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To Heal the Suffering

Re “Healing Communities” (Editorial, 12/2): Bravo. While we still have more questions than answers, the science behind the causes of mental illness has come a long way in the last 30 years. Understanding the chemistry of the brain and its disorders is many orders of magnitude more difficult than other less complex and more observable parts of the body.

It is tragic that as a society our attitudes toward mental illness have not made similar strides. The voices that say, “They are lazy,” remind me of the reactions of upper-class English to the famine in Ireland: the Irish were starving because they were lazy drunks.


The church should not stay on the sidelines here. Jesus did not come to heal the healthy. The suffering of the mentally ill and those who love them is too great to continue to ignore.

John O’Neil
Online comment

Patriarchy No More 

Feminism at Fifty,” by Professor Sidney Callahan (12/2), is a very insightful and refreshing contribution to Christian feminism in our beloved Catholic Church.

I wonder why a few things were not mentioned. Carl Jung started the process of overcoming Sigmund Freud’s patriarchal understanding of women. John Paul II’s theology of the body had the insight into humans as “body persons.” Finally, an authentically Christian (and Catholic and pro-life) feminism will remain incomprehensible as long as the issue of an exclusively male priesthood is avoided.

Looking ahead to the synod on the family, perhaps it is time to recognize that a patriarchal family is a dysfunctional family and a patriarchal church is a dysfunctional church. A patriarchal family and church may have been understandable in the past, but not anymore, now that the patriarchal culture is passing away and restoring the original unity of man and woman is becoming a “sign of the times.”

Luis T. Gutierrez
Montgomery Village, Md.

Get Rid of Spying

Good Intelligence” (Editorial, 11/18) quoted Pope John XXIII, who said “true and lasting peace among nations” must consist in “mutual trust.” But the editors did not take this quotation far enough. You wrote that there should not be “excessive reliance on espionage” among nations. What should be called for is the total elimination of both the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. I don’t suggest this cavalierly.

How can any nation that spies be practicing “mutual trust”? There are many examples to justify my proposal. What the C.I.A. did in Bolivia and Guatemala is justification enough. It is wrong for the United States to use agents to help overthrow legally elected governments and then help replace them with dictators.

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, by John le Carré (1963), ends with the protagonist, Alec Leamas, going back down his escape ladder to join Liz Gold in death. I have always liked to believe that le Carré was trying to pronounce the death knoll for spying. But that was written 50 years ago. Look where we are today.

John Toohey
Red Bank, N.J.

Who Was Kennedy?

Re “A President for Peace,” by James W. Douglass (11/18): As one who grew up with two photos on the living room wall—one of Jack and Jackie Kennedy and the other of the pope—it was very sad to read about Kennedy’s pathological personal life, which completely undermined the hagiography Mr. Douglass seems bent on reviving and expanding.

Kennedy was a hawk on Vietnam and against the Communists. He shared his family’s long-standing anti-Communism. If he had survived the assassination, it is likely he would have been more aggressive than Lyndon B. Johnson.

Mr. Douglass believes in a massive conspiracy of all the people in the U.S. government he doesn’t like—the C.I.A., F.B.I. and military generals, but we haven’t had a single, credible whistleblower in 50 years. The factual evidence remains strong that a Cuban Communist sympathizer acted alone in this tragedy.

Tim O’Leary
Online comment

Blame Government

In “Too Big to Prosecute?” (11/11), the editors buy whole hog the false narrative that greed and wrongdoers on Wall Street caused the financial crisis, and they call for scalps from “the world of U.S. high finance.”

There have always been greedy and unscrupulous bankers, just as there have always been priests not as pure as Caesar’s wife. The problem was system-wide. The housing and subprime mortgage bubbles, and the collapse and consequent financial crisis and Great Recession, were caused by government gutting and politicizing credit standards, plus easy money from the Federal Reserve Bank.

From 1996 to 2006, Standard & Poor’s national composite home price index increased an unprecedented 129 percent. The mother of all housing bubbles was blown by government. The Federal Reserve kept its real funds rate at or below zero from 2001 to 2005.

The Federal Housing Administration recklessly ratcheted up Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s affordable-housing goals for more than a decade. The mortgage goliaths exceeded them through 2007, when a jaw-dropping 56 percent of their mortgages went to borrowers at or below median income in a given area.

While America thirsts for private-sector heads to roll, Washington is brewing the next crisis.

Eric Grover
Minden, Nev.

The Gaze of Christ

In “An Autumn Triptych” (11/11), John J. Conley, S.J., points out a key element of Pope Francis’ refreshing appeal: his “spirituality…of human faces.” This way of proceeding directs him to relate to others face to face instead of according to some legally-based policies of engagement. Through this mode of spirituality he imagines himself “under the gaze of Christ.”

This may appear radical to us in the 21st century, but it was the same model of spirituality that endeared St. Thérèse of Lisieux to people around the world a century ago. The young Carmelite took her name, Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, partly in devotion to a treasured image of the face of Jesus on Veronica’s shroud, which energized her prayer.

For St. Thérèse, this image drew her closer to her Beloved. Now Francis teaches us that mindfulness of the gaze of Christ helps orient us to engage with the other souls with whom we interact in fuller realization of our shared humanity.

Daniel Otero
Online comment

Mind the Gap?

There is an annoying increase in recent issues of America in the number of times that the gap between rich and poor is cited as if it were an intrinsic moral evil. Can the authors who condemn this situation with such passion provide any justification—religious or otherwise—for their position? Are there biblical injunctions against income disparity? If fortunes were made honestly and legally, why are they considered immoral?

What percentage of large fortunes is retained for personal use compared with what is paid in taxes, used for creating jobs, funding charitable works and so on? How would our unprecedented levels of social aid programs be possible without income disparity and surpluses?

Why Mystery Matters,” by John Savant (11/4), is a good case in point. He discusses the gap between economics and theology, but resolves nothing, largely because of his naïve assumption that the foundation of economics is “egoism and greed.” Not much to reconcile here with a religion of love for all mankind, including those who are rich.

Michael Bunyar
Contrecoeur, Quebec, Canada

The Right Questions

Your issue on women was superb, but I want to compliment especially “Leading by Example,” Kerry Weber’s interview with Carmen Cervantes (10/28). Your questions were right on target.

This past February, Ms. Cervantes and some of her pastoral staff came to our Marist parish in Atlanta for a weekend workshop. A combined event with six parishes, there were close to 130 Hispanic young people. In these workshops with the Instituto Fe y Vida, as Ms. Weber wrote, young Latinos are being empowered to be leaders in their parishes and schools.

This past summer, I had a close-up look at this the content and methodology at a national institute with Fe y Vida. The program is producing very good fruit, nationally and internationally, in great part thanks to Ms. Cervantes, who leads by example.

I look forward to anything else America may publish on Hispanic/Latino ministry.

Paul Frechette, S.M.
Boston, Mass.

Blog Talk

The following is an excerpt from “Women in the Church,” by Julie Hanlon Rubio, on the Catholic Moral Theology blog (11/22). The post is a response to “Women in the Life of the Church,” the special issue of America (10/28).

As an online subscriber, I opened the e-mail containing the table of contents without looking at the title. I noticed that the first article was written by a woman, and so was the second. That’s strange, I thought. Then I saw the third and the fourth. Something was going on....

Every single feature was written by a woman. I can’t describe the feeling of seeing women inhabiting the familiar features of a beloved magazine that usually includes only one or two female voices. I can only say that I will remember this moment, as I remember when I first saw altar girls, when I first received Communion from an Episcopal woman priest, and when I took my first course from a theologian who was also a mother (Lisa Sowle Cahill).

America’s editors confessed their failures in inclusivity and pledged to do better: “It is important for America to add more women to its roster of contributors and to increase our coverage of issues that affect women in the church.” Yes, it is. Not because women will always want to talk about mothering (though sometimes they will, and that’s a good thing), but because they will bring concerns and perspectives that would be missing if their voices were absent. 

Julie Hanlon Rubio

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