The Missing Half
Mention of the ordination of women to the priesthood was conspicuously absent from the letters that were chosen to deliver to the pope, or at least the topic was not mentioned in “Dear Pope Francis,” by Elizabeth Groppe (9/14). I am certain Pope Francis is not so foolish as to think that women have abandoned the idea so that it does not need to be continuously addressed. The patriarchal arguments put forth to continue this blatant discrimination against more than half of the human population is abominable.
I am certain that if Jesus Christ were walking the streets today, he would have several women among not only his disciples but his apostles. The fact that women are “allowed” to be nuns, to teach, to counsel, to do most of the things priests do except celebrate the Eucharist and forgive sins is, frankly, ridiculous. I am amazed sometimes that, despite this blatant refusal to listen to the voice of God speaking with a female timbre, I remain a staunch and happy practicing Catholic.
“Our Segregated Schools” (Editorial, 8/31) properly sets the vision for Christian education in the United States. In order to realize that vision, we need to acknowledge certain realities. First, the fact that inexperienced teachers are sent to inner-city schools is a reflection of union seniority preferences and union work rules. These union practices have done more to keep inner-city children from receiving a quality education than any other factor. Second, look at the reality of the performance of (nonunion) charter schools in New Orleans (the Recovery School Districts) in the past 10 years, since the time of Katrina. Graduation rates have increased to 73 percent from 56 percent and standard test results for third to eighth grade have increased to 63 percent from 33 percent. Are the charter schools perfect? Of course not: People complain about a strict, disciplinary environment and high expectations, but change is difficult and these types of changes are needed.
Re “Serra’s Sainthood,” by Jeffrey M. Burns (8/31): At this time in American history, when the debate about racism rages again, it is disturbing that America would publish an article so wishy-washy about the colonizer-in-chief Junípero Serra, O.F.M., as a proposed saint.
The California missions are to the Native peoples what the Confederate flag is to blacks—they conjure up all the pain and trauma that haunt the Indians to this day. As for the argument that we cannot judge the past by today’s standards, what is a canonization for except to propose emulation of someone from the past? Even in his own day, Serra was criticized for his cruelty (including by fellow Franciscans). This canonization contradicts Pope Francis’ strong words about the “sin” of destroying indigenous cultures.
A Sullied Tribute
Perhaps other readers were as mystified as I was as to why Matt Malone, S.J., felt the need to spoil the well-earned and excellent tribute to Mr. Carter with the snarky rhetoric of “ethically-impoverished imperial presidency” and “B-movie Hollywood blockbuster” in reference to two former Republican presidents (Of Many Things, 8/31).
If the invidious comparisons were irresistible to Father Malone (better left edited out, frankly), then he should have considered at least also contrasting Mr. Carter’s high standards of morality and governance in relation to Democratic President Clinton’s low moral bar, based on the relative definition of is, and President Obama’s governing principle of “my pen” over the constitutional distribution of checks and balances of powers of governance (also both better left edited out, but fair play should level the goose-gander playing field of modern-day politics).
Re “Unplugged but Connected,” by Mike St. Thomas (8/31): Thanks for a thought-provoking article that gets to the heart of the dilemma facing our Catholic schools. There are many in the world of education (not to mention Silicon Valley) that seem to believe the world was recreated on Jan. 1, 2000. It is necessary for Catholic educators to think critically about the place of technology in our schools.
While an over-use of technology can diminish human relationships, this is not always the case. It is now possible for American children to interact with children in Peru and French children with their counterparts in Ivory Coast. I concede that these experiences are never the same as genuine personal interactions, but they do offer opportunities for children of different countries, cultures and even religions to learn together and share their ideas about the world. Given the universal nature of our church, this brings tremendous opportunities for our Catholic schools. The words of Pope Francis, quoted by the author, stress that “encountering others” is at the heart of our human experience; this must be something that Catholic educators are conscious of and promote continuously.
Judging the Deal
Re “Diplomacy Deficit,” by Margot Patterson (8/17): Chas Freeman is a brilliant statesman and gifted writer and speaker. He served our nation well. We used his book on diplomacy and statecraft when I taught at the U.S. Army War College. His brilliance, however, has little to do with the flaws of the Iran deal. Verification, the critical element in any arms control deal, is the big problem. There is a 24-day delay before inspection of nuclear facilities can be done. The delay would allow Iran to hide evidence. Moreover, the United States cannot inspect unilaterally. It requires majority approval by the joint commission of eight members. Americans are right to question the deal.
Beyond Homo Economicus
The editors make a very good point in “Economy for the People” (Editorial, 8/3). Though Adam Smith himself saw the economy as an element of a broader moral context, too often that connection is lost. But it seems to me that this is only half the picture. If the observation that economics is a facet of broader moral philosophy is correct, we should expect that individual conversion is as important as proper macroeconomic policies. Too many Christians in particular have, I think, come to accept the lack of connection as a given. If profit maximization is the only value, we can and do create great wealth, but we also create great social costs. And these social costs eventually interfere with those very markets, not to mention the damage to the earth and its people. If we do not begin to rediscover the interconnection of economic and other values in each individual human heart, it is hard to see how we will policy our way out of the box we are putting ourselves in.
Touch of Love
I so appreciate in “A Sense of God” (8/3) John W. Marten’s focus on our senses as a pathway to seeing, feeling and connecting with spiritual realities. I’ve been a hospice volunteer for many years. Often, especially with people of advanced age who have hearing, sight and cognitive deficits, the only way to communicate one’s concern and love is through touch—hugging, massaging, soothing sounds. The tactile, especially, is paramount. The frailty and utter dependence that the very old and very ill experience and the anxiety and fear these generate can be assuaged by a loving, tender touch, just as it is for infants.
A Pastoral View
America’s interesting and scholarly series of comments on “Laudato Si’” (“Praised Be Creation,” 7/20) left me with a feeling that something—or someone—was missing. I would have welcomed the views of what might be called a “pastoral theologian,” someone whose theology is grounded and inspired by long and intimate contact with women and men who live on the peripheries of this world. There must be many out there like the late Dean Brackley, S.J., who constantly walk the “villas miserias” of this world, as Jorge Bergoglio did in Buenos Aires, and can articulate their theology from that privileged place.
On Sept. 8, Pope Francis issued two papal documents that aim to make the annulment process quicker, simpler and less costly in certain cases. Readers respond.
I have great admiration for the Holy Father, but the church’s process for an annulment will continue to result in a growing number of people leaving the church. To isolate divorce as seemingly the most grievous of all sins is beyond misplaced. So, a murderer can simply go to confession to confess his sins, as can a child molester, a terrorist, a drug dealer and more. If a family is breaking up, the church needs to be there to support the family, not to destroy their faith. I recognize that divorce is a serious matter, but let’s allow the conscience of a divorcing party in consultation with a priest through confession to resolve the matter, so that the church can be part of the healing process and keep the family in the faith.
One of the blessings to come out of an annulment is the opportunity for both parties to do a reflective “autopsy” on that relationship. What was my or my prior spouse’s understanding of marriage? Did we really understand what it means to be married? Were there obstacles to that understanding? And in doing that autopsy you allow a person to have a better understanding going into that next relationship. Annulment was never intended to be punitive, but sadly our limited experience or understanding of annulment often skews our perspective of the gift that can be found there.