Who are “Real” Catholics?
Re Of Many Things, by Matt Malone, S.J. (9/12): Is the answer to “Who gets to say who real Catholics are?” not “the church”? Our Lord gave the church as the final arbiter in matters of sin between brothers, going so far as to say that if the accused would not listen to the church we are to treat him as a non-member of the community (cf. Mt 18:17).
There are two senses in which the question is understood. Funda-mentally, the determining trait is a valid baptism, and that mark can never be erased: once Catholic, always Catholic. But there is another, likely more relevant factor: one’s alignment with the church and one’s willingness to submit to church authority. To that point, I would ask the author what topics are off limits for dissent, if one so clearly articulated as abortion and its proper legal status is not. Can a “real Catholic” deny points in the Creed, one of which is the belief in an apostolic church? This seems absurd.
Work as Prayer
Re “Workplace Philosopher,” by E. Jane Doering (9/12): Two thoughts. First, decades ago, while representing newly legal immigrant workers, I was caught saying a prayer and invited some to join me. One worker responded, saying: “I haven’t time, Señor. My work is my prayer.” I still think of that man. Doing even inglorious chores (and trying to do them well) is Christ-like to me, possibly more prayerful than most of my praying. Second, those worse off than a worker who is “overworked...exhausted, disheartened and desperate” are the unemployed “men and women who [are] exhausted, disheartened and desperate about maintaining a sustainable income” for themselves and their families.
Just imagine if we were all engaged—perhaps imitating Mother Teresa—and all our neighbors were cared for, in communion with and otherwise treated with dignity by each of us all the time.
The Unhappy 29 Percent
Re “Bad Choices,” by John Carr (9/12): Actually, the election presents “bad choices” only for those who do not have a favorable opinion of either candidate: 29 percent. That is including the 5 percent who have no opinion or are undecided. According to the Gallup poll (8/11), 32 percent of adult Americans had a favorable opinion of Donald Trump, and 39 percent a favorable opinion of Hillary Clinton. While that unhappy 29 percent will determine the outcome of this year's election, they are not the majority. It is fair to say they will be the ones who will cast a vote for third-party candidates or stay home.
In “Indispensable” (9/12), Robert David Sullivan states that over half of U.S. Catholics think that discrimination against Christians is a significant problem. The article also says that Catholic supporters of Donald J. Trump are concerned with religious freedom and find “a surrogate in the ethnic and nationalistic victimhood professed by Trump against Latinos and the Chinese.” This seems to prove that the constant refrain of Catholic bishops that freedom of religion is under attack in the United States has had results.
I just find it amazing, however, that the bishops somehow have demonstrated no taste for prominently and loudly challenging Mr. Trump on his anti-immigration statements. His campaign started and burgeoned by describing those “rapists” and criminals from Mexico, our fellow religionists from one of the most Catholic countries in Latin America! I wonder if too many of our bishops of European heritages agree with Mr. Trump because those new immigrants have upset the ethnic balance and economic well-being in U.S. parishes. A harsh statement, perhaps, but the numbers of Latino immigrants falling prey to evangelical churches makes me wonder about immigrants’ perception of receptivity in U.S. Catholic churches.
Called to Do Better
Many thanks to Angela Alaimo O’Donnell for highlighting two giants of the faith in Baltimore, in “Saints of Southwest Baltimore” (9/12). I always have a sense that I am unworthy even to speak about Brendan Walsh and Willa Bickham, as their witness evermore calls me to do something that I am not doing right now. They do not make me feel embarrassed that I am not serving enough—that is all on me. For me they stand as genuine people who put the Gospel words into action, and Ms. O’Donnell rightly portrays them as beacons of hopefulness amid the rubble where they live and serve. There is no guile in them, only hearts filled with the goodness of Christ waiting to be shared. Brendan and Willa don’t shame me, they challenge me to do better. My prayer is always that I will.
No Single Solution
Re “Reinventing Catholic Schools,” by Charles Zech (8/29): Is the model broken? Yes—for both parishes and schools. The numbers do not lie, and the history lessons from both the article and the comments online clearly show how we got to here. They also indicate that there is no single solution. The inner city, the suburbs and the rural areas all have issues that are unique. I do believe there are more than just the three options Mr. Zech has outlined. To begin with, all of us Catholics need to step up and give more, so we can have the independence we need to teach and to worship freely.
We cannot solve the problem of our schools without also addressing the problem of our parishes and our overall administrative structure. Our priests, whose numbers continue to dwindle, increasingly find themselves serving as business managers and school administrators instead of as pastors. Furthermore, in the developed world we have a lay population that is the most experienced and educated in the history of the world, one that needs more than a fear of Hell to see the glory of a relationship with God. This requires a whole new ministerial approach for a large portion of the population. Bottom line: we need an ecumenical council to address these longstanding issues: It’s time for Vatican III.
No Precedent Required
Re “Commending Phoebe” (Editorial, 8/29): Another aspect of the question, “Who should serve?” is “Do we need women deacons?” We need women leaders who take a greater part in liturgy so that we have women preaching at Mass. If only men are allowed to preach, only a masculine interpretation of the Gospels is heard. That is like looking at a question with only one eye when two are available. We need women leaders in the church. In order to lead, one has to be able to speak publicly. It is good that there is a historical precedent for women deacons, but we would need them even if there were no precedent.
“This Old Church,” by Lisa Middendorf Woodall (8/15), triggered my recollections, stretching back to the pre-Vatican II days. Instead of putting us in the basement of an old church, our liturgies were held in the school cafeteria. All the tables were removed and the folding chairs were arranged in orderly rows. The motivation for putting on a guitar Mass was the suburbanization of my small town on the edge of St. Louis. The population exploded and so did church attendance, so much so that there was no room in the church—even though extra Masses were scheduled. The cafeteria Mass had no organ, obviously (and there were no electric keyboards back then), so a group of us teens volunteered to lead a guitar Mass. Something beautiful and wonderful happened there. The Mass opened up new dimensions of worship. It brought people closer together, and made the prayers intelligible and accessible to those who were not literate in Latin.
Over the years, the music written for guitar Masses improved, as did our expertise as a singing group. We were not welcomed by all, but that is another story. Never did I witness the alleged abuses that “plagued” the “new Mass.” People of all ages attended, including the grandmas and grandpas who welcomed the warmth and family feeling of the Mass. My wife and I continued leading guitar Masses for over 30 years. It was our ministry.
I do not know why Mass attendance shrank over the next 50 years. I do not know a single person who left the church because the Mass was in English or because it was accompanied by guitars and pianos. When the Mass was in Latin, I loved the Mass. When it became changed to vernacular, I loved the Mass. The Mass is always a close encounter with Jesus in the sacrament and in the body of Christ.