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January 03, 2011

Back to the Bronx

Your current comment “The Bronx Eleven” (11/1) omitted one important consideration “in the confused context of how we deal with homosexuality.” This Jesuit-educated reader (Holy Cross and Fordham) believes that consideration is the most unfortunate attitude of the Roman Catholic Church, which discriminates against people who are born gay or lesbian or who are transgendered.

Chris Hoppin, lt. col. U.S.A.F., Ret.

Peaks Island, Me.

Lepers Can Be Happy

Your poem “A Leper on Molokai, 1880,” by Joseph A. Soldati (11/15), delivers a sickening dose of retrograde pity and revulsion about Hansen’s disease. “More corrupt than Lazarus,” Mr. Soldati’s narrator says about himself. “The cemetery of Kalawa’o vomits our pitted bones.”

I don’t think the real Kalaupapa choir member would have wallowed so wretchedly in his plight. I imagine that if he did, others would slap his head and tell him to shut up and sing.

Kalaupapa, for all its suffering, was also a place of joy, decency and hope. That’s because people lived there, not pitiable objects. Father (now Saint) Damien understood this a century ago, when few other outsiders did—that is why we love him. More recently, the journalist Ernie Pyle described Kalaupapa “as a rather happy community.” The patients had their clubs, played games, had dances, went to the movies three times a week and even had cocktail parties.

People with Hanson’s disease have fought for centuries to assert their humanity in the face of discrimination, abuse and persecution. To horror-stricken sympathizers like Mr. Soldati, I’ve got to say: “You’re not helping.”

Lawrence Downes

Northport, N.Y.

Not Good, But Not Punished

In the articles regarding the case of Sister Margaret Mary McBride, including “From Intuition to Moral Principle,” by Kevin O’Rourke, O.P. (11/15), no mention is made of a commonsense principle that could ease the consciences of all concerned. Reiterated by both Paul VI and John Paul II, the principle of toleration has been the church’s practice through the ages: a lesser evil may be tolerated to preserve a higher good. Capable of abuse, of course, it is invoked in issues ranging from self-defense to war.

Toleration does not mean an evil act is “baptized” or declared good because of the circumstances, nor is it considered either permitted or allowed. The evil, both ontic and moral, is recognized and regretted as evil. In the McBride case the equal value of the lives of mother and child could give way to the preserving of one life rather than the loss of both.

(Rev.) John Koelsch

Jerome, Idaho

’Tain’t Funny

I read with regret the Books and Culture entry “Comic Timing” (10/25). In the economic downturn we are suffering through, a sitcom about outsourcing is at best a grave mistake and at worst lacks any shred of sensitivity or empathy. Countless thousands of Americans are out of work because of corporate outsourcing, yet Jake Martin finds this show greatly entertaining and hopes it lasts for years to come. I can hear many voices saying, it’s only a television show and we need to be able to laugh at ourselves. Would those same voices also support an extremely well-written show with superb actors and great chemistry about an abortion clinic?

Scott Sparks

Roswell, Ga.

Why We’ve Lost Our Voice

Having read John J. DiIulio’s column “Blending In” (11/29), I can think of several reasons why American Catholics may have lost their unified, faith-filled voice. First, scandal in our house makes us less likely to participate, and comment by priests and bishops is shouted down by those bringing up the scandal. Second, though Catholics are members of both parties, they are not among the extremists who rule the public debate. Third, with the exception of America, the Catholic press is in contraction, especially on social issues. Diocesan papers that once reported national events from a Catholic perspective have been replaced by magazines that are more devotional and inner-directed. Mainstream Catholics do not get much traction in these polarized times.

Jim Axtell

Bolingbrook, Ill.

Take the Easy Way

Reading Nicholas Lash’s “Teaching or Commanding?” (12/13), I can see it is important to distinguish between the two; but I think a great many modern American Catholics choose not to believe that the church does both and prefer to treat the commands as relics of an outdated theology and an ignorant, perhaps corrupt, hierarchy. However, most teachers in the church generally do not, I suspect, take the trouble to explain how it all fits together. They choose instead to just teach the catechism. That could lead to a church in which the only members are catechism Catholics, content to obey without troubling much to think things through.

David Smith

Cincinnati, Ohio

Obey or Else

The insight displayed by Nicholas Lash in “Teaching or Commanding” (12/13) is amazing, a wonderful statement of the way things should be. Of course, that will never come to be as long as the church is not regarded as a discipleship of equals, in which we all instruct, listen and guide one another. Unfortunately the model of the church that prevails in the hierarchy is military, where the generals—in particular the supreme commanding general—order and all others must obey.

John D. Fitzmorris

New Orleans, La.

The Last Drop

Your editorial “Markets and Politics” (12/13) is one of the best I’ve seen on the powers at work in the global economy. I also agree that corporations must be more socially responsible and people and governments more moderate. Strong regulation is needed to rein in the financial community, similar to the drastic changes made after the Great Depression: separating commercial and investment banking, raising equity limits for banks, capping salaries and bonuses, bans on political donations, raising taxes on profits. Challenging all this is the influence of the rich financial class.

Another challenge is the increasing age of the population, as people with their pensions in mind look to the financial industry to make great returns on their investments. Unfortunately this works against the interests of the young. The phrase “squeeze to the last drop” in your editorial applies not only to the financial classes but to their customers.

Chris Cunningham

Seoul, South Korea

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11 years 5 months ago

May I add a wee comment to Fr. John Koelsch’s letter?
If, pace St. Paul (1 Tim. 3:2), Catholic bishops were married, and a bishop's own young wife was "in the 11th week of pregnancy, had four other children, and had resisted abortion as an option until it became clear that both she and the unborn child were in imminent danger of death if she tried to continue her pregnancy"  (ncronline, 12/24), he would, with a clear conscience, try to save his wife's life rather than let her die and resign as bishop to care for his own four motherless young children since, as a bishop he would not be permitted to marry again. The law of celibacy does influence the judgment of involved moralists.


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