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Our readersFebruary 11, 2014

The Colbert Family

Truth and Truthiness,” by Patrick R. Manning (2/3), is a fine piece on Stephen Colbert. I was a fellow altar boy, schoolmate and lifelong friend of his father, James W. Colbert, M.D. A graduate of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., and Yale Medical School, Dr. Colbert was an intellectual and a person of faith, with a remarkable personality. He died with two of his sons, Peter and Paul, in an Eastern Airlines crash on Sept. 11, 1974.

In our years together at Iona Prep, we listened to long-playing records and discussed the new world of books: Francois Mauriac, Jacques Maritain, G. K. Chesterton, Léon Bloy and others. Later, Romano Guardini became a favorite. When Dr. Colbert was at Yale, I occasionally visited him and his wife, Lorna. With the turbocharge of a martini or two, we resolved a number of intellectual problems, including that of alternative universes. Unfortunately, we forgot the details before we found a publisher.

It is no surprise that Stephen, the youngest of 11, is a bright light like his father. Lorna, who died this past June, was also a jewel in the family crown. They are incredible people of faith, intelligence and wit.

(Msgr.) Harry J. Byrne
Bronx, N.Y.

Finding a Place

Stephen Colbert and James Martin, S.J., have participated in creating a community and a voice for many who felt that there was no place for them. This is really nothing less than the work of the proclamation of the kingdom of God. This work has been done with bravery but also with tender love and compassion (and a great dose of beautiful laughter). So now we can happily say that those who bless the poor shall themselves find blessing.

Kristen Hoffmaster
Online comment

Not a ‘Report’

I read with interest “Life Lessons,” by James F. Keenan, S.J. (2/3), on “Humanae Vitae.” I was sorry to see him perpetuating the false story that there were two reports of the papal commission, a “majority” and a “minority” report. This is not the case.

The commission produced one official report, which was presented to Pope Paul VI by the secretary of the commission. Four members found themselves unable to sign the report, so they prepared a working paper about their view. This paper was not, and was never treated as, an official “report” of the commission, nor was it presented to the pope, so far as I know.

Nicholas Lash
Cambridge, England

Unpersuasive Teaching

Re “Life Lessons”: Essentially Pope Paul VI concluded that he and the minority grasped the truth that eluded the majority. Now we have a majority of Catholics that have not found the teaching in “Humanae Vitae” to be persuasive, and thus ignore it.

I have always held Pope Paul in high esteem, primarily because of what he said regarding the issues of justice and peace. Many found his teaching in this regard to be very persuasive, and those teachings received a positive reception from many Catholics and other people of faith. The poor reception of “Humanae Vitae” had nothing to do with the messenger but only with the message.

Robert Stewart
Chantilly, Va.

Balanced and Charitable

Kudos to Matt Malone, S.J., the editor in chief of America, for publishing this thoughtful and balanced reflection on “Humanae Vitae.” Thanks also to James F. Keenan, S.J., for sharing his charitable approach to the encyclical.

Frank Gibbons
Online comment

Realities and Ideas

Perhaps Pope Francis is speaking to James F. Keenan, S.J., in the apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel.” The heading of a subsection reads, “Realities are more important than ideas.” Francis writes, “Realities simply are, whereas ideas are worked out.”

I first encountered “Humanae Vitae” on the day of its promulgation, in the company of a 29-year-old married mother of three daughters under six, one of whom had been diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer. For me, that reality trumped the ideas of Pope Paul VI.

I hope students at Boston College and the country’s other 27 Jesuit universities will be encouraged to spend as much time with “The Joy of the Gospel” as Father Keenan’s students spend with “Humanae Vitae.”

Frank Bergen
Online comment

Communication Ministry

The powerful editorial “Dignity of the Disabled” (1/20) asked us to consider how we minister to persons with disabilities and how we can provide them with the tools and services they need to live a healthy and productive life.

Imagine for a moment that you desperately want to communicate but you cannot use words. For thousands of people with aphasia, it is almost impossible to interact and communicate successfully with their families or the public on a daily basis. Startlingly, one in every 250 people in the United States has aphasia, yet few people know what it is.

While federal laws have provided much assistance to people who live with disabilities, very often persons with aphasia are ignored, and no provisions are made to assist them. The editors write, “Too many Catholic schools and churches do not have adequate resources for people with disabilities.”

It is simple and inexpensive for faith communities to contact the National Aphasia Association and request aphasia awareness training. Teaching congregations and students how to communicate with persons with aphasia is an easily achievable way to demonstrate a “commitment to the flourishing of every individual.”

Stephen N. Symbolik III
New York, N.Y.
The writer is a program coordinator for the National Aphasia Association.

Invisible Disabilities

The editorial “Dignity of the Disabled” quite surprised me. Most of the focus of the editorial was physical disabilities, with only a mention of mental disability and Down syndrome. I read not one word devoted to neurological disabilities like autism and other conditions on the autism spectrum. Yet today one out of every 88 children will be diagnosed with autism.

As a parent raising a daughter with autism and mental illness and a grandson with autism and several other conditions on the autism spectrum, I know that these devastating conditions are invisible and, therefore, nonexistent to many individuals and agencies. I was just surprised to count America among that group.

Kay Powell
Tampa, Fla.

Counting the Dead 

A Courageous Bishop” (Current Comment, 1/6) is commendable, but the editors grossly understate the reality when they write, “Over 60,000 lives have been lost across Mexico since former President Felipe Calderón escalated the quite literal war on drugs.”

At the close of Mr. Calderón’s term in 2012, the Mexican government said that 60,000 had died. Independent sources have offered different numbers, saying that 100,000 had died; and, to date, the number of dead is over 125,000, with another 25,000 disappeared. The latter figure is what the government admits to.

The people of Mexico call for a functioning judicial system and a stop to this senseless war.

Peter C. Hinde, O.Carm.
Ciudad Juárez, Mexico

Blog Talk

The following is an excerpt from “Colbert and Catechesis,” by Martin E. Marty (2/3). The post is in response to “Truth and Truthiness,” by Patrick R. Manning (2/3).

“The devil should not have all the best tunes.” We baroque-loving church folk like to quote that, when justifying our devotion to jazz or, though not in my case, rock music....

Now, ask: Why should the devil have all the televised comedy programs? That much on these programs is cynical or nihilistic is obvious; that something positive can also appear on them is the subject of new inquiry and publicity....

What a reach: to talk of “catechesis” or “catechists” or “catechism” in popular culture! Such terms relate to missionaries, nuns of yore, volunteer lay teachers, and overworked ministers, don’t they? Today cultural historians are revisiting the catechetical scene and coming up with more positive readings than the old stereotypes permitted. What about such fields today?

Martin E. Marty
University of Chicago
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