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Eucharist at the Center

Re “Higher Learning,” by John R. Wilcox (9/9): We Catholics should insist that our educational institutions promote Catholic beliefs, starting with the belief that Jesus makes himself present to ordinary people in the celebration of Eucharist and that this is a good thing for all people to experience.

Arguably, Jesus in the Eucharist was at the heart of the life of all those founding congregations of religious men and women that Professor Wilcox’s mission communities will attempt to parallel. We need to look at this heart again and seriously consider the requirement that all students and faculty once again attend Sunday Eucharist so they constantly experience the distinguishing characteristic of a Catholic institution: Christ’s true presence.


Whether a student or faculty member is Catholic or Protestant, of a non-Christian faith or no faith at all, the formation they receive from a Catholic institution of higher learning must find its origin and most substantive expression in a person’s participation in the celebration of Eucharist to the fullest degree possible. We can learn directly from the master teacher, Jesus. Jesus in the Eucharist is the foundation and capstone of Catholic education.

(Rev.) Christopher Trenta

Akron, Ohio

Jesus, the Founder

Professor John Wilcox’s proposal that Catholic colleges and universities consider forming small “mission communities” seems like an effective way to carry forward their mission and vision. But two things are missing.

One is discerning self-criticism regarding the Catholic culture itself. The other is a clear connection to Jesus of Nazareth, who is the actual and fully authentic founder of this mission and vision. The founding religious congregations are intermediaries of his endowment. In this sense, the vitality of a school’s Catholicity should be presented as rooted in its fidelity to his desires and example.

Tad Dunne

Royal Oak, Mich.

Rite of Succession?

Thank you, Bishop Denis J. Madden, for “Becoming One” (9/9). I find that much within it resonates within my whole being. I too pray daily for the unity of the church, for the need for all the faithful to celebrate what Christ calls us to be: one in him. And yet there is still an “800-pound gorilla” in the room: apostolic succession.

I have been a Lutheran pastor for more than 35 years, and I can tell you that we celebrate the same Eucharist. Yet the Anglican priest or Lutheran pastor will never be accepted by Roman Catholicism because we don’t have the “proper ticket,” ordination in apostolic succession.

Is Christ so limited that he cannot be present in the Eucharist in the same liturgy elsewhere? After 2,000 years, must we still be separated by who can trace whose ordination back to Peter? Is there no other way Christ is truly present in the Eucharist? Does not the faith of presider and recipients come into play?

I will continue to pray that we may be one, but I am afraid that it will be unfulfilled decades from now, and that is cause for mourning.

Christine Miller

Online comment

Build Reserves, Win Peace

“Unnatural Gas,” by Ken Homan, S.J. (8/26), is a statement of faith, but lacking in science and fact.

I am a longtime professional petroleum geologist and a convert to the Catholic Church, which I love as he does. In my state of Kansas there has never been, in 65 years of fracking, an action alleging pollution, this being the result of geology, good management and state regulation of my industry. I acknowledge it may not be so in other states. Nonetheless, natural gas is a premium fuel for the future, preferable to oil and coal environmentally, economically and in terms of efficiency. Alternate sources like wind, solar and biomass are not presently capable of filling the need in volume or economics. 

My profession is charged with finding oil and gas. In the past decade our nation’s reserves have dramatically increased, diminishing—possibly eventually eliminating—our need for imports from hostile sources in the Middle East. This could result in a degree of energy independence that will save lives because it avoids military actions to support those exporting nations.

Alfred James

Wichita, Kan.

He Did Prove It

I am totally in support of the excellent article on fracking, “Unnatural Gas.” A few years ago I watched a documentary filmed by a young man in his 20s. He had traveled to fracking farms in Pennsylvania, Utah and the Dakotas. He spoke with the owners and filmed their flaming water. He listened to the frightening descriptions of their illnesses. The gas companies responded by saying, “Prove it,” and the filmmaker found that the farmers are no longer able to give water to their livestock or even sell their farms.

In the last 10 years we have seen pesticides grow stronger and fracking endanger our lives and the water we drink. Please, God, help us to remember the sacredness of this beautiful earth before it is too late.

Daryl Ann Neubecker

New Canaan, Conn.

Rare Praise, Indeed

As one who not infrequently writes to complain about something or other, I am pleased to report that the Aug. 26 issue of America gave me more to think about than anything since Calvin and Hobbes ceased publication. That is high praise, indeed. Congratulations, and no backsliding!

John R. Agnew, M.D.

Fort Myers, Fla.

Real World Concerns

I read “A Protected Rite?” by Helen Costigane, S.H.C.J. (8/12), with interest. I have always known about the protected nature of the sacrament and have respected it. But just as the author says the penitent may not be betrayed in any way, the sacrament and the people of God may not be betrayed either.

How do we protect the sacrament, and ourselves and our children, from abusers who want to “game” the system? It has been my experience that sociopaths are experts at lying, rationalization and manipulation—of people, systems and legal loopholes—and the seal of the confessional is a perfect loophole, particularly for abusive clergy.

Do we really want to live in a church where the system supports abusers? Reporting laws are vehicles for breaking the cycle of violence and making the decision to report something clear and unequivocal—and independent of any personal relationship that the reporter has with the abuser.

It’s time for us to address the real concerns of the real world and choose the safety of the innocent; anything else is merely philosophical and academic discussion.

Susan Gallo

Jacksonville, Fla.

Hail, Holy Grammar!

I know it’s nutty to suggest it, but I’m going to do it anyway: Let’s change the wording of the “Hail Mary.”

Instead of “And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus,” wouldn’t it be better to say “And blessed is Jesus, the fruit of thy womb”?

The traditional wording makes it sound as if the womb is named Jesus (because the appositive “Jesus” follows the noun “womb”) or as if “Jesus” is being addressed (“Jesus” as nominative of address). Either way it’s odd, and you can hear the oddness every time a 10-year-old says the words without a clue as to the sense of “fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” The revised wording would be simpler to recite, more grammatical and generally more accessible and sensible.

There—I got it off my chest at last.


University Park, Pa.


Readers respond to “Murray’s Mistake,” by Michael Baxter (9/23):

I am a big fan of John Courtney Murray, S.J., thanks to Mark Massa, S.J. What a thoughtful article, especially the point that “the modern state must be resisted because it is corrosive to the practices and virtues necessary for genuine political community.” But the questions posed by the modern political discourse are fundamental questions to the structure of society and how it must organize itself. What Mr. Baxter appears to be advocating is a retreat from statism, but that becomes increasingly difficult as the state becomes all-encompassing in our lives.

James Hamilton

Perhaps the dualistic identity of Catholics and humans in general, as members of temporal and religious communities, would prevent, in my opinion, a consistent unified group of Catholics in the political world. Different cultures, philosophies, ideologies, state politics, types of government and more influence our thinking processes.

I doubt the possibility of a pure and unified Catholic response anywhere. Currents of thought and beliefs don’t work in a vacuum. This is the life we will have to learn to navigate. Seeking God and accepting his love is a continuum. Many roads lead to God.

Cody Serra 


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5 years 3 months ago
Be not troubled, Christine Miller (response to "Rite of Succession") concerning some uninformed teaching about a historical "laying on of hands" from Peter to present to establish apostolic succession and thereby excluding others i.e. Anglican or Lutheran ministers from authentic Eucharistic gatherings of the faithful. Major scholars of the New Testament especially the late Raymond Brown, S.S. (a noted Roman Catholic scripture scholar) and others cf. "The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Aspects of New Testament Thought, The Twelve and the Apostolate, 81:156, point out "The contention that all early bishops had hands laid on them by the Twelve or even by apostles understood in a broader sense is unverifiable and unnecessary for the validity of apostolic succession." As a fact, no current or past bishop can trace their consecration through a named listing of prior bishops back to the original apostles called by Jesus during his lifetime. This means that no church can "issue tickets" to apostolic succession based on a claim to an unbroken "laying on of hands." As the apostle Paul was "called" to be an apostle by Jesus outside the "laying on of hands" of the original twelve so it is theologically reasonable to place your faith in the belief that all ministers who are called to be an apostle by Jesus to share in His apostolic succession do so with assurance of Jesus' calling. The teachings of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) from it's early history (not from the beginning of the early Christian communities however) did develop their theology on the subject to only include in the "ordained" those designated by the ecclesiastical leadership. This kept, for centuries, what they considered the authentic "priesthood" under their control. And as we know from our history, there were many, like Luther, who once was in the "inner circle" of the "ordained," who developed a new critic and theology based on their own calling to follow a more "biblical" and less establishment authority. Thus, Christine, be not troubled with pronouncements by the RCC whose purpose, in this teaching, is to exclude all others (churches) that do not accept their theological interpretation of apostolic succession. Follow in your full faith prayerful, peaceful, and authentic acceptance of Jesus and your own apostolic community which you are and have been a sincere member for many years.


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