In “Faithful Aspirations” (9/1), Frank DeSiano, C.S.P., makes some good points about the various degrees of commitment and participation in the church. But I wonder if he is not missing a point made by Sherry Weddell in her book, Forming Intentional Disciples. The point she makes is not elitist. She is not restricting the church to the totally dedicated. She is rather reflecting on the word and mission of the “disciple.” Are all the sheep gathered at the final judgment disciples? Is everyone who is baptized a disciple? This is the question. Not all are prophets, not all are teachers, not all are administrators—so are all disciples?
Her point is that discipleship requires a certain level of intention and conscious choice and commitment. It does not mean that only disciples are saved or only disciples are members of the church. But her point is that the church grows and serves the world through its dedicated disciples, and they do not appear willy-nilly just because people receive the Gospel message and the sacraments. Attention needs to be paid to the process of forming intentional choices, and people need support in this process. No matter how many reservations we may have about the theology of the evangelical churches, they certainly understand the psychology of commitment. She is suggesting that we learn from them. Why should this be threatening?
Re “Grace on the Greyhound,” by James Martin, S.J. (9/1): I am a nurse who frequently travels in the northeast, always by bus. I think that talking about fellow pilgrims as “the poor” sets up an aura of distance and superiority. I have heard this in parishes, even homilies, and it always rubs me wrong. It has made me feel uncomfortable, as “other” in my own parish at points in my life when I was struggling financially. I would humbly suggest that, perhaps, we take the bus whenever possible from now on, and that we all try to find ways to speak of “us/we” instead of “them/they.”
In “Death in a Small Place” (Editorial, 8/18), the editors suggest that the United Nations investigate war crimes by both sides and indicate responsibility for the calamitous escalation which occurred in Gaza. That, however, may not be the first priority. Rather, there should be a revivified effort toward lasting peace. No one should underestimate the difficulty of the task. We should not delude ourselves that the majority of Israeli youth are not as hard line as their elders (the evidence is to the contrary) or that moderate elements of civil society are only waiting to be discovered.
It is more likely that the keys lie, as Mr. Abbas has suggested, in a UN- rather than U.S.-sponsored peace process. Mr. Netanyahu would have to rethink the wisdom of his course and accept something less than unconditional surrender and repentance on the part of Hamas. The United States’ credibility with Palestinians and much of the rest of world who care about Israel and Palestine is minimal. It is time we facilitate rather than take the lead toward peace.
How Much Time?
Re “It Takes Time,” by James Hanvey, S.J. (8/18): Yes, it takes time; it also takes opening to the Holy Spirit. Whether we call it tolerance or acceptance, the Anglican Church has chosen to break down the wall of sexism in their clerical ranks. There must have been a crack in the wall or a more open system for them to accomplish this tremendous feat.
The picture that accompanied Father Hanvey’s article, of women and men clerics sitting together at an enthronement ceremony, was worth 10,000 words. When Jesus prayed that “all may be one, Father,” he knew about the thick walls of sexism, racism, nationalism, cultural-ism, traditionalism and religion-ism that existed. He knew that each nation, culture, race, institution and individual person would have to break down these walls to create equality and unity—which does not imply sameness.
How long will God’s patience last? Will Jesus’ followers in the 21st century resolve any of these “isms” in response to Jesus’ prayer for oneness?
On Death Row
As a member of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, I read with interest “Prisoners Dilemma” (Editorial, 8/4), but I wish you had included some reference to those 3,100-plus men and women on death row in the United States. With the recent botched executions and more executions scheduled for this fall, it is scandalous that our justice system even condones the death penalty. I have a pen pal who has been on death row in Raleigh, N.C., for 16 years; I find this unconscionable. This does not minimize my sympathy for the victims and their families. But is our justice system fair when an offender who has served 15 to 20 years on death row in one state would probably be serving a life sentence without parole in a state that does not use capital punishment? I am appalled, too, at the number of Catholics who still approve of the death penalty. I pray each day that capital punishment will be abolished in all 50 states—sooner rather than later.
In “Of Many Things” (7/7), Matt Malone, S.J., asks about the history and legacy of racism: “Do we just pretend that everything has changed, when in reality some important things have changed and some important things have not?”
I grew up Catholic in rural South Carolina, where Catholics were about 2 percent of the population, salvation was believed to be limited to Catholics, conversion to Catholicism was very, very rare and racism was very, very prevalent. Guess how many “progressive” priests fought against racism? They were far more interested in trying to fit in with the majority culture (at a time when priests actually wore cassocks and Catholics refused to eat meat on Friday) in order to “save souls.” The church in the South was almost totally focused on the inward Catholicism of the time, and winning converts by appealing to the majority ethos was deemed much more important than challenging it.
I am reminded of this legacy by the focus of the church today on condemning another traditionally despised minority, LGBT people (in the name of “religious freedom”). It seems to be very easy for the church to condemn minorities that the majority refuses to understand.
Share in the Blame
In “Children’s Crusade” (Editorial, 7/7), the editors write that immigration legislation has stalled “not least because of the efforts of the House majority leader, Eric Cantor.” The Democrats and President Obama controlled the entire legislative process during Obama’s first two years in office. Why did they not pass immigration reform during those two years? I guess it was not that important to them. It is disingenuous to now fault Republicans for this mess.
Second, Eric Cantor, until he left office, called on the president and Congress to pass those items of immigration reform that both sides could agree on. The president would have none of it. It is everything he wants, the comprehensive immigration reform package, or none of it. Unfortunately, the legislative process is based on the art of compromise, something this president is unable to do. Furthermore, Republicans are reluctant to pass any legislation because this president only enforces those provisions he favors.
Readers respond to “Grace on the Greyhound,” by James Martin, S.J. (9/1).
I had a lovely ride by Greyhound from Cincinnati to Columbus and back last summer, but as I looked around at the various people in the station, I thought: Every politician in America should have to take a ride by Greyhound instead of flying, at least once a year, to remember who it is they should be representing. And watch, as I did, 20 people trying to get to New York be told the bus was full and they’d have to wait five hours before the next one left at 1:30 a.m., without any apology or compensation.
Greyhound is our country’s homeless shelter on wheels. Cities give people who are homeless tickets to go to other cities. Here in San Francisco, people seem to think cities give folks bus tickets to come here, which they do; but the fact is, San Francisco gives people bus tickets too—to get rid of them. It’s about time we address the needs throughout our country instead of shuffling people around.