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December 12, 2011

Losing to Islam and New Age

“The Changing Face of Theology” (10/24), by T. Howland Sanks, S.J., gives us cause to reread an earlier article in America by Roger Haight, S.J. (3/17/08). Theology is not static or dead, as we were taught in the Baltimore Catechism—and left with only the memorized basics without the needed follow-up in our teen years and after. Fortunately, since I went to a Jesuit college, I was able to “get it” and accept the Second Vatican Council. Catholic theology is more important than ever today, because of the need to integrate theology with advances in other areas, especially science. The article offers hope, but unfortunately I do not see these ideas being taught to our best college students today. Without a new apologetics we are losing youth to the simpler theologies! In my specialty, dialogue, I see it losing to Islam. But here in California, many are lost to New Age.

Don Jones

San Jose, Calif.

Maybe PBS Mysteries?

Reading “Why Sitcoms Matter,” by Jake Martin, S.J. (11/14), I wondered what St. Ignatius’ favorite sitcoms would be if he were alive today. I could see him watching reruns of grittier shows like “Combat” or “The Rifleman,” so maybe military-themed sitcoms like “McHale’s Navy” or “Hogan’s Heroes” might give him a chuckle or two after a wearisome day trying to defend the teachings of the church. But his biography says he was always really busy working on that. So, who knows?

Jeff Parker

Dallas, Tex.

The Buried Talent

I am concerned that Barbara Reid, O.P., in the Word column on Nov. 7, completely rewrote the meaning of the parable concerning the master and the three servants who were given five, two and one talent respectively. Her take on this was that the servant who buried his one talent was the honorable one, because he did not go along with the greed of the master.

This interpretation, which I found thoughtful and stimulating, is not what the church teaches. Rather, this servant was culpable for not investing the talent that was given him. So we are called to use the gifts that God has entrusted to us. Otherwise, we risk being left out of God’s kingdom.

I am not here to denigrate Sister Reid as a Scripture scholar. I have enjoyed her column and gained many new insights into the Scriptures over the last three years. But I would ask that this column be edited when someone departs so significantly from the meaning that the church teaches.

Joseph M. Formica

Atlantic City, N.J.

The Author Replies

I am grateful to Joseph M. Formica and to other readers of America for their queries about the interpretation I offered to the Parable of the Talents in The Word (11/7). One of the features of Gospel parables is that they are not stories that confirm the status quo; rather, they are destabilizing and puzzling, often turning accepted notions upside down. For this reason, even Jesus’ first disciples found them difficult to understand (Mk 4:10).

The church wisely does not teach as authoritative any particular interpretation of this or any other Gospel parable, allowing Jesus’ words to challenge us to think differently and to envision the reign of God in ways that bring justice and peace for all. Sometimes that means blowing the whistle on greedy persons in power.

Barbara Reid, O.P.

Chicago, Ill.

Caged Church

Your editorial on China, “Failure to Communicate” (11/21), misses the point that this situation is not about communication problems. It is about a repressive Communist regime trying to control the church. It is surprising that Cardinal Zen, the retired archbishop of Hong Kong and titular head of the church in China, who knows about the situation in China and should have been listened to throughout by the Holy See, is not mentioned in the editorial. Asked whether the Communist government would ever allow religious freedom, Cardinal Zen replied: “I think we can hope that the cage will become bigger and bigger, and we hope at the end they’ll let the birds fly.”

Frank C. Tantillo

Freehold, N.J.

‘Public’ Excommunication

In the editorial “Failure to Communi-cate” (11/21), the expression “Pope Benedict has ramped up the church’s response to the provocations by excommunicating the illicitly ordained bishops and threatening the same to others who willingly cooperate with the ordinations” leads to misunderstanding.

In current church law, a priest receiving ordination as a bishop without a mandate from the pope, or a bishop ordaining such a priest, is by that very act committing a serious sin, thereby incurring excommunication. The pope’s action is to declare publicly that such an act has occurred. In the past, on several occasions when these ordinations have occurred, the pope or others undoubtedly privately made the concerned priests aware of their transgression and its penalty of excommunication. (Of course, as in all immoral acts, personal guilt depends on whether fully informed and deliberate consent was given.) It would be more accurate to say “the pope publicly made known that they had, by church law, incurred excommunication.”

Robert Deiters, S.J.

Tokyo, Japan.

The ‘Kill the Gays’ Bill

Your “Ending a Reign of Fear” (Current Comment, 11/14) approves the U.S. military intervention in Uganda against the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army in support of President Museveni. I do not support the L.R.A. in any way. But the comment should have mentioned that President Museveni supports the bill being considered in the legislature referred to as the “Kill the Gays” bill. It would make homosexuality punishable by death and would criminalize those who do not turn in gay people and people who “promote” homosexuality. The Ugandan government our military supports is no better than the L.R.A.

John O’Donnell

Roseville, Minn.

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