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Conscience Integral

While rightly sounding an alarm about the dangers of a growing secular culture antagonistic to deeply held religious values, “Our Secular Future,” by R. R. Reno (2/24), gives short shrift to the rights of conscience. “Liberty of Religion and of Conscience,” by Drew Christiansen, S.J. (Reply All, 3/31), rightly expresses the danger in ignoring conscience rights in pursuit of religious liberty.

Reminding us that respect for conscience is integral to our first freedom, religious liberty, Father Christiansen urges in the face of current difficult questions, to seek solutions which respect conscience, erroneous or not.

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Solutions will not easily emerge in the clash of consciences. Nonetheless in the words of St. John Paul II, the full truth about religious liberty can “prevail only in virtue of truth itself.”

At this moment, the church in the United States should not only give close attention to the concern of Professor Reno, but also give serious thought to the counsel of Father Christiansen. His referral to the teaching on conscience in the Second Vatican Council and the wise words of St. John Paul II must not be ignored, regardless of future decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court.

(Most Rev.) Joseph A. Fiorenza
Houston, Tex.
The writer is emeritus archbishop of Galveston-Houston.
 

Positive Developments

I was very pleased to read “Noble Vocations,” by Joseph J. Dunn (3/24). Though no schools should offer business programs that aren’t also informative on ethics, I agree strongly that Catholic universities and other universities pledged to moral behavior through religious traditions hold a particularly high responsibility when it comes to business education.

My decades of experience here and in Europe teach me that we’ll never safeguard corporations from internal corruption or poor business practices. No structures on earth developed and managed by human beings are perfect.

What I see in the management world today does give me hope, however. Executives are more aware than ever that the public good and their communities require a high standard of principled leadership. There is also an accelerating trend for corporate strategies to go beyond profit and to make a mark through conscious global citizenship.

I want to believe that the contributions of graduates and stakeholders at business schools in places like Boston College have had some role in this welcome evolution and will continue to do so.

Andrew Boynton
Chestnut Hill, Mass.
The writer is dean of the Carroll School of Management at Boston College.
 

Role of Workers

There is no question that a career in business can be a noble profession. As a retired mid-level business executive, I recall when workers were treated with respect and consideration. Later in my career, the opposite occurred. Sadly, today there is too much concern for quarterly profits, to the detriment of long-term planning and organizational growth. In the race to increase stockholder equity, the worker is treated less as a partner in the enterprise and more as a cog in the machine, easily replaceable and often discarded as too costly.

The trend to offer business to undergrads also makes no sense to me. It is more appropriate to start with a solid liberal arts education and then later tackle a business degree in graduate school, when the student is more mature. When I hired a trainee, I looked for people who could think on their feet, write an intelligible memorandum and plan several moves ahead. More often than not, the trainee had a liberal arts degree.

Edward J. Thompson
Gettysburg, Pa.
 

A Real Plan

I have to highly commend “Heal the Wounds,” by Joseph G. Kelly (3/17), for its insightful and deeply pastoral application of Pope Francis’ description of the church as a “field hospital after battle.” I have had my own turn at taking one of the pope’s remarkable and graphic descriptions of the church (“a church that is poor and for the poor”) and attempting to forge this summons in practical terms for people in the pew and in ministry. It is a demanding challenge.

The “best practices” presented by Professor Kelly are superb, a real plan for ministers, lay and clerical. The practices will enable a genuine and compassionate realization of this vision of the church. I thank Professor Kelly and confess publicly that I will make a full disclosure when I use his outline in a homily for a confirmation group that includes future teachers and health care practitioners at a woman’s university.

Thank you, as always, for your magazine.

(Most Rev.) Sylvester D. Ryan
Nipomo, Calif.
The writer is the retired bishop of Monterey, Calif.
 

A Fair Hearing

Re “A Pastoral Path to Communion?” (Signs of the Times, 3/17): As a divorced Catholic who has remarried, I am heartened to hear that the church will examine the challenges of divorce. As someone who was once an active parishioner—altar server, parish council member and Pre-Cana instructor—I feel abandoned by my church. 

I will continue to attend church anonymously, receive Communion and answer to the Lord when that day arrives. I know my new wife, a pediatric emergency room nurse, has a pass to heaven. I may not be so lucky, but I am confident enough in God that he will give me a fair hearing that I was not afforded by my church.

Charles F. Field Jr.
Scituate, Mass.
 

Truly Pastoral Help

Many divorcees are receiving Communion with new spouses; they received annulments and entered sacramental marriages. Since the publication of the new Code of Canon Law in 1983, dioceses all over the world have devised procedures to help all—rich and poor—to experience the healing that the annulment process can bring.

People have claimed that annulments helped them to heal the wounds of their “first” marriages and prepare for the maturity needed for a true sacramental union. Before brushing aside this success for vaguely “pastoral” reasons, perhaps the German bishops should re-examine their annulment procedures to offer truly pastoral help to their people.

Joseph Krastel, C.SS.R.
Annapolis, Md.
 

Jesus’ Mercy

Forgive me if I am less than enthusiastic about Cardinal Walter Kasper’s pleas for mercy for the divorced and remarried. They seem timid at best. He rightly says that “one cannot propose a solution different from or contrary to the words of Jesus,” but where exactly does Jesus talk of “sacramental” marriage, let alone its “indissolubility”? And what about Mt 19:9, where Jesus grants an exception for divorce?

The Greek word in this passage used to be translated “fornication.” The latest translation of the New American Bible now says “unlawful marriage,” rendering the exception as essentially a tautology. This new translation was quietly slipped in without so much as a whisper in the Catholic press.

To hang the case for present church discipline on a single verse (with a problematic translation) in opposition to the entire teaching of Jesus, shot through with mercy, is proof-texting of the highest order. 

(Deacon) Brian Carroll
Berkley, Mich.
 

Blog Talk

The following is an excerpt from “A Truly Catholic Politics?” by Katie Grimes, at womenintheology.org (4/7). The post is in response to “Reply to ‘A View From Abroad,’ by Massimo Faggioli,” by Michael Baxter and William T. Cavanaugh (In All Things, 3/31).

Baxter and Cavanaugh implicitly contrast the unity secured by wholehearted and unsullied membership in the church with the inherently divisive and atomizing politics of the nation-state. In so doing, they celebrate a church that never existed. White Catholics of all political stripes look back on the church of the early 20th century with tender nostalgia, remembering it as a time when Catholics were pious and united. This might be true if we limit our vision just to the tight-knit, spatially dense communities of white Catholics.

But interracially, the church was far from united. No mere victim of the nation-state’s anti-black biases, the Catholic Church acted to kick black Catholics out of its corporate body on its own initiative…. As theologians and religious scholars…have demonstrated, the nation-state learned everything it knows about race and whiteness from Christian theology. Rather than the corrupted student, the church played the role of corrupting teacher.

While the Gospel is always true, the church is not just the answer; sometimes it is also the problem.

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