In this season of Alleluias, the April 8 issue of America deserves a robust chorus.
From the historical analysis of the continuing influence of “Pacem in Terris” (“A Vision of Peace”), by Drew Christiansen, S.J., to the thoughtful, irenic suggestions for responsible gun ownership (“Lethal Responsibility”), by George B. Wilson, S.J., to the original approach to art as a theological pathway (“An Aperture for Grace”), by Jerome Miller, we are given much of the breadth and depth of Catholic Christianity. Thank you for holding up the multi-faceted richness of our tradition.
Re “Lethal Responsibility,” by George B. Wilson, S.J. (4/8): I appreciate the framing of the gun control issue as focused on defining “responsible gun behavior.” While I agree with the three-part strategy he suggests, I believe he leaves out one crucial tool: requiring that gun owners carry liability insurance.
We require that car owners carry insurance in the event that somebody is injured through their actions. Why not require the same of gun owners?
New York, N.Y.
The Cost of Lying
I wish that the poignant article, “The Cost of War,” by Margot Patterson (4/8), could be printed in every parish bulletin and diocesan newspaper. I am reminded of some lines by Rudyard Kipling in “Epitaphs of the War”: “If any question why we died,/ Tell them, because our fathers lied.”
I would like to make—respectfully—two corrections to the editorial, “Alleluia! He Is Risen!” (4/1). The Gospels do not “unanimously report that the Lord first appeared to Mary Magdalene following his resurrection.” In Luke, Jesus first appears to Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus (24:13-35). The companion is not named.
Also it is not true that “three of the four Gospels maintain that Jesus’ first post-resurrection appearance was to Mary alone.” In Matthew, “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb” (28:1).
The point of the editorial is excellent. I have read and re-read: “Put simply, in those few minutes, she was the church.” She was indeed!
Santa Ana, Calif.
Editor’s Note: Thank you for correcting the record.
There’s something quaint about the apologetics offered by William Lane Craig in “Accounting for the Empty Tomb” (4/1). The purpose of apologetics is to defend the faith by offering persuasive arguments for its truth. But the historical approach taken by Professor Craig isn’t likely to speak to the postmodern skeptic.
The postmodern skeptic tends to look at the Bible as a narrative woven from any number of mythological strands, whose truth can neither be verified nor falsified by historical analysis. Consequently, the skeptic is likely to dismiss attempts to historically privilege any single one of those strands as a ludicrous misunderstanding of the text.
It is this broader kind of skepticism that today’s apologist needs to address. But Professor Craig doesn’t get this, and so his style of apologetics, while perhaps relevant to 18th or 19th-century sensibilities, risks leaving today’s seekers cold.
I was impressed at your honesty (3/25 issue) concerning the response of America to the Vietnam War in the late 1960s. It is indeed important to acknowledge past error; it is more important to speak the truth today.
In discussing Jesuits who did protest the war, Joseph Mulligan, S.J., who was part of the Chicago 15, is mentioned. The article states that Father Mulligan “recently wrote to America urging it to cease publishing ads for military chaplaincies.” I have written this same thing to America several times over the past 25 years. I wonder about the disparity between the military ads and most of the content of your magazine.
You write for peace and you advocate for justice, and yet you take money from a system that defies both. I am well aware of the response that everyone has a right to a priest for their sacramental life. The issue is not military chaplains. It is that military chaplains are part of the military and their salary is paid by the Defense Department. As members of the military, they are not free to question their government’s actions in an ongoing military action or war. How can a priest speak the Gospel if it must be filtered through the lens of a political power?
Editor’s Note: Please see America’s editorial statement about advertisements for military chaplains (“Recruiting Father Mulcahey” [sic], 11/17/2008): “Few people come face to face with the ultimate questions of our humanity more often, and at greater personal cost, than do members of the military. We support efforts, including those by the armed forces and their critics, to provide them with the spiritual resources they need.”
You have raised a new standard in journalism: a changed mind! Rather than merely apologize, the issue of March 25 explains errors of enormous consequence during those terrible years. It reviews the reasons for the errors of judgment about the Vietnam War without simpering excuses. The only reasonable way to offer a credible promise not to err in the same way again is to explain why it happened in the first place.
America, the nation, is not up to that level of maturity. And the church? The church needs to ask its scholars to prepare explanations—not excuses—for some of the human tragedies it has failed to address effectively. If its apologies are to be serious and credible, these explanations need to come with the authority of the Vatican. When the church does this, it will have gone a long way toward becoming Pope Francis’ “church of the poor for the poor.”
My Vietnam Experience
I read with interest your articles on Vietnam. Now in my 80s, I was in Saigon with the U.S. Information Agency in 1954 when the French lost at Dien Bien Phu. It was the period when we were just sending in “military advisors.” Many of us were against any more involvement there (i.e., troops on the ground). Unfortunately, Washington did not agree with us.
One outstanding memory was when the country was divided at the 17th Parallel. I lay in my bed under mosquito netting listening to the Communist songs sung by prisoners being returned to North Vietnam—giving a most eerie feeling. I returned to Europe on a French ship called the “Marseilles” with hundreds of wounded French, maimed beyond belief. It was a trip I will never forget. Sadly, the war continued for over another 20 years, resulting in the deaths of 58,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese.
Re “Mass Evangelization,” by Scott W. Hahn (4/22):
I’m a very “liberal” Catholic, but I also think Professor Hahn is a brilliant interpreter of Scripture and of Catholicism itself. I find it refreshing to find his byline in America. I am somehow getting an inkling of a thought that Pope Francis will be very good at healing the strange divide with the Catholic Church. The things that separate us, for the most part, are not opposed to one another. I’ve always found the entire problem puzzling. I am going to hope for healing.
Really interesting article! I will admit that the very word evangelization makes me cringe. I grew up a Catholic kid in the South, where my neighbors and friends were taught at a very early age that Catholics were not Christians and that they were required to “save” me. It’s good for me to see the word from a different perspective. Thank you!
Rachel Schnitzius Rouse