“Tired of Living” (9/21), by John Conley, S.J., regarding euthanasia in the Netherlands, is on target. But there’s trouble here in the United States as well. Dr. William Toffler, a physician in Portland, Ore., in a Wall Street Journal op-ed (8/18), recently exposed the dark side of the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, which has been put forward as a model for other states.
Dr. Toffler pointed out the scanty attention given to depression and psychological disorders in those requesting prescriptions for lethal sedatives. He noted that a dual death certificate provision in the Oregon statute labels physician-assisted suicide as a naturally caused death and makes it difficult for outsiders to verify the statistics claimed by the Oregon Health Division. The California version, passed by the state legislature on Sept. 11, contains the same provisions, specifying that physician-assisted suicide isn’t legally suicide. If right-to-die legislators feel they have to hide facts, what does that say about these laws as public policy?
More to Tell
Thanks to Ed Block for “A Grace-Filled Light” (9/14), his fine article about Jon Hassler and his novels. Because I lived and worked on the Saint John’s University campus in Collegeville, Minn., I came to know Jon as a good friend and excellent writer. I often invited him to the Ecumenical Institute at Saint John’s to speak to the resident scholars about a forthcoming book. He would read a chapter of the book and then answer questions and visit with the scholars. He told us that he came up with characters’ names by walking through cemeteries. When asked about some of the subplots in his stories, he said he would sit in greasy spoon cafes and eavesdrop on the conversation in the adjoining booth! I read all of Jon’s books but always considered Staggerford my favorite. I was so sorry Jon left us so soon, as I know he had many good stories he still wanted to put on paper.
More Show, Less Tell
Re “Having the God Talk,” by Helen Alvaré (9/21): It seems to me that our children—and all the other people who pass through the orbits of our lives—will come to know Jesus more through the way we live than through any talks we have. Though it may take a lifetime to show Jesus, the message will shine as a lamp in the dark night, sure and clear.
A Polarized Problem
Re “Our Armed Society,” by Firmin DeBrabander (9/14): Gun violence is often spoken of through the filter of our differences. Gun owners see any attempt at resolving the issues of gun violence as an attempt to diminish this civil right. Anti-gun forces seem to believe if you diminish the access to guns, gun violence will go away. Neither side is willing to look at alternatives, and articles like this one just continue the knee-jerk responses.
There are plenty of reasons why law-abiding citizens own guns in this country. Focusing only on the violence puts a false face on gun owners in general. What is not acceptable is guns in the hands of psychotic killers, guns in the hands of violent criminals or unmonitored children, all of whom are restricted from owning firearms (sort of) by federal and state laws. And no gun owner objects to these restrictions.
So we can continue to blame each other for this problem, we can offer solutions that are not really solutions and are impractical or impose on the civil rights of others—or we can sit down and look for the difficult and complex (and probably imperfect) answers to this problem. Each side needs to understand what is going on with the other and to work with the very large convergence of opinion that is hidden by the polarized dialogue that exists now.
Re “Is the Shroud Genuine?” by James Martin, S.J. (9/14): While my faith doesn’t turn on the authenticity of the shroud, after more than 35 years of reading and studying about this cloth—one of the most studied artifacts in all of history—I think it is highly likely the shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus. Reasonable explanations have been posited for the inaccuracy of the radiocarbon dating that placed the cloth’s age as more than a millennium after the crucifixion. In any event, delving into the large and varied writings and resources about the shroud is a pleasurable effort in and of itself. It’s hard to imagine any other inquiry that combines such disparate research areas as pathology, botany, geology, textiles science, biochemistry, hematology, photography, Jewish burial customs and art history (just to name a few).
“Unplugged but Connected,” by Mike St. Thomas (8/31), is an outstanding piece that offers a most needed focus in this “connected” age. Enduring personal relationships are the centerpiece of good Catholic schools, often lost in the rush to “keep up.” S.T.E.M. and other initiatives can become all-consuming distractions from the basic message Catholic schools were meant to convey. If I had a child, how lucky he or she would be to have Mr. St. Thomas as a teacher. Keep the human person at the center, and all else follows in service to that person’s well-being. Yes, the technology helps us to do some things better; but it does not and cannot replace the soul-to-soul, heart-to-heart, face-to-face encounter that is at the core of what Catholic education is at its best.
Methods of Transformation
I read with interest “Progress Report” (8/31), by Joe Paprocki. I agree that the current mainstream model of catechesis for adults is unattractive and unproductive. But it seems to me that other means of catechesis exist and have existed for years. This article failed to make any reference to them. For example, the Cursillo Movement (its name means “short course”) has existed worldwide for well over 50 years and has been the inspiration of many people, including myself, to continue learning and to serve the Lord. In addition, the Charismatic Movement, the Saint Vincent De Paul Society, Kairos Prison Ministry, Kenosis, Christ Life, Marriage Encounter and Gennesaret (to name a few) are all wonderful means of adult learning.
I believe that the article is correct in noting “catechesis needs to be less about information and primarily about transformation.” But it fell short, for me, in that it left out reference to these key and proven methods of transformation.
On Sept. 24 Pope Francis became the first pontiff to address the U.S. Congress. Readers respond to his speech.
The speech was tremendous, and completely Catholic—from environmental stewardship to pro-life issues to upholding traditional marriage. As someone involved in the marriage debate, I especially appreciated his defense of marriage: “I can not hide my concern for the family, which is threatened perhaps as never before from within and without. Fundamental relations have been called into question as the very basis of marriage and the family.”
I’m less enamored with the pope’s speech, but it most certainly was a hopeful one. What stood out for me most was his advocacy of personalism, of personal encounter, one human being to another. Dorothy Day was all about personalism, and this pope lives his life that way, so the deeds match the words. That is certainly a countercultural message that is worth hearing.
Fantastic speech. I am so happy to be Catholic. It wasn’t always that way. Was moved to tears at different times in the past two days, thanking God for the gift of faith and my rich heritage, given to me through my Irish and German parents, grandparents and ancestors who came to this country as immigrants.
It was stunning indeed. Pope Francis never fails to surprise and to deliver. Knowing the history of the slighting of Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton by the powers that be, I could not help but get so excited when he placed them beside the great late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as people who exemplify the very truest leadership qualities. He had me weeping with joy.
His speech was very balanced and encouraging, as opposed to lecturing or scolding. I appreciate his effort at being balanced and cordial. I am highly disappointed at the Supreme Court justices who refused to listen to him—especially the Catholic ones: Justices Thomas, Scalia and Alito. I guess they like to be the ones doing the preaching. My deep gratitude to Ruth Bader Ginsberg who was willing to at least listen to him. Justices Breyer and Kagan could not be bothered, I guess.
I do wish that the pope had mentioned St. Kateri Tekakwitha, to balance the canonization of St. Junípero Serra, which is a bit controversial among Native Americans.
Why no outcry over abortion? The pope called for the abolition of the death penalty but not for abortion in this land. A great disappointment for me and other Catholics.
He was truly inspiring! Now let’s hope Congress heeds some of his advice!