Re “On Dying Well,” by Jessica Keating, and “Ars Moriendi” (Editorial, 3/16): People are often surprised when I tell them that in my 17 years as a hospice chaplain, I have had relatively few people discuss assisted suicide. Granted, it is illegal here and therefore not an option within hospice, and perhaps those seeking a chaplain are less inclined toward this option. Yet it is still somewhat surprising, given the acute physical, emotional and relational suffering from the wide range of diseases and illnesses that I have witnessed. This may be due to religious convictions or desperate hope for some satisfaction that outweighs this terminal suffering.
I believe, however, the argument from “human solidarity in suffering” that seems implicit in these articles cruises into a vague communal stoicism or toward a challenging or nearly punitive God that I would not represent. I do not favor changing the current prohibition, since I think assisted suicide could become a convenient social control; but like the case against artificial contraception, the church’s current argument is being lost in the public square. It is those who are suffering whose voices carry weight. Those who believe in the paschal mystery of suffering, death and resurrection had best listen more and theologize less.
‘Not Even Close’
Re “Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Recalled As a Leader of Courage and Vision” (Signs of the Times, 3/16): Perhaps the Rev. John Tracy Ellis, the prominent Catholic historian, said it best when comparing Father Hesburgh to the rest of Catholic leaders in this country: “It was not even close.” He was a champion of the environment before it became fashionable. He was so present for God in so many areas that one is in awe how he let God do so much through him. It must have saddened him to see all the rancor in the world today. He was able to break down barriers, not just bloviate without building. In Father Hesburgh the words of Paul the Apostle resound. “Where grace superabounds.” We were blessed to have him in our midst. May the Lord bless and keep him.
Recovery and Resurrection
Re “The Lives of David Carr,” by John Carr (3/16): Many years ago, after John Carr had given a presentation for our diocese, I drove him to the airport in Bismarck. I remember our deep discussion about family, addiction and the impact of addiction on loved ones. Our talk also included the joy of resurrection in recovery. We talked about A.A. and Al-Anon. I never forgot that visit and reflected upon it when I heard of David’s death. David was one of the lucky ones. He knew the cross of suffering through addiction and the joy of recovery through the 12 steps and a loving family that became frustrated yet never gave up. Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Thank you, both Carrs, for giving and living the example.
I write to commend the March 9 issue, which features two contributors—Bishop Edward K. Braxton, the African-American bishop of Belleville, Ill., and J. Augustine Wetta, O.S.B., a Benedictine monk of St. Louis Priory. Both add pulse to the environs of St. Louis, Mo., which has been called the Rome of the West.
In writing about what it’s like for an African-American to observe without interruption our pristine Caucasian Catholic culture, Bishop Braxton said many things many of us whites have probably never considered. And Father Wetta, in a brilliant piece, told the truth about Ferguson from all points of view. I live 20 minutes from Ferguson and have read nothing better anywhere about the atmosphere in which this sad debacle occurred.
Sort Of Sorry
Re: “Of Many Things,” by Matt Malone, S.J. (3/9): Father Malone makes the case for forgiving Brian Williams, Bill O’Reilly and the soon-to-be canonized Blessed Junípero Serra. No one can disagree that at the heart of our Christian faith is forgiveness and mercy, so gloating that the powerful have fallen is wrong.
What I find lacking in his analysis is any mention that Mr. Williams and Mr. O’Reilly must first take responsibility for deceiving, misrepresenting and/or lying about their personal involvement in some news stories. Mr. Williams made a “sort of apology,” and bombastic Bill refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing.
This is the same modus operandi that our bishops have taken in the sex abuse scandal. They “sort-of apologize” for making “mistakes” but deny that they and their predecessors’ actions were sinful and criminal.
As far as I know, no bishop has ever publically apologized or shown any shame and sorrow for enabling predator priests to abuse innocent children, and it is the exception that a predator priest has apologized or expressed any remorse to those whom he abused.
Forgiving those who claim innocence makes no sense, and justice demands that forgiveness be withheld until the guilty acknowledge their guilt and ask for forgiveness.
This is in response to the letter regarding the annulment process that was submitted by Thomas Severin (Reply All, 3/9). He wrote that the church no longer requires “archdiocesan and Roman tribunals to review and confirm findings of local diocesan marriage tribunals.” Actually, the church has not dispensed with the requirement that an affirmative decision rendered by the First Instance Court be ratified in Second Instance. Eliminating this requirement would speed up the process. At this time, however, ratification by Second Instance is still required.
I read “A Rite of Passage,” by William J. Byron, S.J. (3/2), with heightened interest. For many years, I’ve been a proponent of required national service for our young people, but I had never heard or read of any movement afoot until learning of the Franklin Project. While I’m a veteran, I know that military service is not for everyone. However, I share the belief of the expert planners who want to make national service “a new rite of passage for young Americans.” Following my tour of military service, I attended graduate school and earned a master’s degree through the G. I. Bill. In the late 1960s, as a married man with a young family, I would not have been able to afford school without that financial support.
I would be thrilled to see similar opportunities become available for all our young people who give a year or more of national service. As Father Byron points out, a program of national service will not only be a plus for our young people but “will mean progress toward a better America.”
My thanks to Father Byron for this informative article and for his enthusiastic efforts on behalf of this movement. I look forward to hearing more.
I would like to reply to “Abortion Alternatives,” by John C. Moore (Reply All, 3/2). The letter seemed to imply that protestors at Planned Parenthood provide no alternatives for women seeking abortion. I am not aware of any town with a Planned Parenthood that is without a crisis pregnancy center that responds to pregnant women’s needs. Some of these centers are run by the protestors themselves, some by other groups. These services are offered to women seeking abortion. I have heard them advertise on radio stations that teenagers listen to. Often they are even listed in the yellow pages under “abortion alternatives.”
Readers respond to “Rediscovering Jesus,” by Timothy P. Schilling (3/16).