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Our readersNovember 05, 2014

Our Neighbors

Re “Listening to Ebola” (Editorial, 10/27): If people want to know what America is all about, here it is. Sadly, greed still triumphs in health care. And too often fighting abortion overshadows caring for the millions of children who die every year for lack of basic necessities. That reality has been in the background. The Ebola outbreak will have a positive outcome if it makes us recognize we are our neighbor’s keeper. And our neighbors are also in Africa.

Meanwhile, no one is showing us what it means to love our neighbors more than the doctors, like Dr. Steven Hatch, recently profiled in The New York Times, and nurses who are treating Ebola patients in Africa at risk to their own health. Likewise the pastor who died next to Dr. Hatch, but insisted, as he lay dying, on praying for the doctor. The greed of the world is softened by such shining, inspiring examples.

Bill Mazzella
Online Comment

Inclusive Education

Re “Learning Curve,” by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan (10/20): I am glad that change is occurring in our Catholic schools and agree that they are worth fighting for. I am proud to say that both of my older sons attended Catholic school here in Arizona. It is also heartbreaking for my husband and me that our youngest son with Down Syndrome was not welcomed into that same Catholic school. Many public schools and districts are now adopting a policy that eschews special education classes and are instead including all children into general education classrooms. It is sad that the Catholic Church is behind in seeing all the abilities of all children. I hope America will lend its voice to inspire a wave of inclusion in dioceses across the country.

Michelle Tetschner
Gilbert, Ariz.

Bombs to Nowhere

Proceed With Caution” (Editorial, 10/13) seeks to address the threat of ISIS. The editors set out the many complexities of the situation, but cannot bring themselves to condemn the bombing campaign that the United States has undertaken. Yet in the same issue there are two full pages devoted to the terrible plight of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Turkey (“Refugees, Fleeing ISIS, Threaten to Overwhelm Turkish Resources”). On the next page, the caption for a picture accompanying a report on the opinion of the leadership of International Pax Christi reads: “Air Strikes Will Aid ISIS.” 

I urge the editors to deeply consider the alternatives to U.S. military action offered by 65 national religious organizations, academics and ministers. They state, “There are better, more effective, more healthy and more humanizing ways to protect civilians and to engage this conflict.” They offer a compelling menu of “ways the United States and others can not only help save lives in Iraq and the region, but also begin to transform the conflict and break the cycle of violent intervention.” It is time and past time for the fallacy of redemptive violence to be rejected, and to lay to rest the notion that one more bombing campaign, however regrettable, will somehow bring peace.

Mary Beth Moore, S.C.
Wantagh, N.Y.

Talk Local

I welcome Paul Ryan’s contribution to the discussion of poverty in “Preferential Options” (10/13). There was much that I liked in what I hear about his “Opportunity Grants.” Mr. Ryan mentions that subsidiarity is crucial to his plan. America has previously published a good definition, by Vincent Miller, which seems close to what I learned in the seminary: “Subsidiarity envisions not a small government, but a strong, limited one that encourages intermediate bodies and organizations (families, community groups, unions, businesses) to contribute to the common good” (“Saving Subsidiarity” 7/30/12).

I have also heard this stated thus: the smallest group of individuals should have a say over their destiny. For me in Texas that means that Texas billionaires should not have the only say over the problems people experience in the Fifth Ward.

I envision asking people in poverty to describe what they would like their community to be. This may reveal great differences of opinion between rural and urban residents, or between different ethnic groups. Some of the suggestions would be impractical or contradictory. Some people might say, “I don’t know how but here is what I would like to see.” Regardless, it would be a very interesting and fruitful enterprise

Mike Van Cleve
Online Comment

Compassionate Change

Joan’s story in “Remain Here With Me”(10/13) moved me to tears. Our daughter was brutally assaulted and raped by an ex-boyfriend several years ago and was met with similar apathy from most of her college community, though a strong group of victim advocates did provide love and support. What she needed, however, was additional spiritual care and concern.

As a Catholic lay minister myself, I found few established resources on the scope and order of those provided for post-abortion spiritual healing, probably reflecting the focus our church had placed on that particular issue at the time.

I am grateful to the author for sharing her beautiful reflection about how through her recovery she was able to connect to Jesus. Please know there are many women and men working toward developing a broader and more compassionate response from our church, and I am among them.

Deborah Zane
Online Comment

Mary’s Model

I found Sidney Callahan’s review of In Quest of the Jewish Mary, by Mary Christine Athans, fascinating, though perhaps somewhat misleading (“Woman Of All Seasons,” 10/13). While Mary no doubt enjoyed “a rich religious heritage” and participated fully in ritual celebrations, she was a woman of her times, subjugated in the broader social sphere and in the political world of her day; so Mary’s strength lay in the spiritual realm.

Because of this, I found confusing Ms. Callahan’s portrayal of Mary as a feminist. Certainly Mary remains a unique role model for women (and men), but her greatness was not in pursuing gender equality or self-assertion. If anything it was in self-effacement. We hear in the Gospels, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord” and “The Lord has looked upon his lowly servant.” Mary’s true strength emanated from her awareness of her status as a creature whose fulfillment lay in compliance with the will of her almighty creator.

There is no conflict between possessing humility and exercising one’s God-given gifts, even if this encompasses greatness in the secular sphere. The example of Mary, however, shows us that the core value of any greatness is service—to God and man. If this is what Mary’s feminism comprises, she is the supreme role model for feminists and non-feminists alike. In this she is truly a woman for all seasons.

Charles Butera
East Northport, N.Y.

Able to Love

In “Raise Up the Roof” (10/6), Maria Cataldo-Cunniff discusses the unique gifts families with disabilities bring to the church. Persons with disabilities and those facing serious, debilitating illness are much-needed witnesses to the need people and families have for one another and our universal human vulnerability, especially in our individualistic and success-oriented society.

My husband was diagnosed with cancer when we were engaged. Almost six years later, after one wedding, two babies, three surgeries and God knows how many targeted treatments and their awful side effects, each day is a leap of faith. We’ve discovered both our ability to love more deeply than we thought possible, but also our ability to “be not afraid” in the face of our own vulnerability. We’ve learned the humbling lesson that we are not as self-sufficient as we once thought we were, and how much we depend on family, community, empathy from our employers and God’s mercy. It’s humbling; it’s painful; but in a way, the lessons learned are liberating, too.

Abigail Woods-Ferreira
Online Comment

Twitter Talk

On Oct. 16 Matt Malone, S.J., joined Catholic media leaders at Georgetown University to discuss the common good in a time of religious and political polarization. The following are tweets posted during the event.

America editor: Catholic journals must be edgy, countercultural. Mass media slices us into ideological camps.

America editor: Church has to re- member our public identity, not just on Sunday morning but Monday morning.

@americamag: Young people aren’t interested in the kind of ideology they hear on cable news.

Catholic Church does not possess the truth. We hope He possesses us. Editor of @americamag

Great final words from @Americaeditor of @americamag: Teaching of church is only credible to extent that love is credible
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