In response to V. Bradley Lewis’s “American Exceptionalism” (10/3), there are still more sinister connotations to that word. Not only does it distract us from facing our problems, but it implies that the nation is entitled and favored by God to be number one in everything. Humility and respect for other nations and people are apparently unnecessary. Consequently our invasions of other nations and the resulting deaths, directly or from “collateral damage,” are justifiable in order to maintain our wealth and status. I suggest that claims of “exceptionalism” are delusional.

Joe D’Anna


Los Alamos, N.M.

Back to Fundamentals

Thank you for your editorial “A State of Their Own” (9/26). Israel’s position that Palestinian statehood should be accomplished through negotiations, considering what has been taking place on the ground these past years, can readily be interpreted as a strategy for further territorial expansion. The one-sided support of Israel and its policies by some Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals is troubling. They seem to ignore the teachings of Jesus as these apply to their Palestinian brothers and sisters. As the United Nations examines the process of statehood for Palestine, peace for Israel and Palestinians could better proceed if these Christians would take a fresh look at how the Gospel relates to the long-suffering occupied Palestinians.

John J. Leibrecht

Bishop Emeritus

Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Truth Hurts

Reading “To See With God’s Eyes,” by Timothy O’Brien, S.J. (10/3), reminded me that when Scripture asks us to suffer in order to know God’s son in a truer sense, this suffering manifests itself in incalculable ways in each individual soul. Whether we are rich, poor, beautiful, ugly, proud or humble, there is a cross to bear.

I read Ms. Karr’s memoir Lit and was fascinated with her struggle for meaning and, indeed, sanity. I like her refusal to sugar-coat in order to please. Telling the truth to yourself as well as to others is accompanied by suffering. The truth may set you free, but it will be hard won.

Jerry Felty

Orient, Ohio

Somewhere, Hope

I have just devoured the story by Luke Hansen, S.J., “The Prosecution Rests” (9/26), about Lt. Col. Darrel J. Vandeveld, whose faith required him to leave his position at Guantánamo. What a wonderful witness to the power of the Gospel when it is taken seriously. In my own timid efforts to witness for peace and justice, Col. Vandeveld has given me hope that in the worst of circumstances people can still see the difference between good and evil.

Marie D. Hoff

Bismarck, N.D.

Against Emotionalism

As the rector of the Phoenix cathedral mentioned in your editorial “Save the Altar Girls” (10/10), I feel compelled to respond to the distortion and emotionalism contained therein. I told the assistant editor who contacted me, “As the rector, I am the chief liturgist of the parish. I do not, as a general rule, consult our parish council on liturgical matters since the typical parish council (and ours, specifically) is not comprised of members formally trained in theology and liturgy. As many in the media have demonstrated clearly, the absence of formal theological and liturgical training leaves far too many individuals evaluating this decision from a purely emotional, subjective standpoint.

Naturally, I consulted with the bishop, as he is the canonical pastor of the cathedral; but he leaves the final decision and implementation to me.”

To go point-by-point through the editorial to unmask the distortions would require more time and effort than I have available to invest. If one knows the actual history of altar service one knows that prior to the establishment of the seminary system, altar boys were apprentices for the priesthood, and the service pointed to that specific vocation. It was actually the boys who were replaced at the altar by dissident clergy in the late 1980s and early 1990s prior to the permission being given by the Holy See. So this all started with disobedience, which is the epitome of clericalism. The obsession with priestly image is the problem. The first step in ending the distortion of this publication would be to share Vatican II’s actual teaching on the identity (sacramental character) of the priest. That is, unless one dissents from the church’s theology of priesthood.

(Very Rev.) John T. Lankeit

Rector, Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral

The Human Word, Not Male

Your editorial “Save the Altar Girls” (10/10) is right on target. Excluding girls from serving at the altar is theologically baseless and vocationally misguided. The vocation of a boy or young man who is attracted to the priesthood because he likes to see only males around the altar should be examined for authenticity. We are saved because the eternal Word became human, not because she became male. May the Holy Spirit enable the church to overcome the patriarchal mentality whereby only males can serve at the altar.

Luis Gutierrez

Montgomery Village, Md.

Constantine’s Parish

The editorial “Save the Altar Girls” (10/10) did not adequately identify in context the reported parish in Ann Arbor, Mich., and the diocese in Nebraska where eliminating altar girls led to increased vocations. The Ann Arbor parish is Christ the King Catholic Church, on Ave Maria Street, led by the same group that founded Ave Maria Law School, which left Ann Arbor because it found the city too hostile to its conservative ways. The church identifies itself as “charismatic,” and Constantine and the Inquisition would feel at home there.

The diocese in Nebraska has been known for years as the most conservative in the country. We do need to be aware of these radical churches, but they are far from trend setters. They represent a desperate effort to continue to avoid the truth: the church is declining in numbers and priests because it is serving itself and the elitist boys’ club that runs it rather than God.

Kathy Johnson

Ann Arbor, Mich.

Those Were the Days

Re “Save The Altar Girls” (10/10): Returning to the pre-Vatican II days is a good thing—back when Mass was a holy experience rather than a Godforsaken rock concert; when churches looked like churches instead of movie theaters; when nuns wore nuns’ clothing and people knelt to receive Communion in awe and fear, instead of taking Him into their filthy dirty hands as if they were grabbing for a potato chip.

The editorial mentioned the priest not consulting his parish council. Of course he shouldn’t. There shouldn’t be a thing like that in any parish. The priest is father of the family. That’s why we call him “Father.” What would your editorial call him? “Dude” or “Bro”? As for altar girls, consider the Blessed Mother as an example. She is Queen of Heaven, but she was happy to be behind the scenes, “arranging the flowers” while the male apostles were busy being bishops.

Charles Jones

Atlanta, Ga.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Jim McCrea
6 years 9 months ago
Charles Jones' comments are so sad that they deserve no comment other than to pray for his deluded soul.
6 years 9 months ago
(Very Rev.) John T. Lankeit's comment, "this all started with disobedience,"  sounds like something the Pharisees would have said after Jews began converting to Christianity.
6 years 9 months ago
In my family, my father and mother discuss all major decisions.  We all would be horrified if he just mandated things as he saw fit.  And, I would have a terrible time trying to respect him.

Just because YOU don't like changes, it doesn't make them wrong or bad.  Just because YOU prefer to worship in the old model, doesn't make those who prefer to worship with contemporary songs wrong or bad.  The very fact that our tradition has such a rich potpourri of prayer styles is testament that there are as many different - and GOOD - ways to worship our God as there are people in this world.  Remember, God made us all with these particular preferences, and he made us with them ON PURPOSE!  Alleluia!

Priests are also servants, my friend - servants first. 

How do you know Mary was happy to be behind the scenes, anyway?  Have you asked her?  Last time she and I chatted, she told me quite the contrary.  And, last I read Scriptures, the Male Apostles were busy getting everything wrong in Jesus' final days, while the women were the ones who remained steadfast.   

I am a 9th and 10th grade religion teacher, and it is comments like yours, Mr. Jones, that keep me in the classroom.  I can't let my students journey off into the world without good reason and theology in their brains to combat unchristian view points like your own.
6 years 9 months ago
All I can say is that this writer exemplifies the thinking that is wrong with the Catholic Church today. If they continue on this path, they'll have no one in the pews and no one to blame but themelves.
This article made me want to scream. How dare he say that Mary was content being behind the scenes. Typical male response. Unfortunately, since the church is a patriarchal institution, they would go along with this crazed way of thinking. 
Ana Blasucci
6 years 9 months ago
Regarding the letter on American Exceptionalism and other mentions of this concept in America:
It simply means that the U.S. is a historical "exception."  In less than two and a half centuries we have gone from a land where poverty was still the norm to having the highest overall living standard in history.
Other nations did eventually develop into similar places, such as Great Britain... but look how many centuries it took.  And most of the world is as bad or worse now (Middle East, Africa) than in the distant past.
"Exceptionalism" of the American variety just means that due to the foresight and genius of our founders, and the system they consequently put in place, our country is an exception to this "rule" of history, which means that poverty and affliction are the norm in the world, and that even most who escape take an exponentially longer time.
"American Exceptionalism" shouldn't be confused with the Nineteenth Century concept of "Manifest Destiny."


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