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Lack of Progress

Re “Talking Poverty” (2/3, Current Comment): I concede that the “war on poverty” resulted in programs that made poor Americans slightly more comfortable. They can get food stamps, medical care and a monthly check to keep their heads just above water. But that is all that we continue to accomplish today. I am not satisfied with the total lack of progress. In 50 years since the war was declared, poverty should at least be a transient state as opposed to a chronic one.

Like all wars, the war on poverty can only be won in the trenches. Small, private nonprofit agencies need resources and oversight, but they also need flexibility. The current big government, top-down approach stifles creativity. To win this war, agencies need to be small, creative and allowed a great deal of flexibility, as long as they are achieving results.

Paul Stolz
Online comment

What Data?

Re “Talking Poverty” (2/3, Current Comment): I find it puzzling that the editors can assert that they are puzzled that the worthiness of President Johnson’s “war on poverty” is being debated.

The data, depending on how one interprets it, does not axiomatically demonstrate that this war has been either helpful or beneficial to the sick, elderly or poor. Further, how does anyone know they would be many more (or fewer) in number without this war? After all, not one shred of data was provided or even a reasoned proposition argued.

Instead, this is a case of “Don’t confuse me with facts. I have already made up my mind.” I’d expect much more from the Jesuit tradition.

Ken Herfurth
Abilene, Tex.

Totality of the Marriage

Re “Life Lessons,” by James F. Keenan, S.J. (2/3): “Humanae Vitae” reaffirmed the traditional teaching of the church that bans the use of contraceptives in marriage. It seems to me, however, that the encyclical interpreted Scripture and natural law so narrowly that a commitment to a loving marriage is defined solely by each unimpaired sexual act.

Each sexual act is not isolated, but finds its validity within the context of a couple’s lifelong commitment to marriage. In that sense, the whole is greater than the parts. A couple is open to procreation within the totality of their marriage, although each sexual act isn’t necessarily open to having a child.

Responsible parenthood involves more than bringing children into the world. For example, how will parents care for their children, given the parents’ health or economic condition? And, paraphrasing Pope Francis, “who is the church to judge” whether a marriage is holy or selfish?

Patrick T. Darcy
Columbia, Mo.


Extend the Logic

I admire Father Keenan’s enterprise in teaching “Humanae Vitae” to his students. He should be especially praised for using the pope’s encyclical to teach collegians “the rightness of chastity and the wrongness of sex outside of marriage,” a point not made often enough with today’s young adults.

Another commendable feature of his course flows from his experience as a theologian working in the area of H.I.V./AIDS. He teaches that if one of the spouses is H.I.V. positive, the use of a contraceptive would be morally permissible because their motive is disease-prevention, not contraception. I agree with this positive interpretation, but I find it illogical not to grant the same positive affirmation to a faith-filled, loving couple, who for serious physical, economic, psychological or social conditions, would decide to limit offspring by using a contraceptive.

I think the blame rests with the papal commission on birth control, whose final report overwhelmingly advocated change but failed to note that the commission had thoroughly discussed the question of “intrinsic evil” and agreed that the term did not apply to contraceptive devices.

Frank Maurovich
Ossining, N.Y.

Against Nature

About 50 years ago, a Chinese priest opined to me that if something is contrary to human nature, common sense and the common experience of humanity, whether it is Catholicism or Communism, for example, then it won’t work. “Humanae Vitae” proves this, as observed in the breach by millions of good, devout Catholics.

The Holy Spirit is my refuge. Though it works with glacial speed, I have hope because the spirit moves forward, inextricably always forward. I am 86 and will probably be driven crazy before I am driven out of the church.

Ernest C. Raskauskas Sr.
Potomac, Md.

Save the Mothers

The Feb. 3 issue of America was one of the best ever. I was most impressed by “Life Lessons,” by Father Keenan, and “Of Many Things,” by Matt Malone, S.J., which included excerpts from “Standing for the Unborn,” published by the Jesuits in the United States in 2003.

Taken together, these would be the perfect response to the disingenuous and unfair criticism recently directed by the United Nations to the Vatican. They encompass the beauty and logic of the Catholic commitment to human life in all of its forms and stages, and they jointly evoke the need for both a moral and a fair society as the underpinning of healthy families and, ultimately, our national civilization.

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, O.F.M.Cap., of Boston, in his homily at the opening Mass of the Vigil for Life in Washington, D.C., summed up this view succinctly when he stated, “The truth is that we can save those babies only by saving the mothers.”

Pat Flanagan
North Grafton, Mass.

Open to New Ways

Worship at Willow Creek,” by Laurie Ziliak (2/3), certainly raises some challenges for us. We share people, ministers and the word with other Christians, but there is also a fourth dimension of our Catholic worship: the sacrifice of the cross renewed in the body and blood of Christ.

The awesomeness of this mystery, celebrated splendidly or simply, always calls for some restraint, lest the human elements in our worship overwhelm and obscure the divine reality in whose presence we stand. Balancing all of this is a perpetual pastoral endeavor and requires us to be ever open to new ways of enhancing the sights and sounds of our Sunday Masses. In this regard, Willow Creek has something to teach us.

(Msgr.) Nicholas Schneider
Clayton, Mo.

Require Muskets

After reading “Stop the Shooters” (Reply All, 2/3), the letter from John Natale about gun violence, I cannot remain silent. His creepy fantasy of all U.S. citizens walking the streets as Yosemite Sams is downright unnerving. Gun violence in this nation is a fast-spreading contagion, but the answer to any epidemic is not more of the ailment.

If perpetual adoration of the Second Amendment is to become this nation’s new golden calf, and everyone should be packing heat as Mr. Natale fondly hopes, then we must comply with the founding fathers fully and absolutely, and all the guns should be muskets.

 (Rev.) Patrick M. Jankowiak
Bay City, Mich.

Our Responsibility

Re “A Home for Christmas” (Editorial, 12/23): Sadly, even though we know what works to materially assist the homeless to get back on their feet and into safe and secure housing, our members of Congress and state legislators refuse to provide the necessary funding.

Every heartbreaking story is met with suspicion and then dismissed. The response seems to be that the homeless are suffering only from self-inflicted misery, so we have no responsibility to them. Shame on all of us.

Mike Evans
Online comment

Identify Both Mayors

In “A Home for Christmas,” the editors write about homelessness, a worthy subject but addressed in an unworthy manner.

Chicago has twice as many homeless as New York, a much larger city, and homelessness increased by 10 percent in Chicago in 2013, a higher annual increase compared with the 12 years of the Bloomberg administration in New York.

Please report the facts impartially, fully and honestly. The editors name Bloomberg but fail to identify Rahm Emanuel, the president’s confidant. If the editors are going to single out one mayor by name and place blame on him, honesty requires that you find out the name of the mayor of Chicago and publish that as well. Your editorial on the homeless reflects poorly on America.

James R. Martin
Brookfield, N.H.
Editor’s Note: Mr. Martin’s point is well taken. America’s view beyond the Hudson River is not always as clear as our view down Broadway. We are working on that.
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Jim Lein
5 years ago
Thanks for the "Save the Mothers" letter by Pat Flanagan. It mentioned two things the church needs to stress much more. If it had been doing so, it would not have been criticized so sharply by the UN. One is the church's advocating for both a moral and fair society as the underpinning of healthy families. The other is the comment by Cardinal Sean O'Malley that reinforces the first point, summarizing the pro-life position: "The truth is that we can save those (unwanted) babies only by saving the (troubled) mothers." (Parenthetical words mine.) I've thought and said for years that the starting point in being pro-life can't be the unborn; it has to be the mothers, where the unborn live. It's good to hear this stated better than I ever have and by a person of high standing in the church. And he even said ONLY in his sermon at the opening Mass of the Vigil for Life in Washington DC.


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