visit to the West Bank, where he witnessed the harsh realities of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and the toll it takes on the Palestinian people. He spoke of not having “a clear idea of what we can do to change this horrible situation.” I offer these suggestions: 1) Do not pay federal taxes until the U.S. government stops providing $3 billion in military aid to Israel every year; 2) Set up a meeting with your congressperson, show slides from your trip, and ask that he or she oppose the inclusion of $3 billion in military aid to Israel in the FY 2011 budget, at least until Israel ends the blockade on Gaza and freezes all new settlement construction; 3) Become involved with the growing (and inspiring) Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, a Palestinian-led campaign to divest from companies that support the Israeli military occupation of Palestine (http://bdsmovment.net). Good luck and God Bless!

Brenna Cussen

Worcester, Mass.

How Long?

Re “Mind the Gap” (Current Comment, 12/21): In many countries, including those in the third world, and in many professions (formerly dominated by men, such as medicine and law), women no longer have to fight to be treated as fully equal to men. But not in the church, where women are barred from access to a sacrament because of their genetic makeup. How long before half the ordained clergy are women? How long before half the bishops are women? How long before half of those who create the teachings of the bodiless entity called the “magisterium” are women? How long before the Roman Catholic Church owns up to its institutional sexism, apologizes to women and makes restitution—and we hear the words mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa?

Anne Chapman

Gilroy, Calif.

Marriage and Matrimony

Re “District Votes for Same-Sex Marriage” (Signs of the Times, 12/21): Isn’t it time for the faith communities of this country to relax and recognize that civil laws regarding marriage need have no bearing on the religious rite of matrimony? A marriage certificate issued by the state does not make a marriage sacramental, and the religious community’s blessing of a faithful, lifelong, monogamous union does not institute a civil marriage. The current consternation in the Archdiocese of Washington exists because we have combined and confused the two entities in this country. It would be incomprehensible to churches and citizens throughout most of Europe, where marriage [civil] and matrimony [religious] are separately contracted. And since the Roman Catholic Church does not recognize the civil marriage of its adherents, why should it concern itself with the civil marriages of same-sex couples?

(Rev.) Frank Bergen

Tucson, Ariz.

The Better Question

What precisely is a “tolerably just war” (“Another War President,” by John J. DiIulio Jr., 12/21). It is hard for me to understand what lies between justice and injustice. Both of them are objective realities between which there is no realm of actions that can be labeled “kind of just,” “a little unjust” or “tolerably just.” This underscores our limited ability as creatures to know what is truly just and right. The author also assumes that the manner in which war is waged can be separated from the reasons for going to war. Just war theory is about both the reasons and the manner.

Professor DiIulio is right to say that one fundamental tenet of “just war theory” is that “there must be no other practical or effective means to stop the damage.” But how can we know whether this is really the case, particularly given our penchant as Americans to seek short-term solutions to virtually every problem we face? This standard assumes that we have actually tried to exhaust other available means of conflict resolution and have even tried to think of other available means when those we have traditionally used have been exhausted.

I would suggest that the proper question to ask when making the grave and humbling decision to wage war is not whether going to war is just, but whether the failure to go to war would be unjust. The latter question will result in far fewer decisions to go to war than we have been willing to accept uncritically during the decades since World War II.

Chris Kuczynski

Baltimore, Md.

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13 years 11 months ago


Not once, in the course of the entire debate regarding health care legislation, have you supported the stand of the American bishops. Yes, in your news section, you have reported what the bishops have said. But that is not the same as a reasoned support of their (our) position.

What are we readers to infer from this?  That you disagree with the bishops?  That you are neutral? That you regard their position as irrelevant?  That you don't want to offend some readers?

Would you please clarify this for us?

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