Trust the Investigation

Re “Digging Deeper” (Current Comment, 12/10): The BP explosion was a tragedy, and the most serious consequences were borne by those who died, their families and the many who live and work along the Gulf coast. Whatever civil compensation is made will never replace the lost lives. But the editors speculate on criminal behavior, claiming the hefty fines “have the net effect of terminating investigations that might tease out the truly responsible parties.”

In the aftermath of the explosion, BP had zero popular support. The Obama administration had no reason to shelter BP or its senior executives, and every political incentive to be aggressive. So I believe we are entitled to conclude that a thorough investigation was made. The editors’ speculations about criminal behavior by additional individuals, without any supporting evidence or individual names, discredits both the government officials at every level who handled the case and individuals at BP who, after investigation, were not charged. At what point does such speculation become specious or slanderous?


Perfect justice may not be achieved in this or any other case, but we need to avoid speculations that serve no other purpose than to divide us.

Joseph J. Dunn

Conshohocken, Pa.


Of Many Things, by Matt Malone, S.J. (12/10), reminded me that original sin is alive and well. I often describe this primordial evil like this: “How can I get the most by doing the least?” Father Malone identifies the sad reality of violence and injustice as the products of original sin. And so they are. Rational decision making is hard work and demands laying out our vulnerabilities to promote a higher good.

All of our difficulties find their root in: “What’s the least I have to do/contribute in order to get by, stay on top, be superior to others?” Arriving at the bottom line of a corporate income statement, putting in the hard work to maintain trusting human relationships and, yes, sitting down and rationally working out our differences on the world’s stage do not demand we do the least, but that we pour out our very selves in this worthwhile work.

The incarnation, which ultimately led to the passion, death and resurrection of the Savior, is our model for overcoming the consequences of original sin.

Ed Pratt

East Greenbush, N.Y.

Post-Modern Conversion

“Facebook Apologetics,” by Brad Rothrock (12/10), demonstrates precisely why John Paul II’s new evangelization remains notable for its lack of success. Mr. Rothrock’s new apologetics is no less freighted with fear and distrust than his friend’s timid refrain of the common postmodern themes of jealous protection of personal autonomy and distrust of any authority figure or objective truth claim.

The suggestion that a new apologetics can be found in the undeniably brilliant but outmoded theology of Thomas Aquinas indicates a distrust of contemporary theologians and common human experience. The appeal to natural law amounts to psychological denial (in the sense of an unconscious defense mechanism against an emotionally painful reality) of any possibility of intellectual and religious conversion from within the postmodern mind-set.

The postmodern world will remain unevangelized until would-be evangelizers come to terms with the fact that they themselves are wholly the products of postmodernity’s fear and distrust. The first step toward such a realization might be to embrace graciously human limitation and fallibility and admit to the unsatisfactory nature of giving propositional answers to existential questions.

(Rev.) Alan Weber

Tampa, Fla.

The writer is the director of the Catholic student center at the University of South Florida.

Compassionate Chaplains

The letters to the editor from Ben Jimenez, S.J., and Joseph E. Mulligan, S.J., that condemned America for publishing advertisements seeking military chaplains (12/10) stunned and saddened me. For 32 years my husband served in the U.S. Air Force. We witnessed the lives and ministry of many hard-working, compassionate chaplains who baptized, married, buried, counseled, encouraged, consoled and comforted “those who handle the nuclear arsenal and operate the drones,” along with their families—even at the cost of their own lives.

They brought Christ to us amid our joys and deep sorrows. They dealt with every kind of spiritual, domestic, civil and even criminal problems imaginable. They could be found walking an icy flight line at 2 in the morning, hearing confessions in a sweltering maintenance hangar, or arranging emergency leave, transportation and money to get an 18-year-old home to a dying parent. If that isn’t “nurturing life,” I don’t know what is. Nor do I understand what tortured logic twists the convictions of these Jesuit writers to a vision of chaplains “supporting idolatry” of any kind, or as accessories to “respectable murderers.”

Mary K. Pickitt

Lake Wylie, S.C.

Seeking Reconciliation

Thank you, Susan Windley-Daoust, for “Never Too Late” (11/26). It was in Mankato, Minn., on Dec. 26, 1862, that 38 Dakota were hanged as a consequence of their struggle to overcome the overwhelming injustices they suffered from the U.S. government and the overwhelming white culture.

Forty years ago citizens in Mankato decided it was “never too late,” and with the help of Dakota people, they celebrated their first Reconciliation Pow Wow in what is now known as Reconciliation Park. A stone buffalo now stands at this site in memory of those who died because of the injustices.

The beautiful Minnesota River Valley, treasured by both Dakota people and the many white settlers, became a source of hatred, division and misunderstanding in 1862. Now, 150 years later, it is a community seeking peace and reconciliation, and many in Minnesota study and dialogue for mutual understanding of this clash of cultures that has been repeated so often in our nation and around the world. My prayer is that America readers, in their own locale, become part of this dialogue for reconciliation among all cultures.

Ted Hottinger, S.J.

Mankato, Minn.

Works of Evangelization

Re “Accent on the ‘New,’” by Kevin Clarke (Signs of the Times, 11/5): The bishops have plans regarding the new evangelization. Here are some additional thoughts from a senior priest.

First and foremost, engage our people to pray. We need God’s help, and we need to involve our people in this effort. Second, we need concerted effort to promote the corporal works of mercy in every parish in the world.

From the day Jesus announced his mission in the synagogue in Nazareth, he not only preached the message of the Father, but he healed the sick, raised the dead and fed the hungry. This is evangelization, according to Jesus: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).

St. Francis of Assisi, the story goes, received a call to rebuild Christ’s church. At first Francis thought of a nearby church building in great need of repair. But he soon realized he was being called to repair the community of the body of Christ. In time, others came to follow him, and when he sent them out on mission he reportedly told them:”Preach the Gospel always. If necessary, use words.”

(Rev.) Ed Eschweiler

Milwaukee, Wis.

Catholic Inequality

I read with interest, “School Daze” (Editorial, 10/15), because of my involvement with Catholic education over 40 years as a teacher, parent of 10 sons who attended Catholic schools and board member on the parish and diocesan levels.

I agree with this statement from the editorial: “It is inimical to a just and democratic society to maintain two separate, unequal systems, whether that dualism is based on race or property tax bases.” The editorial exhorts lay Catholics and church officials to insist on an equitable and effective education for all of America’s children, implying this inequality exists only in the public schools.

Unfortunately, I have experienced and still witness the same inequality in our Catholic school systems. More affluent parishes are able to pay higher salaries and provide educational amenities in their parish schools that less affluent parishes, often in the inner city, are unable to provide in their schools. While I agree on insisting on change in our public schools, lay Catholics and church officials must address the same and difficult issue of inequality and dualism in our Catholic schools.

Catherine Garcia-Prats

Houston, Tex.

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