In “Beyond the Fortnight” (7/1), Archbishop William E. Lori addresses some issues quite clearly. I appreciate that. However, there are numerous issues that he has not made so clear for me to understand.
For example, Archbishop Lori demands that companies and individuals receive conscience-based exceptions to public policy. However, it is much too easy in this country to come up with a variety of “issues of conscience.” I could say, “I don’t want to serve a Mormon, or a Muslim, in my business because I don’t want anyone to think that I condone their beliefs.” Isn’t that essentially the argument when a florist refuses to do the flowers for the wedding of a same-sex couple? We’re giving people more opportunities to repeat the discriminatory practices of the past.
I don’t think I am much different than many other thoughtful Catholics on this subject of religious freedom. There are a lot of ambiguities and intertwined issues.
Prior to the Fortnight
Back in the days of my youth, the 1940s, the thought occurred to me: Why is the Catholic Church seeking public contracts? I knew, as I thought everyone else did, that once you take money from someone you are no longer your own master. Certainly there is enough history in the church to bear witness to that. I guess the fact that we were living in a democracy changed the guidelines.
How do we go back to the days when whatever we accomplished we accomplished on our own? My suggestion is to gather a group of our brightest young Catholics and have them study how we did it before public contracts and how we can apply those principles now. Perhaps this is an impossible task, but I consider it more likely than coming to an acceptable agreement with our federal government—no matter who is in office.
Red Bank, N.J.
Archbishop Lori’s use of the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life report of government infringement of religious beliefs and practices around the world was inappropriate. While it is true that the United States does appear on the Pew score card, showing “moderate” restrictions on religion, almost all the cases cited relate to the practice of the Muslim faith (for example, regulations against wearing a beard or converting to Islam while in prison).
The H.H.S. mandate and the redefinition of marriage described by Archbishop Lori as challenges to religious liberty in the United States would never be included on the Pew list. Why? Because, in the irony of religious freedom, these same items can be seen as lifting restrictions on persons who do not agree with the Catholic Church on contraception or same-sex marriage.
The essay “Beyond the Fortnight” is troubling. As a lifelong practicing Catholic, what I needed to hear from Archbishop Lori was an exposition of why (our Catholic) religious freedom is infringed and our consciences violated by the demands of the Affordable Care Actbut apparently has not been so violated by any other legislative action that directly or indirectly requires participation and/or acquiescence of the church or of individuals.
Why has the urgency to protect religious freedom come to the fore in fortnights of prayer now—when the topic is sexual activity? Not endless, senseless wars. Not raw acts of oppression of the poor. Not the unapologetic crushing of labor. Not over policy that protects “investment” in Asian sweatshops so our clothes are cheap. God knows these actions violate God’s word. Do they not assault the consistent teaching of the Gospel (if not of the church!)?
If the church has any legitimate stance on eroding religious freedom triggered by health care mandates, it sadly has squandered a credible defense of it by failures to challenge with the same vigor its participation in violations of all manner of human rights and the common good—both as citizens and as an institution.
A Good Man
Re “Of Many Things,” by Matt Malone, S.J. (7/1): I am sorry to read that James S. Torrens, S.J., has retired as poetry editor of America. We here in Fresno are still able to see him and enjoy his company. Every community of faith deserves to have a man like Father Torrens as one of its members.
Who am I?
“Pursuing the Truth in Love,” by Matt Malone, S.J. (6/3), is a wonderfully written piece and the best “examination of conscience” I can ever recall reading. It should be required reading in all Jesuit educational institutions. As our feet touch the floor every morning, it just might make us ask, in the lyrical words of Jean Valjean, “Who am I?” Thanks, I’m better off today than yesterday.
New York, N.Y.
My advanced age does not permit me to navigate the technology field of a “log in!” However, I feel compelled to write to someone at America and applaud “Citrus Paradisi,” by Chelsea Wagenaar (6/3), winner of the 2013 Foley Poetry Award. It made my spirit soar, higher and higher. What a radiant picture she has created.
I will cut it out and paste it in my daily journal, so that one day my children will read it and say, “Wow!” It sure ”wowed” me, an 82-year-old Irish dreamer.
Praise for Thatcher
As a longtime subscriber to America, I was very disappointed by “The Divided Kingdom,” by James Hanvey, S.J. (5/20). To call the article biased and one-sided is an understatement.
Many policy analysts on both sides of the Atlantic credit Margaret Thatcher with the rescue of Britain from a near economic meltdown. She also had a role, with Pope John Paul II and President Reagan, in bringing about the collapse of the Soviet Union, and she negotiated with President Reagan a truly historic nuclear arms reduction.
Unfortunately, these signature achievements were somehow overlooked in Father Hanvey’s article.
Dorothy C. Matern
In response to “Pursuing the Truth in Love,” by Matt Malone, S.J. (6/3), and the interview with Father Malone in The Washington Post (6/28), the editorial page editor of The Citizen Times of Asheville, N.C., wrote, “Dropping the Labels” (7/5). Here is an excerpt, edited for length.
Here’s a little game I like to play: Switcheroo. Reading political commentary, watching the news, listening to talk radio, what have you, when I hear the word “Obama,” I’ll insert the word “Bush.” For “conservative,” I’ll hear “liberal.” I find it’s a good grounding experience, a sort of baseline gut-check.
Others are trying a different tack to jump the ideological hurdle. I’m intrigued by what America has decided to do: “America will no longer use the terms liberal, conservative or moderate when referring to our fellow Catholics in an ecclesiastical context.”
It’s an intriguing approach. Let’s face it, people use those words as shields, sometimes as bludgeons. It will be interesting to see how the magazine’s new policy plays out.
The Asheville Citizen-Times
Readers respond to “Beyond the Fortnight,” by Archbishop William E. Lori (7/1).
The church already is legally required to recognize marriages of those who are not married according to church law—e.g., by providing spousal employment benefits. The only difference now is that gay people as well as straight people can have marriages recognized by the state but not by the church.(Deacon) Eric Stoltz
The concerns expressed by Archbishop Lori are much more subtle and nuanced than the public debate on this topic would suggest.
I wish there were a Fortnight for Freedom for the poor, the elderly, who go largely unacknowledged in our culture, for women brutally used as sexual objects, for victims of sexual abuse and violence, and the disenfranchised. I wonder what that rally would look like.
Victoria Witherspoon Cortese