A Lay Interview
Re “A Big Heart Open to God,” by Antonio Spadaro, S.J. (9/30): It is one thing for two Jesuits to share their discussion around matters of faith, laity and the future of the church and put it out there for the world to analyze. How would it be for Pope Francis to have a conversation with a lay Roman Catholic who is not so well-versed in the language of church and theology? What might the reader then glean from the dialogue between Pope Francis and the lay person? Would it be an interview or an epiphany, or both?
To describe the interview with Pope Francis, “powerful” is the only word that comes to mind. As a returning Catholic (after a 25-year absence), I see the interview as confirmation of the direction of the church. Thank you.
Seeing the Pope
I worked for four years in Rome as Vatican director of the documentation, information and press office of Caritas Internationalis. I have one minor observation about Pope Francis’ image of an “inverted funnel” to explain his personal dislike about living in the papal apartment. What prevented people from seeing the pope was never the “really tight” physical entrance to the papal apartment, but the legal and protocol difficulty of obtaining formal permission to see His Holiness.
What About Sexual Abuse?
We realize that the Jesuit journals determined the questions for the interview, thus perhaps restricting the comments made by Pope Francis. Yet, we say: while we warmly welcome Pope Francis’ refreshing spirit of understanding and compassion, we note with profound disappointment the absence of any comment in this interview about the clerical sexual abuse crisis and scandal that plagues the Catholic Church. Indeed, the sexual abuse issue challenges the church at its core: a commitment to a love that truly protects children and to a sense of justice that truly holds the culpable accountable. Where does Pope Francis stand on this major crisis and scandal?
We call upon the pope for three immediate actions: 1) personally initiate ongoing dialogue with victim/survivors of sexual abuse by members of the clergy because no one knows their plight better than they themselves; 2) hold accountable bishops who have deliberately frustrated or ignored the cause of truth and justice in this issue; and 3) publicly support efforts to alter church and civil laws, retroactively and proactively, to protect children and foster justice.
Words and Deeds
Kudos on getting the pope to give you so much time for a substantive interview. “Waiting for Good Deeds,” by James T. Keane (9/16), offers an important caution to all those who care about the church. “Remain leery of words alone,” he writes, and “wait with hope for him and the church as a whole to follow those words with deeds.”
Personally, I hope to be alive for at least one or all of the following: women priests, optional celibacy, full and complete financial and administrative transparency for all dioceses and religious orders, and the selection of pastors by parish search committees.
Thanks for your correction (State of the Question, 10/14) about the sentence omitted from Pope Francis’ interview. Such candor is remarkable in a publishing world bent on amassing subscriptions by exploiting and/or encouraging ideological loyalties regardless of where truth may be. Pope Francis’ point calls for a deeper understanding of the feminine and masculine. That deeper understanding will only belong to a mind that is changed, corrected, new and improved by the grace of God.
Chance for Humility
About the missing sentence: Such things happen and keep us humble. The interview is excellent. I am grateful and inspired for this new day in the church.
What Politics Has Done
I would like to commend America for the integrity it has shown in publishing “Murray’s Mistake” (9/23), Michael Baxter’s splendid critical assessment of John Courtney Murray, S.J., an intellectual in whom Jesuits in the United States have reason to take pride.
Brilliant as Murray was, he entered the Jesuits at 16 and as a consequence had no experience of what politicians and politics—not to mention generals and the military—were really like. When he finally began to associate with politicians and generals, they treated this renowned intellectual with utmost deference. Hence his benign view of those who walked the corridors of American power.
As the late Walter F. Murray, the distinguished constitutional lawyer and author of Vicar of Christ, once observed, “We like to think that Christianity has civilized politics, but what has politics done to Christianity in the meantime?” Does anything, for example, that John Boehner or Paul Ryan has said or done resonate with the spirit of “Rerum Novarum” or “Quadragesimo Anno”?
Revolution of the Heart
For years I have thought that the bishops in the United States were spending too much time, energy and money on trying to change the law, when they should be putting their efforts into changing their people’s hearts. Professor Baxter’s excellent article on John Courtney Murray, S.J., and the influence of his thinking helped me understand how they got entangled in that web of politics.
As Professor Baxter writes, Dorothy Day did understand what we need. She wrote, “The greatest challenge of the day is this: How to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?”
Professor Baxter tells us that John Courtney Murray, S.J., presumed consensus; Father Murray would have trouble with politics when people hate each other or when they disagree profoundly, as we do, about what Christian discipleship and responsible citizenship require.
Professor Baxter’s option is to turn away from historical responsibility and turn Gospel imperatives into personal commitments, hospitable communities and resistance to the state and all those things Christians dislike about the American world. Father Murray, in contrast, thought the American world was now ours, and his far-from-uncritical disciples, like the Rev. J. Bryan Hehir and David Hollenbach, S.J., work hard to connect Father Murray’s natural law realism with Gospel imperatives of peacemaking and justice seeking.
If we are Catholic, we will talk about our serious differences and then find ways to embrace one another in the solidarity of our church—a sacrament, somehow, of the unity we desire and God intends.
I wish to add my name to those thanking James S. Torrens, S.J., for the pleasure he has given us through the years as poetry editor of America. I thank him for the poems that he selected for our enjoyment and for his beautiful Christmas poems, two of which are framed on my wall. May his days of retirement be filled with peace and happiness.
The following is an excerpt from “A Jesuit Challenge to Winston Churchill,” by Mark Tooley, in The American Spectator (10/7). Mr. Tooley is responding to “Churchill’s Choice,” by the Rev. Terrance W. Klein (The Good Word blog, 10/3).
Father Klein warns that “violence breeds violence,” with “those who turn to it always [believing] that a little more violence will put an end to the cycle, but they only forge the chain.” So were Churchill and Britain only feeding the “cycle” of violence by resisting Nazi domination of Europe and much of the world? Should they instead have allowed German access to the French fleet with all its global repercussions? Without suggesting loftier alternatives, Father Klein implies so.…
Rejecting all violence as equally abhorrent ignores any distinctions between self-defense and aggression, or between murdering the innocent versus punishing the guilty. Rulers in authority cannot afford such obtuse, distorted idealism. Mr. Churchill, in fighting for the life and liberty of his people, chose survival against aggressive evil.