Reply All

An Improvement

Yes, yes to Jack Selzer (“Hail, Holy Grammar,” Reply All, 10/7), and yes again. The problem for me in the Hail Mary is that the words after “fruit of” sound like one name: “Thywombjesus.” Or maybe “Thywomb” is the first name. It is a bit like Pip, the protagonist in Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens, who misreads his parents’ tombstone and thinks his mother’s name was “Also Georgiana.” 

Mr. Selzer’s suggested change is clearer and rhythmically more emphatic but probably doesn’t have much of a chance. God help us if “Liturgiam Authenticam” weighs in on it.

Peter Farley
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Workshop Lessons 

“A Trinitarian Love,” by Timothy P. O’Malley (9/23), finally gives voice to a long-neglected Catholic theology of adoption. We adopted an infant girl over 50 years ago. Back then, the church was even less supportive and the stigma more pronounced. We were, however, very fortunate to participate in a workshop for adoptive parents that brought together 15 couples to help all of us deal with problems specifically related to adoption.

We learned so much through the years, like when to tell the child he/she is adopted. The answer: Tell the child lovingly as a baby in your arms so there is never a time the child did not know, and then answer questions truthfully with age-appropriate information as the child grows.

We also learned not to panic when the child says, “I hate you, and I wish I had my real mommy.” Only a child secure in your love would say such a thing, and all you need to do is reassure the child that you are his/her real mother and you love him/her very much.

This workshop was 50 years ahead of the times. If adoption had also been presented by the church as a blessed sacrament of love, it truly would have been Trinitarian.

Jacques and Lois Chazaud
South Portland, Me.

Chosen Daughter

Timothy P. O’Malley writes, “Less than 20 years ago, it was considered anathema to tell a child of his or her status as ‘adopted.’” Both of our children, who are now 40 and over, knew from early on that they were adopted. This caused a problem, however, when our 7-year-old daughter responded to a bully by telling him that she was chosen by her parents, but his parents had to take what they got. He went home devastated because he wasn’t adopted.

This led to my wife and me being called to the principal’s office to discuss (defend) our daughter and explain that adoption was something that our two children were proud of—as were we.

(Deacon) T. Patrick Bradley
Spokane, Wash.

Expose the Heart

I much appreciate Timothy P. O’Malley’s point that adoption is an opportunity to love someone, echoing God’s love for us—unearned, freely given, generous and committed.

At one time I oversaw a specialized adoption agency, which viewed adoption not as a way of finding children for parents who did not have them, but as a way of finding parents for children who needed them. Screening was mostly a matter of helping applicants assess themselves and their readiness to be a parent for a special needs child. One might call it “discernment of one’s particular parental charism.”

Mainly, I came across very ordinary people—couples and singles—who had a special openness to one or another type of child. One might do well with mentally delayed children; another with children with spina bifida or cerebral palsy; and still another might have the skill and stamina to parent an emotionally disturbed child.

May I urge readers considering adoption to also consider whether they might have a charism to share with a child in special need. Yes, it is a scary proposition and not without risk. Whenever the heart is exposed, it is subject to breakage. But the value is transcendent.

John F. Boyne
Hackettstown, N.J.

A Child’s Perspective

As an adoptive parent, I was fascinated by this theological reflection on adoption. I certainly do applaud the point that our Catholic parishes should encourage and support adoption more than we do.

But I am also bothered that this is a parent-centered piece on a topic that begs for a child-centered discussion. We are still discovering how emotionally painful it can be for a child to be raised outside her birth family—even when she recognizes intellectually why that could not have happened. Love transcends biology, but without a strong sense of biological love, a child may always feel somewhat displaced.

Ron Chandonia
Online comment

Nazis Not Democratic

I enjoyed reading “End of an Illusion,” by Timothy O’Connell (Vantage Point, 9/23), which originally ran in 1973; but I would like to question his statement that the government of the Third Reich “was democratically elected.”

In July 1932, despite the Nazi brown shirts’ wide-scale use of threats to intimidate voters, the Nazi Party received only about 37 percent of the vote. Eric D. Weitz points out in his book, Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy: “Nearly two-thirds of the [German] electorate cast their votes against the Nazi Party.” Weitz adds: “They [the Nazi Party] never would achieve a majority in a freely contested election.”

Nor was Adolf Hitler ever elected in a freely contested election. In a back-room deal he was appointed chancellor of Germany in January 1933, after which he began ruling Germany with an iron fist, sending in his goons to arrest vast numbers of those who were members of the Social Democrats and anyone else who opposed him, and imprisoning them in concentration camps. So began his “reign of terror,” which would set the world aflame.

William E. Cooney
Philadelphia, Pa.

What’s Best for Kids?

I understand the purpose of publishing letters to the editor is to provide a forum for civil discussion, and that the views expressed may not reflect the opinions of the editors, but I found it disturbing that a Catholic magazine would publish “Interest of Children,” by Charlie Davis (Reply All, 9/9). Should not the editors be more selective?

The writer, a Catholic parent, teaches his children that “God wants...children to be brought up in stable, loving, two-parent households, whether heterosexual or homosexual.” As a Catholic parent, I do not teach this mentality to my children or to the children in my care. This mentality confuses the perceived sexual needs and emotional needs of the parents with the core issue: what is in the interest of children. It is a muddled and myopic argument.

Although each situation of a broken home or single parenthood varies, I suggest that embracing the virtue of chastity by the adults involved is often overlooked as a component in what really is in the interest of children.

Margit McCarthy
Colorado Springs, Col.

Fund-Raising Idea

Re “Save Our Sisters” (8/26): The plea of James Martin, S.J., for the retired and aging sisters was touching. Each year, when the annual collection for retired religious is taken, similar stories come to the fore. This is a population that merits attention.

My suggestion: If the goal is to raise money, there are much more effective strategies. At a seminar on capital campaigns, I learned about the three A’s: Affinity, Ability and Access. Without all three one has little hope of realizing a gift from the donor. One would hope that the students of these sisters, many of whom are in the prime charitable-giving ages (40 and 65), would have the ability to give and affinity with the cause. Therefore the lacking piece is “access.”

God willing it is possible, with the sort of sleuthing that makes class reunions possible, to have access to those who received a Catholic school education, now decades after their graduation, and ask them directly for assistance. The direct ask is always the most effective. Sister N.’s pupils would be the best persons to ask to support Sister N. or her community.

(Msgr.) Daniel Stack
Cartersville, Ga.

An Informed Voice

America recently published a review of Wounds That Will Not Heal, by Russell K. Nieli (8/26), a book that called for the repeal of “racial and ethnic preferences” in the United States. That this book would be considered for review, and the gentle review published, suggests a lack of editorial quality control.

In the book Professor Nieli stereotypes African-Americans as not work-ready, ignoring the millions who fill low wage jobs, and he consigns the “inner-city black underclass” to a form of boot camp to prepare them for nonexistent infrastructure repair jobs. Several actual causes of the “wounds” are missing, including the Nixon/Reagan Southern strategy, generations of housing and mortgage discrimination and Reagan’s (political) war on drugs, a continuing scourge on black young men.

I beg for the unique resource of America to be an informed voice on the complicated issue of race. I have the utmost respect for the reviewer, M. Shawn Copeland, a brilliant theologian. But this topic is much broader than theology.

At some point one or more minorities will appear on the masthead. In the interim, America might assemble a list of black and Hispanic Catholic scholars to provide backup.

Alan E. Pinado
Atlanta, Ga.


The following is an excerpt from “Misreading Murray, Yet Again,” by George Weigel, published in an online column of First Things (10/9). The column responds to “Murray’s Mistake,” by Michael Baxter (Am. 9/23).

I don’t doubt that ecclesial unity in the [Catholic] Church in America has fractured in ways that no one could anticipate when Vatican II convened in 1962. But to blame that current disarray on differences of political opinion (and on Murray) would seem to ignore the obvious historical fact that Catholics were bitterly divided over political questions in the past, but without the fractures in ecclesial unity that both Baxter and I regret today. […]

What may appear to be politically-induced fractures in the unity of the church in the United States today are the result of something else: Too many Catholics in the United States, including prominent public figures, have ceased to believe and profess “all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches and professes to be revealed by God” (which is what converts confess when they enter into full communion with the Catholic Church). That dissonance is why unity within the church in the United States is so fragile these days.

George Weigel
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