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November 07, 2011


Just a little note on the “Save the Altar Girls” editorial (10/10). I winter in Florida, where my parish swells to seven weekend Masses during the snowbird season, with three aging priests to handle them. One Sunday none of the altar servers showed up, and the priest asked if someone from the congregation would volunteer to serve Mass. There was no movement from the ranks of the elderly men. Obviously they didn’t feel they would remember how to do it. After all, their training had been in Latin. The lack of response grew embarrassing. Finally someone got up and walked to the altar. She was a grey-haired lady who had never had the opportunity to serve Mass in her youth. Untrained, inexperienced and undaunted, she served very well.

Carol DeChant

Evanston, Ill.

Do Three Things

It is good to see your coverage in “‘Occupy Wall Street’ Goes Wild” (Signs of the Times, 10/24), but I hear in it a distressing echo of the popular news media repeating that the protesters are “unfocused” and “don’t have a message.” They are energetic young people acting out the whole family’s dysfunction, and it is up to us to decipher the illness they point to.

The credible message that the media and others do not want to hear is that some remedies are in order. Here are a few priorities.

1) A new Homestead Act must help homeowners keep their homes by lowering the principal of their mortgages to reflect reality, not the speculation-driven, hyper-inflated price that housing was selling for.

2) The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 must be reinstated. The reason bankers and financiers could develop those fraudulent mortgage packages that have not only bilked homeowners but devastated the economies of the world is that both parties in Congress worked to gut the Glass-Steagall Act, which kept the bankers from using deposits of clients for speculative investments.

3) The public should be encouraged to remove their deposits from the “too big to fail” banks and put them in community credit unions. Keeping your money local keeps the accountability local. These moves are doable and concrete if there is political will and a sense of justice.

Chris Nuñez

Santa Cruz, Calif.

Start With Plato

I agree with “Catechesis or Theology” (Current Comment, 10/10) that more curricular space should be allotted to theology. A two-course requirement is insufficient; at least three should be required. Especially at a Jesuit college, one should have special emphasis on the New Testament. There should also be three required courses in philosophy. One should take Catholic thinkers from Augustine to Thomas Aquinas, though after tackling Plato and Aristotle. Graduates of Catholic colleges acquainted with Catholic social thought on war and peace, the value of human life and economic justice could make a significant contribution to American life.

Richard H. Escobales

Buffalo, N.Y,

Listen to Married People

Re the review by Thomas P. Rausch, S.J., of The Crisis of Authority in Catholic Modernity (10/24): I was one of those priests who ended up telling people to follow their conscience. I had read “Humanae Vitae” several times and found it unconvincing—with its natural law argument that seemed to be based more on the demands of sexual plumbing than on the reality of two people facing life. It made frequent appeals to authority, the weakest of all modern arguments, and Pope Paul VI had refused to listen to the commission he had appointed, which disagreed with him, even though he had stacked it with conservative bishops. I was also aware that Pope Paul, the hierarchy and I shared one thing: We did not understand the realities of married life because we were not married people.

I still think that married people who know that part of their vocation is the cross and who are open to the Spirit are better judges of reality than any pope. I do not quite understand how this is “relativism.” I would call it reality. What destroyed the authority of the church? Priests who told married people to follow their consciences, or a pope who tried to force his opinions down the throats of people who had their own sacrament to live, with the wisdom and help of the Spirit that comes with it?

William Taylor

Nampa, Idaho

No Kidding

Thomas P. Rausch, S.J., says in his review of The Crisis of Authority in Catholic Modernity (10/24), “This book should be widely read by bishops....” You’ve got to be kidding. Can you name one out of the hundreds of U.S. Catholic bishops who would read this book? The church has been my life, but right now I can’t find any smart people who are taking it seriously.

James E. O’Leary

Corpus Christi, Tex.

So Much for Sanks!

T. Howland Sanks, S.J., has written an interesting article (“The Changing Face of Theology,” 10/24). But it may come as a shock to Father Sanks that the U.S. Catholic laity has little interest in “Conversion and Retrieval of Fihavana Culture in Madagascar” or any other such obscure thesis topics that come out of his school.

It is in the fundamentals of our faith—Thomism, church fathers, historical theology, soteriology, ecclesiology, eschatology, moral theology etc.—that the American laity is thirsting for knowledge.

As Reinhard Hutter writes in “The Ruins of Discontinuity,” in First Things, “We do not seek pluralism, we seek continuity!” Edward Oakes, S.J., author of “The Surnaturel Controversy: A Survey and a Response,” in Nova et Vetera, represents the theologian I hope to emulate some day. Father Sanks and the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley do not.

Edward Ray

Orange, Calif.

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