Tears of Joy
As the grandparent of a Providence College student, I saw the “Papal Embrace” before it became viral on the Web. But, in looking at it anew on the cover of the April 29 issue, I gained a new appreciation of the sanctity of the moment caught not by the central characters, but rather by tears of joy shed by the “supporting cast” struggling to provide the spontaneous lift to assist a true child of God to rise to the moment of grace we all witnessed.
Scripture does not record it, but it is hard not to imagine that similar tears of joy were shed by the apostles in the Upper Room when they beheld the risen Christ. Surely, Pope Francis must be giving thanks that he had the opportunity to meet the risen Christ once again so early in his papacy on the streets of Rome.
For Next Time
In “A New Consistent Ethic?” John J. Conley, S.J., (4/29) speculates (inconclusively, it seemed to me) whether a consistent ethic of life linking the violence of abortion and war has “sagged under the weight of its own inclusiveness” and should be replaced by a new, narrower consistent ethic focused more inwardly on institutional conscience and health care.
There are many individuals and groups in the more than 25-year-old Consistent Life Network who are, unsaggingly and robustly, committed to the consistent ethic promulgated by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin and others. By 2010 the network had over 250 member organizations, and many prominent peace activists have linked the violence of war and abortion.
A consistent ethic of life is marginal to popular opinion largely because its radically challenging principle of nonviolence is hard to embody in American politics and culture. But this is a variation on an old story. Indeed, the early and strong biblical traditions showing that Christ and his followers taught nonviolence have been cautiously (not prudently) marginalized in the mainstream preaching of Christian churches. Now that classical concern—“Why Prophecy Sags”—might be a good topic for Father Conley’s next Philosopher’s Notebook.
Re “A New Consistent Ethic?”: I do not have a biological child, as it would have required “extraordinary” measures. I walked with my husband daily as his dying was significantly prolonged by a feeding tube. I rejoice with my step-granddaughter in her loving relationship with her gay partner. No one has ever had an abortion in my name, but the state executes and goes to a “just” war, killing many innocents in my name.
Each morning I awake, place my feet on the ground, breathing in the breath of “Who Is.” I trust a God who is more merciful than the institutional church. Am I the only one in the crucible of living who has not found that much “self-evident”? Consistent ethic, questions of conscience and moral vision may or may not be robust. What I found missing in Father Conley’s “requiem” is compassion for each of us in our struggle.
Roots of Evangelization
Along with other recent articles on evangelization, I found “Mass Evangelization,” by Scott W. Hahn (4/22), stimulating and helpful. My problem, however, with all I have read is that there seems to be a general presumption that evangelization finds its roots in biblical times. I find this to be too narrow a starting point.
Did not the proclamation of the good news begin at the beginning of creation some 14 billion years ago, and does it not continue on into the present time? Creation proclaims the good news that the Creator values differences; everywhere we look in God’s universe we find differentiation. Creation also shouts out the good news that the Creator values communion; everywhere we look we find everything and everyone caught up in relationships, in mutuality.
Our important search into the true meaning of evangelization needs to be nurtured within this wider context.
La Grange Park, Ill.
Thank you for running the articles by Professor Scott W. Hahn and the Rev. Robert P. Imbelli (4/22). Although they were written independently of each other, in effect they offer contrasting approaches to the new evangelization.
Father Imbelli, drawing on a recurring presence of Jesus in the documents of the Second Vatican Council, offers a broad and rich portrait of Jesus most suitable to be the content of a new evangelization. Professor Hahn, after a long and fine summary presentation of writings on the new evangelization, concludes with a section that repeatedly uses the expressions “sacrifice” and “sacrifice of the Mass.” I find that disappointing.
In using these terms so often, he leaves untouched a notion that many of us were brought up with that may need re-evaluation—namely the tendency to associate “sacrifice” with Jesus’ suffering and death as paying God back for human sin. Perhaps the new evangelization could become a re-evangelization for the growing number of Catholics who find the implied image of God offensive.
Re “Welcome, Stranger” (Editorial, 4/8): I was astounded by the absence of any mention of African-Americans, who suffer many of the same difficulties as undocumented immigrants. White American culture, customs and legal institutions continue to exclude the descendants of slaves from full participation in the mainstream, as if they were still strangers rather than free and equal citizens of this nation.
While I recognize the timing of the editorial to coincide with the immigration debate in Congress, the oversight is disheartening. That the plight of African-American citizens is so invisible, even as we call for justice for the stranger, supports the Rev. Bryan Massingale’s observation in Racial Justice and the Catholic Church that our church has not yet come to understand the radical evil festering in plain sight in American life.
Perhaps it is time to create a pathway for people of all backgrounds and histories to move into the mainstream.
Since Pope Francis first stepped out on the balcony to meet the world, one word has continued to pop into my mind: astounded—a word repeated in the Gospels to describe the reaction of people to Jesus’ words and actions. Francis has certainly caught the attention of the world with his personal style and simplicity.
Now we await fresh policy decisions and structural changes so needed in the church. One change many have called for is to put in place a true functioning structure of collegiality. One first prophetic step in this direction: name 12 new cardinals, six Catholic men and six Catholic women, the majority of them married, with proven track records of a holistic spirituality, a strong theological foundation and a commitment to service, especially to the most needy.
This is not so radical a proposal that affects doctrinal teachings, but the symbolism of naming 12 would be strong and would open once more a window of fresh air at the highest levels of the church.
Dr. Kermit Gosnell was convicted on May 13 of first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies he killed with scissors after they were born alive in his abortion clinic in Philadelphia. In “Life, Not Death” (5/20), the editors argued that Dr. Gosnell as well as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, if convicted for the Boston Marathon bombings, should not receive the death penalty. You responded:
The 47 countries and 800 million people of the Council of Europe get along without the death penalty. Why do we Americans act as though we were unique in the world? Our neighbors in Canada and Mexico manage criminal justice without the modern equivalent of crucifixion.
I struggle with the death penalty. If there are no societal repercussions for evil, then what deters evil behavior? Is not a greater good served by deterring future evil, if possible?
And who says they can’t repent before the penalty is enforced? The penalty itself does not determine the final disposition of their souls; their contrition does.
About the only pragmatic rationale for the death penalty nowadays would be for a heinous criminal whose behavior in custody continues to pose a real threat to the lives and safety of custodial personnel.
Abolishing the death penalty is not enough. It is even more important to integrate the concept of reconciliation into criminal justice. Only forgiveness can repair broken relationships among victims, criminals, their family and friends and the entire society. Jesus himself demonstrated this.
I agree that the death penalty devalues human life. I would add that the implementation of the death penalty in the United States devalues some lives more than others—for example, poor males of color, particularly African-American men who kill whites.
I struggle with this, but life imprisonment could be a stiffer punishment than an easy death. They will suffer for a prolonged time for their deeds.