Re “Listening in Ferguson,” by J. Augustine Wetta, O.S.B. (3/9): The Ferguson incident began with the policeman verbally attacking Michael Brown and his companion, shouting at them with rough language. Would it not be better if law officers always chose courtesy over dominance? Would not this one simple change lead to better overall community relations?
The author speaks with one white police officer who hates having to respond to calls driven by racial stereotypes. But did this Officer Lutz ever apologize to the people he makes “feel like dirt” because of the 911 call of some bigot? Does he have to enter the jewelry store or could he not sit outside in the patrol car until the customers leave, then go inside to assure the manager that he was there keeping an eye on his store. Can we not find alternative ways to provide security without giving the impression that some are presumed guilty instead of innocent?
Police officers can keep their suspicions out of their behavior and treat all courteously, constantly reminding themselves that the majority of every social and ethnic group are law-abiding. Cannot law and order be kept through constant vigilance without constant demonstrations of dominance?
I don’t know when I have read in any respectable publication a poem so disgusting as “They Build a Hogan in Coal Canyon, Arizona,” by Stella Jeng Guillory (3/2).
Without doubt, “Examining Our Social Sins,” by Danial P. Horan, O.F.M. (3/2), is well intentioned. But I would suggest the article is both misguided and misleading. We are an increasingly divided people. Perhaps it is because commentary on social sins is constantly pitting one group against another.
First Father Horan states that those of us who are white need to recognize the unfair privileges from which we benefit. Why is walking down the street without harassment “unfair”? Why is the possibility of a decent education in responsible, safe schools unfair? Are these privileges? I see them rather as goals for all citizens, against which we can measure our society. If some citizens don’t have these possibilities, then with a resounding yes we need to correct that. In the words of Pope Francis (as quoted in Gerard O’Connell’s column in the same issue), we must “obey the call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the peripheries in need of the light of the Gospel.” I do not hear accusation or charges of guilt in those words.
Father Horan slips right into the current sociological trap of analysis: whites against blacks, rich against poor, men against women and on and on. What good press and righteous indignation we can muster! A sacred silence, giving us time for a little reflection, is now labeled apathy. But what happened to our Gospel message of not rushing to judgment and loving our so-named enemy, even while caring for the poor and marginalized?
“On Paying Attention,” by John J. Conley, S.J. (3/2), was great until the last sentence: “Perhaps distraction at prayer is a serious sin after all.” Distractions can be a means to deeper attentiveness and prayer. By being aware of them and by looking past them, they become not sins but part of the landscape in which God is the center and focus.
Although sports can be oversold and today we need more cooperation and less competition, there is wisdom in “Good Sports,” by Rabbi Martin Siegel (2/23). As the author has observed, sports as well as religion require communal self-transcendence and rules. In our competitive culture, finance and politics are the other major arenas of competition. Unlike sports, however, the rules in finance and politics are at times ill defined, unfair or not enforced. Furthermore, breaking the rules in finance and politics can be considerably more consequential. Improper banking transactions caused many innocent people to lose their homes, while improper funding of political elections is undermining the foundations of our democracy. Consequently, our financiers and politicians should learn from sports that fair rules and communal self-transcendence are essential for the welfare of people and the survival of the democratic system.
Re “Prison Addiction,” by Bishop Denis J. Madden (2/23): I know better than most that prison is not a fun place to be, having spent 12 years in maximum security prisons and local jails, but it is the only effective way we have as a society to isolate the criminal from the often innocent victims of crime. Each arrest was, for me, just another step in my criminal career of theft. Only after becoming Catholic did the final remnants of the predatory and self-centered criminality that had informed my life gush out of me.
Criminal justice policy sways between the liberal rehabilitative approach and the conservative policing, sentencing and incarceration approach. Right now society appears to be swinging back toward rehabilitation, but it is my hope that we can develop and keep only those programs that are rigorously evaluated and proven successful, while retaining the incarceration strategies that have already proven their success in reducing crime. Reformed criminals who work with other inmates to help them get on the right path are valuable assets, which are still too rarely utilized.
The church should minimize or do away with canonizing imperfect saints, and maybe, just maybe, it should re-examine all the lives of saints and pull out from the list those who do not meet strict criteria. I think many more Catholics will welcome transparency and truth rather than having all those saints of dubious character. Let’s start with the personalities involved in the Council of Nicaea and all the popes canonized just for being popes.
That we make a distinction between “Saints” and saints every year around All Saints Day and All Souls Day just highlights the very hierarchical thinking in the Catholic Church to this day. And this mind-set does not apply just to the clergy but to the laity as well, humbled to the point of submission, not knowing that we are now all called to be holy and the pyramid has been inverted.
Right off the bat, the source of the “pastoral dilemma” in cases of divorce and remarriage can be seen in Monsignor Garrity’s analysis. The article began by trying to demonstrate the difficulty in ascertaining the invalidity of a marriage that on the outside seemed valid. Immediately afterward we are told how painful it is for people to relive a “failed marriage” when applying for an annulment, a process that is supposed to find there was never a marriage to begin with. A wiser man might have said “failed relationship.”
Further, I cannot help but lament that some elderly pastors, molded by a different time and circumstance, are removed from the reality of the present generation, wherein the backlash against divorce is enormous. There is a generation of youths who feel they were trivialized and humiliated by parents who forced them to suffer through divorce and remarriage (often more than once). The children are dependent on their parents and have little or no political power. Where is the pastoral tear-jerking over these suffering souls who feel alone and trapped in the world?
Readers respond to “All the Angels and Saints,” by Bishop Edward K. Braxton (3/9).
In my third grade Sunday school class last weekend, a child asked what Jesus looked like. I said we don’t know, but he probably looked more like some of the children than others. We played a hot-cold game until one of the Hispanic children guessed that his skin was “tanner.” It was just a few minutes in a class focused on the Transfiguration, but after class I heard one of my Hispanic girls excitedly tell her mom, “Jesus looked like me!”
While I agree with the conclusion, I found the approach of the article distasteful. It is possibly because God has given these Irish American children whose unions produced grandchildren of color. Bishop Braxton, this country already is one of mixed race. Pretending it is a white enclave does little to move the issue forward.
I love the Jesuits. They directed me in the Long Retreat, which irrevocably changed my heart. I love America, which has so many fantastic and thoughtful articles each week. But I have a bone to pick with you. This short article is a good one, but I see so few articles by African-American authors in these pages. The illustration is a good one, but I see so few black people on your covers. Surely “this least Society” does not suffer from a lack of creative thinking. How can this problem be ameliorated?