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November 22, 2010

Women Suffer

Your editorial, “A Saint for Our Time,” and John Anderson’s film review, “The Seer” (both in 10/18) concern two women in the church who lived centuries apart: Mother Mary MacKillop and Hildegard of Bingen. They had in common that they had to work hard and suffer to do what they considered right. They were both under the jurisdiction of a male hierarchy who were sure that they could judge and dominate women. Mother MacKillop was even excommunicated.

So what is different today? The male hierarchy still thinks it has the right and duty to control and at times condemn what women do. It isn’t hard to find many examples of this. I have often wondered whether the reason the church is so quick to condemn abortion (even, for example, in the case of the very young Brazilian girl who was raped by a family member) is because only women can have abortions. I agree that abortion is an evil, but it is certainly not the only evil. Need I give examples of evils committed mostly by men?

The only hope women today can have is that some day in the future, some other men will want to canonize or at least rehabilitate some women who are suffering today in the church. I fear, however, that those men will find some other women to condemn.

Lucy Fuchs

Brandon, Fla.


I just want to tell you that John Anderson’s review of the film “Vision,” about Hildegard von Bingen, in Books and Culture is excellent! This is one of the best-written reviews I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

Norman Costa

Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Under the Rug Again

Bernard P. Dauenhaur’s letter (10/25) commenting on ”A Conspiracy of Bishops and Faithful,” by Drew Christiansen, S.J., (9/27) is right on target when he suggests that the church resembles a “global monopolistic corporation.” Pope John Paul II promoted an agenda of preferential conservatism through his appointment of similar-thinking bishops, whose chief qualification was a pledge to adhere to the closed policies of the corporate board. One of the greatest manifestations of the failed policies of the church was the willingness to sweep the sexual abuse charges against the clergy under the rug and, sadly, in many cases unwillingness to give an audience to victims. The accusations continue today as recent reports from Chile indicate how Cardinal Francisco Errazusiz has refused to acknowledge the problem.

As long as we have a clerical club that considers that the church is exclusive rather than inclusive, then the work of the Holy Spirit will be deterred. Benedict XVI’s policies seem to echo the past.

Jack Artale

Lititz, Pa.

Face Reality

Thanks to M. Cathleen Kaveny’s “Catholics as Citizens” (11/1) for her moral guidance for the conscientious voter. In light of her article I suggest: 1) Some pro-life groups seem to think that if pro-life Supreme Court justices were appointed, Roe v. Wade would be overturned and abortion would go away. But see where this foolishness has gotten us: the Citizens United decision, decisions against a just economic system and justifying the execution of mentally retarded people. 2) Kaveny rightly points out that were Roe overturned, the states would simply decide. As Justice O’Connor noted, people have become accustomed to having this option available. Here is the reality: You can pass laws until you are blue in the face. People are still going to sin. Period.

So how do you deal with that reality? I offer some suggestions: 1) Do not condemn; stress forgiveness, comfort and help from the church for those who have made misguided decisions. 2) Continue to stress that the fetus in the womb is a human being. Once the humanity of the fetus is established, many minds are changed. Human beings, at least in the United States, are entitled to 14th Amendment protection. 3) Offer hope to the women and make it possible for them to keep their children. I wonder how many women would change their minds if they knew that they had health care for themselves and their children. 4) Now that we have DNA testing, I wonder how many fathers would behave more responsibly if they knew their wages would be docked for every child conceived until the children turned 18 years.

Chris Brune

Glenwood, N.J.

Slave Labor Is Common

“Catholics as Citizens” (11/1) is the kind of article that makes America worth subscribing to. I am interested in the pro-life cause and in papal statements, but the use of slave labor in the global supply chain is more common than you think. There is no need to pick on big-box stores alone. Probably most Americans have bought products made by slave labor. Brazil manufactures car parts that are made from steel that is made using charcoal mined by slave labor. In the manufacture of cellphones, rare minerals are often used, like tantulum, mined by slave labor in the Congo. The manufacture of rugs from South Asia is notorious for the use of child slave labor. Cotton in Central Asia is picked by slave labor and ends up in the clothes worn by Americans. The U.S. Department of Labor has a global report that names products from each country.

Stephen M. Baur

Hazlet, N.J.

Confront the Bullies

As a gay man, I heartily concur with your editorial “Bullying, a Deadly Sin” (11/8), as far as it goes, and will pass over in silence the complicity of the churches in the bullying problem. I would like to see more emphasis on attending to the character development of the bullies, however. They are the problem here. The persecuted gay kids are victims. Focusing on the victim’s ability to cope does not address the root causes. Homophobia is alive, well and thriving among our young people. If the church wants to address the problem of bullying, it needs to address the bullies and the false values and insecurities that lead them to treat their fellow teens with such disrespect.

Chris Butler

San Francisco, Calif.

Gay Identity

Re “The Bronx Eleven” (Current Comment 11/1): To suggest that Catholic teaching on homosexuality has a role in violence against gays, as some discussions of the case have done, is simply a way to try to silence that teaching.

The reason that no person should be subject to violence is his or her status as a person made in the image and likeness of God. That dignity is not predicated on the fact that a person claims to be gay. That is part of the gay ideology. The gay tag is a conscious decision by someone to predicate that person’s entire worth and existence on those attractions and demand that others do so.

The church is pretty clear that no person should be subject to violence, whether he claims to be gay or not.

Frank Tantillo

Howell, N.J.

The Two-Step Cure

Your editorial “A Saint for Our Time” (10/18) is certainly appropriate for today. Although St. Mary MacKillop lived in Australia over 100 years ago, she ran into issues we face today: sexual abuse by clerics, the role of women in the church, excommunication as punishment and others. What is most telling is to find a documented case of priestly sexual abuse in Australia in the 1870s. Just think: What if the scourge of sexual abuse had been stopped in its tracks back then?

As a postscript, many Americans may be more familiar with another new saint, St. André Bessette, who was canonized the same day. I was told that back in the 1920s and 1930s my grandparents used to travel by car from Connecticut to Montreal to see Brother André. I had an uncle who was born with a disability. In those days people in the Northeast used to travel to Boston hospitals for medical healing and to Montreal to Brother André for spiritual healing.

Joseph P. Nolan

Waterbury, Conn.

Some Hope

The commentary by Raymond A. Schroth, S.J., on Israel-Palestine, “Two Peoples, One State” (11/15), offers the best solution I have seen. Thanks for offering some hope.

Ron Patnode

Yakima, Wash.

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