A Quieter Politics
Most of what is written in “Election Angst” (Editorial, 2/22) is rather superficial and has been over-talked and over-written so much that most people have already heard it in one form or another. Moreover, the Ignatian suggestion of inner silence and reflection is common not merely to the Google executive but, more important, to equally old or older Christian and non-Christian traditions than that of St. Ignatius.
The former notwithstanding, however, inner silence can be a curative for fear, which fuels frustration, anxiety, anger and violence. It is old wisdom in a world of noise. But taking up the banner of wisdom and good judgment is not exactly the historical marker of human beings. For those who may not have read it but are particularly interested in a deeper exploration of solitude, I would recommend the book Solitude: A Return to the Self, by Anthony Storr (1988). Unfortunately, most are too hurried, preoccupied and extrinsic to engage in the personal peace that allows us to see more clearly ways to solve our problems, elect integrated persons to high office and give comfort to the many who feel absolutely overwhelmed by nonresponsive others.
“The Greatness of a Nation,” by Bishop Robert McElroy (2/15), should be read by all Catholics of voting age. The “four pillars of life” he identifies are indeed priority issues that all American Catholics should be considering as they choose to support candidates this election year.
We need also, however, to consider in what areas compromise might positively affect these issues so fundamental to respect for life. If we want to offer realistic solutions to the horrors of abortion and starvation in poorer developing countries, might we not want to reconsider the church’s stringent objections to some forms of birth control? Overpopulation, even relative overpopulation, in poor countries has contributed to the refugee problem and destruction of social infrastructure and has strained limited natural resources, contributing to social and political instability and environmental catastrophes.
I am sensitive to the church’s moral objections to many forms of contraception. But I cannot help wondering if the lack of contraceptive resources has not contributed to unwanted pregnancies, especially in the poorer segments of our own society, and increased reliance on abortion services, particularly among the young and unwed. I would prefer health care dollars to be spent on prevention and not one penny spent on abortion.
Re “Immigrant Flood—Really?” (Current Comment, 2/15): The question is not how much of a change there has been in the number of people crossing the borders, but what becomes of them after they arrive. Are they exploited by employers? Go visit your local slaughterhouse. Do they put undue burdens on public facilities? Visit your public school or hospital. Do they “take” jobs from American citizens? Hire a contractor to do work on your house and check every worker’s papers.
The vast majority of readers of America do not fear losing their jobs to “undocumented migrants” and do not face depressed wages because an undocumented worker might take their job. I do not know what the just solution to the problem is, but 10.9 million undocumented migrants is not a small number; and if you are unemployed, it may be 10.9 million noncitizens too many.
A Challenging Cycle
“The Pope in Mexico” (Editorial, 2/8): Am I missing all the editorials expressing deep concerns that both leading Democrat candidates are enthusiastically favoring the abortion industry at every opportunity? The border issue is indeed challenging for Catholics to consider, of course. But I would like to also read the editors’ opinion on the deeply troubling number of Christians supporting these Democrats. There is much to be upset about across the board this election cycle.
The Problem With Purity
“Create in Me a Just Heart,” by Megan McCabe (2/8), an analysis of porn as a societal sin, is enlightening and well researched. The most important part of this piece is the ending, because the critique of the bishops’ focus on purity as inadequate applies to many problems besides porn. This view of sexuality is a festering problem in our church tradition. Sexual morality ought to be centered in just relationships, rather than moral purity. Whether an act or desire offends against purity is a secondary question. The primary questions ought to be, “Does this behavior enhance or degrade proper loving relationships?” “Is a human being being used as an object?” “Does this desire affirm or violate the dignity of self and others?”
This approach has helped me in my own spiritual development in a way that obsessing about purity never could. I believe many problems in the church, the first being the sexual abuse scandal, would have been handled better if a sexual ethic of just relationships were integrated and consistently practiced.
A Stronger Point
I agree with the overall point in “What’s Catholic About It?” (2/8), by J. Michael Byron, but I do not think the analogy with professional schools works. Offering “legal studies” in a law school would be silly, but “Catholic studies” in a Catholic university does not transfer. Yes, the Catholic ethos of an educational institution should pervade the study of every discipline, but that is different than saying that in a Catholic university you study “Catholic economics,” “Catholic mathematics,” etc. To this end, one can make a case that “Catholic studies” can justify its distinct existence alongside other disciplines. I think the stronger point here is that Catholic studies promotes the “sectarian or ideological notion of Catholicism.”
A Mercy to Be Heard
In “Interreligious Leaders” (2/1), Gerard O’Connell reports a day of reflection at the Vatican during Lent for interreligious dialogue among Christians, Jews and Muslims. “Speaking with Mercy” (Signs of the Times, 2/8) relayed Pope Francis’ message for World Communications Day. This ecumenical dialogue must move from merely “speaking with mercy” to “hearing.” There is a mercy to be heard—that is, a forgiveness to be received. In the interest of ecumenism, many apologies are sincerely spoken. Compared to forgiveness, however, apologies are offered from a position of power and comfort. Apologies are spoken. A forgiving mercy needs to be heard.
The distinction between apology and forgiveness becomes obvious when the questions are: When, where or how has the church ever received forgiveness for its anti-Semitism, the Inquisition or colonialism? Apologies are offered, but forgiveness is received. That’s the hard part. Think of the paralyzed man in the Gospels. If I am paralyzed, there is little comfort in feeling ever so sorry I am paralyzed. Someone must minister to me with healing forgiveness, with a mercy to be heard. Ecumenism doesn’t need to move forward as much as it needs to move ever deeper. There is no comfort in pretending not to be paralyzed or to be excused from moving more deeply from a tolerance in sharing apologies to a communion in mutual forgiveness. Undoing paralysis is a Lenten project! Mercy with its forgiveness needs to be received at the Vatican, at Jerusalem, at Mecca and eventually on the earth.
Small Signs of Faith
“Our Reason for Being,” an excellent article by Don Briel, Kenneth E. Goodpaster and Michael Naughton (2/1), brought to mind the controversy over religious symbols (or lack thereof) at Georgetown University. In 2009, President Obama went to Georgetown to give a speech on economic policy “10 years after the university decided to install crucifixes in classrooms,” wrote Laura Engshuber in The Hoya (“At a Crossroads,” 3/29/12). “The White House requested that the IHS symbol, which denotes Jesus Christ, be covered up to provide a simple background not highlighting any faith. The university complied.”
A crucifix, as we all know, has no power in and of itself any more than a scapular does. Yet I wear my scapular daily, and we have a simple crucifix hanging in our home prominently so that we can be reminded daily. The faith walk is a journey. A fall here, a rise there, rock upon rock, stone upon stone. It is the little things that form us day by day and tell others who we are.
God the Mother
It is lamentable that the word mother does not appear in “The Merciful Father,” by Msgr. Peter Vaghi (2/1). God is as much a loving mother as a loving father. This is duly recognized in Pope John Paul II’s encyclical “Rich in Mercy,” albeit only in paragraphs 52 and 61. The Name of God Is Mercy is the title of a book by Pope Francis, but the Year of Mercy logo still shows the familiar old man with a long beard. Too bad, because “God the Father” is not exclusively male, “God the Son” became a male only at the incarnation, and the image of a benign patriarch no longer resonates much, especially in men.