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September 26, 2011

'Howdy, Podner’

What a pleasant surprise to find in Of Many Things on Aug. 1, by Drew Christiansen, S.J., two great reviews of westerns. I am a fan of western literature, but I never expected to find an article about it in America. I have already read Doc, one of Father Christiansen’s recommendations, which was excellent, and am ordering Empire of the Summer Moon. I wonder if America could more often review good recreational reading, which is often difficult to find.

Ralph Ranieri

Barva, Costa Rica

Bible Not ‘True’? Don’t Tell Us

Brian B. Pinter says in “A Fundamental Challenge” (9/12) that most Catholics who are literal readers of the Bible do not realize that this method is not part of their faith tradition and that these interpretations have been repeatedly discouraged by Catholic scholars, pastors and bishops. To some extent that is true, but it overlooks the fact that genuine critical study of the Scripture was not fostered by the church before the Second Vatican Council, or at least before Pope Pius XII. In fact it was condemned in the 19th century. And Catholic scholars who tried to use the modern methods early in the 20th century had to do so surreptitiously.

Incidentally, how big an advocate of the critical study of the Bible has our current pope been? To understate the matter, with his undying opposition to “relativism,” he has not been an enthusiastic supporter. In the last 40 years, how many bishops have encouraged their people or teachers to read at least the smaller paperback works of Raymond E. Brown, S.S., or Michael D. Guinan, O.F.M.?

How many bishops could give a satisfactory explanation of inspiration and inerrancy? I suspect the hierarchy holds back because the “simple people” might be disturbed. I’m not surprised Brian Pinter met the opposition he did.

Andy Galligan

Tracy, Calif.

What About Alley Oop?

Brian B. Pinter’s experience, reported in “A Fundamental Challenge” (9/12), parallels mine in two large Catholic parishes, one diocese and one regional adult faith formation certificate program. It is one reason I can no longer work for the church.

Much of the fault rests with the priests who in their paternalistic fashion continue to preach as if there were a historical Adam, Eve, Noah and so on. They assume Catholics are too stupid to understand biblical scholarship, and they certainly don’t want problems with their diocesan bishop, especially if they want to be a monsignor some day!

I once heard a pastor speak to a large adult initiation group. Ques-tioned about the historicity of Genesis, he said that scientists know that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time! I presume he was referring to the Book of Flintstones.

Greg Byrne

Arlington, Va.

Did Jesus Multiply Bread?

The article by Michael G. Lawler and Todd A. Salzman, “Beyond Catechesis” (9/12), quickly caught my attention as the grandfather of a young woman and man now attending Jesuit universities in the eastern United States.

I believe theology is the bedrock on which truthful catechesis rests. As a catechist since the 1980s, I have seen that the first catechists are parents, followed by religious and the laity. Sound theological study must be compatible with what the church teaches, and the theologians may ask questions that do not disparage or question the reality of Christ’s teaching.

An example: Why did Christ feed the people on the hillside in a miraculous manner rather than ask them to share? When theologians raise doubts about this, it is no wonder bishops are concerned. The question concerns the theologian’s motive. Does his or her presentation reveal a personal bias or a desire to publish something that will please a group unhappy with church doctrine?

Harry D. Carrozza, M.D.

Tucson, Ariz.

More on How to Preach

In response to “Time of the Preacher” (Current Comment, 9/12), Catholics come to Mass to be “fed.” That’s the function of the sermon. We want real food, not pablum about social justice or inclusiveness. Here’s a checklist I would like a bishop to circulate: Speak briskly, no pregnant pauses, no ums or ahs; repeat the central rhetoric of the Gospel story; a bit of humor; paint a picture the listener can carry home. Also watch Protestant ministers to learn how to do the triple repeat; raise and lower the volume of your voice and add a dramatic gesture; give facts on church history; compare and contrast with past Catholic practice and current Protestant beliefs.

Chris Mulcahy

Fort Myers Beach, Fla.

Not a New Americanism

Your editorial “The New Americanism” (8/1) refers to a letter from Pope Leo XIII to Cardinal Gibbons in 1899. The old Americanism was a phantom heresy. Cardinal Gibbons wrote a masterly reply to Pope Leo, in which he thanked him but explained that this Americanism has nothing to do with the views, conduct or doctrine of Americans, that there was no priest, bishop or layman who uttered the views attacked in the papal letter. Rather, the Americanism of the 19th and early 20th century concerned the separation of church and state, with the liberals in the hierarchy supporting the American system.

Your editorial seems to claim that there is a New Americanism, implying that the one addressed in “Testem Benevolentiae” was actually full of errors. In truth, Americanism was a valued new form of government that let the church prosper along with the state and without interfering with one another. Today Catholics worthy of the name will rise to the defense of the poor. But let us not suggest that the callous disregard for the poor, the elderly or the unemployed is a new Americanism.

Mary Y. Dilworth

Parkville, Md.

I Hadn’t Noticed the Crisis

Kyle T. Kramer’s column “Attention: Deficit Disorder” (8/15) claims that the “Catholic tradition speaks eloquently of our need for faithful stewardship of creation” and that the pope recently said the church is often the only hope.

Meanwhile the accent in my parish is on a new liturgy and moral lectures on sexual sins, with never a word about gay rights, the environment or creation. A very conservative archbishop and clergy want a return to an earlier church model with no conception of these issues. If Mother Nature is in peril, no one here has mentioned it—not from the pulpit, in the Catholic newspaper or on television. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Virginia Edman

Toronto, Ont., Canada

Follow the Money

Re the editorial “Out of Afghanistan” (8/15): Before a rational and total withdrawal can be designed or achieved, our leaders have to come clean with the truth about why we are really there. It is not about freedom or democracy for the Afghan people. We are there for the same reason Russia was there in the 1980s and the reason we created the monster of Saddam Hussein to do our dirty work against them: money—more precisely, precious minerals, trillions of dollars worth hidden in those godforsaken mountains.

Craig McKee

Daytona Beach, Fla.

Padua Has One, Too

As a native son of New York City I have been looking forward to the opening of the ground zero memorial (“Temporal and Timeless,” by Judith Dupré, 8/29). Meanwhile our tragedy has not been forgotten around the world. On the sixth anniversary, a memorial was dedicated in Padua, Italy, with a twisted steel beam donated by the U.S. State Department as its centerpiece. Designed by Daniel Libeskind and called “Memory and Light,” it includes other symbolic dates, like July 4 and Italian Liberation Day on April 24. The memorial is online at www.snipurl.com/vaw7e.

Joseph Curtin

Holland, Mass.

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