Keeping Space Open
Re “Pursuing the Truth in Love,” by Matt Malone, S.J. (6/3): I have been reading America for over half a century now. While I appreciate fully your need to state the mission for this age as your predecessors did for theirs, reading your article was a little like reading the documents of the Second Vatican Council. During the council the constant challenge was to keep the ecclesial space open enough to hold all the diversity. On some level the documents reflect this, which leaves them open to factionalism. At a deeper level, if John W. O’Malley, S.J., is correct, there is a linguistic cohesiveness that propelled us into the ever ancient, ever new, which was the future.
I believe America has intelligently kept ecclesial space open for diversity all these years, and I look forward to your continuing that tradition for another 50 years. Blogs are more like the public square, where the best we can do is to set the tone by engaging with civility. Some monitoring is inevitable, but readers of America are smart enough to recognize and to challenge those who enter the space in bad faith.
On a practical note, one cannot help but wonder what will replace the shortcuts to understanding provided by using the now-banned adjectives liberal and conservative when discussing ecclesiastical matters. These words, while not always totally precise, are still a handy way to convey a great deal of meaning without having to provide multiple examples of how each person looks at church matters (as well as political issues).
One might also ask precisely what is meant by the claim that America has “said everything” by answering questions with, “We are Christians.” Because, after all, within Christianity itself, even within the Roman Catholic Church, there is no universal agreement on what it means—in the nitty-gritty details—to be Christians. And, although America pledges to continue to provide a forum for a “diverse range of faithful, Catholic voices,” the reality is that very often there is little agreement on what the words “faithful Catholic” mean.
Even though it’s possible to censor articles in order to cleanse them of a few specific words, it is far harder to address the underlying disagreements within Catholic understanding that have led to using these shorthand words when discussing matters in the church. This article seems to acknowledge the reality of the situation. Unfortunately, banning the use of certain words will not make it go away.
A Matter of Obedience?
I applaud your commitment to pursue the truth in love, in particular your commitment to overcome the problem of factionalism in the church by no longer using the terms liberal, conservative or moderate when referring to Catholics. Unfortunately, our seminaries, at least ours here in Detroit, are teaching men studying for the priesthood that Catholics are not liberal or conservative; they are merely disobedient or obedient.
Grosse Pointe Park, Mich.
This Matt Malone, S.J.—can he be cloned?
Editor’s Note: Catholic teaching prohibits human cloning.
Capitalism and Morality
Re “Just Economics,” by Stacie Beck (5/6): The members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul strongly believe in capitalism. We do not believe, however, that capitalism, morality and social justice are mutually exclusive. Our view of capitalism does not include exploiting workers through low salaries with the immoral justification that “at least they have a job.”
Job creators and innovators are to be praised. In our opinion, however, you cannot justify the practice of paying wages so low that your employees qualify for public aid, while also complaining about budget deficits and the growing government debt, and then wrap it all up in a nice conscience-relieving “bow” in a donation to charity.
A healthy economy, in our view of Catholic social teaching, has the Dow hitting record highs while unemployment and poverty reach record lows. A rising tide must, and can, lift all boats.
Maryland Heights, Mo.
The author is president of the National Council of the U.S. Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
No Laughing Matter
James Martin, S.J., asks, “How do you minister to people who are “seriously unstable?” (“In the Land of the Gerasenes” 5/27). He candidly and honestly talks of his frustration, and I thank him for that. But let me assure him the way to handle it is not with sarcasm or mocking humor as in the two examples he cites.
I have been involved in advocating and ministering with and for people with mental illness for over 25 years. Treating people with respect and dignity is fundamental to following Christ, even when we sometimes have to turn the other cheek. In severe cases, people who are having delusions or hearing voices are really experiencing those symptoms. When they feel rejected and unwanted by the church, they feel rejected by God.
The Chicago Archdiocesan Commission on Mental Illness has developed programs and educational material that address the questions raised by Father Martin. These are available free at www.miministry.org. I encourage every church minister to acquaint themselves with these pastoral approaches, as the incidence of mental illness in our country is one in four people.
As an alumnus of Regis High School and Fordham University and an educator in Jesuit schools for 27-plus years, I offer congratulations on the superb Jesuit education issue (5/13). I was especially pleased to see thoughtful essays by the Brophy College Preparatory alumni Matt Emerson, J. Patrick Hornbeck II and Rob Weinert-Kendt. The Ignatian inspiration to educate people for others, especially in the arts and humanities, shines brightly in their perception. Ad multos annos!
Did someone open the windows at 106 West 56th Street in New York City? I have been reading America for over 35 years. The last few issues have been the best. Keep up the good work.
In his article “Pursuing the Truth in Love” (6/3), Matt Malone, S.J., wrote about the relationship between the church and the political. I will admit here that I was a bit surprised, because I suppose I have often (though not always) seen the magazine as entrenched in the particular American political dialogues that Malone decries. I really appreciate his points in that essay. He is pushing for us to see ourselves foremost as Christians. I say: Bravo.
I’d love to see more serious discussion about how to “be a poor church” alongside questions of contraception and marriage; adoration alongside homeless shelters; love for the Mass alongside love for Scripture. I’d love to see Jimmy Akin speaking right next to, or with, Vince Miller; Sister Helen Prejean alongside Mother Angelica; Scott Hahn alongside Sister Joan Chittister.
Will we do it? Will we have faith in Christ?
Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from a longer post on the Catholic Moral Theology blog. See “‘We are Christians,’ Not Democrats or Republicans” (5/25).
Matt Malone, S.J., proposes, among other things, that solving the problem of the relationship between the church and the political, “or at least presenting credible solutions to it, is the pre-eminent task of the Catholic media in the United States.”
I think all of us who participate, as Catholics, in “public discourse” should read Father Malone’s piece. I don’t expect that everyone will agree with all he writes, but there’s a whole lot in it for all of us, and each of us, to think about.