I would encourage readers to read Mr. Kennedy’s essay, “Dignity For All” (10/20), carefully, beginning with, “We convinced the government to put the park under local control…. We set up a community reinvestment fund so that a portion of every entrance fee went into the local neighborhood—to build a bridge, buy a school bus, bring clean water to the community.”
He is describing how the Catholic principles of solidarity and subsidiarity were used to help eliminate poverty in this area of the Dominican Republic. Big Government did not cure the poverty in this area. The local community did. Also the “tour companies from the North Coast” did not create the poverty.
These businesses discovered the natural beauty of the area and popularized it, which enabled the local community to pull itself out of poverty. Paul Ryan’s plan is more in keeping with Catholic social teaching than Mr. Kennedy’s rambling rhetoric about how government is the fix.
Paul Ryan’s “Preferential Options” (10/13) was well written and makes a great deal of sense—theoretically. His suggestion to remove the federal government to the rearguard in favor of a state-based approach to fighting poverty is open to challenge. From a practical standpoint, can the states be trusted to provide the basic safety net for those less fortunate? For example, under the Affordable Care Act only 17 states and Washington, D.C., have set up state-run health insurance exchanges. The federal government, through the Department for Health and Human Services, has assumed responsibility for the remaining states.
Some of Congressman Ryan’s performance as a 2012 vice presidential candidate, like his (hopefully past) infatuation with the thought of Ayn Rand, naturally leads to skepticism with regard to his poverty agenda. I prefer, though, to assume that he is maturing in his thought and trying to take his faith seriously. Good for America for seeking out the views of Mr. Ryan and my congressman, Joe Kennedy. Both have submitted thoughtful essays.
“Proceed With Caution” (Editorial, 10/13), is a typically overly complicated anti-war response to the problem of Islamist militants. The editors deny the validity of air strikes and then swing back to seemingly include them among other tactics to get rid of ISIS. Why not instead see ISIS for what it is: a fascist, quasi-religious group that unfortunately will only understand force and complete and catastrophic defeat on the same battlefield on which it is currently taking over towns and villages, airports and oil refineries.
The editors’ proposed response will take just as long or longer to resolve the issue and means letting the group continue to kill, rape, oppress and torture its perceived enemies—Christians, ethnic minorities and any and all men, women and children who do not openly subscribe to their radicalized version of Islam.
My proposed solution: Declare war on the group with an act of Congress, as we did in the 1940s against the German and Japanese fascism of that time, and throw everything at them until they are ultimately and comprehensively defeated militarily, financially and culturally. In the end that will save the lives of thousands, if not more, innocent men, women and children.
Re “Revisiting Remarriage,” by Mary Ann Walsh, R.S.M. (10/6): In my diocese, petitions for annulments may not be filed until one year following the civil divorce. By that time rigor mortis has set in and everyone, with the exception of certain ecclesiastics, believes the marriage is over and done with. The fait accompli that a divorced and remarried Catholic presents is their good faith desire to be in full communion with the church.
Annulment is not always possible under present procedures. I have wondered aloud how a couple might handle refraining from conjugal relations—no one has ever regarded that as more than an unrealistic choice. If the individual expresses a firm conviction that God brought the present union into being, I ask why then are they refraining from confession and communion. “Because of church rules, Father” is almost always the response. Then comes the conversation about conscience formation that leads to a pastoral resolution in the internal forum. If the synod fathers assert that such a solution is invalid there will be hell to pay in terms of the credible witness by men who have no knowledge of either marriage or conjugal relations.
I want to thank the editors for the Sept. 29, 2014, issue focusing on the question: “Who is my neighbor?” The entire issue, woven around the parable of the good Samaritan—from Amy-Jill Levine’s insightful lessons about the parable itself through Russell Shaw’s discussion of “Everyone’s Vocation” to Thomas Healey’s piece on Catholic Charities and Valerie Schultz’s reflection on prison ministry—offered a vivid and cohesive response to that provocative question. At a time when “us and them” language seems to be more and more prevalent, these articles serve to illustrate Jesus’ response and hopefully that of the church. Indeed articulating a response to that question is one way of understanding the purpose of the Synod on the Family.
Salt the Earth
Russell Shaw’s article “Everyone’s Vocation” (9/29), about today’s almost total disregard of the primary vocation of the laity, is right on and much needed. It is not difficult to find parish priests today who measure their pastoral success by the number of laypeople they can recruit for some form of church service. These men are good and zealous pastors of souls. But their view of the laity’s role ignores what Vatican II said about the primary call of the laity: “to make the church present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can it become the salt of the earth” (“Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,” No. 33).
St. Louis, Mo.
As a married woman for 50 years, a mother of six, grandmother of 14 and great-grandmother of three, I feel I am qualified to respond to “Remarriage, Mercy and Law” (Editorial, 9/22).
For over 40 years, I have taught religious education in various parishes and served several terms on democratically elected parish councils. This background has provided me with many occasions to deal with marriages not approved in our church. I have witnessed sorrow, pain and damage to families who struggle to remain faithful, absent full acceptance in our churches. There have been times I have remained in the pew at the Eucharist as I have felt unworthy to climb over a family banned from the sacrament.
In Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” the woman Portia says: “The quality of mercy is not strained./ It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven/ Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed:/ It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.” Where in canon law is the voice of Portia, urging, “mercy seasons justice”?
We asked two Catholic members of Congress to respond to Pope Francis’ calls to empower the poor. Readers weighed in on “Preferential Options” (10/13), by Paul Ryan, and “Dignity for All” (10/20), by Joe Kennedy.
Paul Ryan received much criticism when he ran as vice president, but I find qualities in him that are rare in D.C.: honesty, integrity and sincerity. Yes, he wants to dismantle federal programs, but only to allocate money to those more directly in touch with problems at the local level. I also believe he has shown good faith in his willingness to reach across the isle.
Both men seem sincere. However, I firmly believe that Joe Kennedy is on the right track. Eliminating government programs that assist regardless of race, gender or creed in favor of local programs, which may require listening to a sermon to get a bowl of soup, does not seem right.
I like the theory of families and individuals having more choices among and access to local service providers, as Mr. Ryan proposes, but perhaps that’s more of a goal than a starting point. Mr. Kennedy seems to have a better view of what the larger structural problems are. However, if the two of them could somehow foster more compromise between their two parties, perhaps something might actually get done.