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Our readersNovember 26, 2013

An Absurd Act

I very much appreciate “A President for Peace” (11/18), the fine reflection by James W. Douglass. It is wise and insightful. But I must disagree with his assertion that President Kennedy was assassinated as a consequence of his peace policies. The simple passage of time has ruled out any conspiracy behind Kennedy’s death.

If anything, Kennedy’s murder shows us how fragile, random, violent and unforgiving life can be. To invest Kennedy’s death with meaning, we look to elaborate plots and conspiracies. This is an understandable emotional reaction; but it ought not to cloud the objective reality of Kennedy’s death, which, while tragic, was the act of a non-compos-mentis person who got his hands on a gun. To use a popular term from the 1960s: it was absurd. Even more tragic is that Kennedy’s vision for peace was never realized.

Brian Pinter
Online comment

Why Compromise 

In “What You Can Do” (11/18), John Carr writes, “Washington is ‘de-moralized’ by a House faction that paralyzes their party and the nation with disdain for compromise and for government itself.” But why should the Republican Party compromise on something they see as fundamentally wrong?

Engagement, in their view, is not going to fix what is wrong with Obamacare. The fundamental problem with Obamacare is that health care is a plumbing problem (local), not an electrical problem (federal). Health care is a problem of private goods, not common goods. The only reason to make it federal is to increase crony capitalism, which never helps the poor. 

Matthew McCarthy
Online comment

The Bible at Home

“The Gift of the Word,” by Richard J. Clifford, S.J. (11/11), deserves serious attention from all who value Catholic faith formation, especially Catholic parents with young children.

While the “big church” is enriched with a plenitude of excellent Bible studies, there is a real need to cultivate the practice of Bible reading in families in the “little church,” where faith is nurtured and love of the scriptural word grows exponentially. Parents who read inspiring biblical stories to their children in a home setting will bring about an even greater revolution than adults reading the Sunday readings before Mass. I am sure Father Clifford agrees this would promote his cause even more.

Paul J. Carty Sr.
Houston, Tex.

Invite Sinners

Re “Vatican: No Change for Divorced, Remarried Catholics” (Signs of the Times, 11/11): My now deceased sister-in-law had the misfortune of falling in love in with a divorced man in her first and only marriage. She watched three daughters march up for their first Communions, while she sat in the pew like an unworthy pariah with the eyes of other parents burning holes through her.

Czeslaw Milosz, the Nobel laureate, said in a poem written in his 90s that Catholic dogma is “well armored against reason.” It seems, if the Eucharist has all of the ineffable graces claimed for it, sinners should be invited to the Communion rail ahead of those who merely pray, pay and obey.

 Ernest C. Raskauskas Sr.
Potomac, Md.

Not Believable

There is much that resonates with me in “Are We Winning?” by John J. McLain, S.J. (11/4), but one sentence caught me up short, especially after reading “Love of the Person,” by Jeanne Schuler (11/4), about the core conviction of the late John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., about the ultimate and overriding dignity of each human person. Father McLain writes: “Nearly all the soldiers with whom I served believed in the fundamental goodness of people, even people who resisted and resented their presence in their countries and lives.”

I find it incredible that soldiers training for battle are steeped in the concept of the “fundamental goodness” of those they will try to kill. Is it merely myth that dehumanizing words like enemy and goon, which only become cruder and more debasing, are intentionally used precisely to train a soldier to consciously render the other as less than human, so as to more easily kill that person?

I do not have any inclination to mock or malign our service men and women. Nonetheless, I think the claim that soldiers respect and acknowledge the “fundamental goodness” of those “resisting” them is not believable. Could a person steeped in Father Kavanaugh’s philosophy of radical human dignity ever willingly become the soldier described by Father McLain? 

Rita Hessley
Cincinnati, Ohio

Still Singing

Thank you for “Love of the Person,” about John F. Kavanaugh, S.J. My interactions with him in community and on campus in the early 1970s at Saint Louis University shaped me in many ways. His sense of life, his embodiment of Ignatian spirituality and his own personal journey always left me for the better.

One aspect of his life only touched on in the article is that John was a vocalist and a musician. I recall fondly concerts that he and his friend John Foley, S.J., would give in the student union. Years later this gift of music helped lead to the unique contribution of the St. Louis Jesuits.

It was tradition that the concerts would close with the Quaker song, “How can I keep from singing?” Indeed, when pondering John’s life, reflections, challenges and embodied goodness, how can we keep from singing?

Lawrence G. Ehren
Overland Park, Kan.

Bon Voyage, John

What a joy to hear again about John F. Kavanaugh, S.J. While reading “Love of the Person,” I felt great gratitude that I had told John, way before his death, about my folder stuffed with the wisdom of so many of his one-pagers.

John cannot write again with his scintillating kindness, but his spirit of wisdom, liberation and humor still smile in my soul. Some of his carefully sketched phrases still burst aloud for me, again and again. But underneath a laugh, I always knew John was never more serious and truthful.

Bon voyage, John, forever and ever.

George Aschenbrenner, S.J.
Wernersville, Pa.

Don’t Try So Hard

I understand that the “special” issue on women (10/28) may be some kind of preliminary penitential gesture on your part (since America’s masthead and voice have grown increasingly masculine in the last year or so), but there remains, despite your honest intentions, something contrived and anachronistic about the very notion of publishing a one-off issue on “women.”

Here’s my advice: Try not to try so hard. Just desegregate your masthead and your table of contents a little, for starters, and make a point of integrating your articles more, so that when you publish about politics and culture (and not just motherhood and ministry), the authors and columnists we hear from just happen to have two X chromosomes. It might be rare in the Catholic press, but it is pretty commonplace in the rest of the media. I mean, Sports Illustrated may have more female contributors right now than America, for heaven’s sake.

If you manage to do any of that, even unevenly well, you can leave the rest to the Holy Spirit. She’ll probably take care of it.

Anne Murphy
Online comment

The Ordination Question

America introduces the issue on “women in the life of the church” as a response to the invitation of the 34th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus to “listen carefully and courageously to the experience of women.” The key phrase is “life of the church.” What gives life to the church? What nourishes the body of Christ?

“The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” (1963) reminds us it is the very body of Christ in the Eucharist that is essential to the life of the church. The community is increasingly starved for the Eucharist because of a shrinking number of priests, yet there are many women who possess the ministerial gifts for ordained priesthood and who experience an authentic call to that ministry.

The requirements for infallible teaching have not been met in the prohibition against ordaining women. Yet America has obediently adhered to the ban on discussing the issue of women’s ordination. What is the use of a greater role for women in church governance if the whole body continues to starve for the Eucharist and women are denied the opportunity to serve where their service is most acutely needed?

Some would say that America has ignored the elephant in the room. To me, it has failed at courageous listening—not just to the experience of women, but to the experience of the entire people of God.

Mickey Matesich Edwards
Washington, D.C.

A Columnist Responds

The following is an excerpt from “Respondeo: On Clericalism” (In All Things, 11/19), in which Daniel P. Horan, O.F.M., reflects on the wide and varied reaction to his earlier column, “Lead Us Not Into Clericalism” (10/21).

There has been a surprising amount of discussion…about clergy attire, vesture and titles. The attention paid to these themes in themselves is surprising to me (and many readers) because nowhere in the column do I claim that any of these things are inherently problematic.…The question for reflection is whether or not how we dress, how we interact with others, how we introduce ourselves, and what we expect from the people with and for whom we minister breaks down barriers to relationship or adds unnecessary barricades to potential relationships.…

Every single one of the emails or messages [I received about the column] expressed an appreciation that the topic of clericalism was being discussed openly, but each also expressed the complications of being situated within a culture where clericalism was often present and, especially for the seminarians, pressures to conform were felt. This does not mean that there isn’t hope. Many of these notes included references to the hope for change in culture and attitude signaled by Pope Francis in recent months. It is a hope that I likewise share.

Daniel P. Horan, O.F.M.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Jean-Pierre HERVEG
10 years 5 months ago

Yesterday I read something sad in the Washington Post.
A very young Afghan child was killed by the US army.
The Us Army said to Karzai they were sorry.
The journal goes on writing that this was a bad time for this to happen and will create difficultes in the talks between the US and Afghanistan.
Isn't this child a son of God as any american children.
Isn't his death more than a difficulty ...in talks.

Richard Savage
10 years 5 months ago

I'm very disappointed – no, make that disgusted - by two articles in the December 9-16 issue: Inexcusable Inaction (by the editors) and Climate Change: Church should help....You are doing a terrible disservice to the Church and to individual Catholics with these irrational arguments, larded with outright untruths and appeals to naked emotion.

As regards climate change: you quote an ignorant archbishop claiming that “humanity currently faces...a crisis situation.” This is utter nonsense. There has been NO GLOBAL WARMING for seventeen years now, though the carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere has increased about 12 parts per million. This lack of warming invalidates the scores of climate models sponsored by the IPCC (with our taxes), which predicted warming of more than a degree C. Science is based on reproducible verification of hypotheses by experiment. I thought the Vatican learned that a long time ago, but apparently Migliore is willfully ignorant.

Your article goes on to quote an IPCC official, claiming that 97% of all scientists agree with the IPCC's findings and that there is “clear evidence” that Typhoon Haiyan is linked to climate change. These are two deliberate lies. There is absolutely no evidence linking Haiyan to “climate change” (how could there be, if the climate hasn't changed?), and science is not based on “consensus.” Anyone familiar with the history of science in the 20th Century – continental drift, the overthrow of classical physics by quantum theory, chaos theory, relativity, the expanding universe, dark energy and matter, to name only a few – is aware of how wrong “consensus” can be. “Global warming” is rapidly becoming a scandal unmatched in the history of science – not only because it's unscientific, but because it has been foisted on the public by deliberate liars, such as the one you quote.

BTW, my dissertation research (University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1976) was on radiative transfer, the propagation of electromagnetic energy through the atmosphere. I'm quite familiar with the “greenhouse effect”, which has a logarithmic response in warming the atmosphere. We passed the point of diminishing returns long, long ago.

Is there a moral issue here? Yes, of course. The moral path is to lift the two billion poor of the world out of the poverty that leaves them prey to natural disasters by giving them the energy resources – from fossil fuels, and especially coal – that allows them to escape floods, to build substantial homes that resist earthquake, to transport food to disasters. It most definitely is NOT to deny them the cheap and omnipresent electricity that has given the West its envied standard of living. Why do you think India and China are opening a new electricity generating plant every week? It is a horrible irony that atheistic China and pagan India care more for their poor than idiots from the Vatican – and from America Magazine.

Your distortion of climate change – and its moral imperative - is matched by deliberate misstatements about gun control – which you make all about guns, and is really all about control. Here in Colorado, we have a concealed-carry law, which allows trained gun owners of good character and mental health to have weapons on their person in public. Unfortunately, the morons – left-wing nannies like you – who own the movie theater in Aurora, declared it a “gun-free zone.” The only gun in the theater that night was in the hands of James Holmes – who had been judged mentally unstable by his psychiatrist, but who chose not to report him to the authorities. It's the same idiocy shown at Virginia Tech, whose campus was a “gun-free zone.” It's an invitation to the slaughter of the innocents.

Of the autocratic Colorado Democrats who rammed through their gun control legislation, two have been removed by recall and one has resigned. Key elements of their dictatorial legislation are being challenged in court by a majority of Colorado sheriffs. Governor Hickenlooper, who went along with the gun control mob, has suffered a major drop in voter approval; he's up for election in 2014. Chances don't look so good now. This was the same kind of Democrat legislative tyranny we saw on the Federal stage when Obama, Pelosi, and Reid rammed through ObamaCare.

As far as the NRA – your chosen demon – is concerned, I'm not a member. Why should I be? I know how to contact my (Republican) Congressman and my (Democrat) Senators. I have no intention of giving up the weapon my wife once used to defend herself because some progressive Jesuit thinks a law against guns will protect me from people who care nothing for the law, or for me. It's not the NRA that keeps the Second Amendment intact – it's ordinary citizens, like me, who see what Chicago and Cleveland and Denver and Philadelphia....fill in the name of any Democrat majority city in America....have become. And no – in further answer to your lies – we are not a minority of Americans. We are the majority, who recognize what you d**ned fools are trying to do to us.

Enough of your stupidity.

Richard C. Savage
Ph.D., Meteorology
Lt Col, USAF (Ret)

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