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Our readersSeptember 17, 2013

Letters Versus Articles

Re “Of Many Things,” by Matt Malone, S.J. (8/12): It seems clear enough that publications like America must find new ways of sustaining themselves in this age of digitized information and opinion, but Father Malone’s suggestion that readers can now be “active co-creators of content” in some revolutionary new way carries dangerous overtones to me.

For most publications, and certainly for America, readers have always been “content” providers by their letters. But we understood that such material was rawer than that of the content acquired and edited through the careful processes of the staff. Readers trust that a better quality of both information and opinion will come through the authors listed on the contents page than in the letters section. We may be stimulated, even enriched, by new insights, passion and contrasting viewpoints from reader letters, but all of that is serendipitous. What we depend upon is the vision and the respect for truth and informed opinion that the publication’s editorial staff provides issue after issue. That is the bedrock experience we pay for.

I realize that these are very difficult times in journalism. Everyone is struggling to find new business models for a new world of communication. Let’s not panic and forget the fundamental task of helping people make sense of the world, day by day, week by week. Certainly continue to give readers a voice, but please keep us a secondary chorus in the professionally vetted stream of “content” provided by the editors.

Frank Wessling

Davenport, Iowa

A Peaceful Iran

Thank you for “Making Peace With Iran” (Editorial, 8/12). A war with Iran is absolutely unnecessary, for every piece of evidence indicates that Iran will not engage in a first-strike attack on its neighbors, Israel or the United States.

First, Iran has not attacked any country for centuries, including the last 34 years of Islamic rule. Second, the Iranian government is not that radical, as evidenced by the fact that today’s Iran is a vibrant modern state with a highly educated public, including women. Third, Iranian people have no appetite for foreign adventures by their government. That’s why in the last election the candidate who promoted peaceful coexistence got by far the largest percentage of votes. Finally, the Iranian government is neither stupid nor suicidal. It knows well that an attack on its neighbors, Israel or the United States will bring its own destruction.

So let’s build on the common ground that exists between Iran and the United States and avoid a destructive war.

Neema Nourian

Fairfield, Ohio

Protecting the Innocent

Re “A Protected Rite?” by Helen Costigane, S.H.C.J. (8/12): While I believe the vast majority of Catholics and even the general public respect the seal of confession, the revelations of these past dozen years on sexual abuse by priests have torn away at this.

I respect the seal immensely. As a young and naïve priest, I even stopped testifying in a custody hearing because I wanted to preserve that integrity. I surely had definite thoughts about who would be the better parent, but was conscious I had heard the confessions of both parties.

Now as a parent, and having counseled victims of abuse by priests, I surely believe that “what would Jesus do” would not allow an innocent to suffer in order to uphold some false integrity imputed to this ritual. “Choose where you allow yourself to tremble,” but I would rather face God knowing that a disclosure protected an innocent person rather than shielded a guilty person whose “contrition” may be accepted by God. The person should not be abetted by upholding the sacrament.

David E. Pasinski

Fayetteville, NY

Priestly Obligation

Cardinal George Pell, the archbishop of Sydney, reportedly said: “If the priest knows beforehand about such a situation [of child abuse], the priest should refuse to hear the confession; that would be my advice. I would never hear the confession of a priest who was suspected of such a thing.”

Cardinal Pell recognizes that an unjust law that violates religious freedom should not be obeyed. He should also recognize and tell his priests that the law should be disobeyed by hearing such a confession regardless of the possible consequences, including criminal prosecution of the confessors. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Priests must encourage the faithful to come to the sacrament of Penance and must make themselves available to celebrate this sacrament each time Christians reasonably ask for it” (No. 1464).

T. Gavin King

Claremore, Okla.

Confession in Mass

I am a semi-retired Lutheran pastor. I read with great interest “A Protected Rite?” We Lutherans sometimes minimize the importance of individual confession to a pastor, but Martin Luther advocated it and even wrote liturgies to be used in its celebration. The “Word” of absolution spoken by the pastor is considered more important than the completeness of the confession and is in fact recognized as one of the means of grace. And we fully respect the confidentiality of the confession. Lutheran pastors would be just as upset as Catholic priests about having to report what is said to them.

But we Lutherans also acknowledge that the pastor’s collective absolution following the people’s collective general confession at the beginning of the liturgy also has the status of “Word” and is also a means of grace.

Perhaps the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church should consider conferring full sacramental status upon the collective confession and absolution that occurs during the Penitential Rite of the Mass. That way, there would be nothing for the priest to report. The confessing people would be fully absolved. And of course those who wished would still have the option of individual confession and absolution to meet their spiritual needs.

Roger Newton

Philadelphia, Pa.

‘America’ and Justice

In addressing a critical issue, “Kerry’s Mideast Gamble” (Web-only article), Kevin Clarke correctly notes the increasing isolation of Israel on the international stage, the need to include the people of Gaza in negotiations and the harm to Israel from its continuing occupation and building of settlements in the West Bank.

Missing are any references to justice, international law and the need to change the framework of failed peace talks over the past two decades. Also missing is a discussion of Palestinian suffering under occupation, in the siege of Gaza and in diaspora refugee camps.

America should stand on the side of justice. It should ask why the United States should act as broker for these talks when it starts from a position of bias for one side. The United States invariably takes the side of Israel in United Nations votes (often in opposition to the vast majority of member states), and it provides Israel with some $8 million in aid daily, even as our government cuts social programs for Americans.

As talks continue and as Israel continues to announce more settlement plans, America will have many opportunities to address this issue again. I hope you will use these to speak for justice and to provide a fuller context for readers.

Rosemary Radford Ruether

Portland, Ore.

The writer is on the board of trustees for Friends of Sabeel—North America.

Prayerful Intervention

Re “Peaceful Intervention” (Editorial, 7/15): Powerful and effective peaceful intervention for Syria, Egypt and the world begins with each of us in humble prayer on our knees. This is the least (or perhaps the most important thing) we can do for our sisters and brothers who share our faith but not our freedom.

By joining our hearts in prayer with them we help them to have hope and rejoice that God is in control even though it may not appear that way. Let us be faithful to remember to pray with them and for them.  

Camille Schardon

New Braunfels, Tex.

Manhattan Declaration

Many thanks to America for publishing “Beyond the Fortnight,” by Archbishop William E. Lori (7/1). My copy arrived in plenty of time for it to be used in my homily on July Fourth and distributed to parishioners.

One thing puzzles me, though: the silence regarding the Man-hattan Declaration, so relevant and inspiring in this matter. This remarkable statement seems to have vanished as far as America, our archdiocesan newspaper and others are concerned.

Harry E. Winter, O.M.I.

St. Paul, Minn.

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