Facts About Drinking

The editorial “How Old Is Old Enough?” (5/30) ignored the facts on why lowering the drinking age is a dangerous and irresponsible proposal. Moving the age to 18 is popular with lawyers seeking to reduce college liability for the more than 1,800 deaths, 100,000 rapes and 700,000 assaults that occur each year to college students as a result of drinking, but let’s not kid ourselves that it will solve the problem.

Underage drinking is a health issue at its origin; the brain is still developing through the mid-20s, making it likely that young people will take risks, including drinking, and that such use will impair judgment, increase risky behavior, interfere with brain development and increase the risk of addiction. Second, in two thirds of the cases college drinkers began drinking in high school or earlier. Third, new research shows that providing opportunities for teens to drink actually increases their alcohol use. Lowering the drinking age will change none of these facts.


What will make a difference is a strong and consistent no-use messages from parents, starting at an early age, a health care profession that responds to the problem and a change in the culture of drinking and drug use on campus.

Susan E. Foster

National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse

New York, N.Y.

Raise the Killing Age

Thank you for your editorial “How Old Is Old Enough?” and for raising questions about the legal drinking age in the United States and suggesting changes without pretending that there are easy answers. What has bothered me for some time is that we trust 18-year-olds to kill humans we have labeled “enemies” but do not trust those same teens to consume a glass of wine or a pint of ale. It might be wiser to lower the drinking age and raise the killing age.

Dennis Okholm

Azusa, Calif.

No One Will Tell Them

I was not surprised to read in the review by John Coleman, S.J., of A Faith of Their Own, by Lisa D. Pearce and Melinda Lundquist Denton’s (6/20), that children get some of their faith from their parents. This proves that those who think young people should be allowed to explore for themselves and find their own way to God are way off base. Despite some of the study’s findings, it seems to me there must be a close correlation between attending Mass and receiving the sacraments and prayer. Our children are educated mostly by Hollywood, their peers and pagan professors. No wonder they have no concept of deadly sin. The Hollywood elites and culture leaders—mostly if-it-feels-good-and-no-one-is-hurt-it-must-be-O.K. relativists—do not believe strongly in the reality of evil. My sense is that teenagers stray because the antireligious messages overwhelm those in favor, and their questions are not adequately answered if they ask.

Don Roberto

San Leandro, Calif.

What About Sex And Sainthood?

I agree with the nominations for sainthood made by James Martin, S.J., in Of Many Things (5/16), but did the Vatican show great support for Archbishop Oscar Romero even at the time of his funeral? Wasn’t John Paul II suspicious of Romero’s connection to liberation theology? Did Rome ever consider Romero a martyr? Sadly, I suspect it saw him as too involved with politics, just as our administration regarded the murdered women missioners in El Salvador.

Again, I agree with Father Martin, but almost all those he named are religious or clergy. Are there married folk being overlooked at the beatifications who could serve as role models for those of us not committed to celibacy? Can’t Catholicism find great holiness in those who relish the expression of sexual love?

Andy Galligan

Tracy, Calif.

How Could He Say That?

As an Episcopal priest, long edified by your good magazine and an admirer of the books of James Martin, S.J., I was astonished to read in his Of Many Things (5/16) that despite minor flaws, Pope John Paul II was a holy man. He was pope during the initial disclosure of the clergy sexual abuse scandal, but he turned a deaf ear to all the clamor around him. Bishops in this country petitioned him to remove guilty priests but to no avail. Some Vatican officials urged him to attend to this explosive issue, but without result. How many lives were destroyed by this indifference? In Gary Wills’s term, “This was classic Papal Sin.”

This is not, as Father Martin would have it, a matter of disagreement over some issues. It is a giant failure of moral responsibility. Then again, I’ve never understood the process of making someone a saint. In the New Testament, all Christians are saints, of course, including sinners (1 Cor 1:2).

(Rev.) Walter W. White

Vineyard Haven, Mass.

Marching Backwards

As Peter Steinfels says in “Voice Lessons” (5/30), anything George Weigel proposes needs to be taken seriously, because so many resonate with his conclusions as the church continues its drift toward re-establishing itself as a fortress. It has to, since it alone stands as a bastion of truth, integrity and faithfulness to God. That would be great, but we are a church of sinners!

The security this offers is appealing to the apparently growing number of church members who require certitude and control in their lives. Steinfels’s take on whether the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops diminishes local bishops’ authority and freedom may not be provable. It won’t matter much if present trends within the church continue.

National conferences have lost their effectiveness since the undoing of the Second Vatican Council became the top priority of the pope and the Roman Curia, and they sought a return to centralized authority. Each bishop is autonomous now and need not agree with a national conference decision or any challenges to his authority as local shepherd. He need only be subservient to Rome.

And so, reform of the reform of liturgy will continue. It won’t be long before the Tridentine Mass is the accepted norm. In other areas, theological and moral dissent will result in being silenced, removed or excommunicated. The ongoing crucifixion of Jesus in the world outside the church will soon be experienced within as well.

March Franceschini, O.S.M.

Denver, Colo.

What’s the Real Priority?

Despite the John Jay Report discussed in Kathleen McChesney’s “What Caused The Crisis?” (6/6), with its “repeated emphasis on problems of isolation and loneliness as contributors to the crisis,” it says celibacy is not a factor in priests’ abuse of children. Where’s the logic? Whether isolated by situation or by choice, lonely priests with “intimacy deficits” might find it easier to seek an affective connection with children than with adults; and sexuality is part of human affectivity. Married priests, however, are likely to find normal, healthy intimacy and sexual fulfillment.

But Jesus did not rule that priests be celibate. About a thousand years after Jesus’ ascension church leaders mandated celibacy for all Western-rite priests. Why should the magisterium require more of its priests than Jesus did?

Pope St. Pius X promoted frequent holy Communion. But millions of people hungry for the Eucharist live 100 miles from a celibate priest! What would Jesus do? Why not trust the Holy Spirit to provide enough priests, whether called to celibacy or marriage? Is the mission of the church to bring Jesus in the Eucharist to all Catholics or to preserve priestly celibacy?

David B. Conner

Macon, Ga.

Correction: Errors in “Outward Bound,” by James T. Keane, S.J. (6/20), have been corrected in the text published on America’s Web site.

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